The Firehouse Light

The Firehouse Light

I happened to pick up this book at the library the other day, and it caused such excitement in our house that I thought I should share.

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The Firehouse Light begins with a story of a fire in a small town, many years ago. The townspeople must get their hand-pulled hose carts, axes, and buckets to fight the fire out of a dark wooden shed. Then a simple four watt light bulb is donated to illuminate the shed so that they can get their equipment easier.

The years pass, and the little town grows. The little four watt light bulb is moved to a real firehouse and then a newer one. The firefighting service develops over time; volunteers are replaced by professional firefighters. The hand-pulled hose carts are replaced by horse drawn carts, and then trucks that become gradually more modern; the little town becomes a big town, and then a city.

It is reminiscent of The Little House, but the constant in the story is that four watt light bulb. It continues to glow, softly, a sentinel watching over the many firefighters through the years. One hundred years after the bulb was first lit, the city throws a birthday party for it. At that point, I finally began to wonder, oh my goodness, is this a true story!? Of course it is, as you’ve guessed by now. At the end, there is a picture of the real light bulb, at home in it’s firehouse in Livermore, CA, and the address for its own website!

I was reading to the two little ones, but Savannah, from the next room, called out to ask, is it still burning? Sam and Liss could barely contain their excitement as I pulled up the site. Indeed it is, in it’s 114th year of illumination, having burned for nearly 1,000,000 hours (the website says it will be 1,000,000 as of June this year). You can go see it now, on it’s own webcam. It appears the bulb has already outlasted several cameras, and has been recognized by Guinness and Ripley’s as the world’s oldest known working light bulb. There are some theories that may help explain how it has lasted so long, but I’ll let you explore that topic on your own.

 

Something Other Than God

This weekend I read Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler, who blogs at Conversion Diary. It’s her memoir, which details her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. I’m not sure how long I’ve been intermittently reading her blog, but it feels like I’ve been waiting for this book to come out for approximately forever.

In telling the story of her search for truth, the book deals wonderfully, critically, and very honestly with the big, hard questions about God, religion, and those details of specifically Catholic teaching that often make people uncomfortable (contraception, I’m looking at you). I literally both laughed out loud and well, I didn’t quite cry, but there were tears in my eyes at points in the book.

I can’t find the post to link it, but I remember reading in one of her posts that when Jen was an atheist, she used to use the term as almost a shortcut or code for saying she was intelligent. It’s an attitude I encounter a lot: of course I’m an atheist, I rely on
REASON rather than faith in fairy tales. Her intellectually rigorous, honest, and reluctant journey to the Church shows so beautifully that were never intended to leave reason outside when we enter the church.

No matter where you are in relation to God, to faith, to religion, to doubt, even complete rejection of it all – this book will meet you there. Who could not love following the faith journey of someone who “poured out the most sincere prayer [she] had ever said, for the soul of Tupac Shakur.”

I leave you with the book trailer.

What I’ve Not Been Up To

I have no exciting knitting to share. I’ve been very busy not-knitting, actually. I seem to have gotten into a bit of a knitting funk. I just have no motivation to pick up my needles. Savannah’s Harry Potter sweater is very close to completion and I just have not done it. I’m not sure what to blame this on. The pattern is very not exciting, for starters. It’s all stockinette. Once I finished the not-really-intarsia letter H there was nothing to keep it interesting. Is my attention span so short? Yes, apparently it is. And somehow, while I’ve been busy not-knitting it, it got to be May! At this point, I’m thinking there’s already no way possible that all my big projects will be completed for Christmas. And I’m thinking that’s okay. I’ll have to decide, once I’m feeling knitty again, which projects take precedence. I also think, however, that I kind of burned myself out with the number of projects I ended up making for last Christmas. Moderation: it’s good for all things. Anyone have any tips for getting out of my knitting funk? I really would like to start knitting again, but night after night, I just don’t. Hm.

While I’ve been not-knitting, we’ve also been not-sailing, which is a bit of a bummer. We spend Mother’s Day down at the boat trying to finish up the maintenance necessary before putting it back in the water. It’s very close now and it’s scheduled to go back in Memorial Day weekend. Of course, this would be easier if Alan – who is not a runner – hadn’t signed up for a 50k race on June 1. Why would he do such a thing? So… getting the boat ready and finishing up training will both be packed into the next two weeks. This should get interesting.

So what have I been doing whilst busy not-knitting and not-sailing? There have been softball practices and games and church activities. There was a First Holy Communion and a party. And there has been reading, which is a plus. It is hard to find the time for both knitting and reading (and I found out the hard way not to try to mix the two). I was inspired by the release of the movie (which I haven’t seen) to re-read The Hobbit, which I just finished. I intend to go on and read The Lord of the Rings books and The Silmarillion, but we’ll see.

So what have you not been doing that you should be or would like to be doing?

