A Long Weekend

What a weekend!
Friday morning Violet and I attempted to make divinity for the band members. Instead, it turned into concrete. It took several kettles of boiling water and clipping away at the hardened stuff before the mixing bowl was finally freed of the stuck mess. I haven’t a clue as to what went wrong and hope that the next try will be successful. Divinity was one of my Christmas candy standbys until our kids left home, then I gravitated to making holiday bread for gifting instead.

Then Jeanne and I drove over to Newberg for a called meeting of Representatives from each church in the organization of Friends that our church belongs to. Friday afternoon and evening and all of Saturday was spent in discussion with all the other representations, and listening to each other and the holy spirit as we worked through a situation in which one of the member churches no longer wishes to honor our Faith and Practices, (Friends’, aka Quakers, legal document) but still wants to remain an active part of the organization. No decisive resolution was made but excellent progress was made. When we adjourned about 4:30 the atmosphere was peaceful and we had the sense that things are moving in the right direction.

Jeanne and I sped home as quickly as the speed limits and dark country roads allowed, with little time to spare in grabbing a bite to eat and rushing up to the church to set up for the Annual Christmas Sing-Along which was scheduled to start at 7. People started arriving before 6:30, as the musicians were finishing up sound checks, making sure instruments were all tuned, and shuffling our chairs to make room near a music stand for a couple more instrumentalists who joined in the fun.

I was thrilled when a young cowboy came in with his fiddle and settled in where he could share my music. Feeling exhausted and run down I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to play but having another fiddler was energizing. He didn’t read music notation but played by ear and knew chords (much of my “music” is the lyrics with chords). Having another fiddler was wonderful. Usually there are four or five guitars, a couple banjos, and mandolins. One of the banjo players brings a container of 12 harmonicas – one for each key – and a mountain dulcimer. He does have fun making music!

I forgot to take my camera. 😦

Someone said it was the biggest turnout we’ve had. The building was packed upstairs and downstairs, where all the food was laid out on tables. People congregated in classrooms and corners visiting and catching up with friends and making new connections. Scott from the scout ranch brought his crew of “cowboys”, young people from 12 on up who help almost every weekend with the cub scouts and horse program. They have a vibrant program with about 70 head of horses at the ranch. The young man who brought his fiddle is this year’s intern at the ranch learning administration skills along with running a horse camp. I hope he’ll join us if we have any jam sessions.

People enthusiastically sang themselves hoarse as they chose from over 50 songs that we have printed up in our Christmas books. People write the song they’d like to sing on a big whiteboard and as the list is sung it’s erased with more songs continually added so that anyone who wants to request one has ample chance. I have no idea how many songs we went through in those 2 hours as we sang and played non-stop.

By the time we’d said our goodbyes, straightened up the church and cleaned up the kitchen I didn’t crawl into bed until after 10:30. Within an hour I woke up to a pounding heart, tingling arms, nausea and malaise. Dysautonomia strikes again. I got up and drank some water with electrolytes hoping that would calm things down. It was a very long night with lots of praying.

I was able to teach Sunday School, while sitting down. I’m so thankful that early in October I was approached by another woman who enjoys preaching from time to time asking if she could preach in December saying that God had given her a Christmas message on Joy. The third Sunday in Advent centers on joy so we agreed that would be the perfect Sunday for her. So, not only did I not have to preach yesterday, I got to hear a good message about the joy that God gives, a message that was balm to my soul. Even when things feel out of control God is at work behind the scenes.

Between drinking over 100 ounces of water yesterday and getting 10 hours of sleep last night, today has been much better. Drinking plenty of water is key to keeping my blood pressure at a decent level (low blood pressure is one of the problems with autonomic dysfunction aka dysautonomia). I try to drink at least 90 ounces every day but with the long representative meetings Friday and Saturday I wasn’t able to drink as much water and must have gotten a bit dehydrated.

One great thing about the long discussions was having ample knitting time! I finished the hat for my son as well as some spinning with a kuchulu. I think only about five people in the same pew knew that I was doing something with my hands. 🙂

The hat is currently drying. I’ll take a picture of it tomorrow.

