Sometimes the Way Isn’t Clear

I decided to participate in Which Way Photo Challenge this week because I’ve been listening to people who have the experience to understand the mess our country is in (scientists and career public servants). I have been searching for those people who can give me hope that there is a way out of the climate crisis that is causing carnage around the world; the racial and ethnic inequality that has been the elephant in our history; the Covid-19 pandemic that about a third of the country, the third that is listening to our president, believes is no bid deal; and the upcoming election in a little less than a month that will determine the fate of our country and impact the world order. Is there a way out of this mess?

I listened to Joe Biden’s speech given at Gettysburg yesterday. For those of you in other parts of the world, Gettysburg is where a major battle in our Civil War took place, a war that was being fought to defeat the southern states that wanted to leave the union in order to maintain their slavery economy. The war being fought for the soul of our nation, and that was the message of Biden’s speech. I felt myself relaxing as I listened to him because he sounded very presidential, he talked about being the president for everyone – even those who don’t agree with his policies. He talked about wanting to hear everyone, and work with people on both sides of the isle in Congress. He talked about not having to think in either/or terms: We don’t have to destroy jobs to have clean energy – clean energy will create jobs under his policies. We don’t have to choose between law-and-order and racial justice – we can support our police forces while making the justice system and economy work for all people. It brings tears to my eyes to think of a time when people of color won’t have to teach their children how to be invisible so they don’t get shot or incarcerated. It brings tears of joy to my eyes to imagine Native reservations and Hispanic communities that are thriving economically so their people can be productive and live lives that are healthy and safe.

I am exhausted by the chaos created by this administration – the everyday defiance of common sense decency and integrity. It exhausts me to see our covid-infected president take off his mask before entering his residence where he could infect hundreds of career workers who serve him. I am livid that he tweeted that all Republicans should stop negotiations on another monetary aid bill that our families and small businesses need so desperately. I am exhausted by his lying and all the people who either believe him or don’t have the courage to call him out, who are afraid of him or think they can gain power and profit by allying themselves with him. This administration has exhausted me so much that I have a hard time keeping my faith that the other problems can be righted. Maybe that is their strategy.

But yesterday I did the most important thing that a citizen of a democracy can do – I voted. And this year, for the first time in my life (or at least in the past 30-40 years) I voted a straight ticket. Now all I have to do is hang on for the next month as we grope our way through the fog of pain, fear, despair, and anger along the road to a better way. We are a strong country and it is time for every person who cares about others as much as themselves to do what needs to be done. Make sure you vote for Joe Biden, even if you don’t agree with his policies. What you will be voting for is decency, honesty, and thoughtful/intelligent policies. And then pick a better candidate for the next election.

Living in the Age of COVID-19: The President Should Sew Masks

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I finished 60 masks and took them to the Jackson Friendly Home last week. This was a fun project and one that I have an emotional motivation for. First, I believe that having cloth masks will become increasingly important as people start moving and mingling more. Second, I have warm memories of the Friendly Home and an appreciation for its heritage.

When our children were young we picked up a lady who lived at the Friendly Home and took her to church every Sunday. We became friends and our daughter shared a memory of Miss Thatcher when I told her where I took the masks. Sharon visited Miss Thatcher and when they went to her room, she brought out a “big” box of greeting cards she had received over the years, gave Sharon some scissors and paste and told her to have fun. Sharon says she was so excited and was contently busy for a looooong time – and then they went around to visit Miss Thatcher’s friends. Sharon loved seeing what each woman had in her room, walking around looking at everything as the friends chatted a bit.

The Friendly Home is a low-cost housing for women over 65 with meals and some assistance with tasks of daily living. My husband says it was started for widows of the Civil War. I’m going to have to research more of its history.

I still have some masks in various stages of development for the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. I’ve set them aside for a little while so I can focus on a wall hanging I’m making for our Florida residence. Piecing quilt tops provides me with the delusion that I am in control – I become obsessed with getting colors and composition and construction perfect.

