Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Diann Brannon - Don't be Afraid of Tomorrow. God is already there.

My friend, Diann Brannon, has been gone for nearly 5 years and I still miss her Texas drawl.

When I remember Di, I think of how much she loved her Italian grayhound. She always described Gracie as looking like a deer. She always loved to watch boxing on Pay Per View--not for the violence but because she loved the way the boxers "just glisten."

Her love of life was expressed through her ready smile, flaming red sports car, and bright red sofa. And, although most people would never think of a salad as being "mouth-watering," Di made such amazing salads that I'd leap at one of her salads the way a 5-year-old leaps at a chocolate chip cookie.

During the last years of her life, Di became a technical writer and she went through one layoff after another. It was a tough and stressful time for her. Everyday she'd call me with the Stump Report. She'd stand on an old tree stump in her backyard, look out over the neighborhood and local park, and tell me what she saw. In ne of her last Stump Reports, she told me about a rose blooming in her backyard that had been a favorite of her mom.

Di's mom died of breast cancer when Di was 19. Two of Di's worst fears were that she would Di in poverty or die a lingering death of cancer.

In August 2002, it was me who went into the hospital for a lengthy stay. At about the same time, Di was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was too ill to visit her in her last months. She passed away in February 2003.

It's a funny thing, but I always think of Di's death as evidence of God's love for her. He walked with her through her illness and kept her from facing her other worst fear. One of the last things she left me with was a little sign that said, "Don't be afraid of tomorrow. God is already there."

Another remembrance of Di is here.

An Untraceable Saturday Night Fever

Since my Friday meltdown, I've been working on the things my counselor told me to do: write down 3 achievable goals and do one nurturing thing. Today, I sat in on a software Beta testing session all day at work. It was fun to be learning a new product, but the teacher is definitely a grumpy, impatient guy.

At 5 p.m., I decided that my reward would be a trip to the movies with popcorn and everything. I wavered between racing across town to see "The Great Debaters" or staying near work and seeing "Untraceable." I figured that racing across town and wrestling with parking would be a drag, so I opted for Untraceable.

I'm sorry I went.

The acting was fine and the plot held my interest, but it greatly disturbed my soul. Untraceable is not so much a thriller, but one of those sadistic voyueristic torture films, like the Saw franchise. As I started to watch the movie, I knew, as a Christian, I shouldn't be there. I shouldn't support this kind of entertainment. But I stayed because I'd already paid my money and was too embarassed to ask for it back.

And I started to think about how horror movies have changed over the years--starting with supernatural monsters like The Mummy, Frankenstein, and Dracula and moving to the villian being your sociopathic neighbor. There's something weird about our culture because a lot of us love murder as entertainment, whether it's something as simple as CSI or Law and Order or whether it's suicide videos available for download from the Internet.

Where are we going with all of this violence? With our preoccupation with violence and our penchant for reality shows, I wonder how many years will go by before we have shows like the executions and animal hunts held by the ancient Romans in the Colosseum. The ghoulish blood lust that was in them is the same as the one in us.

But I can't completely point my fingers at "society." I chose Untraceable over The Great Debaters. And my soul is less for it. When I left the theater, I was not lifted up. My soul felt as though it had crawled over into a corner to hide. It made me remember that, back in 1977, my Dad insisted on going with me to see Saturday Night Fever because it was originally rated R. After he left the theater, he said he would rather have been dipped in the gutter than have seen that movie because "at least you can wash that kind of filth off."

I didn't understand what he meant then. At the time, I thought he was a prude. But I understand him now. Thirty-one years later, I can still remember the scenes from Saturday Night Fever that made my Dad so disgusted: the disinterested stripper dancing on the bar, offering her breasts to the patrons; Tony's gang taking turns with Annette in the backseat of Bobby's car; and a guy stepping out of the backseat of a car turning to ask the girl, "What was your name again?"

