Friday, March 30, 2012

Haiku Friday!

The screen says, "Unknown".
My lips crinkle up with irk.
So sick of sales calls.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughts on Worship Music (or, why I equate modern Christain Rock with sauerkraut)


I love my church.

The Church, to me, is just as much a part of my life as living, breathing, eating and sleeping. I find solace in the Church. I go to the Church for guidance. When I take part in the Church, I am surrounded by support, love, and grace.

Readers, I honestly hold my Church in the same regard I hold my family members.

I am a member of a Catholic parish in downtown Seattle. This parish is nothing short of miraculous, one that makes it a personal mission of each parishioner to bring social justice to ALL people EVERYWHERE. I LOVE worshiping here. I LOVE the beautiful environment. I LOVE my pastor. I LOVE my fellow parishioners.

And the fact that the church is located in a re-vamped 1920's hotel isn't bad either.

I sing in my parishes choir, and sometimes act as a cantor. Also, I occasionally direct the choir as a substitute. I was approached by one of the volunteer coordinators, wanting to know if I could take a more active role in music ministry, in the way of directing more often and helping to sit on the "music council", which means I would work with other music ministers to select which songs would be the most appropriate for the weeks readings. In this way, I am VERY happy to be taking an active role in God's family.


Just like in EVERY family that has EVER existed, there comes moments of awkwardness that make you want to just rub your eyebrows and sigh.

Our Parish has two services on Sundays: a morning, and an evening. The music for these services is usually left up to whoever is leading the music at the service.

As a result of this, the two services sound almost like they are polar opposites in terms of tone. The morning mass tends to sound traditional, old-timey, and a bit solemn; whereas the evening service tends to sound like somebody turned on a Christian Rock station and left it.

I've written before that I get very frustrated with music ministry in Catholicism. Each parish tends to have its own "vibe", but generally, I find that there are two trends with Catholic worship music: Either the mass is filled with songs that haven't been updated since Lord Whiffleton the Ruffle-Necked deemed them worthy hundreds of years ago (you know, the hymns that take an eon and a half to finish and are filled with "thees" and "thous"), or music that sounds pre-fabricated, repetitive, "happy-clappy" and cheap (think "Veggie Tales" for adults *shudder*). I'd hate to have to choose one or the other, but if I HAD to, I'm afraid I'm going to have to side with Lord Whiffleton.

I would guess that I am an anomaly in the Christian family in that I tend to have a strong, VERY STRONG, dislike of "Christian Contemporary" music.  I'm not entirely sure why, and quite frankly, I really have never really CARED why. It really doesn't seem to make sense: I am the daughter of two devout Christians who have made it their business to be religious educators. I've been surrounded by Christian friends since I was a baby. I've attended Christian camps, Christian retreats, even went to a Christian college for a year to STUDY Christian music. I've had the "Christianized" version of EVERYTHING thrown in my general direction since the time I was walking. In spite of all this, I somehow conditioned myself to honestly DESPISE most of the Christian Rock genre.  It's always been that way. I've never really thought about it much, in the same way that I've never taken the time to consider my reasons for gagging at the sight and smell of sauerkraut.

Ick. Image found here:

All I know is that while I'm driving down the highway, flipping through the radio stations, and if I am unfortunate enough to tune into something that calls itself "FAMILY FRIENDLY", "INSPIRATIONAL", or "UPLIFTING", I find myself fighting the very strong urge to start punching myself in the face. My way of dealing with it? In the same way that I deal with sauerkraut, Readers. I put down the fork (or change the radio station) and move on with my life.

However, Readers, this leads me into somewhat of a conundrum. If I am to take a more active role in selecting music, I need to come to terms with the fact that I will be dealing with CCM A LOT more often. If I decide to make it my business to select and perform Christian music, there is no way of avoiding the proverbial sauerkraut.

So Readers...I guess it is time to face it. Let's try to break it down, shall we?

Here is a typical Contemporary Christian song that is popular among certain parishes: "Lord I Lift your Name on High" by Donnie "I Like to be Redundant" McClurkin:

Lord, I lift your name on high.
Lord, I love to sing your praises.
I'm so glad you're in my life;
I'm so glad you came to save us.

You came from heaven to Earth,
To show the way
From the Earth to the cross
Our debt to pay
From the cross to the grave,
From the grave to the sky,
Lord I lift your name on high.

Lord, I lift your name on high
Lord, I love to sing your praises.
I'm so glad you're in my life.
I'm so glad you came to save us.

Lord, I lift your name on high.
Lord, I love to sing your praises.
I'm so glad you're in my life.
I'm so glad you came to save us.
*final chorus*
Lord, I lift your name on high
Lord, I lift your name on high.
Lord, I lift your name on high.
Lord, I lift your name on high.
Lord, I lift your name on high.