Well so much for that…

Multitasking, that is. Despite my efforts at making the most of my free time by knitting and reading simultaneously, I have merely succeeded in confirming that multitasking is inefficient and leads to errors. I measured my work; I was just about at the point to start adding the letter H to my first Harry Potter sweater when a mistake caught my eye. I’d managed to pick up an extra stitch on one end. After counting my stitches it turns out that I had in fact managed to pick up two extra stitches. Enter a brief mental struggle over whether to fudge it by knitting a couple sets of stitches together and be bothered by the error every time I looked at the thing, or rip a couple inches and do it right. I ripped it. It was painful. Lesson learned. I suppose I’ll finish this sweater eventually; it seems to be taking forever. It’s probably a mark of my generation that I so greatly prefer projects done with bulkier yarn and bigger needles. If not instant, gratification that comes at least a bit faster is so nice.

Time management

Time management

I’m supposed to finish the first Harry Potter sweater by March 4. It’s written on the calendar in permanent marker and everything. So far I have the back finished and just a few inches of the front. I’m thinking it’s not going to happen.

My knitting pace has slowed waaaaay down. There is only so much free time, and after the frenzy of Christmas knitting, I’ve been wanting to use more of mine with my first love and obsession: reading. The problem is, with the big plans I’ve already made for next Christmas, I kind of already have a schedule to keep to. Now, I’m well aware that multitasking is not very efficient. However, it is really good for silencing the part of my brain that’s nagging me to do whichever activity I’m not currently doing. So, while I may be both reading and knitting slower than normal if I do both at the same time, I’ve found it’s highly satisfying to do so. How does one knit and read at the same time? Well, you need a book that stays open by itself. The Kindle is obviously great for this, but at the moment I’m reading an old fashioned print book, so a binder clip helps keep it open. Also, quite obviously, this only works with a totally brainless pattern. The Harry Potter sweaters are all stockinette stitch – the bits that need shaping and the intarsia for the initial of course call for strict attention, but great swaths of it can just be done on autopilot.

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With the book held open, one need only stop to turn pages. Multitasking accomplished. Knitting pace may still be slow, but my free time satisfaction rate is high.

On the Elf…

On the Elf…

Advent has finally arrived and we’ve allowed Christmas to fully infiltrate our house! Thank goodness! That waiting was awfully hard for me after such an early Thanksgiving.

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IMG_4280IMG_4282I’m feeling good about my new Advent “calendar” tradition I’ve begun; the kids are very excited to see what’s in tomorrow’s envelope. There’s one Christmas tradition I have very mixed feelings about, however. The Elf on the Shelf. If somehow you’ve missed this phenomenon, the idea is this elf hides in your house in a different place each day. Each night, he flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa if you’ve been good or naughty.

I like the idea because it extends the magic and the mystery of Christmas, and I thought the hide-and-seek game of it would be fun. About two years ago, we adopted an elf and named him Stewart. (Confession: Savannah named him after Stuart Little, but she couldn’t spell well yet so I took the liberty of changing the spelling of his name to name him after Jon Stewart, so I guess our little elf is named after two famous short guys…)

IMG_4275The reality of the elf concept falls a little flat.

The biggest problem: you can’t touch the elf. The book stipulates that you must not touch the elf or you might make him loose his Christmas magic and he won’t be able to return to the North Pole anymore. Makes perfect sense. If the kids are playing with it as a toy, it really will loose its “magic.” However, you simply can’t trust a Sammy to resist the urge to touch the elf if it’s possible. So Stewart always has to hide in really high places. The kids know this, and frankly, there are only so many spots up near my ceilings, so it never takes them too long to find the him. There goes the hide-and-seek fun.

It also negates the possibility of doing the vast majority of all those clever ideas on the internet of the elf doing mischievous deeds during the night. Stewart can’t have a date with Barbie or be caught wrapping various household objects in wrapping paper or set up a Thomas the train ride for himself. All these things would require putting him on a fairly large flat surface to have room to set up the scene. I don’t have any large flat surfaces handy near my ceiling.

I tried, the first day he came back this year, to borrow one of those cute ideas. Here’s how this went in my house. Stewart wrote “I’m Back!” in red and green M&Ms on the kitchen table before perching on the light fixture above it. Felix, our cat, thought the M&Ms made lovely toys, so he had a jolly good time batting them around the house, leaving everyone perplexed where the huge mess came from in the morning. Later in the day, Felicity was the first to notice Stewart. This was adorable, and the most redeeming moment the elf has had this year. She jumped with joy and told him she loved him and was so glad to have him back. Later when I was upstairs moving laundry she yelled for me that Stewart was in danger… because Sammy had taken a vacuum attachment and poked him. He would have fallen to his doom and the sure loss of his magic if he hadn’t been securely hugging one of the candles.

So Stewart stays up high, hides in the same reliable places in turn, and doesn’t try any of the cutesy stuff anymore. I’m just not feeling the magic. Remembering to move him and trying to find good places for him to hide is a real chore. And, inevitably I suppose, the kids use references to him to threaten each other if someone is being naughty or unkind. Stewart the enforcer; that’s no fun. Actually, they still seem to enjoy him. They surely were looking for him and anticipating his return well before I was ready to bring him back, so maybe it’s just me in an elf funk. I just hope that when they get older they’ll remember Stewart as something fun, not as a lame tool I tried to use to make them behave because that was never what I intended.