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This is when I had 3 1/2 inch blocks laid out on a felt board – when I was studying it and changing blocks, then studying it a little longer. I slept on it and changed a couple more in the morning. When I thought I was satisfied (it was perfect) I started sewing the blocks together in rows, making it a little closer to being whole. With the sewn rows back on the felt board I sat and looked some more and added another row of pieces to the top and side so the pattern created a balanced composition. Adding new blocks to the pattern resulted in some small pieces that were no longer working in the already finished parts. Some of the blocks that weren’t working were already sewn in a row. Sometimes making things right means that I have to take apart a section and rearrange it.

I wish I had the same power over my country as I have over my quilt projects. This virus seems to making the broken parts more glaring. I see reports of how society isn’t working, and I feel the pain and fear over and over as new populations are impacted and ill informed people in power are making really stupid decisions and doing really stupid things.

My disdain for the parts of our country that values greed is growing. My disdain for people who are self-centered and mean is growing. I long for a world that works for all people. This pandemic hits everyone so some people believe it is a leveler. They believe that with the covid virus no one is special and privileged. Look, it has even struck the White House.

But this isn’t what I am seeing. As I am making sense of the carnage of the virus I see the disproportionate number of people who are afflicted both medically and economically are those who have always lived on the way outer edge of privilege. They are the people who the government feels may need to die for our economy to be healthy. These are the people who serve others, who take care of the privileged. These are the people least likely to have health care, or trust the system enough to go for help. These people are considered ‘those people’ over there, on the edge, not worth helping because they can be replaced.

Yes, the president says that some people may need to die for us to rebuild a strong economy before the next election. That’s what he needs, and he needs it fast. Maybe he needs to learn how to quilt, or sew masks for the people who work in the White House.

Thinking of Thanksgiving and Advent

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It has been almost two weeks since the U.S. Thanksgiving but I am still thinking about my thankfulness this year. I’m still thankful for those things close, my day-to-day world. I have a wonderful family with lots of grandchildren and even four great-grandchildren, two who are celebrating their first birthdays. I’m so thankful for the joy each and every one of them brings to my life. I’m thankful that Jim and I made good decisions in our earlier years, living below our means as our incomes increased so we could build our retirement funds. I’m thankful that we can afford to have a comfortable lifestyle while still able to help children and grandchildren as they need it. I’m grateful for our gathering last week-end to celebrate Lona’s first birthday, for the great food presented by daughter-in-law Natalia. I’m grateful that Jim and I are still relatively healthy in our mid-seventies and anticipate with great joy the coming together of our children, and their children, and a fourth generation child on Christmas Eve. I’m thankful for the friends of our children who will join us so that we have the blended chorus of phrases spoken in both English and Russian, and laughter that binds people together across cultures and ages.

Yes, I am thankful for the people who are a part of my life story, the people who make up my personal world. But this isn’t what I’ve been thinking about as I have been moving from Thanksgiving Day into the season of Advent. I can feel my mind and soul working hard to grapple with my emotional turmoil, to prepare my heart, mind and soul for the coming of the Christ Child, struggling to gain a greater understanding of what the Advent of the Christ Child means for how I live my life.

I’m in the 50% to 60% of the people who believe that our country, our democracy, is in great peril. This is a frightening time for me and I feel a responsibility to keep abreast of the daily news. What I am thankful for, from the bottom of my heart and with all my mind, are journalist. Even though they are verbally assaulted and receive death threats on a regular basis, they still go after the story. They are diligent in making sure their information is verified by multiple sources, sources they have nurtured by being honest and trustworthy with the sources. I am thankful for professional organizations and news outlets that take truth in reporting very seriously and sanction those who don’t abide by the ethical standards of journalism. Consequently, journalists take the responsibility to relay truth and be honest about their own bias very seriously as they report information (we all have them and must all be aware of our bias when evaluating information). And they persevere in searching for the truth, raking through the muck, sorting through the messiness of conspiracy theories and fake news. When I have to take a news break I wonder how they persevere.

Yes that is what I’m thankful for, but what does it mean as I move through Advent? If I am to celebrate Advent with integrity, it seems like I should explore what it means to believe in the coming of the Christ Child, to believe, trust, and live by what I have learned from the story of Jesus’ life on earth.

As I sit here struggling for words that heal and guide me, all I feel is deep anger… no rage – in response to the lying and the bullying that has taken place in our government over the past week, the past three years. I want to fight back. I want to write in such a way that my words make a difference. I want my words to land on ears that are open to hearing so my words touch hearts and change behavior. I want to scream Elijah Cummings words, “We are better than this.”

