Behold, How Good!

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever.

-Psalm 133

As someone who belongs to a minority group within the Catholic Church, I often see room for improvement or the negative side of things. However, I recently had a few really positive encounters, and I think it’s important to highlight those.

I’m going to Pittsburgh for the weekend. Pittsburgh is kind of like Mecca for Ruthenian Catholics in the United States. Our Metropolitan Archbishop is in Pittsburgh, and we Rusyns have deep ethnic roots in the greater Pittsburgh area. So, there are at least a few Ruthenian parishes in Pittsburgh.

But I’m not going for Rusyn-related reasons; I’m going to visit a Roman Catholic friend. I asked her if it would be possible for me to attend a Byzantine parish on Sunday. I’ve gone to Roman churches in Pittsburgh before, and my friend is a part of a really cool church community. But it’s the Sunday of the Fathers of the Nicene Council, and I’d like to embrace that. Plus…I like going to Divine Liturgy whenever possible. My friend responded to my message by saying that it should work and sent a link to the website to a parish that’s near her home.

Now, that might not seem like a big deal, but she knows how much being Eastern Catholic means to me. She knows that I love going to Liturgy. So she put forth a bit of effort to let me know that I could attend Liturgy in my own tradition. I could celebrate the Lord’s Supper with my people.

To me, that’s an act of love. It’s an act in favor of unity. It’s an act that seeks to support a sister in the Lord in worshipping according to her tradition. I believe that the Lord is pleased when we support one another in our faith traditions. I believe that He wants us to love one another because of our differences. He finds it to be good and pleasant when we embrace our differences and support one another.

The second thing that struck me might seem a bit odd. I was perusing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh’s website because I wanted to know if they’d moved Ascension to a Sunday. (Spoiler Alert: The website didn’t help me, BUT they didn’t move Ascension because they’re cool beans like that.) While exploring the site, I found this:

That link takes you to a list of all of the Eastern Catholic parishes within the geographic boundaries of the R.C. Diocese of Pittsburgh. It gives you addresses and phone numbers for those parishes. It even gives you links to parish websites.

That’s a great resource if you ask me. I happen to know the website for the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. But if you’re visiting the greater Pittsburgh area and you don’t know how to find an Eastern Catholic parish for your particular flavor of Eastern Catholic, the Roman Catholic diocese has a list for you. Or if you’re Roman Catholic and you’re interested in visiting an Eastern Catholic parish but you don’t know how to find one, here’s a list.

That, to me, is beautiful. It’s a really cool act of love and unity. I’d love to see more acts like it.

Paschal Joy

In the Eastern Churches, we spend the forty days between the Feast of the Resurrection and that of the Ascension greeting each other with “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” It is my favorite of all of our liturgical greetings because it is the most joy-filled. No matter how you say it (Christos Voskros! Christos Anesti! al-Masīḥ qām!) it is a message of enormous joy. Christ is Risen. He has become the first fruits of the dead. The grave has been despoiled. Hades is in chains. Christ is Risen!

I think that after the first few days of the Easter season, it’s easy to forget that we are still in the midst of the season. It is easy to get on with our lives and forget to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. To me, this is a mistake. It’s an easy mistake to make and one that I easily find myself falling into. But it’s still a mistake. We need to embrace the joy of the Resurrection.

Yes we have to go on with our lives. Yes, we have to go to work and school. We have to do the dishes and clean the bathroom. But Christ is Risen. We live in the world, and we must face the mundane realities of that. But we cannot allow cleaning a cat’s litter box or changing diapers to distract us from the fact that the Eternal Word of God is Risen from the dead. Death has been annihilated. Hades is in chains. Yes, we will still fall asleep in the flesh. But oh what joy awaits us after that!

And now, during these last days of the Easter season, embrace the joy of the Resurrection. For Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen! And you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen! And life is liberated!
Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.
Amen!

