Month: December 2011

A cliche kind of New Year’s Eve

This is my 22nd December 31st. If the holiday has taught me anything in that time, it’s that human resolve is about as resilient as a paper parasol in a Kansas tornado. Changing your life isn’t about a new year. It’s not about polishing some shiny, attractive goals. If it were, most of us would be pretty epic failures.

I could write how this last year changed me. It’d make great bullet points. Met my birth mother. Hugged my two little brothers for the first time. More parents than I can count on one hand. Fell in love (Epic, right? This is the stuff novels are made of).

I jumped out of two airplanes. Applied to go on a mission team to Africa. Took a Greyhound from one coast to another. Climbed a few mountains.

I could make up a few resolutions for 2012, but life changes enough–on a weekly basis, sometimes–without my making plans to engineer it.

Living like you’re dying isn’t about an adrenaline rush. It’s about being alive in every single moment. Sometimes that means choosing to do right, even when it seems insignificant. Sometimes it means teaching an old Russian man something about the placement of prepositions in English. Sometimes it means traveling 3,300 miles. Cliche as it sounds, sometimes it’s about smiling through the tears. Living like you’re dying is so cliche.

Any resolutions I make this year will have nothing to do with changing my life and everything to do with challenging myself to live like I’m alive, whether I’m writing term papers or piloting a hot air balloon over the Pacific.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.

Ecclesiastes 9:10

Christmas break is killing me

One day at a time, break is stealing my mornings. I’ve been off work for the last few days. When I’ve woken up, mornings  have been completely gone. And there are these ridiculously long afternoons that stretch into the very late hours of the night. What is one supposed to do with such awkward parts-of-days?

Christmas break just blows everything out of proportion. Everything seems bigger. Stranger. I suppose three years of college has ruined me. I have no methods for dealing with so much unallotted time.

I’m drinking coffee at 9 p.m., baking cookies late at night, doing morning devotionals when I wake up around noon. I have a callous on my thumb from crocheting so much. I’ve done more reading this week than during some weeks of the school year. Talked on the phone, spent more hours on chat, catching up with friends, than I have in ages. It’s amazing.

It’s agonizing.

In some ways, I absolutely love this. In other ways, Christmas Break is killing me. I think I need to go back to work. And then sign up for a few more classes than I’m able to comfortably deal with.

Douglas

cephalopod. n. : any of a class (Cephalopoda) of marine mollusks, including the octopuses that move by expelling water from a tubular siphon under the head and that have a group of sucker-bearing arms, highly developed eyes, and a sac containing ink which is ejected for defense or concealment (m-w.com)

Douglas, the crocheted cephalopod

This is where I stick a random crochet pattern into a generally non-crafty blog. Meet Douglas, the perfect handmade cephalopod for the young person in your life. He also makes a fantastic stress-reliever during final exam week. Douglas is squishy and has legs on which to pull. There are therapeutic reasons two-year-olds cherish such qualities.

Hook: I used a size F hook and random worsted-weight scraps of yarn. Any sturdy, washable yarn would work just fine.

Gauge: Don’t sweat it. It’s a toy.

Body
Row 1 ch 2, 8 sc in second ch from hook. place marker to indicate beg of round. do not join.
Row 2 *2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (16 sts)
Row 3 *1 sc in next st, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (24 sts)
Row 4 *sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (32 sts)
Row 5 *sc in each of next 3 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (40 sts)
Row 6 *sc in each of next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (48 sts)
Row 7 *sc in each of next 5 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (56 sts)
Rows 8-12 1 sc in each stitch around. (56 sts)
Row 13 sc 10. work a 5 trc cluster (*3 yo, insert hook in stitch, pull up a loop, [yo, pull loop through two sts] 3 times, repeat from * 5 times. Yo and pull through all 5 loops on hook). sc in remaining sts. (56 sts)
Row 14 sc 10. skip next sc. sc in remaining sts. (55 sts)
Rows 15-17 work 1 sc in each st around.
Row 18 (create legs) *ch 20. work 5 hdc in 2nd chain from hook and in each remaining ch. skip 3 sts on body and sc in next 2 sts. repeat from * 11 times.
Row 19 holding legs to the front and working behind them, *work 3 sc in the space left by skipping sts on the previous row. then work a sc around the back of each of the next two sc on the previous row. Repeat from * around. Join with sl st and finish off. (56 sts.)

Belly
Work same as for Body through row 6. Join with a sl st and cut yarn, leaving an 18″ tail for seaming.

Finishing
Attach safety eyes (or embroider eyes) as desired. Take a long stitch between the eyes with a loop of yarn and pull as tightly as desired to create a “pinched” look; tie a knot and reinforce with a second stitch for stability.

To make Douglas rattle for small children or babies, put a few dried beans or pennies in a plastic easter egg and tape or glue shut. Wrap in stuffing.

Stuff Douglas firmly. Sew on underbelly with a blunt needle, taking stitches through the front loop of underbelly stitches and the back loop of body stitches. This creates an inconspicuous seam. Pull all loose ends deep into stuffing.

Dedication on the roof of a Pontiac

So… you’re filming for a movie, and you need footage of an icy Minnesota highway. The catch? You need moving footage (highway-speed moving footage) from about ten feet above the road.

If you’re Rissa Crowe (author of Anytime Archive, where she documents the movie making drama), you have resources. You have a tenth-grade friend with a brand-new driver’s license and a Pontiac. So you crawl up on the roof of the car, camera in hand(s), and start praying.