And so, I hoped I've learned my lesson with Untraceable. What I put into my mind might stay there forever. There's no real way of knowing what I'll remember and what I'll forget. And what I put in my mind affects my soul. And just as I would be careful in what I would feed a child, I should be more judicious in what I feed into my mind and soul.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Okay, so after having a nasty day of suicidal ideation style depression on Friday, I turned the corner this weekend. God bless my counselor for taking the time to help me find my ability to cope with life. And God bless Pastor Coffin for delivering an amazing sermon on Exodus 17: how God speaks to us, how we get off track, and how to get back into gear.

One of the things my counselor advised me to do to break the depression is to:
  • Set 3 goals every day
  • Do something that nurtures me
Part of me feels that this "nurture myself" stuff is self-centered and not Godly. On the other hand, God cares for us. He doesn't want us to be in terrible pain all of the time any more than a parent wants a child to be in physical, emotional, or spiritual pain.

So, on Friday, I accomplished my 3 goals and bought myself a bouquet of beautiful flowers. I put the flowers in the entryway so they're the first thing I see and smell when I walk through the door.

And I woke up with a bit of happiness and energy on Saturday. So I cleaned up months of trash, books, projects, clean and dirty clothes off my bedroom floor. And I vacuumed. And I felt HAPPY and PROUD. My reward was to go to knitting; however, that turned out not to be a reward. So I bought 2 new fluffy pillows. And they are absolute heaven.

I awoke again on Sunday with energy. I set 3 achievable goals. I cleaned up months of books, projects, and trash off of my living room floor. And the momentum is building...

It's so exciting to have the depression break.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shut up I'm counting!

Knitting class was absolutely jammed today. I was starting a new project but OY! I didn't get very far. I was sitting at the table with a person who was incapable of shutting up. Don't get me wrong--I enjoy chatting while I'm knitting, but I also enjoy periods of quiet where my mind can rest, I can count my stitches, and read my knitting to see if my project is on the right track.

I also enjoy a conversation about an interesting topic where there's give and take. And I always ask the people at the table about the projects they're working on. But THIS WOMAN nattered, blabbed, blathered, blethered, chattered, and jawed about NOTHING. It's like she had to blurt out every thought that came into her head. She kept yapping at me even when I said, "Could you hold on a sec, I'm counting my stitches" and "I need a minute to look over my knitting." But Miss Yappity Yap just giggled said "Oops!" and immediately blared on. Ninety minutes later, when she finally shut her cakehole, she realized she'd made huge mistake in her knitting. She had to tear everything out and start over.

This woman is a blabbermouth, completely insensitive to others around her. I would love nothing more than to smack the crap out of her. Part of me hopes that, by ripping out 8 rows of stitchings, she's learned that you sometimes need to shut up when you're knitting.

Another part of me hopes that God would make me sensitive to the people around me. Perhaps this woman is lonely and needs to yap-yap because no one listens to her at any other time. I dunno.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Trolling for needles at Michael's

I was rolling through the knitting section of Michael's, innocently buying some needles when suddenly, I was accosted by 2 shoppers. They were baby knitters whose brains had glazed over in trying to figure out how much and what kind of yarn to buy to crochet an afghan. They waved their patterns and peppered me with questions--and I could answer them!

I realize that I am now a true, official knitter. (Also, it's lucky there isn't a 24-hour yarn store or I would sleep there, gently snoring in a pile of DK.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Our Own Voice

I'm getting back into the swing of doing In Our Own Voice presentations through NAMI OC.
One of the presentations I'll be doing is for Providence Community Services in Norwalk. I'm a little nervous because I'm not at my highest functioning level. I've probably got too dang much on my plate and, and and.

I'm tired of feeling tired and scared. I'm tired of feeling overwhelmed. I'm tired of feeling angry. I'm tired of feeling worried.

And yet, I want to knit stuff to give other people comfort and to do public speaking about mental illness to give other people hope. It feels a bit hypocritical, but they're the only ways I find meaning in life.

And, I know the cost of doing a presentation. They zoom me into hypomania for a day and crash me into brutal depression the following day. But it's still worth it. I've seen family members be helped when I tell my story.

Hookie Lau

I'm driving to the hoop on the Hawaiian lap robe. Only three stripes and the edging to knit before it's ready to go to Mary Beth. I'm feeling some urgency to get it done because some of MB's fingers are turning dark. This is the same thing that happened to her toes before the doctors decided to amputate both of her legs up to her knees. I guess I'm thinking that, if she has to go into the hospital again, I'd like her to have a cuddly afghan in the hospital with her.

