Hope+for+the+Holidays

Only Cars and Convicts have Numbers. My Grandchildren have Names.

Only Cars and Convicts have Numbers - My Grandchildren have NamesWhen my boys were young and wild, each of them requiring 100% of my full and undivided attention, I told them I expected six grandchildren from each of them someday. At least half had to be girls. After all, the granddaughters would be perfectly well-behaved little angels, right? And the boys would be payback.

In due time, they grew to be handsome and charming, married lovely girls and started producing babies. And shortly thereafter, each informed me that they would not be having six children. Imagine that. (snicker)

A Story Problem

We have quite a few friends in large families, and sometimes it ‘s easy to identify them by number or position in the family. “What is the name of the third Smith girl?” “Can you believe that woman is having her tenth baby?” “That youngest Jones boy is quite a handful.” “My oldest son is off to college in the fall.” Emma Schenstrom, in my book Baggage Claim, enjoys referring to her numerous offspring like that. It’s a family joke, and no one takes it personally. They’re all happy and well-adjusted. So I did the math – a story problem – for our own growing family:

We started with one granddaughter from our oldest son and his wife, and then the second son and his wife had a girl. Two perfect, precious granddaughters! Son #1 presented us with two grandsons, and then Son #2 and his wife had their first boy – Grandson #3. We had five grandchildren!  Sons (and daughters-in-law) #2 and #3 both announced pregnancies last fall. Grandson #4, the first child of Son #3, was born a few weeks ago, and we are in daily expectation of the arrival of Granddaughter #3. Seven grandchildren. We may get two or three more, but they are definitely falling short of the eighteen I requested.
You don’t need to figure all of that out. It was just silliness. But recently, I was struck by a comment from my youngest daughter-in-law’s mother. We were talking about the new baby, and she said something to the effect that she was very (more) excited because this was their first grandchild and I already had a lot of them. She didn’t mean anything negative – she was just very excited – but it bothered me.

 

Go Pack Go - Cathe SwansonNot a Pack

I don’t think of my grandchildren as a herd. They have names, not numbers, and each of them knows that Grandpa and Grandma loves them individually. This new little fellow stirred as much excitement in us as the first one did, and we are in a state of happy anticipation of our new granddaughter’s arrival.

When asked (or whenever I can work it into a conversation unsolicited), it’s usually easiest to say, “I have seven grandchildren.” The number gives me a prideful thrill, as if I’d accomplished it myself. In a way, that number – each of their positions within the family – is meaningful. It’s like a church. Our local body of believers is a church family. We are individually given various spiritual gifts, to build each other up, and they are all necessary for the functioning of the church. Likewise, we are all parts of the body of which Christ is the head. Grandson #2 may be a foot, and Granddaughter #3 may be an eye, but they are both equally important. That’s what a family is.

We are not numbers. God numbered the sparrows and the hairs on our head, but He knows us by name. In the Book of Life, you will find my name, not an account number.

That’s how it is with my grandchildren. Each new baby is as fresh and exciting as the oldest, who is still as fresh and exciting as the day we welcomed her into our family.

(And no, I couldn’t resist using that picture.)

 

 

 

GrandchildrenGrandchildren – How do you do it?

Do you have grandchildren? How do you keep each of them special and individual while still bonding as a family – especially if you don’t live close together? It’s important to us, but we are finding it difficult to arrange visits with one child at a time. Schedules and transportation issues become complex. I love the “whole family” visits, but the one-on-one time is rare and precious.

How do you do it?

Hope+for+the+Holidays

Rhubarb Crisp – My One Weakness

Rhubarb Crisp Recipe from Cathe Swanson

First of all… Let’s get real. I have more than one weakness. I admit it – I am a multi-flawed individual. But this is a big one:  I love rhubarb crisp. At least once a year, during rhubarb season, I make as many pans of rhubarb crisp as possible and eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks until it is all gone. It’s good hot from the oven, or at room temperature or cold. I don’t need ice cream or whipped cream. It stands on its own merits. I love rhubarb crisp.

Rhubarb Plant at the Castle - Cathe Swanson - Rhubarb RecipeIt’s seasonal

Normally, I eat a fairly clean diet relatively low in carbs and high in protein. I eat weird things like coconut oil and apple cider vinegar (not together). All year long, I avoid cakes, candy and other sweets, but during rhubarb season, I eat enough sugar, fat and empty calories to make up for it. And I don’t feel guilty.

