Stepping out of character

June 9, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Posted in art, Change the World, country living, faith, family, knitting, Life, love, marriage, photography, relationships | 7 Comments
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5:32 p.m. 9 June 2011 — Update to today’s blog |   This just in:  I just posted several fine art photographs of tree peonies from this season in my new fine art Etsy store.

I don’t use my blog to discuss my personal opinions on music, movies, television shows, politics, specific religions, etc. Instead, I try to devote my writing to overall spirituality, inspiration, creativity, epiphany, struggle leading to triumph, beauty, gratitude, and so forth. Mixing is personal commentary regarding preferences in entertainment or opinions as to politics and specific religious beliefs is not a good fit and in reality I don’t have any desire to share or impose my personal tastes in that regard on others.

That having been said, I am going to step somewhat out of character and talk about something I saw on a television show — The Voice. This morning over coffee and toast my daughter and I were watching our recording of last evening’s The Voice (NBC). If you are not following the show, it is a competition between four highly successful and talented vocal stars who are coaching their personal choices of up and coming vocal competitors — a sort of a double whammy competition because the “coaches” are competing to see who can pick and coach the one voice that is chosen by American voters at the end as being the best of the best, but then the vocal talent (32 in all) are competing against each other as well.

Featured in this week’s competition is a particular fellow who I want to say a little something about, his name is Jared Blake. When I heard him sing this morning, he put so much emotion into his performance of a perfectly chosen song that I cried a pretty good cry over it all. He touched me, and it led to me thinking more this morning about his particular story and the potential I see therein.

This is what I love about his story: he has lived a less than admirable life. He has done bad things, he has abused alcohol and I don’t know what else. He got married, and he fathered six little girls. And at some point he realized he needed to clean up his life and try to be the kind of guy that would be good enough for his daughters.

The song he sang last night, and honestly I don’t remember the specific song he sang last night. What I do remember is that he put his entire heart and soul into singing that song. When a singer gets that full-blown insight into their heart of hearts moving up through the body, out through their vocal chords and way out into the atmosphere, those who listen feel it reverberating through their own spirits and it is magical.

Singing aside, what I really want to write about regarding Jared’s story is the fact that I believe he could inspire others to do something that is very healthy — take a good look at yourself and figure out if you live up to the standards you set for the kind of people you would want your own children to hang out with, date, fall in love with, and possibly marry.

My point is that it is healthy to take stock of yourself (over and over and over again throughout life really) and find something you could improve on, and perhaps thinking of it in terms of how you measure up to the example that should be set for your own children or grandchildren is the best place to start. None of us are perfect, some are flawed and some are extremely flawed and there isn’t a one of us who has no room for improvement.

There are some things that are obvious to improve on, in Jared’s case it was alcohol abuse. There are plenty of subtleties also, that bear looking into. For instance, am I as patient with others as I should be. Do I truly look at others with actual love in my heart, love being unconditional. Am I more tolerant of myself than I am of others? Am I slower than slow to anger, quick to be supportive and understanding? Do I freak out over things that are trivial, when I should set an example of calm? Was a I kind, inside myself, toward the stranger or for that matter toward the strange person I encountered? Was I quick to forgive, rather than feeling justified in holding a grudge.

This is just the tiniest start, but I could list a million questions in searching my own soul, how about you? I do plenty of good things in life, I know that. I know myself to be kind-hearted, loyal, hard working, and so forth. But still, I can honestly ask myself all of the questions above and plenty more because I cannot live without making errors, large and small — hard though I may try. And I seek to make it difficult for me to live with myself if I don’t find and correct even the smaller imperfections in my nature — not so that I may strive to be perfect, because that is something I do not care to be. No, I do it because I strive to set and live up to standards within myself that are worthy of the love of god and the innocence of a baby’s smile.

I dare say, let us all take a little opportunity here to take a look at the lives we live, in the big ways and the small way,s and see what we could improve about the example we are setting not only for our own children, but for the children, the children of the world. Are we doing everything we can to be the kind of people we want these little ones to grow up into? Are we taking some things for granted that if we just looked at a little bit more closely we might want to change.

My hope for Jared is my hope for you and I and many others out there, that whatever the outcome of the vocal competition some of us may take the time to think about Jared’s story and apply it to ourselves in whatever way we can. May he inspire others to be better men, better women, better mothers and better fathers. May we be humbled in a healthy way by the honesty he has displayed on national television. May we be moved to change through self improvement, and to find surprising things about ourselves that we could improve … for our children and for the children.

