Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Quiet Temple

Recently I was made aware of something that happened to a friend of a friend. I don't know the particulars, but the family had been attending a local mission and were told by members of the parish council that (and I'm paraphrasing) if they couldn't keep their children quiet and still then not to come back. This just broke my heart. I teared up to think of the pain and humiliation this must have caused them. Goodness knows I have worked hard to keep my own children "still and quiet" over the years but they have certainly had their moments (because they're, you know... children). I have described some of my own humiliating moments to you and they have been a plenty.

Today during the last minutes of the post communion prayers many of the little children (and some adults too) were getting restive. I thought again about the family who had been so rudely shunned. I acknowledge that it can be hard to ignore very disruptive behavior. [And by "very disruptive behavior" I mean seriously disruptive behavior. Not simple talking.] But, honestly, the only solution is to say, "GET OUT"? This is from my post "More on Children in Church":
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  [1 Cor 13:1-2]
 
Don't let anger, frustration, irritation and impatience get in the way of loving. "An empty church is a peaceful church" - we don't want our churches to be empty.
 In the case of the family I mentioned, the priest didn't have a problem with it - some parishioners did. And they took it upon themselves to throw this family out.

When we were in seminary there was a man in the local community who had recently married a woman with a smallish child. They had a baby not too long afterward. The man was Orthodox but his wife was not. Then tragedy struck: the man was flying his small plane when it crashed and he died. His new widow was heartbroken but decided that she wanted to be Orthodox and continue to raise her children in the Orthodox faith. She was rapidly catechized and baptised. She came to Liturgy at the seminary every Sunday, bringing her two children with her. They tended to sit in about the same place every week. Almost always sitting behind her was an elderly woman who, I can say only from my own experience, never had a kind word for anyone. For myself, I stayed as far away from that woman as possible. She would sit right behind this little family and criticize them audibly. Every time a child would make a peep (and really, these were pretty quiet kids) she would have something to say. This went on for weeks and weeks.

One day, it was just one comment too many. In the middle of Liturgy the young mother stood up, turned around, and in a voice that penetrated every corner of the building, told the woman off. She said how horrible it was to listen to her criticize every little thing and talk so badly about them. She said how much it hurt her and she was taking her children and never darkening the doors again. She picked up the baby, took the other child by the arm, and marched out. Needless to say, Liturgy had come to a standstill. Everyone in the altar was looking out the doors and the choir was peering down from the loft. When the doors to the narthex slammed shut, everyone tried to pick up the lost thread and Liturgy continued. Whew.

Some time later (I can't remember exactly how long) I heard that the old woman was sick. She had gone to the doctor who put her in the hospital. She was diagnosed with cancer and was "eaten up with it", to use the common phrase. Only three days later she was dead. I wondered if the pain from the cancer had contributed to her foul personality. A few weeks after this the young mother returned to church.

This is not a story with a happy ending. Mostly it is an object lesson. We do hurt people with our words and actions and we can be responsible for driving them from the Church.

Church services are not always perfectly quiet. Elder Porphyrios when serving a church in the middle of Athens had a problem with music blaring from a music shop across the street during Liturgy. The owner refused to lower the volume during services. This caused the elder great distress and he prayed that God would help him overcome it. One day he said this came to his mind: "And if you celebrate here and have your mind on God, who can cause you any harm?"* The next time he served he remembered this and it was as if there was no music blaring - he heard nothing.

We cannot always control the atmosphere in the physical temple, but we do control the atmosphere in the temple of our souls. We cannot condemn people for making distractions when we ourselves are making our own noise in our souls, chattering and complaining endlessly about who is late, who is talking, what someone is wearing, what children are doing, how long the sermon is... When we manage to create stillness in our own hearts, then the noise around us will not bother us.

