Thursday, September 25, 2014


For the most part, the members of my church’s knitting/sewing group, called Heart & Hands, never see the people who receive the hats, scarves, mittens, and quilts we make and donate.
We’ve given products of our knitting needles and sewing machines to A Baby’s Closet, Charis House (for women), Rescue Mission (for men), individuals who come to our food bank, and other places that send out an S.O.S. for warm hats and scarves to clothe people in need.

Recently, we put our hearts and hands to work and made a prayer quilt for Lydia, our liaison with a city school; she made it possible for us to give our time to help classroom teachers, as well as donate school supplies the students may not be able to purchase. She has attended several meetings of Heart & Hands—cheerfully admitting she is not at all handy with yarn or fabric, but enjoys our company, drinks coffee with us, and admires what we make. We have adopted her as a daughter.
In August Lydia was diagnosed with breast cancer. The idea for a prayer quilt seemed to pop into the minds of all the members—we knew we couldn’t make a knitted shawl quickly enough.
In short order, we assembled fabrics and sewing machines, scheduled two sewing sessions, and got busy.

We started with precut 2.5-inch strips donated by one of the members. At one of our regular meetings all the ladies sorted through a large selection of strips to come up with the 24 we used--predominantly bright colors, emphasis on red and green. (We learned Lydia's preferences from her boss.) After the selection was complete, they laid out the strips in a pleasing arrangement and we numbered them in the order we liked with masking tape squares.
At our first sewing session three ladies in our group stitched the strips into sets of two; then joined the pairs into the final layout we had selected.
I took the quilt top to a fabric shop and bought inner border and outer border fabrics, plus backing. Members of our group contributed money to finance this part of the project.  Those who didn't sew or weren't able to make those meetings participated in different ways--either with cash donations or helping those who did the sewing.
My next task was attaching borders, layering the top, batting, and backing, and then quilting the three layers.
The backing was pieced.
Label in upper right.

I used a simple meandering curve, stitched with my regular machine--no free-motion work required. 
At our last sewing session, seven members hand-stitched the binding. Here are a few of them:
All that remained was inviting Lydia to visit our group "to view a project" (as one woman put it). Here's a picture of Lydia "wearing" her new snuggle quilt.

Heart & Hands members were thrilled to see one of the recipients of their handiwork. Lydia promised to use it whenever she needed a special moment of comfort during her treatments.

Today I celebrate the friendship and love that went into the making of Lydia's prayer quilt. What a joy to know there are people who still care, and will do something to show that caring.


Thursday, September 18, 2014


Sometime in 2013 I caught on that cursive writing was becoming like the dinosaur—extinct.
Recent searches provide articles on all sides of the question—to handwrite or not to handwrite. The consensus seems to be: There’s no easy answer. Some say writing by hand (not printing) helps the brain perform better; others say that's not proven.

I’m not for or against teaching cursive writing in our schools. If it were left up to me, I’d teach cursive writing . . . just because. But I can live with either way.
Other things/notions/points of view/activities, however, may be disappearing from our culture. These seem to me to be critical. But that may just be my oddball look at the world.

Take clocks and watches. Do clockwise and counter-clockwise mean anything nowadays? I mean, besides those of us over, say, age forty? I’m completely in love with my digital clocks and watches, but I do know what it means to turn a handle in a clockwise direction.
Then there’s doing math by hand. Remember that? You used a pencil (so you could erase if you made a mistake) and did sums and subtraction and multiplication and division (even long division) on paper. If you’d gotten through fifth grade you knew about decimals and percentages and how to use them. A few years ago a friend confided that she doubted if she could add or subtract by hand—the calculator does it for her. Well, mine does it for me, too, but I still like to do the whole process by hand. I like to think it helps my synapses keep on keeping on.

For the past year or two my church has been looking for an organist-choirmaster. The few inquiries we had were a revelation—some wondered why we had an organ, when electronic pianos were the way to go; or else there were bands for contemporary services. (We don’t have either of those. Band or contemporary service.)
And just yesterday I drove south of my small city toward a larger city and noticed the number of For Sale signs on farmland. Too often those are purchased by developers. We have more and more new homes—large ones, medium-sized ones—out in the country, built on what was once productive farmland. It grieves me to see the land disappear. (Of course the land itself doesn't disappear, but its usage changes in ways that make me uncomfortable.)

I can’t do much about keeping life status quo. Not Life in the sense of our culture or everybody’s life. And I’m not a hidebound negativist. (Yes, there is such a word--Merrian-Webster's 10th Edition says so.)