I’m very grateful to those who comment on these posts. Thank you! They are encouraging and help me to continue to post, even if sporadically. There are a number of comments that I plan to catch up with and reply to, hopefully tomorrow. For now, I need to get to bed.
Last Thursday this flower was blooming in the garden. The freeze that we had between Thursday night and Saturday put an end to the late autumn blooms.

dsc04643Thankful that even when life seems askew, God’s got me.


Early December

I have the feeling this month will fly past too quickly. The first four days were already filled with activities. Lots of people came to the town’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the city park Thursday evening. This year the band decided to use one group mic rather than dealing with several as we have in the past. We had more people compliment us than before telling us that they could hear everyone. The best part was having all the kids from the Bible club jam onto the small covered bridge “stage”, to lustily sing with us. During Jingle Bells they got to stomping their feet in rhythm on the wooden floor. So much enthusiasm and fun! Lots of parents recording the kids on their phones.

The mayor of the town (a professional chef) made a huge pot of delicious chili as well as pans of cornbread, plus there were homemade chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate and coffee. Perfect food for a cold evening. First year in several that it didn’t rain, or even threaten to rain, nor was it as cold as some years have been. Santa and Mrs arrived in their shiny black wagon decorated in lights pulled by two huge draft horses decked out with big jingle bells. This year they sat next to the bridge to greet the children (and parents) while we played music and people sang.
dsc04620This is a small town with, as is typical of most places, a few people doing most of the work but there is plenty of wonderful enthusiasm and support for this annual event.
The picnic structure were the food was served.
dsc04622The covered bridge and the picnic structure face each other. The tree has been lit, Santa and wife have driven off on the horse-drawn wagon and most people have returned to their homes.
dsc04624Friday was our Violet Day. She’d had extremely busy days since the day before Thanksgiving and was quite tuckered. Often she loves to go shopping with Papa but not Friday, not even to the wood store up near Portland where she likes to help Papa pick out pretty woods.

Instead we measured Papa’s feet to make Christmas slippers for him and made his duct tape foot forms (lasts). Then she and Papa painted while I worked in the office packing up twenty spindles to send to a store in Pittsburg, PA: Dyed in the Wool. (DITW) I’m not sure if they plan to sell online for just through their brick and mortar store.
dsc04632Yesterday morning Ed drove up to the wood store while I worked some more on today’s sermon, finalized the Advent Candle passage for the responsive reading and selected  hymns. (The song leader prefers for me to choose them.) I also managed to practice a few of the tricky songs that have violin breaks.  We decorated the church in the afternoon then went back up there at six for a three-hour practice for next Saturday’s Christmas sing-along.
dsc04633The picture was taken before most of the instrumentalists arrived. After this I was too focused on playing to think about more pictures.

The piano has a brand new quilt cover sewn together by one of our women who has more energy and drive than most of us put together. The blue flannel is the inside, I need to get a picture of the outside of the quilt. See the advent candle and wreath with the pink flower next to the white Christ Child candle? While decorating the outside railing one of the twins discovered the camellia bush has some blooms so she picked on for the candle. In December! Tonight’s first freeze of this winter will be hard on them.

I hope you all had a good weekend and aren’t stressing about this oft too busy month!

Looking back, facing forward

The summer was one of challenges and growth, questioning and purpose, shifting and  refocus. Events and work enlarging, deepening during this my sixtieth year of life as I look forward with an unexpected sense of fulfillment to a new calling.

During September I hope to post about some of the changes and events interspersed with fiber stuff.

One fearsome undertaking was being asked to play the fiddle for the 80th birthday barbecue for a beloved dad who loves fiddle music. I did not feel up to the task of playing solo for an hour for a crowd. I’ve always depended on a guitar or mandolin player to keep the rhythm, to cover my mistakes, to carry the performances.  We were at Black Sheep Gathering when Julie texted me for an answer at 5:30 the morning of the first day. She was heading out for a run before work, I was headed to the shower. I quickly texted back that I’d call: she’d never heard me play, I wasn’t comfortable committing without letting her hear a few tunes.

She’s one of the cooks for the Wednesday dinner that Ed helps prepare and serve so I arranged to take my fiddle and play for the work crew during their noon break. Feeling quite timid I sat down wanting to fade into the background.
Julie was thrilled with the four or five tunes I played and so I agreed to play, especially since not many people at the barbecue would know me. Anonymity can comforting.