-St. John Chrysostom

FO: Bounce Blanket

A few months ago, one of my closest friends announced that she was expecting her first child, and I offered to make her a blanket. We talked about a few different elements (colors, patterns, and we agreed that I’d make a maize and blue Bounce blanket. I’d planned for it to be GINORMOUS. As both of the kiddo’s parents can tell you, I don’t do anything by halves. I was going to make the THROW sized blanket.

But then life threw a wrench in my knitting plans. I was supposed to knit the blanket at a leisurely pace while finishing a sweater for me. (The sweater was going to be done first.) Instead, the baby came a bit early, and I had to change my plans. The sweater had to go on the backburner. (Sorry, sweater!)  I wanted to get the blanket done as quickly as possible. I like to get the blanket done before the little one arrives if at all possible.

And…I was going to knit a big blanket. But I chose to make the shorter version of the blanket…admittedly with the width of the larger blanket.And in the end, I’m really pleased with the result. I love the way that this blanket turned out.

The mom, a graduate of the University of Michigan, had asked for maize and blue. Now, this was a hard pairing to find. I really wanted to use Madelinetosh tosh dk because I knew that was a good yarn for this blanket. I also knew that “fathom” from Madelinetosh pretty much is the Michigan blue, but fathom presents a problem. It (like most Madelinetosh) bleeds. So I had to prewash it to prevent the blue from dying the white or the yellow. There was much blue bleeding then. Then I had to play with cold water vinegar blocking to keep the colors form bleeding when I blocked. Again, this worked. No white stripes turned blue. No yellow stripes turned green. The blanket is a success as far as color and yarn go.

The pattern was also a huge success. I’ve seen this pattern around Ravelry for a long time, and I’ve always thought it to be very pretty. But the lace intimidated me. I figured it had to be H-A-R-D. Ha. I was wrong. It was super easy to memorize the lace pattern, and this is probably my quickest knit in a long time. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be revisiting this again.

Overall, this is a huge success. I’m thrilled. And I can’t wait to pass this off to the rightful owners.

Raveled here.

Guarding Your Time

The last week of April 2016 was one of the worst weeks of my life. I was taking two difficult and intense graduate courses, and it was finals week-The Reckoning, if you will-for both those courses. I’d been a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding the Saturday prior, it was allergy season, and my mind and body were both struggling as the week began. By the time the week ended, I’d failed a large assignment and earned the first (and thus far only, knock on wood) B of my grad school career. I had massive chunks of time that I couldn’t remember, and while I’d done all of my work, I was a wreck both physically and emotionally.

In retrospect, I hadn’t done a good job of guarding my time. My time is one of the most valuable things that I have, and I hadn’t guarded mine. Heading into finals week, I’d allowed myself to be distracted by numerous things, and on top of that, I hadn’t taken good care of my health. It’s no wonder that I was run-down and became ill. I hadn’t practiced good self-care.

I’m heading into a seven week period during which I need to write my master’s thesis while working full-time and taking a three-week online professional development course. Looking at the requirements of my final project for my degree, I know that this is going to require an enormous amount of time and energy. So this time, I’m not taking any chances. I’m allowing myself to two “social” events in the entire seven week period. I’m going to a friend’s bridal shower, and I’ll celebrate Father’s Day with my dad. My own birthday can go fly a kite. Grad school ends the next day; birthdays are allowed to be celebrated belatedly if need be.

Speaking from years of wisdom, someone recently told me that if you don’t take care of yourself when you’re young, no one will take care of you when you’re old. This is a season in my life in which I need to take active action to take care of myself. It’s not that I don’t love my friends and family. It’s that I cannot allow my health or my mental well-being to fall by the wayside. I’m no good to my students or friends or family if I’m not practicing good self-care.

So I’m choosing to guard my time as a way of practicing self-care. I have ways of de-stressing. I can bake. I can watch Netflix. I can annoy my roommate. But I need to take care of myself. And I need to be able to put on my own oxygen mask before I worry about anyone else. I’ve read far too many articles about how women struggle with self-care and/or the results of poor self-care. I’m going to be proactive in this season of my life. I’m going to take good care of myself so that I can be a good friend/daughter/coworker/teacher/minion to others.