In the past, I was dependent on the kindness of my friends, so sometimes I could only make one batch a year, but there is an established supply of rhubarb here at the castle.

I’ve already moved most of my plants to the new house, but I want to use the rhubarb this spring, so I’ll come back here in the fall to dig it up and transplant it. Rhubarb is easy to grow and harvest, and YES, you can compost the leaves. You can find more information about rhubarb HERE. 

 

Rhubarb Crisp – the Recipe

My rhubarb crisp recipe came from my friend’s mother. LaVonne assured me it’s not a family secret. LaVonne doesn’t like rhubarb crisp. (That’s why we are such good friends. She doesn’t expect me to give her any of my rhubarb crisp.  Since I won’t be sharing mine, here’s how you can make your own rhubarb crisp.

Harvest rhubarb stalks, cut off the leaves, wash them and chop them into pieces – about 1/3” wide. You will need 3 quarts of chopped rhubarb.

Rhubarb Crisp Recipe - Cathe SwansonHeat the oven to 350*
Grease four 9” square or round cake pans. I use that old-fashioned, much-maligned, trans-fatty Crisco shortening for greasing pans. Butter will scorch.

Put into a large pot:
3 quarts chopped rhubarb
3 C. White sugar (I use 2 1/2 cups, to assuage the guilt)
3 C. Water
3 t. Vanilla
6 T. Cornstarch
Cook this until is it thick and syrupy.
While it is cooking, melt 1 1/2 C. (three sticks!) butter. Put it in a large bowl and stir by hand into crumbles:
3 C. Flour (I use half whole wheat and half unbleached)
2 1/2 C. Oats
1 1/2 C. Brown sugar (I usually use 1 1/4 cup.)
1 1/2 C. White sugar (I usually use one cup.)

Put half the crumbs in the greased pans. Pour the sauce over the crumbs and then put the rest of the crumbs on top. Bake for 40 minutes.

 

I hope you like this as much as I do!

Recipe for Rhubarb Crisp

What is your favorite food weakness?

(It doesn’t have to be a weakness, really. Maybe your very favorite food is green beans!)

 

Hope+for+the+Holidays

Exceedingly, Abundantly

Introducing… Soren

SorenWe welcomed a new baby into our family this weekend.  Our grandson, Soren, was born late Friday night. He’s the first child of our youngest son,  and it brings me joy to see his parents love and cherish their newborn baby. Their awe blesses me.

When my own children were little, I was always pushing for the next milestone – the first tooth, the first word, solid foods, walking, riding a bike, learning to read… forward, forward.  Now, with my grandchildren, I want to slow it all down. To treasure each moment and fully appreciate each stage of their development.

This is a good era for being  a grandparent. Soren is the only grandchild who lives near us, but we see pictures of the others online.  (Never try to tell a grandparent that Facebook is a bad thing. I have even “face-timed” with my grandchildren several times!) Grandchildren grow with astonishing speed. They change too quickly. I’m sure it’s no faster than their parents did, but from a distance, time passes alarmingly fast. We can’t catch it and slow it down. All we can do is be aware of life in each moment.

A few years ago, I heard a man used the phrase: “I’m killing time until…”, and I wanted to shout, “Don’t do that!”  Don’t kill time. You only have so much of it, and once the moments or hours or weeks have slipped past (or been killed), they are gone. Instead, redeem the time.  Let peace abide in your heart for each moment, each slice of life that God gives us. See what He gives us. Give it your full attention. Use it. Treasure it.

As a young mom, the days were long. As an older woman, the years are short.

I see my daughter-in-law stroke her son’s head with wonder, and my own heart overflows. She’s not reading a book or looking at her phone while she feeds him. She’s looking at Soren, marveling at this precious gift. I think I often fail at that. I don’t always give God’s gifts my full attention. Sometimes I wonder why He continues to bless me so abundantly, exceedingly, when I let so many of His “smaller” blessings slip by unnoticed.

Oh, right.  It’s all grace.

I do fail to appreciate the small things sometimes, but He continues to pile on the blessings, filling my cup to overflowing – and then continuing to pour more on top. He is good, kind, loving. His mercies are new every morning. This morning, I am going to keep watch and really see the mercies and the blessings, big and small.  And give thanks for my family – every one of them, individually.

