11 August 2018

Crocheting in the Round: Magic Circle Style

If you want to view the FREE video tutorial, you will find it at the bottom of this post. 

When I first learned how to crochet, all I did was make chains. I was six or seven years old when our landlord gave me a crochet hook (blue, size J) and some yarn. I watched her as she showed me how to start a chain. Once I had it, I didn't stop. I remember using up a whole skein of pastel rainbow Red Heart yarn and all I did was turn it into one super long chain. She tried once to show me how to turn and work the other direction, but I never could figure it out. For me, crocheting chains was the equivalent to today's "fidget" toys. My brain and my hands were busy while my mouth was closed. I was focused and determined. 

I kept that crochet hook and attempted to crochet again when I was older. I had yarn purchased and a simple blanket or cloth pattern from the local craft store. Each time I started with the chain, but found it difficult to turn around and go the other way. Keep in mind, this was before the internet and YouTube resources. I put the yarn away and turned to other crafts, like sewing, quilting, painting and photography as an outlet. 

Side Note: I was 13 when I completed my first clothing item, 14 when I finished my first embroidery and 16 when I finished my first quilt. I was mostly self-taught, but that's because I also read tons of books and watched public television networks where free sewing courses were aired in during the summer. 

It wasn't until I was pregnant with my first child that I began to find crocheting intriguing again. It was one of the few crafting techniques that I had not figured out. My mother-in-law is an amazing woman and enjoys the several of the same crafts that I enjoy. She had shown me how to knit and I enjoyed it, but found it more difficult to work with two hooks instead of one. She showed me a crochet technique for a simple square doing single stitches. The first time I tried single crochet squares, I was too tight with my tension and my technique were not good. 

Thanks to technology, I was able to scour the internet for tutorials on various crochet techniques, stitches and more. I came across some of the most adorable crochet patterns and started pinning them to my Pinterest account (now it's own account). I found amigurumi crochet patterns to be extremely interesting and I sat down and crocheted with the tutorial. 

The one thing that troubled me at first was understanding what a "round" was and how it was different from a row. I watched a video that showed me how to create a circle from a chain, but this method was not efficient for me and left a rather wide gap at the opening. Then I found a video on a magic ring or magic circle and I was intrigued. I watched it about twenty times and ten more in slow motion. After that, I really enjoyed crochet in the round and have made many toys or amigurumi. 

I started making tutorials to help others learn how to crochet in the round also! Here is my first tutorial video! Crochet the magic circle:

23 July 2018

TED Talks and other resources are incredible for learning new information on topics you are interested in. Past resources are preserved on the TED website too. Funeral customs, past and present can be quite interesting. Learning more about cultural beliefs and views on death can broaden our sense of acceptance and understanding.

Disclaimer: TED Talks is not affiliated with this site nor are they responsible for the opinions of its author. This information is provided as a means to share resources for further learning and does not replace the medical advice of a physician or mental health practitioner. 

16 July 2018

American Afterlife: Encounters in Customs of Mourning (2014)

By Kate Sweeney

Part of the obsession with death and dying is wanting to learn more about every aspect. Sweeney's book is written so the reader can feel as if they are on an incredible journey of investigation and rediscovery. Historical facts and long-forgotten truths are brought to light through the elegant and sometimes humorous words within the pages. 

"To Americans, death is an enigma" Sweeney writes when a museum curator becomes perplexed by a guest's question. And the question itself is jaw-dropping. The curator of the museum is only one of the many stories wrapped up in her "travel journal" type encounters. The places and individuals she encounters would be on the bucket lists of any individual who is curious about death and dying customs in America. From the museum, she visits a cemetery or two, she explores the "green" funeral movement, a tattoo artist's philosophical impressions of memorializing loved ones on skin, a a funeral chaplain, a mother who maintains a roadside memorial, and more.

History is rich within the pages of American Afterlife. Understanding the implications that war, disease, culture, and even fashion had on the views and practices related to mourning, funerals, burials, cremations, and so on is extraordinary to read. Sweeney is doing more than recounting her adventures; she is also providing the reader the facts, references, a tentative map and the desire to investigate these places yourself.

Kate Sweeney is empathetic to the reader and beautifully discusses each encounter, fact, and location as if to place an arm around the reader's shoulder. This book is far from morbid or grotesque. It is a great addition to any death education library.

UPDATE: It's sad to say, but the Museum of Funeral Customs, as mentioned throughout the book, is permanently closed. This mid-western location was open from 1999 to early 2009 and due to lack of funding and traffic, they were forced to close their doors permanently. Some of the photographic remains of the museum can be found simply by searching the internet. One can only imagine what it must have been like to set foot through the doors rather than view the photos through a screen.

-Monica Massengale, Death Reference 2018

13 July 2018

The Penny Game

From today's parenting standards, the penny game might be considered bad. It wasn't the game that mattered to me when I was little. It made me laugh. Not one of those giggle type laughs. No. This was the full belly pain, side aching laugh that comes when you can't breathe. The good kind of laugh. I was younger, perhaps three or four, when my dad first started playing the penny game with me. We didn't have much so our living room was mostly empty. It didn't matter that we never had brand new toys or tons of fancy things in our home. Spending time with our dad was the best "toy" my brother and I could dream up. 