But I can do my part to keep my own life enriched by activities that are meaningful to me and, often, to my family. Here are some things I hope will never disappear:
·         Print books
·         Hand-written, or typed, personal letters
·         Hand-knit garments and covers
·         Home-canned veggies, fruit, meats, and jellies/jams
·         Using our brains
·         Doing word and number puzzles
·         Playing with kids
·         Helping our neighbors
·         Giving our time/talent/treasure to help people we don’t know, who are in need
·         Respect for one another

To end on a happier note than I began, I’ll list here some things I know or believe will never disappear from the scene:
·         Love of all kinds
·         Strength in times of need
·         Joy
·         Faith
·         Hope
·         Smiles

These remind me to give thanks that sometimes change is good; sometimes it’s not so good; and in either case, Life goes on.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

APOSTROPHES (More or Less)
Bills/Bill’s Dog Wagged Its/It’s Tail/Tale
(circle correct words)

Any wonder English is difficult to learn? Let alone speak or write?
Back in the day I taught writing—English composition to the unwary college freshmen who wandered through the halls of academe in my city. Yes, this is the same dreaded Freshman Comp taught in every college and university to prepare newbies for the papers they will have to write in later classes.

My first couple of years were pretty good. I honed my teaching skills on the students whose placement test scores had judged them to be in the middle class—neither gifted nor remedial in their needs. Fine with me. I’m pretty much middle class myself.
Evaluation of their papers was three-fold:

·         Grammar, diction, spelling

·         Development of the idea in the essay (based on my class presentations and their textbook)

·         Overall evaluation of the final product—wholly objective—for the grade
Grammar Bible is on the bottom
We spent little time on Grammar, etc. because they had purchased (a required text) a wonderful new grammar of the English Language, easy to read and comprehend, by Diane Hacker. We worked with the book in one class period to acquaint everyone with how it could be used and how to look up information. It was the English Comp student’s bible.

(I fear it went the way of many a Holy Bible—bought, displayed, never opened. But that’s another story.)
As if often the case, I learned a lot from my students—probably more than they learned from me.

For instance:
·         How many ways can you spell their?

Never had this one tried on me....
·         Is the apostrophe dead?

·         Rules are to be ignored. (Such as—type your papers or have someone type it for you. If it's turned in handwritten, I won’t read it.)

·         Lack of class participation in no way should interfere with one’s grade.

·         Class attendance ditto.
Then I was assigned a remedial class. The requirements were the same as for the regular class, but the level of preparation was much different. We used our grammar bible more diligently. We wrote more practice essays in class; these were shorter and focused on only one part of the writing process. We discussed errors in writing and why they caused a breakdown in communication between writer and reader.

Boy, did I learn a lot in that class.
The title of this post is a parody of the kind of exercises I recall from elementary school English classes (now called Language Arts). I loved those exercises. I could do them in record time, get an easy A, and feel my self-esteem rising within. (I was also good at math problems until about fifth or sixth grade; then that all went pear-shaped. Again, another story.)

I leave you with these thoughts:

·         Bill’s is correct. The apostrophe shows possession.

·         The Dog, however, is a step away from Tail—the pronoun Its shows the dog's possession of a tail without an apostrophe.

·         A Tail is wagged. A Tale is a story.
Another day we’ll tackle the other two uses of an apostrophe (punctuation mark).

Class dismissed.
[By the way, you all get an A for today. Next time we grade your progress.]
Typos count as errors--proofread your work!


Thursday, September 4, 2014


Recently I played a funeral service at my church, for the third time this summer.
The Episcopal Church, like many denominations, celebrates life--the life of the person who has died, and the life of the risen Lord. We follow the Easter liturgy, and the songs we sing are happy songs.

I first came across this kind of funeral service in the 1960s. My family were members of the Methodist Church at that time. I was quite attracted to the celebration of life service; it bore no resemblance to the tear-laden, gloomy services of my youth. And to me, celebration made great sense.
Yes, we are sad that the person we loved, respected, revered has passed on from this life. We mourn the loss of a valuable person who added to society in many ways, great and small. But we are joyful in the promise of new life that person will enjoy. Whether we call it heaven, or being with God, or some other phrase, it will be a new life.

Many people ask me if I’m comfortable playing for funerals.
Yes, I am. Each time I play the familiar songs and hear the familiar readings, I am comforted.

Here is a prayer I’d like to share with you. It is a well-known prayer, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, but was, according to experts and archivists, written centuries later by an unknown writer in Normandy, during World War I.

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis
by an anonymous Norman c. 1915 A.D. Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


I wish you peace this day.