I'm knitting this lap robe because I remember that, when I was in the hospital, Joyce gave me a chenille afghan. It was great because it's sometimes chilly in the hospital. But, even more, it was like getting a hug from a friend every time I wrapped it around me...and that was something I really needed in the long, dark hours of the night. Having that afghan meant that somebody loved me--an awesome thing to remember when you're feeling yucky.

Does mobile blogging work?

Very cool. I can send email from my phone or anywhere. This is useful when I want to use large pieces of an email. I can just forward the email to and edit it like a crazy thang.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Everyday Christmas continues to continue

Today the items I scored for the shoeboxes were two rubber balls that light up when you bounce them, 2 Hot Wheels cars with hot metallic paint, and two boxes of Crayons. Toys of joy for only $6.41.

Now that I've discovered that Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars can be purchased for only 97 cents, I know I'll be making them part of my regular skip-lunch-and-buy-Christmas-toys shopping ritual.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Every day with Everyday Christmas

Today I went to Joann's to pick up some stuffing for my teddy bears. They had some fun stuff in the dollar bins: rhinestone-encrusted emery boards, pink lamé headband...all things glitz and glam...for the Pedragales boxes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Knitting a Teddy Bear for Ashley

Last night I got the news that my kung fu Master's little daughter is in the hospital with 3rd degree burns on her face, neck, arms and torso. She's a curious 2 1/2 year old and pulled a pan of boiling water off of the stove.

So, I got some yarn and (hopefully) a simple teddy bear pattern. I'm going to try to finish teddy by Sunday night.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Everyday Christmas Continues

It's so cool! I keep finding little things for the Pedragales Christmas boxes. Today I scored wooden airplanes, trains, and dinosaurs that come with a set of paints and brush. I know I'm on the right track when I look at a toy or game and think, "I wanna do that!" Already the boxes are filling up with things that sparkle, glow-in-the-dark, fly or growl. And, yes, it blesses the socks off me. No wonder Jesus said, "Hey! Bring the kids over here to me!"

Hawaiian lap robe and Shag Scarf

I've really messed up my Hawaiian lap robe. I've got about 20 extra stitches on the row. (I wanna throw it on the pile of UFOs, but I can't.)

On the Shag scarf, it seems like the picked-up stitches are baggy. It makes an unattractive gap between the old piece and new piece. (But I'm not giving up and I LOVE this Comfort yarn so much I could write sonnets about it.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Knitting Replaces Kung Fu as Life Passion

I had a really rough holiday season but it's turning around now. Knitting has replaced kung fu as my passion. I'm working on a lap robe for my friend in Hawaii, a baby blanket for a family that goes to my church, a chemo cap (I'll make more of these to donate), a funky scarf with all of these weird flaps. After I finish one of these projects this month, I'll move on to knitting blankets for homelss cats to donate to animal shelters and hand puppets and stuffed toys to donate to CHOC.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Gift Ideas for Everyday Christmas

small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch®, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky®, etc.

pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc.

Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Everyday Christmas

My church has a sister church in Pedragales, Mexico. Each Christmas, the members of our church pack individual shoeboxes with gifts for the children of the neighborhood in Pedragales and we host a Christmas party outreach. I don't have any kids of my own, so it gives me special joy to pack boxes for these kids.

I decided that I'll celebrate Christmas every month in my home. Toward that end, I've already started creating boxes for the kids at Pedragales. My stated goal is one per month, but my secret goal is more like one a week.

And God has opened up some cool little surprises--princess wands and tiaras, Slinkys, and dinosaurs in the dollar bin at Target. (I was tempted by some pirate hats and swords in the dollar bin, too, but there's a weapons ban on Pedragales gifts.) And I won't buy everything from the dollar bin; the Lord would give these little ones His best.

Even more, the Lord, has gifted me with a heart for charity knitting and some of the most fun and funky patterns for kids' hats and hand puppets. These aren't Grandma's knitting patterns! If the Lord allows, each box will have a handmade hat or puppet, too.