Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day: Every Day

Wednesday, April 22nd, was Earth Day...and I didn't remember to post.  Instead, we've been collecting recyclables to bring to preschool for art projects.  We've been using (and re-using) our cloth diapers... UPDATE: both boys are mostly toilet trained during the day.  Not at night though. Oh well.  It's a process.

Anyhow, we make an effort to think about the environment whenever we can.  It has to be manageable, but sometimes we find going the extra distance to choose the right thing, is worth it for us in the long run.

I wondered what sort of photo to post with this, because things are not green here yet.  Earth Day happens at a time when we don't even have grass or leafy trees...just the odd bud or two.  It was 14F (-10C) this AM.   So, I remembered last summer.  We just recently finished eating the bags of frozen strawberries from our basement freezer.  We still have lots of homemade jam left.  Here we are, on a windy, cool July day last summer, in a strawberry field relatively near Winnipeg.  We went picking twice.  We had great fun, including an impromptu ride on a farm "gator" tractor.

I was featured on a blog this week -- likely because of how Knit Green's ideas coincide with Earth Day.  Although my books were published by Wiley & Sons, this part of their publishing business was sold to Turner Publishing...and here's their blog!

Joanne Seiff links two loves: knitting and reading | Connect | Turner Publishing

To celebrate, I'd like to offer a discount to anybody who might like to download a knitting pattern (skipping the paper for the pdf?  An Earth Day move!) on Ravelry.

Until May 15, use the coupon code:
Celebrate!
to download any of my Ravelry patterns for 20% off.  Springtime - and thinking about the earth- are well worth celebrating.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

A quick update

I had two articles come out last week!  Wanted to update the blog with these links but hope to follow up later this week with something more...maybe even a photo or two.

First, this column about integrating learning into religious practice came out in the Jewish Post & News:
Jewish Learning: Just Do It!

Second, I submitted this piece to the CBC on Thursday and it went live this weekend!   In short, "When the system fails us" looks at how regular Manitobans have to rely on the media for advocacy, publicity and redress when the provincial government systems fail them. It seems like a broken system.  

For those reading this outside of our province, it's an interesting way to view how things work here.  In the US, I often found that one could appeal a decision by speaking to a manager or a higher government official...and only rarely did it feel like an individual had to go to the media to fix things or right a wrong.  Here, the population is smaller but it seems like the media ends up being involved in advocacy a lot more often.
When the system fails us

Also--it's snowing today!  Spring does come late here.  We've had a few warm days, seen a couple of tree buds, and gotten out the sandbox, but Mother Nature is not done with winter here yet...

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Passover snapshots

The last few weeks have been a real blur.  Two weeks without preschool, a major Jewish holiday, a really helpful and valued visit from Didi and Bop (grandparents) and a few medical issues, too.  Here's a shot of our table, all set up for the first Passover seder.  This year, we hosted two seders.  They were not big or lavish, and it certainly was a lot of work!  However, both of my boys had a fabulous time.  They recited the four questions and were fabulous participants.  They loved the seders and were truly disappointed when the first two nights were over.

I have a love-hate relationship with Passover, but here's a link to my Jewish Post & News column about that:
Culture Clash, Pesach, and Why We Do It

Note: Yes, there are two cups on our seder plate.  They are both Elijah's Cups because both boys made one at preschool.  There's only supposed to be one cup, but I have twins.  Oh well.  Maybe next year one will be for Miriam instead!

Didi and Bop came to visit and brought lots of beautiful handmade gifts.  Didi wove me a new shawl for winter out of some of my handspun.  (I spun it and gave it to her so long ago that I cannot remember it...but then, I don't sleep much since having twins and can't remember anything anyway!)  She used her triangle loom--I love these shawls, this is my second. I aired it out on the porch in the sunshine.  Warm sunny days are such a novel thing right now that everyone has to be photographed and enjoyed...

We had lots of fun outings, good food, and playtime with grandparents, and both boys were thrilled.  Having the extra adults around has been very helpful for us, too!  We will miss you, Didi Bop!



Over the last few weeks we've had a bunch of medical stuff, and it has reminded me of the respite we had this winter.  (thank goodness for breaks in this stuff, it is stressful.)  The good news is that everything is fine.  I've had a couple of growths removed from my arm--resulting in a pretty big Frankenstein scar that the boys remain vigilant about.  Sally the dog has now racked up about $2000 in vet bills--she also had a growth removed, plus what seems like an ear infection.   She is doing ok, but it is a little reminder that our dogs are getting older.  We need to take care of them now; they take very good care of us.