Now, I'm sure a few of you reading this are thinking, "Wait, there must be a mistake! She didn't include any of the other verses! That just looks like the same verse and chorus repeated over and over!"

This is no joke. That is the song in its entirety.

Seriously. It's like he wasn't even trying.

I know I don't speak for everyone, Readers. I'm not going to DREAM that my tastes in music are universal. It may because I've trained as a classical musician, but I have a REALLY hard time finding the Lord in music that sounds...infantile. Imitable. Poorly arranged. A friend of mine once called it the "Jesus is my boyfriend" genre, and I think that speaks to my feelings on the matter.

I find that a lot of Christian music seems to be trying WAY too hard to sound "contemporary". Like they slapped some bible verses or psalms on a "poppy" sounding tune. There is no musicianship. There is no depth. There is no thought.

I love music...and my music tastes, to be fair, are a bit eclectic. I have Lady GaGa, Lynyrd Skynard, Bizet, Journey, Russian Death Metal, Mozart, Klezmer, Gypsy violin, Green Day, Duke Ellington, Amy Winehouse, The Beatles, Billie Holiday, and Disney Soundtracks all in my play list.

To be honest, Readers? I feel closer to God when I hear musicianship, passion, skill, and thought in the performance of music of ANY genre. Same goes for precious few "Christian" songs ("One of Us" by Joan Osborne, for example). I get chills when I listen to Jimi Hendrix's "Wind Cries Mary", and feel genuinely moved at the gift of music that God gave him. I, a listener, am witnessing the miracle of music that God gave Jimi Hendrix.

This man was a genius and a gift to humanity. I'm serious. Image found here:
In all fairness, I know that "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" might be a bit of an extreme example on how Christian worship music has been dumbed down, bleached, and stripped of all traces of spiritual depth (all in the name of "appealing to a larger audience". Pffft.)

It's like taking "A Midsummer Night's Dream", converting the language all into four letter words, replacing Titania with Tinkerbell, turning it into a cardboard toddler's book a la "Pat the Bunny" and hocking it to the public, proclaiming it a "masterpiece".

I feel that I should make a distinction here...I love Christian music. I get chills when I hear "Beautiful Savior", "How Great Thou Art," and old-timey, traditional Gospel. This music, I believe, speaks of a time when people poured their hearts, souls, pains, sorrows, hopes and dreams into the music they wanted to create, instead of trying to imitate and ride the coat-tails of whatever was "popular" at the time.

It's the dumbing down of Christianity in music that I hate. It's the fact that people diminish our Lord and Savior to a commodity to sell that I hate. It's the fact that people try to sell Christ to others in the same way that one would sell a used car that I hate. In the same way that I hate WWJD bracelets, Jesus Fish placards, and the "inspirational" rubber ducks for sale in the Oriental Trading catalog that are identical to the other rubber ducks in every way, save for the crosses and Jesus fish painted on their heads.


I think a good plan of action here is to have a healthy mix of worship music. A few traditional hymns, along with a contemporary tune or two (if they're in good taste).  You can have Lord Whiffleton the Ruffle-Necked...AND grown up Veggie Tales!!

I also need to keep reminding myself that, in the end, Jesus doesn't really care HOW we worship him. Plus, even though I don't feel the presence of God through Jars of Clay or Skillet, doesn't mean that the other parishioners feel the same way. Just the fact that we are there is enough.

Even if we are playing the "sauerkraut".


Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Haiku

Hokay Readers. Another non-knitting/crochet post.

I've been playing with the idea of putting my blog posts on somewhat of a "schedule". However, since I have the attention span of a small insect when it comes to my knitting projects (plus, planning a wedding and taking on more responsibilities at work/church are eating up a ton of my crafting time), having a set schedule for knitting/crochet projects is just gonna be a no-go. I still want to update this blog more regularly, Readers, I bring you....Haiku Friday!!!!!


A Coffee House Haiku

The guy up in front
Is taking way too long, ugh.
Make up your mind, please.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How The Instarsia Technique Royally Kicked My Tuckus

Hullo, Readers!

Well, I have to admit that my ego is slightly deflated with the lack of response to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cushions...although I did receive TWO, (count 'em), TWO marriage proposals after I showed them off in person.

Lack of page views and comments aside, I am still immensely proud of the fact that I actually FINISHED (well, almost) this project, much less learn the ridiculous technique required to even begin to fathom such a thing as pixelated ninja turtles in knit form.