Best wishes to you Jared, in your most precious quest.

And by the way, we absolutely loved your performance.

Now, onto more mundane matters. My readers, I have been doing some surveys over the past few months for a client I do some writing for. I am doing a series of surveys over the next couple of weeks that I could really use your help with. If you can take the time to answer a few questions, I would appreciate it. We will be awarding a couple of $25 Amazon Gift Certificates to two survey participants at the conclusion of this set of surveys. (Sorry, but these surveys are limited to U.S. residents.)

For this survey, you start by answering a question right here. These are qualifying questions:

Do you own a small business? If so, even if you are just working from home for yourself, click here to participate in the survey.

If you are not a small business owner, click here to participate.

You might also be interested in knowing what I have featured in my photos today, what story do they tell? In the first photo, you see our very first peach that we are growing ourselves. We put in four fruit trees in our yard last year: a cherry tree, a honey crisp apple tree, and two peach trees. The two peach trees have fruit on them; we have counted nearly two dozen peaches so far between to the two trees. When I was a teenager, my family rented a house that had a magical peach tree. That tree produced a steady stream of perfectly delicious peaches in such abundance we didn’t know what to do with them all. I ate peaches for every meal while they were coming in, and we made peach pies, and peach marmalade, and peach ice cream. We gave peaches away to everyone who would take them. They were incredible. That summer left me being a big fan of peaches, and so is my husband as it turns out. So, we are very much looking forward to our very own, productive peach trees.

The next photos if of one of our mulberry trees, surrounded at the base by alliums, with the willow tree in the background. This shot shows you something of how green and alive things are around here.

The third photo is of a wild duck swimming in our springtime pond — water that fills up a shallow area by our willow tree each spring as the snow melts and takes some amount of time to disappear. This year the pond has been larger and more persistent than usual because we have had record rain fall. The other thing we have had is several ducks calling our little pond home this spring. We were out in the yard, and this one came in quacking, flying low and landed very gracefully then continued quacking as he swam around the pond.

As for the fourth photo, this old wheelbarrow was stuffed into a brushy area back behind our barn. I noticed it this winter, late enough to where enough snow had melted and I could see it. My husband pulled it out for me, and I just love it. It has a metal wheel and the handles are rusted off. I will fill it flowers soon, and hopefully have photos of that to share sometime soon.

If you are new to my blog, please be sure to check out:

1) My Etsy store where I sell knitting patterns and the ever popular Knitter’s Eye Chart
2) My son’s Etsy store where he sells wonderful vintage look subway sign and bus scroll prints that he has meticulously designed (he is Etsy seller FlyingJunction, FYI)

We appreciate your support, because that is what makes it possible for this blog to continue through the years.

Hope you and yours have a great day!

~firefly

A little something for the planet

July 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Change the World, charity knitting, country living, family, free knitting patterns, gifts, knitting, love | 61 Comments
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With 1 Bag You Can Make a Difference

I am so fortunate, and feel so deeply grateful, to live on this beautiful little piece of Earth known as a “farm”. Also, to live in an area where we are surrounded by water, lush wooded areas, banks of rivers overflowing with trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, and filled with swimming glistening fish.

Recently I was thinking about Planet Earth, and thinking of the personification of the planet … Mother Earth. I am a guest on a lovely blue planet named Earth. Earth provides every charm, vista, element, creature, mineral, food, etc. I could possibly ever have a need for … and she does it for billions and billions of people. Day in, day out, year after year.

She circles old Sol at just the right distance and speed to make life here possible … and life in this universe, as it turns out, is not necessarily easy to come by. Certainly the living conditions on dear blue Earth are exceptional. If we were to compare the phenomenally hospitable nature of Earth’s atmosphere and resources to that of say, oh I don’t know Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter–just a small handful of some of her closest neighbors–it would be like comparing the facilities and amenities of the finest five-star hotel ever conceived to, perhaps a suffocating fire pit squashed down by a couple of tons of cement.

Then I look at the guests of Mother Earth … particularly mankind. Sadly, we do leave an awful lot to be desired if you think of us as guests on this very hospitable planet. I am aghast when I review with any amount of sincerity my own wastefulness, and I tend to try not to be wasteful. But, you know how it gets sometimes. Life is frantic, busy, pressing and you slip up here and there, toss things in the garbage that you should have taken a bit of a look at to see whether or not there is a recycle symbol on it — as one example of poor planetary manners.