The beginning of the Tour de Fleece coincided with the need to seriously practice every. single. day. Bowing drills and finger exercises, over and over. Playing the tunes, working on the rough patches, lining out a play list arranging some slow pieces among the American folk tunes, bluegrass, and celtic jigs which would comfortably take me through an hour of playing with some extras, just in case. All that practice combined with trying to spin at least 30 minutes every day for the TdF took a toll on my right wrist to the point that I had to stop spinning and cut back on the bowing exercises.

The week before the barbecue I attended the week-long NW Friends annual business sessions as a representative for our church. The days were filled with meetings, workshops and worship sessions plus connecting with people from other meetings throughout the Pacific Northwest. The violin, and its mute, traveled with me to be practiced whenever possible. The first time I took it outside the dorm, sat under a spreading maple tree and played my nerves almost got the best of me as people drifted across the university campus. Each time I played outside my confidence grew and I began to feel that I could do this.

I was helping to offload an air compressor shortly before I needed to get dressed for the gig when I stepped back onto the edge of a small hole. My ankle turned dropping into the hole and launching me backward hard against the edge square support post at the corner of our back porch. Agony! The post knocked the wind out of me, ribs and ankle throbbing. I bound my ankle with athletic tape, pulled on cowboy boots (a Western themed bbq for her country dad) then loaded mic, amp, small folding chair with a spindle – just in case – and violin into the car.
The back yard setting looking out over their horse pastures to fields of flowers was beautiful, the perfect setting for a fun evening of fiddle music!
Saying a silent prayer I launched into the first piece, and had a blast playing for an hour that whizzed past.

When it was over I stood up and was almost floored by the pain. My poor ribs: they are still a bit bruised, even now. Bigger than the pain was euphoria in conquering my fear of playing a solo paying gig while having fun and knowing they were enjoying it by their enthusiasm, big smiles, toe tapping and thanks.

More fields of flowers as I drove home elated in the late evening sunshine.


This is too fun of a date to let slip past without blogging. I’ve yet an hour to midnight here in the Pacific Northwest.

This evening was the annual Christmas Sing-along at the Friends church in town. What a time we had rocking the building with noise and joy. Two of our regular guitarists couldn’t make it but there were still plenty of musicians and the pews (rounded into sort of a circle for the occasion) were packed.

Ed took a few pictures early in the evening, before the large group of cowboys arrived. Once they came there was hardly even any standing room left. It’s a good thing a number of people took turns chatting and eating in the basement. I wish he’d thought to take a picture of them. They were decked out with their hats, and fancy neck rags. But, alas, no pictures of them.

Heehee, no we weren’t intentionally practicing the old Quaker traditions of men on one side and women on the other. It just happened this way.


Some of the smaller kids danced to some of the songs, a sight to cheer one’s heart.

One of the older couples who always attend said they’ve come to every Sing-Along since we started doing this 16 years ago. Has we really been doing it that long!

Now that this evening is behind us I’m looking ahead to the last days leading up to Christmas. We work at not getting caught up in the consumerism or the hurry-scurry of the season but to try to choose deliberately what is worth our time and effort. As a result we’ve been pretty successful at maintaining a reasonable pace. Though tempted, I’m trying not to cast a bunch of wool on the needles or other unrealistic expectations. Today I made half a dozen small apple cakes with homemade caramel sauce to give to friends. Some gifting cookies were baked on Wednesday and I’d like to make a batch or two of some type of candy, perhaps divinity this year. I’m looking forward to spending a quiet afternoon tomorrow writing Christmas cards to dear loved ones far away.

Keeping the season simple is good.

A page from our music.

Musical interlude

My heart is satisfied, music dances through my head. The strings ensemble I play violin with had our year end concert this afternoon. Over all it went quite well, and Ed captured most of the pieces on video. His favorite piece is being uploaded to YouTube as I write this. (It’s taking about 75 minutes to upload.)

Previous years Abiqua Strings was primarily made up of the students of a local violin teacher, Ann.  Last fall Ann decided to completely retire from teaching violin lessons but she continued with the Abiqua Strings.  She invited several of her students to continue with the group as well as several adults. We ended up being a group of 7 adults, all had been playing strings since they were kids. Except for me – I took up the violin in my mid-late thirties.

