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Archive for June, 2008

June is the month of weddings (yeah – I was married in May) and so I thought some of you out there might be interested in making a special set of prayer beads for the brides-to-be in your lives.

As I have a friend getting married soon (yeah – not in June) I decided to make her a set. I combed through my bead supplies and this is what I came up with:

Almost everything you see here came from my local independent bead store, Berkeley’s ab-fab Baubles and Beads. The cross is made from mother-of-pearl shell with a nice pinkish hue overlaying the white. The oval beads and the pentagonal bead are also a highly polished mother-of-pearl. I know I paid less than a dollar for each of those – I think. There are two tubes of seed beads, a size 11 white to go between the beads on the circlet and a size 8 white seed bead to go on the stem. These bigger seed beads have holes large enough to take the two strands of flexible beading wire I will use in the stem. And I am using small daisy wheels with a silver finish.

The only thing I got elsewhere are the faceted crystal beads that make up the main part of the prayer beads’ circlet. These I bought at a local antiques flea market. I think I paid about $20 for a vintage necklace that had about 50 or 60 of these iridescent, aurora borealis faceted beads. I looooooove them and still have enough left for a bracelet and some earrings. Or another set of prayer beads!

My bride-to-be friend is a not a Catholic, so I decided to make her an Anglican/Protestant form of prayer beads. But as I was stringing them, I decided to do something a bit different – to create my own form of prayer beads, a kind of hybrid between the Anglican/Protestant form and the Catholic rosary. I made the circlet of the prayer beads in the Anglican/Protestant format, with 28 weeks beads, divided in four groups of seven, divided by four cruciform beads, which represent the arms of the cross. But on the stem, – which, in the Anglican format, traditionally has a cross or other terminal charm, an invitatory bead – I decided to add three additional beads, like the Catholic rosary stem’s three Our Father beads. I decided these will represent the three major marriage vows: to love, to honor and to cherish. I will create or find three special prayers to give her for these three beads.

I encourage you to feel free, whenever you make prayer beads, to break away from the traditional forms if you are comfortable doing so. You can turn this same set of bridal prayer beads into an Anglican/Protestant rosary by subtracting the three extra beads from the stem, and you can make it into a traditional Catholic rosary by adding more beads.

If you have my book, Bead One, Pray Too, you can find directions to make this kind of prayer bead set under “Intermediate Anglican [or Catholic] Rosary” on pages 127-128. If you don’t have the book, you need bead stringing skills that include crimping. That’s about it.

You will need:

flexible beading wire, size fine (I like Softflex)

1 crimp bead big enough to hold 4 strands of flexible beading wire

crimping tool

4 oval cruciform beads

1 pentagonal invitatory bead

31 faceted crystal beads, approximately 6-8 mm

10 small silver daisies or other spacers

size 11 white seed beads

size 8 white seed beads

Begin with the circlet. String one daisy spacer, one cruciform, one daisy, 3 size 11 seed beads, *one faceted bead, two size 11 seed beads.* Repeat between * and * until 7 faceted beads are strung. String 3 size 11 seed beads, one daisy spacer, one oval cruciform bead, one daisy spacer, 3 size 11 seed beads, one faceted bead, two size 11 seed beads. Repeat in this fashion until all oval curciforms and all but THREE faceted beads are strung. End with three size 11 seed beads and bring working end of wire back down through the first oval cruciform bead and the two daisy spacers on either side of it.

Now string the stem. On BOTH STRANDS OF FLEXIBLE WIRE, *string 3 size 8 seed beads, one faceted bead. *Repeat between * and * until all three faceted beads are strung. String three size 8 seed beads, one daisy spacer, the invitatory bead, one daisy spacer and three size 8 seed beads. String the crimp bead and the terminal charm. PULL THE FLEXIBLE WIRE TAUT. String both ends of flexible wire back through the crimp bead and the next three size 8 seed beads. Crimp and clip flexible wire close to beads.

If you need a tutorial on crimping, see my blog entry from yesterday.

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Know what I was doing a week ago today? I was hosting my Bead for Life party! I wrote about how I found out about Bead for Life, and how I made a set of prayer beads from some of their loose beads in this post.