Hope+for+the+Holidays

Do what you love – as long as you love doing it

noquilting

I recently published an article – Quitting Quilting – on my GloryQuilts blog, explaining why I was restructuring my business. It explained the quitting part, but it didn’t really address the “art as career” aspect of the change. Through this experience, I am persuaded that if I am ever forced to support myself financially, I must not do it by making a career from the things I love doing. It sounds good, but it can end up sucking the joy from the creative heart and leaving only resentment.

For more than 20 years, I have been teaching quiltmaking as well as sewing and quilting professionally as GloryQuilts.  At first, I sold class samples and pattern prototypes as well as some things I made just for fun. I did some juried art shows, and then some that were less selective. I had to make quantities of items for the shows, on a strict deadline, and be ready to set up displays and manage sales. I started selling things on eBay and then Etsy.  Instead of selling unique and creative quilts, I began creating quilts specifically to sell, in trendy fabrics and styles. As my reputation grew, I was offered and accepted a number of commissions and special order projects.

But I had never intended to become a quilt factory.  What had once been a delight to me became stressful drudgery. I loathed the sight of my sewing machine and drove around the block to avoid seeing the fabric store. I didn’t even want to make baby quilts for my grandchildren!

Turning a passion into a paying career is something to be approached with caution. If it’s going to remain a creative pleasure, it must remain creative. If it’s going to be profitable, it must be practical. It will probably involve deadlines. It will involve  sales and marketing, business law, accounting, taxes, various expenses that eat into the fruit of your labors… Labors. Are you still feeling the joy of creativity?

It’s a wonderful thing to have work that makes you happy. We all need money, and it’s nice if we can get that money in a pleasant environment. Do what you love and love what you do, right?  The problem is the second part – to keep loving what you are doing once it’s a job. What happens when you give up the life-sucking day job to make a living from your art and then the art becomes the life-sucking day job?

Be realistic in the shift from hobby to career.  Before you start, assess the possibilities and requirements.  In most cases, this kind of self-employment is sales and independent contracting. Can you set aside the creative part of your skill set to practice on the weekends or does the business consume your enthusiasm and energy? Are you a painter willing to work as a commercial artist? An art photographer willing to do senior portraits?  A poet who will write product descriptions for catalogs? A creative chef will be happier in his own restaurant, with creative freedom, than he would be at McDonald’s, at any wage.

It’s easy to be creative on our own terms, without other people telling us what our art should look like and when it should be completed and how much money it’s worth. There is a niche market for art and original work. A few people and companies will appreciate its value, but it’s still a different scenario than just creating for our own pleasure and being willing to sell our art for a good price. Renaissance artists had patrons, and even that could be difficult.

After yet another stressful autumn and early winter, for those reasons and others, I made the firm decision to stop taking commissions and doing special orders. No more craft sales or any other sales event unless I happen to have stacks of finished items available at the time. (unlikely!)

I don’t like to say “God spoke to me and said…”, but I know that this is the will of God. I learned it through prayer, Scripture, wise counsel, observation and examination of the real situation, the preferences of my husband, the changing desires of my own heart. It all led to the unwavering conviction that I needed to stop that cycle and move into a new stage of my life.

In truth, I knew it a long time ago, as God opened portals in my life. I side-stepped them, closed them, looked through them and decided I wasn’t meant to go through them. I wasn’t good enough, they weren’t familiar to me, I needed money (and there didn’t appear to be any on the other sides of those doors.) I can call it fear, feelings of inadequacy, and the disbelief that my desires could really coincide with God’s will for me, but it all boiled down to disobedience and unbelief.

I was slow to make the changes, but I am committed now. I am writing. I am a writer. I believe it is my vocation, at least for now. I will still quilt. I enjoy teaching – especially the workshops that combine Christian ministry and quilting together. I like designing new patterns and making special items. I will still sell things:  class samples, pattern prototypes, and things I make just for fun, but I am not sewing to sell, like a quilt factory. God has called me to do a new thing. I am free to write without feeling guilty – as if I am wasting time in unprofitable activity.

Since I made that firm decision and announced it, I have made several good sales from the current stock in my Etsy shop and increased my internet following by a significant number. I am receiving this as affirmation of my changes. My husband is happy to see me writing and very supportive. Another affirmation.

It shouldn’t surprise us when God gives us the desires of our hearts and frees us from bondage of various kinds, when He makes everything work together for good, but it does surprise us and makes us wary. Sometimes we wonder if we are just seeing our own wishes and calling it God’s will. But we need to remember that He loves us here-and-now as well as for all eternity. He is indeed gracious and blesses us daily, beyond our comprehension.