*Wounded by Love, p. 57, Elder Porphyrios

Friday, September 28, 2012

Numb

Consider the foot. If one sits upon it or it is otherwise compressed (as with a tourniquet), the blood ceases to flow and the nerve impulses are no longer transmitted. Before, when the foot was assaulted by an outside force one immediately felt the pain and removed the foot from the source of pain. But now, the foot is numb and no longer recognizes any assaults. Great damage can be done before anything is noticed. If circulation is not restored to the foot, it will eventually die completely.

Just so with the soul. When the life-giving force (God) is cut off, the soul gradually becomes numb and no longer recognizes the outside assaults (of the demons). No actions are taken to remove oneself from the source of attack because the attacks are no longer felt; they no longer cause any spiritual distress. Without God, the soul dies just as the foot dies and will rot.

Restoring circulation to the foot causes pain but it is only temporary. One does not feel that pain and immediately re-compress the foot to avoid the pain. On the contrary, actions are taken to encourage circulation.


When the soul finally comes to realize the state of living-death it is in (sometimes because an attack has been so severe that even the numb soul feels it - and this is because God allows it to happen), to restore circulation the soul must repent. Repenting is recognizing the numb (sinful) state, removing the restriction (reopening the channels of prayer through confession), and gladly enduring the temporary pain that is caused when the soul recognizes the extent to which it allowed itself to become damaged. True repentance means the soul will be henceforth guarded, the circulation (of prayer and sacramental life) kept intact, so that when the demons attack the pains are felt immediately and the soul is removed from danger.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fabric Stashing and Hoarding

I was looking for inspiration for another quilt I'm working on (yes, another) and stumbled on this nifty post about fabric hoarding. Now, I admit, I love looking at my shelves of fabric and yarn and other odds and ends. It has the ability to make me feel simply happy. I can't sew full-time because, you know, I do have a job (even if said job is sometimes just figuring out how to get five kids through the library without international incidents) so the fabric does sit there more than I would like. I noticed in the past month or so that while planning quilts I would pull out this or that fabric and then in the end, put one back because I "didn't want to use it". What? The whole point of the fabric is to use it! Admittedly, some fabric is more special than others (when a nightgown I wore a lot when Pickles was a baby finally wore out, I cut it up to use for fabric - I can't use it on just anything) but in general, it's supposed to be useful, not ornamental.

In the course of the article, the quilter (who is a lot more experienced and accomplished than I am) talked about people hoarding fabrics because it was made by this or that designer (none of which I had heard of) and they couldn't part with it. She mentioned one fat quarter (18" x 22" - one quarter of a yard of fabric) costing $40. Heavenly days. I guess if I had paid that much for a fat quarter I'd have trouble cutting it up too.

I have always looked at quilting in the original sense: using up scraps that would have otherwise been thrown out. I have no problem with quilts made from specially bought fabric (I've made several myself) but I can't imagine paying that much money for cloth. The triumph for me is making a quilt from (a) material I already had, (b) material from the thrift store, (c) material from the remnants section at Walmart, (d) material from old sheets, tablecloths or curtains, or (e) material cut from non-usable clothing. I find it very satisfying to work into a scrap quilt leftover scraps of material that might have otherwise never been used or material that I am not hugely fond of. Once you put these into a quilt, the whole thing is beautiful. I keep my scraps to use for future projects, use the knit remnants in the rug I'm crocheting (one garment at a time), cut off and sort the buttons, and wind up throwing away surprisingly little.

I admire the magnificent quilts people turn out, but my favorites are the ones that obviously kept the tradition alive. You can see shirting material, dress material, flour sacks, old curtains, etc. The colors don't match perfectly and the materials are not all of the same weight.

That fabric isn't doing anyone any good just sitting on a shelf, gathering dust. Put it into a quilt or some other project and spread a little happiness around.

Prayer

The Lord is not tired of hearing us complain all the time. He is tired of our sins, not our turning to Him for help. He wants us to call upon Him all the time and to pour out our hearts to Him. Prayer should not be something that is said and forgotten. You stand in front of an icon, recite your prayers, and go about your business. That is not prayer.

-Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, p. 113, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cutbacks

Globally we are needing to cut expenses and raise revenue. While a lot of attention has been focused on Greece and the UK (and frankly, just about every other country), Americans are slowly waking up to the fact that we are in the same boat. It would appear that a black hole has opened up somewhere off the coast of California into which the dollars are disappearing. Until the scientists have located said black hole and neutralized it, everyone is going to have to cut back. Here are some ways the American government is looking to reduce spending:

1. At the suggestion of a western senator, the parks department is considering the merits of removing one of the faces from Mount Rushmore. As the senator said, "it just doesn't seem reasonable to keep up all four when people will get just as much enjoyment from three." Not discussed, which face will disappear.


2. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." According to the US Postal Service, they could eliminate snow and rain from the conditions under which they work thereby cutting their creed by 50%. Their suggestion has been cheerfully backed by UPS and FedEx.


3. NASA is usually the first agency approached when cuts in government spending are discussed and this was no exception. In a rare concession, NASA officials have agreed to eliminate three phases of the moon since this will save ink in printing calendars. Dissension is rife over which phase to leave: Astronomers are pushing for new moon conditions (no moon visible) to enhance stargazing. A small but vocal group of vampire fans are championing the merits of the full moon. Emergency room workers around the country are raising a campaign against the full moon faction because of a projected increase in the "full moon effect" on emergency room visits. They have said they don't care which phase is chosen as long as it is anything but full. Oceanographers alone have railed against eliminating any moon phases but their spokesperson said that NASA has not been returning calls.


4. In a statement released last week the Department of Transportation has offered to standardize speed limits by changing all of them to 45 mph. They said that the savings would be "incalculable" which is actually proving to be a true statement. In other news, the DOT has set up a special 1-800 number to handle the calls from the trucking industry, school safety officials, and many others. (1-800-NO-POINT)



5. In an unexpected development, the US Senate has generously offered to print all of their documents using 11 point font rather than the traditional 12 point font to save both ink and paper. In appreciation for such a gracious sacrifice on the part of the Senate, the Senate voted raises for all of the members of the Senate and issued special "letters of commendation" that will be presented at a special black-tie function this weekend.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Living vs. Hoping to Live

A fundamental illusion associated with the way we experience time is this: we are frequently oblivious to the meaning of our life in the present, and look for it in the ever awaited future. Dissatisfied with what we receive in the present, we make a point of entertaining hopes for the future. "For the whole of man's life is like this," says St. Basil the Great, "that not being satisfied with the here and now, he feeds not so much off what he has, but off what is to come." Thus we busy ourselves and make our way in the world as though we were going to live forever. And we usually complete our earthly life while still at the stage of preparing for the future!

source

Pascal, in his Pensées, says this: 
"We never remain in the present - we are so foolish that we allow ourselves to be swept away into a time that is not ours, without giving a thought to the only time that does belong to us. And we are so conceited that we dream of those things which no long exist, while at the same time racing without a thought past the only thing which does exist (i.e., the present). And we do this because the present usually wounds us. We close our eyes to it because it grieves us. And if it is pleasant we are sorry to see it go. We try to shore it up with thoughts of the future, and think of making available things over which we have no control, for a time that we have no certainty that we will actually see.

If each of us were to examine his thoughts, he would see that they ware ruled by the past and the future. We hardly give a thought to the present. And if we do think of it at all, we do so only to gain an insight into how to confront the future. The present is never our goal! The past and the present are means to an end, but our only goal is the future. Consequently, we never live, but always hope to live. And though we concern ourselves constantly with our happiness, it follows that we will never be happy."
So it is that the future becomes a form of tyranny, while the present is simply the means of achieving future goals and aspirations. All of life's objectives are placed in the future, while the present is seen merely as a bridge leading to the future. And since what we actually live is not the future, but the present, what actually happens is that we are constantly moving on the bridge, but without ever arriving at our destination!