I cannot tell you how easy and fun this party was. All I did was go to the Bead for Life website and sign up to host a party. I picked the date (June 21) and guesstimated on how many guests I might expect (20) and Bead for life sent me a BIG BOX. Inside were bags and bags of some colorful, creative, meaningful jewelry. I sent out an eVite to all my pals and went to Trader Joes and bought a buncha goodies. Then I cleaned my house. CLEANNNNNEEEED MY HOUUUSSSE. This was the worst part of throwing the Bead for Life party, but there ya go. It had to be done. Otherwise, we would not have found the beads under all the dog hair and dust bunnies.

Okay, the day of, I laid the beads and the jewelry out on placemats on th dining room table, threw the CD of songs sung by the women beaders Bead for Life sent me and waited for the doorbell to ring. About 12 of my friends came by and everyone oohed and ahhhed over the beads. It took most people quite a while to decide what they wanted because there was so much to choose from and each item was different! But everyone left with something – and a full tummy.

I cannot encourage you too strongly to host one of these parties. It is such a good cause, benefiting Ugandan women, some of whom have been war crimes victims (read: raped) and some who have HIV. They make these beautiful beads from long strips of colorful paper, rolling and gluing them into beads. Then they shellac them and string them into bracelets, necklaces and earrings. With the money they earn they pay rent, send their kids to school and buy food. And the jewelry is lovely! I bought a 5-strand necklace of pink beads and four bangle bracelets, each a different but coordinating color so I can wear one or all at the same time.

Then, when the party was over, I packed up the beads and sent ’em with my husband to work. Next they go home with my girlfriend Daniela so her mom can have a look. So far, we’ve made about $700 for Bead for Life. I am thrilled! And when I am all done, I just put the beads back in the box they sent them in and slap the mailing label they sent me on top. DONE!

Now it’s your turn! BEAD FOR LIFE!

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Just a quick post today as I have to go down to San Jose and cover those pesky Presbyterians for Religion News Service.

This came in my inbox today – a tutorial on how to use crimp beads from Beading Daily. Crimping is deceptively simple – only need one bead and one tool and two movements, but it is somehow hard to do properly. I thought this tutorial and its accompanying pictures were quite good and should help those of you who make the intermediate and advanced prayer beads in my book, Bead One, Pray Too.

In the next couple of posts, we will make a set of bridal prayer beads (it is June, after all – at least for a few more days) and I’ll tell you about the Bead for Life party I had last Saturday.

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The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released the second part of its U.S. Religious Landscape Study today, a broad survey of the way we Americans think about and live out our various faiths, including those who profess no faith.

I am a national correspondent for ReligionLink, and as such, was given an advance copy of the study’s findings so that I could write up what we call a “tip” to help other reporters decipher the findings and write deeper and more intelligent stories about it. You can see the tip, if you like. As part of the assignment, I also wrote up a long list of story ideas culled from my reading of the study, which we hope reporters will follow. (This was a team effort, with lots of help from ReligionLink’s assistant editor extraordinaire, Mary Gladstone, and our fabulous websmistress, Kate Fox. Nothing would get done without them).

One of the things that interested me about the study – at least in terms of this blog – is that Pew found that 58 percent of all Americans say they pray daily outside of a house of worship. Another 17 percent said they pray weekly. That’s a whopping 75 percent of us – 3 out of four people – who pray regularly.

What I want to know from you who read this blog is, do you think that number is high, low or about right? I have to admit I found it a bit high, especially the daily number. If I had been polled, I would have said weekly and I’ve written about book about prayer! I just don’t manage to do it every day. Do you? In any kind of a formal way? Discuss . . . .

But the headlines you will all see tomorrow – or hear tonight on the evening news – will be that we are an incredibly tolerant nation when it comes to religion. That’s because the study found 70 percent of people said they believe there is more than one true path to eternal salvation. Yes, that’s interesting, but what was fascinating to me is that when Pew broke the number down by religious groups, more than half – 57 percent – of evangelicals agreed with that statement. That is shocking, because the definition of an evangelical Christian is that he or she believes Jesus Christ is one true God. As I suggested for a story idea in the ReligionLink tip, does this mean the evangelical community is largely ignorant of what its doctrine really states? Or are individual believers redefining what it means to be a 21st century evangelical?

The study was full of other interesting facts, if you are a religion geek like me. Here’s my favorite tidbit – 21 percent of of people who identify themselves as atheists say they believe in God. Among agnostics, the number is 55 percent. Go figure. Again, is this ignorance or a willful blurring of the lines? I dunno. What I do know is that this study is going to be fodder for stories, debates and conversation about religion in America for a long time.