What a good challenge it has been. The other second violinist is the music teacher at the middle school with violin having been his major. I feel very anchored playing next to him with his solid, confident bow strokes.  With two first violins, two seconds, two violas and a cello we have a nicely balanced sound. We practiced for 90 minutes every other week, really not enough time to work out that tight, everyone-playing-as-one sound that comes mostly from hours and hours of playing together, honing the music as one unit. Still, I’m so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to make music with others!

What a fun program we played today! I know a number of my readers are musicians so here’s the playlist:

Telemann’s Sonata for 2 Violins – IV movement: Allegro, Andante, Presto
Greig’s Holberg Suite: Allegro, Sarabanda, Rigadaun
Medley of 3 Scandinavian folk tunes: Ark Varmland, Walking Tune, Ringnessen
Simple Gifts  – Ed’s favorite one
Medley of 3 folk tunes: Red River Valley, Red Wing, Red Haired Boy

I don’t have the video upgrade for this blog , please click on the Simple Gifts link to listen.

After a time of playing with other good musicians it makes me want to concentrate even more on the violin. I hope that this group continues together next year. As adults with busy lives there are times it’s very hard to make the commitment to this type of group.

Much has been happening here the past couple of weeks that I’d like to post. Guess I need to post more often!

Meantime, one hour in the evenings have been devoted to reading “Distant Hours” by Kate Morton, which I finished yesterday. I’ve been listening to Silas Marner on Librivox whilst spinning some scrumptious PicPerFic roving and now I’ve hit a dilemma: to ply together or order more of hree colourway/fibers so I can keep each of these lovely colours as a unit rather blending them into a 3-ply yarn which is what I originally set out to make. As I finished the last bobbin the idea of weaving a shirt with these slowly took root in my mind. Almost clinching the thought was when my daughter stopped by with Violet and saw the three bobbins laying together. Immediately smitten she grabbed them up and asked what I planned to make with them. She thinks they should be kept separate. It was hard to capture the true colours of each of these so here’s another view, different lighting, different arrangement which shows the true color of the lightest pink (middle below) the bobbin with the purple/blue is more like in the picture above.Left to Right: Polwarth and Silk, Polwarth and Baby Alpaca, Polwarth. I’ll 3-ply a few yards of them together in the morning to see how they look co-mingled.

Enjoy the music!

Let the Season Begin

Over the past couple of years a handful of committed community members have been giving the old city park a make-over, installing a small pond and building a covered bridge over it. They decided our small village needed a tree in the city park and to have a proper Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The Scotts Mills Friends church was asked to lead in the singing and music.

Ed and I walked over about 20 minutes early so I’d have time to tune with the others and get our music in order. Even though it was early with  the evening rapidly growing dark and the temperature falling quickly through the 30’s people were noisily making their way to the park in happy anticipation.

We set up to the side, encouraged our fingers to be warm and nimble while papers with the words were passed around to the gathering crowd. With little advanced notice and no time to practice together we were an odd assortment: 2 accordions, 2 guitars, 1 fiddle and 2 singers. What fun we had making merry music, the people singing along with the well known songs and carols while waiting for the tree to light up and Santa to arrive. (ahem, why yes, with an ever expanding schedule he does need to make early appearances!)

A small speech was made by the mayor who handed the switch to the town’s informal matriarch, a woman who has volunteered her whole life to making this town a better place and seeing to it that people’s needs are met even when her own health has been poor.  She’s a humble person and only smiled before lighting up the tree. “O Christmas Tree”
Two large, black horses jingled forth with a waving Santa.
While the faithful steeds steamed in the cold night air,
Santa handed out bags of goodies and listened to children whisper their wishes.People sang, visited with friends and neighbors,  ate chili and cookies, and drank hot chocolate.

The songs were sung but music thrummed through the veins of Hairfeather, an accordion player who is a retired music teacher, and she kicked up an impromptu lively piece which soon had us jamming along with her in high spirits as she yodeled and sang la-la in her fine voice. Such fun!

Santa needed to continue on his rounds, and families were dispersing to put little ones to bed. Those who were still there assembled for pictures and goodbyes.
Such a wonderful start to this wonderful season when we look forward to the Advent of the Christ Child, and pray for peace on earth.


PS, this small park is next to the home lots that are for sale shown in the previous posting. 🙂