I wanted to create something for my older brudder, that technological genius who loves all things to do with 80's nostalgia, for his birthday. I googled "ninja turtles pattern" to see if there was a knitting pattern for sale on Etsy or something, and I came up with this:

My neighbor started to bang on the wall because I was squeeing so loud. Image found here:
 Not only was I immediately struck with a feeling of "HOLY CRAP THAT IS AWESOME", but I also was brought back to some fond childhood memories. My brother had this game when we were growing up (I remember this, because he would fly into an 8-year-old fit if he caught my sister or me playing on it), and after our mother gave us some serious lessons in the way of SHARING, we would occupy most of our Saturday afternoons trying to beat that God-awful water level.

WHY WERE THE PLANTS ELECTRIC??????? Image found here:

We never did beat the game. I think my dad made it to the Technodrome once, but I'm not sure.

My first gut reaction was to cross-stitch something, which would have taken up less time, energy and heartache...but what product manager/pyrotechnic/aging nerd wants a cross-stitched tea towel for his birthday? I was gonna make something that I KNEW my brother would when his sweet fiance mentioned that they were seriously lacking in living room decor, I KNEW what I needed to do.

I was gonna face the fire breathing dragon that has plagued knitters everywhere...that terrifying, TERRIFYING technique...the dreaded INSTARSIA. And knit some mother effing CUSHIONS.

I learned the instarsia technique from another one of my all time favorite knitting resources, "Stitch-N-Bitch Superstar Knitting" by Debbie Stoller.

Instarsia, like many other knitting techniques, is something that I have a lot of difficulty describing. It's like trying to describe how to whistle, snap fingers, or rolling "r's". Just not something that I'm able to put into words. So forgive me, Readers, if this blog entry makes absolutely no sense.

Essentially, in instarsia, you knit your project as if it were a big jigsaw puzzle, with each different "block" of color making one jigsaw "piece". For each "piece" of your project, you have a bobbin (a small, winded amount of yarn) that you just pick up, knit, and drop when finished. I had at least 4-5 bobbins of yarn going a time for this project, so there were times that I felt I required a binary brain.

The cushions, as I have them now, are actually the result of three separate attempts.

My first attempt at creating the martial-art mastering reptiles was nothing short of a disaster, mostly because, in my haste to begin such an awesome project, I had tried to "cut corners" and thus found myself committing several color work transgressions. For one, I didn't keep my different yarns separated as nicely as I could have. I had one big ball of purple yarn, one big ball of grey yarn, and a skein of green and a skein of black, etc etc. As some of the more experienced knitters out there reading this blog (who I know for a fact are either cringing or shaking their heads) undoubtedly foresaw, my project became a tangled, puckery, mangled mess covered with dropped stitches. After losing my patience more than once and throwing my project across the room, I conceded defeat and frogged it. (for those of you not in the know, to "frog" something in knitting lingo means to completely unravel it and start over).

My second attempt at the turtles was preceded with some more careful study of the instarsia technique.This time, I made several "bobbins" of yarn, and knit with these itty bitty balls of yarn piece by piece...if that makes any sense at all for you non-knitters out there (who I am sure are the majority of folks who read my blog).
The second incarnation of the teenage mutant ninja pillows was a failure simply because it was too big to make in one piece, even while using circular needles (knitting needles that are attached with a long cord, making it possible to knit something big like a blanket). This is not because I couldn't fit the project on my circular needles (my set of ciculars for a size 7 is QUITE large), but because my ADHD plagued brain could not possibly keep track of all the different colors, bobbins, stitches, and whatnot without having a nervous breakdown.

And so, I started with attempt number three. And it went quite well just knitting the heroes in a half shell one at a time.

I have to admit, that even after mastering the technique, I did cut a few corners, as you can see with Mr. Raphael:

See all those long strands of yarn? In true instarsia, those wouldn't be there, as I would have a SEPARATE bobbin of green/red/grey/black yarn for EVERY piece of green/red/grey/black that is required by the pattern. After a while, I started to lose my patience, so I went ahead and carried the yarn across. Even though I did cheat a little bit, the project still ended up looking great.

After knitting and blocking all four, I got out my old buddy who I haven't used in years. Readers, meet Dumpy.

Yes, I have named my sewing machine Dumpy. I have a habit of anthropomorphizing things. Don't judge.

I named my sewing machine Dumpy not because she's fat, (she's quite happy with herself, actually), but because the day I had triumphantly brought her home from the Sears home department after saving up my money from my summer job, my then boyfriend dumped me. And thus, she was named.

I went out and got some black cotton fabric, some poly-fil stuffing, and put those pillows together. After a brief consultation with the birthday boy, we decided on sewing the pillows together for a segmented mega cushion, which is where I am at now with the ninja turtles. Since I was a bit hasty and filled/stuffed the pillows before asking my brobro what he preferred, I'm sewing them together by hand, which is taking a while but should be finished in a couple of days.