 

 

Another Finished Quilt

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My last post was about a quilt given to me by my cousin, made by either my grandmother or great-grandmother, and my thoughts about these two people as I was finishing a quilt for a recently acquired granddaughter by marriage. The quilt pictured above was make at the same time for Maggie’s brother, Tika. Jim will be delivering them on Saturday when he goes to Lansing for an outing with our son. Now every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild has at least one of my quilts.

Tika picked this pattern from Janet Goddard’s book “Simply Modern Patchwork Quilts” and it was fun and easy to put together, until….  I was really close to completing the quilting on my machine when I decided that the quilt needed to be longer. It just didn’t look functional for a young man so I decided to add another “sound wave” and after much thought decided on blue-greens. I found the required 8 pieces in my stash, realized I had to buy more background, and took apart the borders on the end. Then I realized that I didn’t have enough backing and couldn’t get more. That’s when I decided to do another sound wave for the back using 24 different fabrics across the spectrum inserting it in the unquilted end. Changing a pattern mid-process creates a lot of work but I am always glad I made the decision when it makes it more aesthetically pleasing and/or more functional.

It feels good having these two committed quilts finish – I enjoyed making them but I am now enjoying being able to focus on other activities, such as writing an occasional post or two and practicing free-style machine quilting. My morning coffee on my purple porch swing today was especially joyous because I used the early morning time to do some weeding and deadheading in my flower garden. Because of a very rainy May and a scorching June, we are just now getting the spring work done in the beds around the house. As I sipped coffee, I took great pleasure in looking at the blooming July garden without the pressure of seeing untended plants. For a day or two it is tidy and neat – I feel in control. Inside, I also have had time and energy to do some long-neglected nest-building and cleaning tasks. I have enjoyed feeling alive and full of energy, until last Wednesday.

Wednesday was one of those days when I couldn’t focus on any project long enough to make progress and I felt the familiar sadness behind my eyes – like the pressure of unshed tears. I was feeling a heavy cloud produced by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before our Congress about the investigation of Russia’s interference in our past two elections and our president’s role in that interference and his obstruction of justice associated with this investigation. The behavior of our president has been a continuing source of stress because so much of his behavior has been either immoral or illegal and anyone ‘behaving badly’ in a way that hurts others troubles me. I also am stressed because I agree with so many professionals who have served in various roles in our justice system, our president’s behavior concerning Russia is a threat to our national security and our democratic form of government. I don’t have a crystal ball and I have heard no one who knows a whole lot more than I predict that justice will prevail and our country will correct course. But I want to hold hope that we can fix the deep seated problems in our government and our society that predate our current president but are getting much worse. I want to live in a country that is true to it’s founding ideals that includes elections that are fair and honest, opportunity for all people and not just for those with privilege, a justice system that treats everyone with equal respect and fairness, and compassion to help all our citizens, not just the ones who look like those in power.

Politics weighs heavy on my heart and I don’t feel like I have much control. My daughter is also in the middle of a divorce from a husband who asked for the divorce and is now making it very difficult – wanting above all else to hurt my daughter. I am feeling helpless as my daughter and granddaughters are being hurt by him and his mean behavior. Consequently I am spending lots of time doing the things that I can control – the things that seem to make my life seem tidy and orderly.

 

Sunday Calm: Somewhere Far Way

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I’m still pulling from my Florida files because the weather has been so grey that I haven’t gotten out to capture the beautiful unfolding of Spring here in Michigan. This morning I sat on my purple porch swing, the warm sun on my face, not thinking about my garden that I can hear growing right in front of me. I’m not even thinking about going out on a photography jaunt.

No, Jesus help me, I’ve been thinking about politics. I’m not sure if my prayer for the help of Jesus is to stop me from thinking about the scary place we seem to be in, politically speaking, or to help me clarify my thoughts so I can speak out clearly and convincingly – at least to a few people who need to hear what I’m thinking.

That is where I am on this Sunday morning. Someplace between the calm of having a scone overlooking the lily pond at the Naples Botanical Garden and thinking through what I would need to say if I was willing to pull myself out of my need for calm and peace long enough to fulfill my civic responsibility. We will see what happens.