Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moving into the new year

2009 has been the year of the's challenged me to retain a positive outlook even when things weren't so positive. Somehow I've survived the stress and look forward to a better 2010. I'm thankful for all I have and all the good things in my life, but it has definitely been a tough one, that 2009. I'm not one to complain about much usually, I really believe that you create your own reality by either believing in yourself and keeping positive (or, not)...but so many things made 2009 a year that I'm glad I don't have to repeat that I'm especially happy about the soon to emerge 2010. I'm hoping that it will be a new and better year than the outgoing one.

In 2009 health was a bit challenging, twice in the spring I was down with a nasty version of the flu within 6 weeks, and numerous times this year I was in bed with the debilitating recurring (and without warning) vertigo that I've been dealing with for a couple of years now, and that no medications seem to help. Thank goodness there was time off without pay available from work, or I'd be facing even more challenging issues with my company. I kept having digestive issues as well and had a heck of a challenge with my weight because I never felt "right" in my gut and didn't know what to eat, or what not to. After an attack of what I thought was IBS a week before, I had a horrible attack of what turned out to be Gall Stones the first part of July that necessitated surgery to remove the Gall Bladder. Again, I was out of work for several weeks to get better, but I'm thankful that it's out because my abdominal pain is significantly better than before.

I'm thankful for my job, and though it can be stressful it's still a job that I enjoy. I found in 2009 that I can't fly as much as I'd like to be able to in order to make enough money because of my ears/vertigo issues are aggrevated by the pressure changes...but I still am happy to be working and to be doing what I want to do. My own business didn't do so well in 2009 due to the economy and if I didn't have my "real" job to fall back on, I would have less positive things to say in this paragraph. The economy has challenged many businesses, and though I'm very happy to have survived 2009 in a small business situation where many others have not, it's been very tough, very challenging, and I had many sleepless nights worrying about the debt load and many other awake nights cursing the banking industry. And then more financial challenge was piled on...but that story is for hubby's blog and not for mine. It's become a time to combine our efforts to make it through the bills each month, but we're surviving and will continue to do so...that's the positivity talking.

I am thankful for my dear husband's support when I was both sick and well, his listening to me whining and trying to help, and his understanding when I needed him to be there for me, and his "getting it" when I wanted to sit and knit after a particularly stressful or tiring day. He's my best friend and my support network and he is even a helpmate when I'm looking for a new project to work on, he's learned all about my hobbies and is so incredible, I'm truly blessed to have him in my life. I'm also thankful for sewing and knitting because without it I'm not sure I'd have had the stress relief that I needed in order to get through 2009. I made quite a number of pairs of socks and a couple of Civil War dresses but it's only a fraction of the projects I would like to do, time is always the issue. I always have a knitting project in my purse or in the car... There is a tee shirt available at Cafe Press that says "I knit so I don't kill people" and I understand...I wouldn't hurt anyone, but I knit so that I can get past the stressors in life.

There were many other positives in this challenging year. We welcomed a new Grandson, Collin, into the family this year, and we celebrated the first Grandson, Aidan's second birthday here with us in Maryland in November, and we are very thankful for our Hawaiian extended family. We were able to visit Jenn and Michael and the kids in August...another thing to be thankful for is the flight benefits that I have...even though we got bumped and couldn't get home for an extra day or two. We're thankful that we added to the family and didn't lose anyone in the big extended family that we're part of, and in fact, we're looking forward to expanding our family as our son in Japan gets married in April, and our son that lives in North Carolina is back in touch as well. We are very thankful for all of our family.

We also welcomed a new family member into our home in September, our newest furry purry angel, Sammy. He is now a big part of our family. We also are thankful that all of our furry angels are healthy, even the tiny cat we rescued out of the cold and snow last December. She was covered by fleas, ticks, and starving to death, with only a couple of teeth she couldn't find enough to eat out in the woods where she was abandoned. She is now healthy and doing fine.

We enjoyed the Conference in March and got to see old friends and make new ones, we both reconnected with people that we hadn't had contact with for years on Facebook. We got to see some new National Parks in April on our short vacation and had Jenn and Aidan come visit when we got home. During 2009 we spent time with treasured friends during the year, we became closer to some friends and unfortunately some others became busy with other things and we seemed to not be as close to them. We began to volunteer at a National Park and it feels so good to help out and to get the opportunity to see and study and experience things in an area in which we have great interest. We are thankful for those opportunities in 2009 that we will continue on into 2010.

2009 is nearly done. Thank goodness. Bring on 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Some background on our holiday celebrations

I've been long interested in the historical beginnings and backgrounds of holidays, and Christmas is one of those that was adopted from earlier traditions. Here's an interesting article that explains just some of the earlier traditions that we base today's celebrations upon. The italicised comments are my own.