-From Time and Man, by Fr. George Mantzaridis
h/t Fr. Benedict's bulletin

Friday, September 21, 2012

Repurposing a cotton mattress pad

So, the post promised earlier today. (:

As I mentioned, I have a very old cotton, quilted mattress pad that finally just bit the dust. Actually, it bit the dust a long time ago but I liked it so much I couldn't give it up. The children gave me grief about it, especially when it wound up on their bed under their sheets. Ah well. I wonder how many times it's been washed? Countless.

So, I have had it on my mind for a long time, wondering what to do about it when I finally gave in and took it out of circulation. A few days ago while changing linens I got it. It's the perfect material to use for a changing pad. Yes, I know, I don't have anyone to change on it. But, you never know and at least someone someday can get some use out of it. They sell these "organic" changing pads for quite a bundle. I figure this is pretty close to organic because it's so old it doesn't have anything but natural materials in it.

I forgot to take a picture before I started, but here's the center part that was left when I cut out of it everything I wanted to use:

Yeah, pretty bad, I know.


Here's a blurry (sorry) shot of what I started with for the mattress pads. I was able to make two very good sized ones by cutting rectangles off the ends. That way there was only one edge to bind.



And bound:



Before I get into the other things I did, I noticed that scraps of this made perfect mattresses for dollhouse beds. I made two.


So, for the rest, I cut out five nice squares to use for the interior portion of potholders!


I looked at material on my shelves (still love them!!!) and thought about what I wanted to use for the fronts and backs. I thought of trying to do everything from my scrap basket and that was a neat idea, but I kept thinking, I want to use something sturdy that will last. I looked around some more and then it hit me: those upholstery fabric samples I got at the thrift store! Oh boy!! There were two sizes of samples, the larger of which could be cut into quarters for the perfect potholder size. Better and better.


Would you look at how expensive these fabrics are? That's per yard.

Because it sort of went with the color scheme I also used a fabric I found at the thrift store that was way too heavy to use for quilts or clothing. I centered the diamonds on the front and back, doing one green and one yellow.


I didn't mix and match, I just went ahead and made the fronts and backs the same. I was determined to keep using things from my stash and not buy anything so I used some binding that I already had. It wasn't ideal, but it was ok. I am not so good at binding.



Sparing you most of the sordid details ("fudging" may or may not have been involved), here are the finished potholders. I only made three tonight because I'm tired and figure that's a pretty decent output for one evening.




I'm looking forward to tossing out my old potholders. Unless I think of a use for them...

Stay tuned...

Busy this morning with tidying and homeschool, but I have something fun to do this afternoon. You know those old cotton quilted mattress pads? The ones with all-natural materials because they were produced before man-made materials were put into bedding? Well, they wear out. And then you have something that you know must be useful but you're just not sure how. Well, I figured it out. Pop back later in the day to see what I am doing with it.

[update: Life gets in the way as usual. Working on things here and there (in between fixing meals, etc.) and will post some pictures later this evening.]

And now something random. A great quote from Salman Rushdie I saw earlier this week:
“We have to defend his right to free speech. But that doesn’t mean we have to not say he’s a jerk. Even jerks have the right to free speech, but they’re still jerks." 

Absolutely.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A kind response

At the end of May, after much time-wasting, I finally sent the letters to the hospital where I had Andrew (to the COO and the DON) and to my doctor. Here is the letter: (I edited out identifying information.)


**************************
[address edited out]
May 31, 2012

M. K., COO University Hospitals
[address edited out]

Mr. K.,

I was in the hospital for induction of labor December 12th and 13th of 2011. Our baby had died at the age of 13 weeks two weeks prior and we did not want a D&C. My doctor, Dr. C. B., approved of our request to keep our baby with us in the hospital and take him home upon discharge. We only anticipated a one-day stay and my husband and I did not want the baby to go to either pathology or the morgue. This was the second baby of this age I had lost that year but the first baby had been born at home. I was very anxious about the hospital stay.

We made our requests known upon admission and the staff did a marvelous job of communicating inter-departmentally to make everything possible. Our nurse O. H. (Labor and Delivery) called the social worker (E.) and the morgue director and arranged everything before the induction started. We would be able to keep our baby with us at all times and take him home with us on discharge. This was very confidence inspiring and comforting.