After these guys are COMPLETELY finished, I'm going to be focusing on finishing some projects that I've started A YEAR AGO at least. The draft dodger/caterpillar is finally about 2/3 done, and the space invaders throw is near completion as well. After those two things are finished, I'm going to turn my attention to creating an Etsy store. I'm super excited, readers, about all of the possibilities!

Chiao, Readers! <3

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Put away the baggy t-shirt...

Hello, Readers;

I'm afraid today's post is NOT knitting-related. However,  I am currently working on a post regarding the Ninja Turtle pillows and my love/hate relationship with color work. So not to worry, a knitting post is coming soon ;-).

One thing that I have learned about myself throughout the years is that I tend to become somewhat of a recluse (albeit a productive one) if I am left to my own devices. I've been told constantly, "Oh, that's okay, you're just an introvert," but honestly, I don't think that's an accurate description. An introvert keeps to themselves because they want to, and are happy doing so. When I find myself retreating into my fortress of solitude for more than a few days, I find myself getting restless, bored, lonely, and depressed.

I think that the reason I get into this habit is because I've always worked with the public. Ever since I got my first job at 19, I have been bombarded with people on an hourly basis. I worked with the public while I was a grocery store clerk, I worked with the public when I was a barista, I worked with the public when I was a piroshky cashier, hospital lunch lady, video game advisor, customer service representative, and currently as a receptionist.

Don't get me wrong, Readers: I love it. I. LOVE. PEOPLE! As a receptionist, I love being the first person that our clients see! When I was a hospital lunch lady, I loved playing the role of the sympathetic "bartender" for the patients and staff, serving up mashed potatoes in lieu of booze! I open up, blossom, and thrive when I'm around people!

There are times, however, when I start to experience what I like to call "people-overload". This typically happens about once every three months or so, and usually goes down like this:
I will either:
a: have a more than stressful day,
b. bite off more than I can chew with a project/task/assignment, or
c. just be generally in a really bad mood,

aaaaannnnnnd ZAP! Presto-chango, this normally bubbly people person turns into "that lady" know the type. The lady who never leaves her apartment, sits around wearing her old baggy union t-shirt with the ketchup stain on it along with an over sized pair of yoga pants, and who's definition of a wild night is eating cold pad kee mao and watching Dr. Phil.

It's one thing to occasionally have a "me-evening," where I turn off my phone and computer, run a hot bath, pour some good wine and listen to NPR. It's quite another when I become socially comatose for three days in a row. When I spend an evening relaxing and mentally preparing for the next day, it leaves me feeling refreshed and rested. When I turn into "that lady", it just makes feel like a loser.

Thank God that I have an incredible family, fiance, and group of friends who all seem to have this AMAZING ability to sense when I'm starting to morph into a daytime talk show watching shut in and swoop in to stage an intervention.

This past weekend was a case of exactly that. I had a long and VERY exhausting day on Friday, and was feeling overwhelmed with wedding planning, social obligations, and taking on a bit more than I could realistically handle with my volunteer work at church. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to run to my apartment, shut the door, crawl under the covers, and escape the social pressures of the world. My fiance sensed this, (he knows how being a recluse can make me feel lonely and unhappy); and after some gentle prodding, finally dragged me out to a small get together with friends to play board games and watch Futurama.

It's amazing what good conversation, good friends, and Dr. Zoidberg does for a girl's desire to be a part of the world.

Life is still stressful, obviously, but being among good people who make me happy makes it a million times easier for me to deal. Instead of just internalizing everything that bothers me (and I should know better than to do that, I was a Psych major), just being WITH people who listen and reciprocate with stories of their own crappy days makes me feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. These guys GET it. They UNDERSTAND. And once these awesome people remind me how much I love PEOPLE, the more I find myself willing to take an active role in my social life.

So, Readers, my weekend was saved. It was busy, (one of the busiest weekends I've had this year), but it was also FUN! I attended a birthday party for my old DM, during which I almost won a Texas-Hold-Em tournament. I attended an organ recital at St. James Cathedral and was completely blown away (I don't think there is any other instrument that can completely surround you with sound waves). I selected my bridesmaid dresses, did a Costco run, and John and I took our first steps with our Pre-Cana.

God, I love being around people. I love it how having a busy weekend while surrounded by loved ones rests me and relaxes me much more than spending the weekend being stuck under the covers. I'm wondering if I should rig some sort of giant Skinner box to help me snap out of my reclusive tendencies when I get overly stressed...perhaps I should get a shock every time I tune in to the "lifetime" channel. I'm wondering if I could experiment on my future husband... >:) Muhahahahaha!

So, Readers, I will keep you all posted in regards to the exciting things happening around here! More knitting projects will be coming soon!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Turtle Power!

Readers, if you would be so kind as to turn on the music linked below. The post just wouldn't be the same without it...



Leonardo leads...


Gimmie a break...




Donatello does machines!