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Last Sunday morning, before my husband and I piled our son’s undergraduate detritus in our van and headed home from Pasadena, I stopped into All Saints Episcopal Church for the 9 a.m. worship service. I took with me my set of Episcopal prayer beads that I made at the Sea Ranch – the ones made from paper beads made by women in Uganda.

Full disclosure – I have used Rev. Susan Russell, an All Saints pastor, as a source for several stories I wrote for Beliefnet.com on the Episcopal Church’s struggle with homosexuals in the church. I have also listed her a source for other reporters to use as a source on the same subject for ReligionLink.

I love this church. I have visited it before on other trips we have made to see our son. It looks like my idea of church should look. It is a traditional stone structure with the traditional nave, apse and transept layout, with the four arms of the church ending in four gorgeous stained glass windows. The appointments of the church are traditional, too, with woodcarvings that decorate the podia and stonecuts that adorn the communion rail. An elaborate wooden latticework runs across the top of the altar to separate the choir from the congregation. It is just lovely.

But what pleased me even more that this church belies the commonly held notion that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America. I am happy to tell you that I worshiped this morning with blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos. There was a lot of grey hair, yes, as in most mainline Protestant churches, but there were lots of young people, too, including a couple in the pew in front of me who came in jeans and t-shirts and fit right in. The music we sang consisted of traditional English hymns, African-American spirituals and some Spanish verses to old Christian standards. It felt like God’s home should feel like.

The sermon was given by the Rev. Abel Lopez, and the subject was forgiveness. Father Lopez said that forgiveness isn’t usually a sermon topic – perhaps because if you preach about forgiveness, you have to preach about sin, a touchy subject. But he said there is a “universal hunger in the human spirit for forgiveness, both to give it and to receive it.” He said forgiveness is “the heartbeat of grace.” As an example of the power of forgiveness, he pointed out Bishop Gene Robinson (and you can see what I have written about him in the above Beliefnet.com stories), who has been a lightning rod of controversy as the first openly gay man consecrated to bishop by the Episcopal Church. Last week, Robinson entered into a civil union with his longtime male companion – just after making out his will in case any of the death threats he has received were successful. Father Lopez called him, “our brother, Gene Robinson” and described him as “forgiveness in action. . . . He can only exhibit what he does because God’s grace and forgiveness are in him.”

After the sermon came communion. This is my favorite part of the service, the time I feel closest to the holy and the sacred. It is when I pull out my prayer beads and try to focus on aligning myself with the divine. I carry some of my favorite prayers on a laminated card in my purse, but was inspired to use instead some of the lines of the collects, liturgy and prayers printed in the bulletin given each person at the door. You can do this, too, at any worship service you attend. Just pull out the words from the service that feel most like prayer to you. This is what I came up with for my Episcopal prayer beads, but I could have said them on a Catholic rosary, a Pearls of Life or any unique set of prayer beads I have constructed. Here goes . . . .

For the terminal charm, I said an old standard, heard in most mainline Protestant services:

“In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be Amen.”

For the invitatory bead, I turned to the 3rd page of the program, where the church very helpfully included two prayers of meditation that worshipers could use as they waited for the service to start. I picked this one:

“God known and beyond all knowing, thank you for the blessings of the past and for those who have gone before us, upon whose shoulders we stand. Energize us to seize the present moment and fire our imagination for the future, that we may dare great thing sin your name. Amen.”

“Fire our imagination for the future” – I love that. That is exactly what I, as a writer, need. And to “dare great things” – safe writing is boring writing. For me, this is a powerful prayer.

For the cruciform beads, I turned to the consecration section of the communion liturgy, also printed in the bulletin:

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

But, for a less Christ-centric prayer, I could have used the salutation from the very beginning of the bulletin:

“Blessed be God: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.”

And for the weeks beads, I chose the following from a refrain in the “prayers of the people” section of the service:

1) Holy and gracious God, bless me with peace,

2) Holy and gracious God, bless me with hope,

3) Holy and gracious God, bless me with wisdom,

4) Holy and gracious God, bless me with generosity

Then, for the remaining three beads, I made up my own requests –

5) bless me with patience

6) bless me with strength

7) bless me with courage

and if I had been using a Catholic rosary, I could have added (and did, in a mixture of prayer)

8) bless me with purity

9) bless me with kindness

10) (in the spirit of the sermon) bless me with the power to forgive and to be forgiven.