Finally one of our twins had a minor surgery.  He is doing very well and started right back at preschool this week.  Hurray!

Last but not least, I came across a couple of really good articles on parenting.  One is about twins, and while our situation was not so severe and our twins were not born premature, it expresses a lot of the struggles that we have faced...and it is a beautiful piece of writing that includes bugs, the professor's favorite, so here it is:
The Loveliness of Ladybugs

Here's the second.  This is a very good analysis piece about mothering and its depiction in the media.  It's particularly relevant to me because many people have urged me to write more about my experiences.  Yet, when I do, I can't get anyone to publish it.  It seems as though nobody actually wants to hear about the real nitty gritty when it comes to any difficulties in twin parenting.  This article indicates that I am really not alone...and again, it's a good read.
Glass Half Full

Hope you are enjoying sunshine and some signs of spring!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Passover and a CBC opinion piece

Today is the last day of preschool before a two week Passover vacation.  My twins are bursting with excitement, revved up by the teachers, about the holiday.  I could do with just a little more time to, say, work and get ready/cook for the holiday...without two three year old helpers!  However, "it is what it is..." and I'm going to see how we can all work together to get ready. (Note: Passover is only 8 days, so this is just a REALLY long school vacation...)

In the meanwhile, this piece just came out on the CBC:
Time to make nice after True North, Bowman brawl

For those of you who aren't in Manitoba, there are some struggles over how a new hotel development will work in downtown Winnipeg.  Right now, it's a big hole in the ground, but after all the wrangling is done, it's going to earn folks a lot of money!  We drive by that hole every time we take our boys to dance class at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, which is right near there.

Before anyone thinks we are pushing our boys into something too young or inappropriately... I should mention that the RWB has creative movement classes for preschoolers in their professional studios, and to encourage boys to dance, it's something like $80 a boy for the whole academic year.  (yup, everything is X 2 for us, so that sounds good!)  Both boys love it. We like the 45 minutes when we can sit quietly on Sunday mornings and they are in the studio without us!  We all highly recommend it!

One last knitting-related note.  I've had my patterns for sale up on Loveknitting.com (as well as on Ravelry) since the beginning of January as a sort of experiment.  I haven't done any promotion to speak of, and to my surprise, a few patterns sold anyway.  So, if you're reading this, could you perhaps leave me a comment and let me know--if you're a knitter--do you prefer buying patterns in one place or another?  I'm curious...  Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Hope you are enjoying spring!  We're finding lots of puddles and muck to stomp in.  It's great.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

just being there

This past week, my work was mentioned on knittyBlog, which is a blog associated with Knitty, a well-known online knitting magazine.  The post said my Yarn Spinner Story + Pattern series, that is, offering a knitting pattern with a short piece of fiction, was a neat idea!  I just felt honored to mentioned in the same post as Shetland knitters' work and June Hiatt's The Principles of Knitting--both masterpieces, from a knitting perspective.

Also, I had another column come out in the Jewish Post & News:
Foreigners, Egypt and Derech Eretz

--Derech Eretz is Hebrew and means literally 'the way of the land' but really means "How one should behave."  Here's an article on Derech Eretz if you want to learn more.  Usually, I get few direct comments on anything I write.  This time, I've already gotten two emails.  One honored me with a problem she was having.  It was a person who felt like a foreigner/outsider in the Jewish community simply because she didn't drive anymore, and couldn't catch a ride to synagogue.  I felt lucky enough to know who to email to maybe try to solve the problem--I'm hoping that we can fix that.

The second person wrote a kind note about my column, and in the process, I learned from him.  He pointed out that (in transliterated Hebrew)-- "Derech Eretz Kadmo l'Torah" or, in English, "how we behave comes before Torah/learning."  That is, being a decent well-behaved person who cares about others is a prerequisite to being learned/wise.

I had the opportunity this past week to try to be a good person.  Several times I just had to be there, at that moment, when someone needed support.  This sort of thing doesn't make dinner or get our family ready for Passover or earn money--but in essence it is the most important thing.  It means taking extra time to listen or do something when I am really pretty busy.  In thinking about it later, everything else worked itself out.  It's hard to be calm down my inner control freak, the one that manically worries about managing all the daily details that keep our household afloat... but obviously, it helps to be in the moment and present when someone needs you.