From the Article: Winter Solstice: The Unconquered Sun

At the Winter Solstice, we celebrate Children's Day to honour our children and to bring warmth, light and cheerfulness into the dark time of the year. Holidays such as this have their origin as "holy days". They are the way human beings mark the sacred times in the yearly cycle of life. (Many Church holidays were adopted from earlier holy days because it was easier to change the practices of the people than to eradicate them totally).

In the northern latitudes, midwinter's day has been an important time for celebration throughout the ages. On this shortest day of the year, the sun is at its lowest and weakest, a pivot point from which the light will grow stronger and brighter. This is the turning point of the year. The romans called it Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.

The Roman midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, was both a gigantic fair and a festival of the home. Riotous merry-making took place, and the halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees. Lamps were kept burning to ward off the spirits of darkness. Schools were closed, the army rested, and no criminals were executed. Friends visited one another, bringing good-luck gifts of fruit, cakes, candles, dolls, jewellery, and incense. Temples were decorated with evergreens symbolizing life's continuity, and processions of people with masked or blackened faces and fantastic hats danced through the streets.

The custom of mummers visiting their neighbours in costume, which is still alive in Newfoundland, is descended from these masked processions.

Roman masters feasted with slaves, who were given the freedom to do and say what they liked (the medieval custom of all the inhabitants of the manor, including servants and lords alike, sitting down together for a great Christmas feast, came from this tradition). A Mock King was appointed to take charge of the revels (the Lord of Misrule of medieval Christmas festivities had his origin here). (The iconic Father Christmas is most likely descended from this tradition).

In pagan Scandinavia the winter festival was the yule (or juul). Great yule logs were burned, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends. It was believed that the yule log had the magical effect of helping the sun to shine more brightly.
Mistletoe, which was sacred because it mysteriously grew on the most sacred tree, the oak, was ceremoniously cut and a spray given to each family, to be hung in the doorways as good luck. The celtic Druids also regarded mistletoe as sacred. Druid priests cut it from the tree on which it grew with a golden sickle and handed it to the people, calling it All-Heal. To hang it over a doorway or in a room was to offer goodwill to visitors. Kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship. Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches because of its Pagan associations, but it has continued to have a special place in home celebrations.

In the third century various dates, from December to April, were celebrated by Christians as Christmas. January 6 was the most favoured day because it was thought to be Jesus' baptismal day (in the Greek Orthodox Church this continues to be the day to celebrate Christmas). Around 350, (kind of fascinating that Christmas was adopted so long after his death. Historical information says that the census was in APRIL and that the birth of Jesus was not in December at all). December 25 was adopted in Rome and gradually almost the entire Christian Church agreed to that date, which coincided with Winter Solstice, the Yule and the Saturnalia. The merry side of Saturnalia was adopted to the observance of Christmas. By 1100 Christmas was the peak celebration of the year for all of Europe. During the 16th century, under the influence of the Reformation, many of the old customs were suppressed and the Church forbade processions, colourful ceremonies, and plays.

In 1647 in England, Parliament passed a law abolishing Christmas altogether. When Charles II came to the throne, many of the customs were revived, but the feasting and merrymaking were now more worldly than religious.

Here in Nova Scotia outdoor coloured lights play an important part in the local celebration of the mid-winter season. With the day turning to darkness so early in the North, it is cheering to look out into the cold and dark at lights sparkling and glittering in the crisp air.

Our celebration of Children's Day is inspired not only by the pagan celebrations of mid-winter but arises also out of the Japanese holidays of Boy's Day and Doll's Day, which are two separate days in the spring, when boys and girls of a certain age are presented to the temple and honoured with special gifts. The Shambhala Children's Shrine is modeled after the display of ancestral dolls traditional in homes on Doll's Day.

Our sangha is our village, our clan, our family. Our children belong to all of us, and are bright reminders of the future of Buddhism. We celebrate them and the Great Eastern Sun together at the darkest time of the year, with open-hearth parties and cheerful festivities.

The Unconquered Sun first appeared as an article by Janet Shotwell in The Karma Dzong Banner (Vol III, No 11, December 1991, Halifax, Nova Scotia).

(I wonder if the militant Christians that want to abolish the practice of saying "Happy Holidays" realize that their own holiday is a variation and product of other Holidays itself? I hope that people of all faiths will educate themselves on the basis for their own holidays in history, and will learn tolerance and respect for everyone's traditions. I will continue to say "Happy Holidays" with respect and appreciation for all beliefs and customs that celebrate their own holiday or variant at this time of year. Happy Holidays to everyone!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Enjoying a snow day

Poor weather rarely works in my favor. Usually it just means that I have to get up really early to dig out and drive at a snails pace to the airport even if the flight has no prayer of getting out...they won't cancel until they try to get a window in which to take off and then the cancel. By then it's difficult to make it back home. But last night, the schedulers got smart and decided to cancel the last 2 arrivals into most east coast airport to prevent planes from being stuck in the predicted big storm. My flight was supposed to be this morning at 6 so the crew desk called me to say it had been cancelled so I could stay home. Woohoo!
It started snowing late last night, and this is how it looked this morning after the guys had been out shoveling for awhile, 4 or 5 inches on the ground I think.