Those blessings bring a responsibility, though. It’s the tagline for GloryQuilts:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

My (as yet unpublished!) books are not specifically evangelical. They are for the pleasure and encouragement of my fellow believers and a testimony of grace to whoever might read them. I am very grateful to God for this opportunity, and my goal is to glorify Him in all I do. He is good.

And I will love quiltmaking again, and I will make quilts for my grandchildren.

 

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Hope+for+the+Holidays

6 Reasons to Buy an Erin Condren Life Planner

 

Erin Condren Life Planners rock. Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

There are many other planners, and some of them are almost as good as the Erin Condren planners, but they aren’t the real thing. Some people prefer FranklinCovey  (which is more formal), or other fun ones like Filofax,   Plum Paper Planners, or The Happy Planner.  You can also find nice planners from a variety of sellers on Etsy or you can even buy one at Walmart and dress it up.  I haven’t seen any I like as well as my ECLP, though.

 

ATTENTION: The link below is my affiliate link. If you purchase a planner through that link, you will receive a $10 discount. And I will receive a $10 credit toward my own next purchase.  😀

 ~~**ERIN CONDREN LIFE PLANNERS**~~

Reason #1:  It makes me happy.

 Erin Condren Life Planner  3D embellishments  http://www.catheswanson.comAll the other reasons are really justifications. It makes me smile to see my planner. I’m just an amateur planner, but I enjoy decorating it with stickers and washi tape, making inserts for it, using different colored pens and showing it off, especially to my granddaughters, who love it as much as I do. It’s pretty, and they can find their birthdays and special events in it.

 Over the top  3D embellishments Birthday  Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

Hard to miss.

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com Monthly spread

 Excuse  Reason #2: It helps you plan for the long-term and immediate future. (Duh…) In the 2-page monthly spreads, I write birthdays and upcoming events. I indicate paydays, bills due, doctor appointments and other repeating or scheduled items in advance. I can do that a whole year ahead or at any time.

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com Stamps, stickers, 3D elements

 

The weekly pages are filled in later. I plan and decorate each week as it approaches, referring to the monthly spread to make sure I am not missing anything. This is the fun part.

 


Journaling in the Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.comReason #3: It functions like a journal. I frequently record events after the fact, so I remember them: last-minute work schedule changes, expenses incurred, canceled or unexpected events, accidents, illness or deaths, blog articles posted, gifts received or sent – or anything else that I may want to have a record of, for future reference.

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

Reason #4: It is a convenient place to track progress in goals. I use it to keep records of my social media growth and activity, the amount of writing I do each day, and sewing and informal selling records for GloryQuilts. I have checklist pages that snap into the coil and I move them along when I start each new week.

mason jar weight loss tracker Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

I also track exercise and weight loss in my planner. I made a very cute laminated insert for weight loss: I cut out a mason jar and put stars into it – one star for each pound I need to lose. As I lose each pound,  I “pour” it out of the jar into the heap on the bottom. It’s very rewarding to move each star – except for the ones I have to put back into the jar.  Ahem.  That doesn’t happen often. I use stickers or notes in the daily boxes to record weigh-ins, runs, workouts, water consumption, and anything else pertaining to fitness.  I am planning to start a “savings” jar soon, putting stars into the mason jar as we put money into the savings account.

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

meal planning Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

Reason #5: Meal planning. I can do this on the monthly or weekly spread according to my needs. Some people make inserts for the purpose. From there, I can make my grocery list.

 

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

books and authors for book reviews  Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com Reason #6: Lists. “To do” lists, especially, but I also have lists of phone numbers, shopping lists, books I have read or want to read for reviewing on the blog,  lists of authors I like (for browsing the library website or Amazon), non-critical passwords and prioritized lists of sewing and other business projects.

 

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

On the appropriate monthly spreads, I like to jot down Christmas and birthday gift ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

One of the main reasons I like having the planner is that it’s “one stop shopping.” One book holds all of the above. There are pocket pages and a zipped pouch in the back, so I could add receipts or scraps of paper if I needed to.

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

You can get an endless supply of accessories for the planner, including a pen holder and a fancy elastic band to hold it closed when you have stuffed it full of three-dimensional stickers and notes. It comes with a snap in ruler to use as a bookmark. Etsy is a fun place to get accessories, washi tape and stickers.