One evening, my dad tossed a penny on the floor a few feet from me. Shiny object! A toddler wastes no time reaching for it! I saw it and I wanted that shiny little penny. Without hesitation, I started to crawl toward it. Dad was smiling and watching me the whole time. Just as my little fingers were about to touch the cold metal, Dad grabbed my ankle and gently tugged. It was just enough to make that penny seem too far to reach. He told me to go get it with a little grin on his face. I tried again and I got within inches of the penny, began to reach and again he pulled me back from it. 

Excited that I nearly had it in my little fingers I laughed. I laughed hysterically realizing that my dad had been the culprit who was preventing me from reaching the shiny little coin. He tugged me far enough back so that it would take me a few more crawls to get to the penny again. This time, I giggled the whole way to the penny. I crawled as fast as I could, but he was much faster. Before I could reach for it, he swiped the penny, picked it up and tossed in a different direction - just out of reach.

I laughed, but was determined to get that shiny coin! I rotated on my knees and headed for the new location where the penny lay and crawled furiously. I laughed and giggled the entire way there. Again, as soon as I had the penny within reaching distance his hand grabbed my ankle and pulled me back. My father's hand reached around and grabbed the penny. I giggled more uncontrollably as I turned on my back watching where my dad was going to toss it. And again, I crawled for it.

The penny game kept me busy and it cost nothing to provide as entertainment. How amazing that such a small item could provide so much fun. Of course I never got the penny, but that wasn't the purpose. I'm sure my dad would have a little different version of these events, but from my memory, these are the truths as I remember them.

10 July 2018

Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship

by Garry Landreth

Working with children, as a mental health practitioner, teacher, guardian, health care worker, or simply as a parent can be difficult occasionally (regardless of what some people might say). It's okay to struggle. When I went through play therapy training, this text was extremely helpful. For those working with children...this is something you should read and acknowledge within yourself.  
I am not all knowing.

Therefore, I will not even attempt to be.
I need to be loved.
Therefore, I will be open to loving children.
I want to be more accepting of the child in me.
Therefore, I will with wonder and awe allow children to illuminate my world.
I know so little about the complex intricacies of childhood.
Therefore, I will allow children to teach me.
I learn best from and am impacted most by my personal struggles.
Therefore, I will join with children in their struggles.
I sometimes need a refuge.
Therefore, I will provide a refuge for children.
I like it when I am fully accepted as the person I am.
Therefore, I will strive to experience and appreciate the person of the child.
I make mistakes. They are a declaration of the way I am - human and fallible.
Therefore, I will be tolerant of the humanness of children.
I react with emotional internalization and expression to my world of reality.
Therefore, I will relinquish the grasp I have on reality and try to enter the world as
experienced by the child.
It feels good to be an authority, to provide answers.
Therefore, I will need to work hard to protect children from me!
I am more fully me when I feel safe.
Therefore, I will be consistent in my interactions with children.
I am the only person who can live my life.
Therefore, I will not attempt to rule a child's life.
I have learned most of what I know from experiencing.
Therefore, I will allow children to experience.
The hope I experience and the will to live come from within me.
Therefore, I will recognize and affirm the child's will and self-hood.
I cannot make a children's hurts and fears and frustrations and disappointments go away.
Therefore, I will soften the blow.
I experience fear when I am vulnerable.
Therefore I will with kindness, gentleness, and tenderness touch the inner world of
the vulnerable child.
Landreth, G. (2012). Play therapy: the art of the relationship (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

09 July 2018

How do you bring up the topic of death with friends when you need the support? It's not what most people consider a comfortable topic. If you are struggling with loss, grief, or simply have questions about the nature of death you can find several books, audio books, academic journals and magazines on the topic. If you aren't following Death References (another site I started awhile back) then you probably aren't familiar with my frequent posts on these resources. Keep in mind that I do not post one perspective. I try to post a variety of viewpoints and cultural practices. 
A photo of a few of the books I have on the topics of death, dying, suicide, grief, bereavement, miscarriage and more.


01 July 2018

Boxcar Children Books: Who's Writing Them?

If you haven't seen my LibraryThing account, then you probably will not understand how important books are in my life. Books are amazing and the more variety you include in your personal library, the more knowledge you can gain. While I enjoy reading my books, I also spend time organizing and keeping a detailed inventory of what I own. The series by Gertrude Chandler Warner known as The Boxcar Children books is a personal favorite. I love the stories and how strong the characters become. In a sense, it's like having the kids from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe living in the land of the Bobbsey Twins or Nancy Drew. Stay strong as a family, learn to overcome challenges and solve outlandish mysteries.

Did you know that the Boxcar Children books are still being written today even though the original author died in 1979. In fact, the first 19 books were written by the original author. There are at least 150 books though...biggest mystery ever! Who is writing these books? Researching the website for the books, the publisher, and community forums reveals nothing more than "ghost writer" or "committee" or authors. The biggest mystery to come from these books isn't the struggles the children endure...it's the mystery of who is writing these books! 

Gather your strength and help me solve this mystery! Want to track the books you have read? Here is a great download you can use. 

What's the Verdict?

Sadly, many people have agreed that after the original author (Warner) died in 1979, the Boxcar Children books are "not worth reading". What do you think? There's at least 120 more books to read. Which one(s) have you found to be entertaining? Does it change your perspective knowing that the original author did not write them? 

Education & Learning

Several websites offer free learning resources for The Boxcar Children. Even if you only use the first book for your lesson, check out these websites:

(you must scroll to the bottom of the page and select the PDF)

(not all items are free)