The roads were slick but passable and it was indeed beautiful especially because I didn't have to go out in it. It has continued to snow all day, sometimes incredibly heavy with beautiful big puffy flakes. At one point I took our Tabby, Belle out on her harness on the deck because she really wanted to get into it, it took her about 2 minutes to decide that she would rather be indoors in the warm house.

At about 3:30pm I took a yardstick outside and measured the snow on a bench on our back deck. It came up to 13 1/2 inches, though I think it possible that some snow has dropped off the sides of the bench and it might be slightly deeper on the ground.

This picture was of the same area at 3:30pm...notice how much more snow was on the ground then than this morning. It's snowing pretty heavily so we'll see how much we end up with. By the way, the airport is closed now, and I hear that an airplane ran off the runway trying to take off earlier today. I'm very glad that my airline decided to cancel the flights rather than to try to fly in the poor weather conditions. Now to see what happens with the snow continuing...I'm eligible for reassignment tomorrow but I doubt I could get there with the roads so bad.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Woo hoo, more FO's!

I've been in my favorite knitting spot on the sofa quite a bit since we came home from Thanksgiving. I love sitting there with the cat children and being cozy, knitting, watching TV, and spending time with my dear hubby. Here I'm just starting the second mitten to my cat mitten pair with the help of Gracie, the only one of the kids that wasn't asleep at the time.
And here they are, newly finished and modeled by Rosie and Sammy. I absolutely loved working on these fun patterns by Jorid Linvik! If you're interested they are available on the web or via Ravalry. I did them in Worsted Weight Lamb's Pride Superwash, though I probably will do any future pairs in Sport weight. I did them on 5US circulars.

I absolutely love the paw prints and the fish bones on the palm sides of the mittens. :) 2 color (Fair Isle) knitting is so easy and so fun and interesting, and now I even have a great pair of mittens that are perfectly suited to wear with my uniform coat!

I finished these socks last week too, these are the September 2008 Socks That Rock project. The pattern is called Cloning Anenome Rib and the color way is Tide Pooling. They were fun and easy and I absolutely love the colors! Now I'm off to work on other unfinished projects in my project basket. Knit on!

1st Md Cav Officer Frock Coat

This dress uniform frock coat is attributed to have belonged to Lt. Bonn of the 1st Maryland Cavalry, CSA and has recently been acquired by the Museum Collection at Gettysburg NMP. The collection has very few Confederate Cavalry items so this is a very nice addition. The frock coat has not yet gone on exhibit, and the white of the storage box has brightened some of the pictures here, I do apologize. The coat is double breasted with 7 evenly spaced Maryland Buttons on the front on each lapel. Faintly yellow piping in the sleeve trim, the neckline, and the opening overlap shows in these pictures.

The reason these pictures are on my blog for your study is that this coat belonged to a member of the historical unit which we represent when we reenact, thus the interest on my part, besides my general interest in history, the Civil War, textiles, construction of period garments, and material culture.
I have enhanced the photographs of the jacket for clarity and lighting so the colors aren't coming out consistant, it's just due to making it lighter or darker to show detail. The cloth is the "Maryland Blue" Kersey Cloth, or British Army Cloth...thin and very well made. I've noticed that most of the "reenacting" uniforms have much heavier cloth than in the originals, both Confederate and Union. Notice also that the sleeve and rank trim is very subdued, almost to the point of being purposely darkened, though I have no information on whether or not that has indeed been done. The yellow piping might either have been light colored by design, or faded over the years. I haven't done any research yet on the properties of the yellow dyes used for wool in that era.
This is a close up of the lining of the coat, it's silk, and you can see from these shots that it has seen some wear, it is not attached on the bottom, the wool and the silk have been hemmed separately as was done in garments of the era.
This is another close up of the lining showing the cloth without the shine of reflected flash.
This is a close up of the sleeve braid. It's a single thickness of soutache braid and has been sewn on the outside of the sleeve before the jacket was put together.
The coat has Maryland buttons on the body of the coat and they have been darkened with either lacquer or some such substance. I haven't done any research to see why the buttons have been darkened, one volunteer told the curator that there was a practice popular at the time called "Japaning" which was to cover the buttons or item with a clear to lightish brown lacquer much like the lacquered bento boxes in Japaneese restaraunts have. So far we can't find any mention of this practice in the books we have on hand. This shot of the coat shows the inside buttons.
The sleeve buttons are small Federal buttons, 3 to a sleeve. They, too, have been darkened.
Notice the silk lining has worn from use in the neckline. His collar rank designation is evident here as well as an added loop for hanging the jacket.

This incredible artifact is going to be on display in the Gallery in Gettysburg at the Visitor's center after conservation.