What if you witnessed a visitor at your mother or grandmother’s place wastefully throwing bits and pieces of things your mother had made (valuable things that could be reused) in a seemingly neat little pile in one corner. And the longer they stayed, the larger the pile grew until it began to intrude into say, your mother’s water supply. Wouldn’t it seem incredibly rude, wouldn’t you hate to see someone you loved, the beautiful home and resources she tended so carefully, treated with such disrespect and disregard.

With all of this weighing on my mind, I thought about Mother Earth and knew that I could be a better guest, a more responsible visitor in a number of ways. One thought occurred to me in particular: I could knit myself a cotton grocery bag. That one reuseable cotton grocery bag would replace one wasteful plastic grocery bag many, many, many times over. With my one bag, I could make one little difference.

As I worked on my one bag, I started thinking about the possibility of creating a charity knitting project to benefit dear, sweet Mother Earth. A small gesture to be sure, but one that could add up if a good number of fellow knitters also made at least one bag to use for grocery shopping.

Consider the math:

1. We all go shopping for groceries, most of us at least once a week.

2. If I, as one knitter, make myself one knitted cotton grocery bag I could use that one bag to replace one plastic bag provided by the grocery store each week — at a minimum.

3. If I did that once a week for one year, I would not consume 52 plastic bags in that year — minimum.

4. If I continue using that one bag for let’s say five years (I think it could last that long), that one knitted bag would replace a minimum of 260 plastic bags in five years.

5. If I were to get 10 other knitters to do the same thing, we would between us replace and therefore not consume 2,600 plastic bags in five years. All with just one bag a piece.

6. If I were to get 100 other knitters to do it, that would be 26,000 over a five year period – just with one bag a piece.

7. Wow, if somehow this idea would get out to 1000 knitters and they all made just one bag and used it once a week instead of a plastic bag that would be 260,000 bags over a period of five years.

That’s if all any of us did was knit one bag (1Bag) each and use it once a week for five years.

There are way more knitters in the world than 1,000 … on Ravelry alone there are close to 150,000 registered users at the time of this writing.

Can you imagine if each and every Ravelry registered user knit or crocheted one grocery bag and used it once a week for five years to replace one plastic bag each week … that would be 39 million plastic bags not needed, not used, not thrown out. And that is if all we did was knit one cotton grocery bag each and use it once weekly for five of the years of our lives.

I realize it is unrealistic to think that every single Ravelry member would make one bag, but still — it is fun to think of the possibilities.

And no matter how many or how few people I can inspire to do this thing with me, I know that on my own I can make a difference with just 1Bag.

There are quite a few patterns out there for hand knit and crocheted cotton “market” bags. The idea of a cotton knitted shopping bag is not anything unique I have come up with.

I just want to promote the idea that we could, as knitters, give a gift to Mother Earth to whom we owe quite a debt of gratitude for the many abundances she offers which make it possible for us to knit at all.

I have created my own basic pattern, which you are free to use. I am calling my design “1Bag”, appropriately enough. I am also naming it 1Bag, because it is one basic pattern designed specifically to be versatile so that people can modify it to make it as beautiful or complicated or simple or homely as they each may choose. You can follow my pattern just as it is, or if you want to be more creative and/or adventurous follow the structure of my bag but come up with your own stitch pattern variations to make it your own.

(Learn more about the basic construction of the 1Bag hand knit grocery bag by click on the 1Bag tab at the top of the page.)

I designed the 1Bag to replicate the size and construction of a standard plastic grocery bag because I want it to be a symbol of what it is replacing. I planned it to be easy and quick to make, featuring a basic construction that is easily adapted to a variety of pattern stitches.

My 1Bag pattern is free, but you could use any market bag pattern and still participate in the 1Bag “charity” project.

As a part of this, I keep a running tab of how many people have made a 1Bag (or other grocery bag). I can post the updated numbers weekly so people know how many bags are being replaced (potentially). To do this, I have set up a Mother Earth Guest Book. If you knit a market/grocery bag as a part of this effort — for yourself or someone else to use — go to this link and sign the Mother Earth Guestbook.

It could be fun, and we could make a difference … one bag at a time.

Are you in?
Logo for the 1Bag Charity Knitting Project

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