It's worth it.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

thoughts for organizational continuity

I'm a bit behind on linking to my articles!  Here's a link to my newest Jewish Post & News article:

Everyone has a responsibility: Re-visioning the Synagogue

I had a really great chance to hear Rabbi Sid Schwarz speak this past weekend.  Although he was lecturing or teaching 8 different times over the weekend (8!  This man has stamina!) I was only able to catch one Shabbat service and a late night lecture.  I found it amazing that I could even stay up to hear something that started at 9pm, but I guess caffeine and interest really work. :)

The most interesting thing he spoke about was something that I felt went way beyond the Jewish community.  He talked about 4 big trends in "younger generation" Jews--but I think this speaks to Gen X, Y and Millennial folk in general.   He said we were interested in creating covenantal communities...in a religious context, but I think it applies more broadly to organizations who are aging and not engaging with our age groups. 
I'm cutting out the Hebrew vocabulary here just so it makes this more accessible, but here's the gist of his points:

1) Wisdom--we want actual texts, content, and real learning from our institutions.  No 'learning lite" programming.  (Yup)

2) Social Justice--we want to help make change.  We think about where our food comes from, how to reach out to the less fortunate, and how to make a difference.  Not talking, but doing.

3) Community--we want to build connections between people.  That is, we want to have warm, in person relationships where we can help and support our friends, relatives, and strangers.  This speaks to some of the articles I've written on creating "helping hand" committees, helping new moms, newcomers to the community, etc.

4) Holiness--we need to feel a deeper sense of spirituality or meaning.  While this is speaking from the religious context, I think it is true in a broader sense.  We need to sense an authenticity and honesty that speaks to us on a deep gut level.  The world is full of ads and frauds and phoneys, as Holden Caulfield would say.  It's great when things feel real and meaningful.

My understanding is that he has more to say in his book, which I have already ordered:
Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future

but I guess upon reflection, I found his points right on and valid in a bigger context.  If clubs, organizations, religious congregations, etc. want people who are 45 and under to belong and take ownership, these are very useful guiding principles for planning and involving us.

It's so rare these days that I get to attend a lecture or other learning event that I figured reprising it here might be useful.  In any case, I am just as inspired by these ideas now as I was by this Rabbi's congregation, back in 1995, when I taught religious school there.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

March Flash Sale + a quick response

I’m celebrating the launch of the latest Yarn Spinner Story+Pattern with a Flash sale!

 20% off all my patterns until March 17 (ends midnight CT) with the coupon code:
MarchFlash

So, what's this story about?
Can knitting connect women across commuter trains, generations and avert a terror attack?


Knitting for Mother Earth Cowl, the second story in the series, catches a young woman on her daily commuter train to New York. She follows her gut, alerting a fellow passenger to what seems dangerous…and, to get beyond the experience, builds a strong bond through knitting.

This story pairs with an enormous cowl design. Prepare for some sumptuous knitting with super bulky luxury yarn.

I was happy to get a blog comment yesterday from a friend!  While I wrote her separately, I wanted to mention something here in response, too.  Here's an excerpt from what I wrote, with a few modifications for the blog:


Thanks for your encouraging words!  I've been trying hard to optimize the small amount of time I have these days for work.  (probably about 15 hours a week, on a good week, when there are no kid viruses, household emergencies or medical appointments...)  One way I have found to do this is to go back into my files and try to use things that I wrote long ago, but could not sell.  For a while I was writing a lot of fiction.  Some of it sold, some of it got close, but honestly I never found a good market for it.  I think it is particularly because I often write short stories about women, about fiber arts, and they don't all have to be terribly depressing at the end.  (contrary to the New Yorker's fiction style!) This did not fit into a "cool literary magazine" model, as you can imagine.
 Anyhow, it has always seemed to me that a lot of my writing doesn't sell because of luck, or bad timing, or lack of market.  As best I can tell (and the occasional friend/colleague who reads the stuff), it is not as if the stuff that does not sell is terrible and the other stuff is magically good in terms of writing or content.  It's not that clear, like a lot of things in life...alas, I wish it were!
 So, now that we're in this digital age where things don't have to be sold as conventional books, it seems like the perfect time to try some hybrid approaches and see what works.  My first story+pattern has sold enough so far to cover the tech editing costs.  Hurray!  Just got to throw it up on a wall and see what sticks. :)
 PS: I also realized recently that nearly ten years ago, I submitted an essay to a program associated with NPR called This I Believe....and it got published.  (Yup, I just figured it out.)  In some ways, when I started freelancing, I was also "throwing it up and seeing what stuck."  Apparently, this one did. This is about religious tolerance and the lack of it, and equality under law.  Seems like a particularly relevant topic these days.  
Here it is: 

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