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.comThere are many Facebook groups for people who use Erin Condren or other planners. It’s fun to see what other people are doing. Some people spend more time on their planner than they do living the plans, and you can spend a LOT of money on little things to dress it up. I have been doing it less than a year and am pretty frugal. My spreads aren’t as nice as some, but as I said in Reason #1 –

it makes me happy.

 

Erin Condren Life Planner  http://www.catheswanson.com

 

Do you have a planner? What kind?

Do you dress it up?

What do you use it for?

Hope+for+the+Holidays

Doesn’t Dad Deserve a Mother’s Day?

bradkids711

It’s not fair.

We all know that moms and dads are equally important in their children’s lives, but the days we set aside to honor them – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – are very different. I read online (so it must be true) that Americans spend $7 billion dollars more on Mother’s Day than on Father’s Day. The Hallmark cards are funnier on Father’s Day. Churches treat Mother’s Day with reverence and sensitivity and Father’s Day is an opportunity for sermons one “how to do it better.”  I know it probably bugs me more than it does the men, but it does bug me, so I wrote about it in one of my books. That’s an advantage of being an author. You can spout off your opinions and attribute them to fictional characters.

In my story “Baggage Claim,” Ben Taylor goes in search of his biological father. He finds Jonah Campbell,  who is delighted to learn that he has a son and four young grandchildren – and he especially likes the children’s nanny, Agatha. This is a scene between Agatha and Jonah, getting in the car after church on Father’s Day.

It’s a work in progress, before editing. Remember:  don’t judge books by the first draft!


“So.” Agatha’s voice was challenging. “What did you think of your first Father’s Day service?”

The children had been talking about Fathers Day all week, reveling in their secrets and nearly revealing them in the process. Jonah had been surprised to find himself included in the “father” category, but he loved it.

“It was good.” He tried to think of something more to say. “It was an encouraging message,” he said. “Lots of good ideas.”

“Yes, the pastor had a lot of advice. Did you pick up one of those papers in the back? The ones listing additional resources for learning to be a good father?”

She was trying to make a point. Had he missed something? “I got one for Ben. It looked like it was directed more to the younger dads, but some of it would probably apply to me, too, with the boys.”

“It was terrible!” The words burst out of her, startling him. He’d thought it was good – an old-fashioned exhortation.

“You didn’t like it?”

“Oh, it was fine. But why today?”

“It’s Father’s Day.” It made sense to him. He buckled his seat belt and flipped up the sun visor.

Agatha gave him an exasperated look, the one she usually directed at Ben. “What kind of church service do you see on Mothers Day?”

Was it a trick question? Jonah opened his mouth to say that he didn’t usually pay attention to Mothers Day sermons, hoping to make a joke of it and diffuse her irritation, but she didn’t wait for a response.

“Mothers get nothing but praise. It’s not a lecture on how to be a better mother. Can you imagine how well it would go over if the pastor said, ‘Step up, Mothers. Scripture tells us you need to be a nurturing influence in your children’s lives. Don’t let your busy life be an excuse for failing to train them up.’ And then telling them he has a list of helpful books and websites for them?”

He choked on laughter. She didn’t stop. “And laying on a guilt trip, even telling them they need to meet their husband’s needs first. Can you imagine? No, Mothers get nothing but admiration. Fathers get jokes and lectures. It’s not fair!”

It was an insightful perspective. Jonah’s laughter died. “When Cindy and I went to church, they always made a point of including everyone. Like aunts and babysitters. They always mentioned that some women weren’t able to become pregnant, or had lost children or their mother had died.”

“Right! You don’t hear that on Father’s day.” Agatha said. She mimicked a southern preacher, “And we want to remember today that there are many men who are hurting because they are not yet fathers.”

“No, I didn’t hear that today,” Jonah said. “You’re right. But it’s good to have a sermon on fatherhood. Some of us need help.”

“Not on Fathers Day. It’s supposed to be a day to honor fathers, not nag them or make them feel guilty.”

“True!” He started the truck and entered the train exiting the church parking lot. “You should have a talk with Pastor Martin.”

“Maybe I will.”

He looked at her elegant profile. Maybe she would.


None of my guys are overly-sensitive. They would all rather have a grilled burger for Father’s Day than beautiful cards, flowers and chocolate. Too much gushiness would embarrass them and make them wonder what I’m up to. But I do want to show them respect and honor them for their dedication to loving and training up their children.

What makes your man feel valued and respected on Father’s Day?