I don’t when I will be back in Pasadena – if ever – but I will certainly make a run to All Saints. Its spirit of inclusion and joy and purpose infused me with a brightness that I still feel.

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Shawn’s Graduation

This is the last post I will write on my son’s Shawn’s graduation. It has NOTHING TO DO WITH PRAYER BEADS, but is for my friends and family. So, if you want to read about prayer beads, skip this post.

We woke up this morning all excited and ready to go. A quick breakfast and the extended family assembled in the hotel lobby and off we went. Even our younger son, Chris, who is always late, made it more or less on time – only 15 minutes behind schedule. Into the van and off we went.

The California Institute of Technology holds its commencement ceremonies on what is now known as Beekman Mall, but which my husband – class of old farts – remembers as the only slightly pretentiously named “Court of Man.” It’s a lawn. That’s what it is. A lawn that spreads between four big buildings and was, on this day, covered with hundreds or even a thousand or more white folding chairs. We – a party of 10 Ligockis and Petersons – found seats about halfway back on the right. The stage was far, the sun was hot, but we were so excited we didn’t notice – not really.

People milled about, children ran around, cameras clicked. Then the music started.

From the back of the lawn, the undergraduates processed in. For me, this was one of the highlights of the day. I had an aisle seat and every student – undergraduate, masters candidate and PhD, had to file past me. I got to look into the faces and the eyes of every kid taking this enormous step into the next part of their lives on this bright, sunny day. THIS was when I cried. And, as usual, no tissue.

Shawn marched past. Here is his picture to prove it. After Shawn came Cecilia. See the ears on her hat? After all the students filed past, came a long line of faculty. Now this was really impressive. Some – actually many – of these folks have Nobel Prizes, Fields Medals and/or MacArthur Genius Awards. Some were wearing them around their necks. All I can say is I was wowed. I was moved. The brains walking by, you know? And in such a profusion of colors – scarlets, golds, oranges, blues – even hot pinks – the colors of the schools they received their degrees from. It was intimidating and inspiring at the same time.

The commencement speaker was Robert Krulwich, one of my all-time favorite journalists. Imagine my luck – my kid graduates from one of the top technical schools in the world and I get to sit and hear a top journalist give them – and me – advice. And his advice was this – when you are asked by friends and relatives and other non-science junkies what you are working on, don’t launch into some long description of th technical aspects of your work that will only choke them with boredom and make them feel dumb. Instead, tell them a story. It is the power of story, Krulwich said, that captures the imagination, that sparks the desire to know more and that draws non-scientific people to the side of science.

And then they started the long list of names as the kids walked across the stage. I got this great picture of Shawn.

Gluttons for punishment can view the entire 126-minute commencement service at CalTech’s website.

After Shawn crossed the stage, we all sat in the shade and had a generally fabulous time. When it was over – and no, they didn’t throw their caps. Much too smart for that, I guess – he joined us for pictures.

While we were milling about taking pictures, this young man – who kinda resembled Shawn – came over to speak to Shawn. He was wearing a cap and gown and I assumed he was a buddy of Shawn’s, maybe a for mer roommate or a lab partner or something. Then Shawn introduced him – “This is my professor, Eric Winfree” and I about swallowed my tongue. Dr. Winfree is the MacArthur Genius Award winner that Shawn worked for last summer and for part of this year as a teaching assistant. His field is DNA logic. He looks about 12. I just couldn’t come up with a single intelligent thing to say, except “Hello, nice to meet you.” He did say Shawn was an exceptional young man. Wowowowowowowow. Wow.

Then we had some fun pictures. Here is one of Vanessa, Shawn and Chris’ 11-year-old cousin, and her dad, Rocky, preparing for what’s coming . . . SOON.

We all walked to the Athenaeum for a post-commencement luncheon of a really good chicken salad before splitting up. Our dinner reservations were for 7:30 at The Parkway Grill.