My labor was rather difficult and included some unusual complications. Thanks to the skills of O. and Dr. B. and the grace of God I avoided surgery. Eight hours later our little Andrew was born and I was the one who took him from the sac and cut the cord. He was beautiful. The staff continued to honor our requests to the point that O. even brought the baby scale into the room to weigh him (all one ounce of him) so that he would not have to leave my side. We held him, dressed him and photographed him.

I developed further complications after delivery and it became necessary to manually remove the remaining placenta and clots at the bedside. Dr. R. M., who had come on duty for night shift on L&D, assisted Dr. B. and was most compassionate. It was at this point that the decision was made to keep us overnight and discharge us in the morning.

It was necessary for us to be transferred to a postpartum floor. The nurses on L&D communicated to the staff on Postpartum our requests and the arrangements that had been made. The postpartum nurses were accommodating and we thought our transfer would be very smooth. It was getting rather late in the evening, it had been a very exhausting day, and we were tired and ready to rest for the night.

The only hiccup in the entire stay happened at this point: the nursing supervisor for the evening shift refused to sign the paper that would enable us to take our baby with us to postpartum. She insisted he must go to the morgue. [I should note that by this time we had our baby in a container of saline, that container being placed in a larger one full of ice.] We informed the staff that rather than release our baby we would depart for home. After multiple phone calls were made by the doctors and the morgue supervisor was awakened at 23:30 by the nursing supervisor, the original agreement was honored and all three of us were moved to Postpartum at 00:30. Dr. M. would have been happy to keep us on the L&D floor overnight if the nursing supervisor had refused to yield but in the end this proved unnecessary.

Our stay on Postpartum was uneventful and we were discharged late the next morning.

I wish I could remember the names of all of the staff who worked with us because they were without exception gracious, kind, compassionate and skilled. Being admitted into the hospital two weeks before Christmas to deliver our departed baby was a terrible thing, but the staff kept it from being a horrible experience. Although I have been at home with our living children for the past two years, prior to that I was a nurse for thirteen years, working the last several years on the gynecology floor and the gynecology clinic at University Hospital in Birmingham. Having spent the last many years caring for women in similar circumstances to mine, I was impressed by the interdepartmental communication, the skill and the compassion of the staff at University Hospital.

Sincerely,

[signed]

cc: Dr. C. B., M.D.
C. R.

**************************

I did not expect a response to this letter, just hoped that it would help reinforce the positive things that the staff had done for us. I also wanted to make sure that the particular staff received commendation for their work. Yesterday, I got a letter in the mail: (I scanned it and edited out identifying information.)

(click to enlarge)

 I thought it was so nice of him to write me back and not use a form letter. This letter has been put in Andrew's memory box. Maybe some other families will have an easier time because of this.

Concern for our neighbors' problems

When we talk to our fellow men and they tell us about their troubles, we will listen to them carefully if we have love for them. We will have compassion for their suffering and pain, for we are God's creatures; we are a manifestation of the love of God. However, we often consider this a great burden, for we are oppressed by our own cares, worries, and weaknesses. We need to rest from all these cares, but only God can give us rest. He is the Bearer of all our infirmities and weaknesses. That is why we must always turn to Him in prayer. That is our only source of comfort. Then we will be relieved of our burdens and the burdens of our neighbors' troubles as well, for we will have taken all of them to the Lord.

As we take more concern for our neighbors' cares and problems, they soon become our own. And our thoughts immediately become occupied with them.

If we listen to our neighbor with only half our attention, of course we will not be able to answer them or comfort them... We are distracted. They talk, but we do not participate in the conversation; we are immersed in our own thoughts. But if we give them our full attention, then we take up both our own burden and theirs.

-Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, p. 94-95, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What I've been working on...