It’s all about balance.

FO: Oaxacan Rose

I’ve recently finished another test knit for Thea Colman, and now that the pattern is published, I’m thrilled to show y’all how gorgeous this sweater is.

Oaxacan Rose is a fairly simple pullover knit almost entirely in seed stitch with a very simple cable motif in the middle of the front. 

I knit my sweater using Malabrigo Twist in the gorgeous colorway “Teal Feather.” I love how the seed stitch works with this yarn. The thickness of the yarn is perfect, and the color is delightful. The detail on the cable is just stunning. Fitting with the general pattern, it’s very simple. The pattern is very simple. It’s not a challenging knit in any way-as long as you know how to knit seed stitch and cable both right and left, it’s an easy pattern to knit.
I’m really glad that I was able to test this for Thea. I really love Malabrigo Twist, and I’d never even heard of it, let alone knit with it before this. But it came highly recommended, and it really lives up to the hype.

The only issue that I have with this sweater is that I finished it in April and the pattern is coming out in May. I won’t get to really appreciate this sweater until next fall. You’ll notice if you look at the pattern versus my sweater that mine is more fitted. I’m generally not much for loose-fitting clothing, so I made my Oaxacan Rose more fitted to better suit my comfort level. 

I love the neckline. It’s simple but classic.

Raveled here.

A Lesson from Fasting

As I’ve discussed before, I “go vegan” during Lent and Advent. I eliminate all animal products from my diet. The biggest change is the absence of meat although for someone who loves to bake the eggs are noticeable too. Now, eliminating animal products is not intended as a penance but rather as a way of simplifying my life so that I can better focus on Christ.

Well, Lent has ended. It is the Paschal season. Meat is permitted again. And I’ll eat it if it’s an option. But I’m not as eager to dive back into eat it as one might have thought. Sure, it’s nice to know that I’m able to eat meat again, but it’s not always what I actually want. I’m starting to find that I like eating meatless meals. Yes, there are meals with meat that I like and that I want to prepare/eat. But with the passing of each meatless season, I find that I’m not as eager to dive back into eating meat as I was forty days earlier.

I’ve come to realize that simplifying my life does not have to be solely the provenance of fasting seasons. In general, my life ought to be lived in simplicity and with a focus on Christ. Now, you can eat meat and live simply. As a single woman who cooks only for myself, I tend to do “large batch cooks” and eat whatever I’ve prepared until I run out. I’m currently working through a Mediterranean chicken salad-lettuce, cucumber, tomato, chicken, avocado, olives, and dressing. It’s nothing fancy. But that’s kind of the point. Live simply. Yes, I’m eating chicken, but I’m doing in it in a simple fashion. The fanciest part of that salad is the olives. The idea is to think less about what I’m eating (while eating good and healthy food) and focus more on what life is really about.

Now that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy good food. I’ll be the first to tell you that I love sitting down with a well-cooked meal. I don’t object to eating good food or going out for dinner or drinks with friends. I enjoy going out to eat with friends to celebrate a special occasion or having a well-cooked meal with friends. But the most important part of those meals is not the quality of the food but the quality of the company. Case in point: Last summer, I went out for dinner with a few friends after seeing a play together. I can’t tell you exactly what I ate or drank (but I can guess based on the venue), but I can tell you about the experience of friendship. I may not remember exactly what I drank or ate when I grabbed cocktails with friends at one of my favorite bars, but I remember the experience.

For me, experiences and relationships are more important than food. Now, I’m Italian-American. I love to cook, and I love good food. But life isn’t just about the food. Life is about the people with whom we spend time and the relationships we build. Fasting has shown me that my meals don’t need to be extravagant to be good. Simple food can be good food. I don’t need to eat meat every day. Some of life’s best moments are found in simplicity.