Now, this is where the day got even better – I didn’t think it could, but it did! Ten of us Ligockis and Petersons first sat in the lounge and had a celebratory drink – beer, wine and Cokes. When we were seated – at a lovely table in the middle of restaurant next to a large flower arrangement, Shawn was placed at one head of the table and his uncle Rocky at the other. Somehow – and I swear this was serendipity – everyone sat exactly where they should have in order to have the maximum good time! I was smack between Shawn on my right and Chris on my left. Across the table were Shawn’s Uncle Mike, Aunt Donna and Aunt Leticia. His 11-year-old cousin Vanessa sat to Chris’ other side.

And then it was like a dream – really and truly. We had Champagne (REAL Champagne) to toast the graduate. Over appetizers and entrees that all agreed were heaven (I think Uncle Dean’s word for his filet mignon was “orgasmic”) we drank wine and laughed and talked and ate for THREE HOURS. I cannot over exaggerate the deliciousness of the food nor the kindness and attention of the wait staff, from the sommelier to the waiter, Lance, to the busperson. To all the folks at Parkway, this was a magical, glorious evening and my family and I will always be grateful to you for one of the finest evenings of our lives. People, if you are ever in Pasadena, eat at the Parkway Grill.

And then it was back to the hotel, where Terry and I sat up and talked about the day and the night for an hour. We agreed we are among the luckiest people in the world – lucky to have such a son and lucky to be able to fete him this way. I wish you all – ALL -could have been a part of this day.

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This post will depart from the usual subject of this blog – prayer beads – and chronicle the night before my eldest son’s graduation. So if you are friends and family, keep reading. If not, you’re welcome to read, but there ain’t nothin’ about prayer beads in here. Tune in tomorrow night, as I have plans to use a set in a special chapel.

But tonight is all about Shawn. Shawn is 22 and tomorrow he graduates with a degree in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology – known to alumni and other insiders as CalTech. Time to brag – it is one of the top ten schools in te country and I thik at times it has been as high as 4 or 5 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. It is, in other words, a geek-o-rama and my son and his father – another CalTech grad – love it. I do, too, tho as only a mother whose undergraduate degree was in theater could.

Time for full disclosure. Shawn is my stepson. I inherited him and his younger brother, Chris, when I married their father 10 years ago. I could not love these boys more or be more proud of them both if I had given birth to them. But I feel it is right and good to honor their biological mother here. Her name was Mary and she died when Shawn was 9 and his brother was 7. She was also a CalTech alumna and met the boys’ father here on their first or second day, during a freshman class trip to Catalina Island. That was a big day for Terry – he met his future wife and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Today, walking along this campus’ leafy sidewalks and through its pillared collonades, I cannot help but think of Mary and know how proud she would be of Shawn, too. She cannot be here, but I can be here for her. And for Shawn. It is a duty and a joy to do so and I hope wherever Mary is she knows how fabulous this kid turned out, in large part because of who he came from. I hope she knows he is deeply loved and cherished.

And, so, we celebrated Shawn’s graduation tonight with a reception at the President’s residence, where there was a jazz combo and lots of food and wine. The president himself, Jean-Lou Chameau, greeted us at the entrance, so you know this is small school! We were joined by his girlfriend, Cecelia, who will also graduate tomorrow with a dual degree in business and engineering. No slackers here. Then we walked over to the Athenaeum – a kind of faculty club – where about 700 of us sat under the stars and the twinkling lights and had a dinner of chicken and beef followed by a dessert of individual cakes glazed with the CalTech emblem.

After dinner there were some lovely comments by the university’s president, Jean-Lou Chameau, and the dean of students, John Hall. But the best speaker was Michael Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy here at CalTech. Know who this guy is? He’s the guy who single-handedly got Pluto kicked off the planet list. That guy. He was also named as Wired magazine’s ten sexiest geeks. I can’t weigh in on that because from where I was sitting I could not see him.

But I could hear him. And what he said made me laugh and cringe at the same time. He told stories on himself about how he asked to teach geology to the class of 2008 without any background in the subject – and then totally failed to follow through with learning anything about it until after he was teaching it. He then said he hadn’t worked on this remarks tonight until minutes before the dinner. I am not doing his story justice – it was very funny – but how the heck did this guy convince us all to demote Pluto?

Tomorrow – 10 a.m. – my baby graduates. I don’t know how I will react. Will I cry? Probably. Will I laugh? Maybe. Will I ache inside because I don’t want any pain or unhappiness to ever find its way into this good, kind, decent, compassionate, loving child’s life? Most certainly. And yet what can we do? Just have faith that

we’ve given him to tools to do the best he can. Scary.

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