I wanted to share the set I made for You are my Child. I've sent photos to the owner to see if it's ok before mailing it, but just felt like sharing it here. It is to be part of a larger set given to parents of (in this case) a girl born at up to 16 weeks. It was so therapeutic to work on because I thought of how much it would help another family to see their little girl in something pretty. Most things are duplicated so that the baby can be buried with one and the other kept by the parents.

Two matching blankets (11 inches square)

Pouch (7 inches square)

(The baby is slipped feet-first into the pocket.)

(The ribbons are tied to wrap the baby.)

Two matching dolls (2 3/4 inches long - they have cloth diapers on underneath)

One doll could be placed next to the baby and the other kept with the parents.


The set

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross


Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify!

O Lord, save Thy people 
and bless Thine inheritance!
Grant victory to Orthodox Christians 
over their adversaries,
and by virtue of Thy Cross, 
preserve Thy habitation!
-troparion of the Cross

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Using Foam to Arrange Flowers (Feast of Exaltation of the Cross)

I cut out the base for the cross two years ago out of very firm foam - not the sort you put flowers in. This was merely so I had something to stick the floral foam to while elevating the cross above the blossoms. The floral foam has to be replaced but this part keeps for a long time.


Note the floral foam says WET floral foam. Also called "oasis" foam. Do NOT get "desert" foam if you want it to soak up water. This sounds very obvious, but this is the voice of experience (and haste) talking here. 


Floral foam cuts just like butter. A nifty way of cutting it is making your marks and cutting through it with dental floss or thin wire. Kind of like the way you cut a cake layer into two horizontal layers. Of course, you could always use a knife.


For most projects the next few steps aren't exactly necessary, but they were for this, so I'm including them. I laid the block of foam on the cross platform and made marks where I needed to cut. I wanted the foam to generally rise to the same level as the cross-shaped piece of foam.


Then I cut it. Can you tell I used a knife? Don't worry - you're not getting grades on this like you did in biology for your dissections. The entire thing will be covered with flowers.


You will also need these nifty little things called "floral pins". They look rather like hair pins but have very sharp points. (I'm reusing them; normally they don't have rust spots.)


In essence I just started cutting and piecing. I tried to use as few pieces as possible and put the necessary smaller pieces on the inside (so they wouldn't be as likely to fall off).


Not too pretty, huh? It doesn't matter.


Now you start sewing it together with pins. Use as many or few as you like, just making sure that all of the pieces of foam are secure. I suggest going in at an angle. Note: if you use too many, you'll be bumping into them with the flower stems.


A view of the edge. See how I pinned the pieces together? I put those pins in at an angle so they went into the firm foam as well as the floral foam.


And this is how it looks before the flowers. Quite ugly. Don't worry - we're getting there. This is the point at which you will add water. Just hold it over a sink or tub and pour water slowly over it until it won't absorb any more. Let the excess drip off. It will feel quite heavy at this point. Check to see if you need to secure any of the foam better before you go any farther.


And now for the flowers. There were slim pickin's for the zinnias because something got them starting two days ago. I wound up with just enough but used filler. Separate the elements you want to use by size or color or whatever makes sense. If you're cutting your own flowers don't cut the stems too short. That way you have room to make a fresh cut before inserting it into the foam.


 If you're doing a flat arrangement like this one cut the stems about like this. (Do whatever works.)


I started with the biggest flowers. Yellow first. That way you don't inadvertently get all of one kind in a clump.


Then I added the large pink ones.


Filling in with the medium-sized ones...


...and the rest.


I had a little filler I added at this point. Notice what a difference it makes.


The greenery was added around the perimeter partially to frame it and partially to cover up the foam on the sides. This wound up not being substantial enough so I added more of another kind of leaf later.


I took the whole thing over to the parish at this point. Working on Father's office porch I added basil. 


And more leaves around the perimeter.


Looking nicer, huh? Here are some close-ups:

 


After checking it over carefully, I took it into the church. Father will place the cross in it and carry it out to the center stand at the appropriate point during Vespers.


[update: photo of flowers with cross in the center here]