As you watch the frozen countryside sweep by–bridges, rivers, trees–you can’t help but notice other drivers watching as you ride by on the roof of the Pontiac, holding on to nothing except your camera. Balancing isn’t easy, but even when the car gets up near 60 m.p.h., you’ve got a handle on it.

This isn’t so bad.

Then your transportation brakes. You swivel, free one hand to brace yourself on the smooth, cold metal roof you’re sitting on. The car beneath you turns off the highway, and momentum yanks you forward. With the camera in one hand, half of your face and one arm smack the front windshield, and your life–in all its twenty-year-old glory–passes before your eyes.

And there you lay, splattered on top of the car just off a country highway, shivering and hoping you got the footage you need. It takes a few seconds to figure out for sure that you’re alive, that somehow you didn’t end up on the pavement. Or in the river. Or worse.

And… if you’re Rissa Crowe, you’re still telling the story. And if you’re me, you’re laughing and meditating on life, loving people, and doing those crazy things–whatever they are–that give life so much of its rich complexity.

Here’s to never growing all the way up.

Factory Work

Another line job. I have the pleasure of standing in front of a large piece of German-made hydraulic machinery, staring at the unbound pages of high school physics textbooks for several hours. As the stacks of paper in front of me get shorter, I re-fill them with more printed, folded textbook parts. I have four stacks to keep filled, but I could handle six or seven. Maybe eight. I’m bored.

This is ridiculous. This job won’t even make a good story. It’s not dramatic enough to be like the PB&J factory or random enough to be fitting pipes. It’s just a  job.

I close my eyes, and there are so many thoughts. It’s almost like I’m falling through them. Pictures of the past. I open my eyes and suddenly there are words instead:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:13-14

Christ died so I could have a relationship with Him–true life. Right now, that true life means staring at the pages of Physics textbooks. And it’s amazing.

So… not a mindless job. A job that lets me turn my mind to things that really matter, if I’m mindful enough to keep it there.

Put thou my tears into thy bottle…

When I was a little girl reading Jane Austen, crying about injustice or deep emotional pain seemed like a very romantic and grown-up thing to do.

Not that I had a lot of deep emotional pain when I was six years old. Or any real societal injustice over which to shed tears. But every now and then, angered or disappointed about six-year-old dramas, I’d dab my eyes with a handkerchief (okay, so it was toilet paper) and feel rather mature in my sorrow.

I wouldn’t cry for physical pain, though. My pride wouldn’t let me. Broken nose? Eh, no sweat. Infected third-degree burn from a  motorcycle tailpipe? So not worth crying over. Tears were reserved for the big stuff. Like the hopelessness of society or euthanasia of impounded puppies.

I don’t feel mature in my tears anymore. At twenty-one years old, when I do cry, I can’t help but think that no matter what I’m feeling, it’s not unique. I’m not experiencing any sorrow that millions of people through the course of history haven’t also lived through. That thousands more aren’t crying for at this very moment. I’m not the only one with pain.

My life wasn’t particularly tragic.

The things I’ve struggled with aren’t peculiar to me.

When I cry, the world keeps turning; people keep going to their jobs, fulfilling (or not fulfilling) their responsibilities, seeing to their friends and families, their own needs and desires. When I cry, the sun still rises and sets.

And at the end, I’ve got a pounding headache and a pile of used toilet paper. Twenty-one years old, and I’m still not sophisticated enough for a handkerchief.

Jane Austen wouldn’t have known what to do with me.

But my creator knows my tears before I even cry them. The God I serve knows when I’m overcome with emotion. He comes alongside me and reminds me to wait, because He’s with me through it.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee…thou tellest my wonderings. Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? –Psalm 56:3,8

5 o-clock late

Last Tuesday morning, I was still up at 5 o-clock late. That time in the small hours of the morning when you hazily realize you never went to bed and the sky isn’t quite as dark as it should be.

The daytime hours before had been stolen by an unexpected trip to the emergency room. Now I was back in my space. And suddenly it was tomorrow. They say tomorrow never comes, but last Tuesday in the small hours of the morning, tomorrow came—with a vengeance.

I had deadlines to meet, and Microsoft Word had just eaten two hours’ worth of work. None of my attempts at technological restoration, hitting the undo button, or digging into my computer’s history could resuscitate the lost project.

I resisted the urge to dismember my laptop and watch it try to defend itself against the garbage disposal. But, like the rest of the world, I had a deadline to meet.

Live like you’re dying.

The lines between today and tomorrow have been so blurred by a society married to its agenda that day and night almost seems like an abstraction. Why concern yourself with days when you can fill each individual hour—nay, every minute—with productivity?

In developing areas like New Guinea and rural Mexico, time isn’t a commodity. Natives devote an entire day to each task like going to the market or plowing the garden. They don’t wear watches or hang clocks on their walls. They’re not worried about being late to a very important date.

They don’t have to remind themselves to stop and smell the coffee. They don’t de-stress with pedicures and stress-relieving massages. They don’t spend time and money on retreats that let them get away from it all. Granted, they don’t have thousands to spend on trendy vacations. But they don’t need them.

Sometimes when it’s 5 o-clock late and the dawn is making the sky lighter than it should be, sooner than it should be, I go for a walk to look at the night stars. I take in a last-minute glimpse before they’re absorbed back into another of those abstract divisions of time we call days. And, more vividly than usual, I’m gripped by the need to live not like I’m dying, but like I’m actually alive.