Category Archives: Food for Thought

Another tale from my doctor’s waiting room

This morning I went to my allergist for my allergy shot, but I was a bit alarmed that my right eye and right side of my mouth were drooping and felt weird, so my allergist examined me and told me he thinks it’s Bell’s palsy.  He told me to go to my primary care doctor or ER, because they’ll want to do an MRI.  So, I went from there to my primary care doctor.  Usually these days I sit and read on my phone or tablet, but my eyes are bothering me, so I decided to pick up a Reader’s Digest magazine sitting on the table.  I started to read a delightful story, but my doctor saw me so fast that I didn’t get to finish it.  My doctor’s diagnosis is Bell’s palsy.  Weird to have one eye not want to move & my mouth feel stuck on one side, but my doctor told me in most people the paralysis goes away.

Tonight, I searched for that story and I located the same story at The New Yorker and finished reading it.  The story is about several topics that are near and dear to my heart – letter-writing, pen pals, and reading encyclopedias.  And what is more inspiring than a story about someone in poverty working hard to become self-educated?

This true story is titled, The Encyclopedia Reader, written by Daniel A. Gross.  The story is about the unlikely friendship between a prison inmate, who writes to an encyclopedia editor about an error in the encyclopedia.  Without giving away the rest of the story,  here is how the prison inmate described his education in school:

“Eventually, the school transferred him to a special-education program. As he progressed through the grades, Woods says, instead of learning to read and write, he was given chores like collecting attendance slips and stacking milk in the cafeteria refrigerator. These tasks earned him mostly A’s and B’s. “Now, of course, I didn’t learn nothing,” he said. In high school, whenever a teacher asked him to read aloud, Woods would put his head on his desk in shame. “They say it takes a community to raise a child,” he told me. “It takes one to destroy a child, too.” Woods dropped out of school.”

https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-encyclopedia-reader

Definitely go read this story.  You’ll be glad you did.  If this encyclopedia editor and a prison inmate could not only find some common ground, but actually strike up a friendship that began in 2004 with a letter and they finally met in 2016, then there is hope for all of America to find some common ground.


Update:  Well, here’s another inspiring piece at National Review to end January:

Remembering Frederick Douglass, Champion of American Individualism, by George Will

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“A few leaves of grass” for remembrance

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We had a very quiet Thanksgiving and only one of our kids could come home.  I cooked the complete turkey meal and baked a couple of pumpkin pies that morning too.  By early evening our son had gone home.  All of the dishes were cleaned up and the leftovers put away.  I spent a few hours working in my sewing/craft room, then picked up a book that I like to read bits and pieces from often.

I keep War Letters:  Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll, on a small table by my recliner.  A few years ago, I mentioned General Pershing’s famous WWI letter to his young son, Warren, which I came across in this book.   General Pershing’s letter to his son was a father explaining the important values Americans fights to protect and preserve.  It’s probably my favorite letter in the book, but a close second is a letter written in 1918,  by Maude B. Fisher, an American Red Cross nurse.  She penned one of the most touching letters to Mrs. Hogan, the mother of a young soldier, Richard Hogan, who died of influenza in their hospital.  This wonderful nurse took the time to pen a very personal letter, so that a grieving mother would know how her son died.  The letter includes details of how brave and cheerful the dying soldier was, the care he received, and even more than that this nurse wrote the details of the soldier’s burial:

“He was laid to rest in the little cemetery of Commercy, and sleeps under a simple wooden cross among his comrades who, like him, have died for their country.  His grave number is 22, plot 1.  His aluminum identification tag is on the cross , and a similar one around his neck, both bearing his serial number, 2793346.

The plot of the grave in the cemetery where your son is buried was given to the Army for our boys and the people of Commercy will always tend it with loving hands and keep it fresh and clean.  I enclose here a few leaves of grass that grows near in a pretty meadow.

A big hill overshadows that place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy.”

page 171, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll

No one required this nurse to write to this grieving mother, because the Army notified fallen soldiers’ families, but she cared enough to want this mother to have more details.  The book offers a few details about each letter.  Mrs. Hogan lost two of her other children back home in Woburn, Massachusetts, during the 1918 influenza epidemic.  It must have been a great comfort for her to know her son far away was dutifully cared for as he lay dying and that he was given a proper burial.  And imagine her relief knowing exactly where her son was buried.

Thoughtful good deeds, like Maude Fisher’s, used to be very common when most people were reared to put other people before themselves and when quietly doing the right thing was drilled into children and served as the cultural norm.

Almost every good deed now is posted on social media, hyped as some fake gimmicky publicity stunt for attention, or used to sell oneself as more caring than someone else.

Maude Fisher reminds me of the same kind of nurse my mother was.  My mother sent me a little book of Psalms and prayers in 1980, when I was far away from home and going through a hard time in my life.  My mother explained how she came to have this little book:

“… died in 1964 and this booklet was unclaimed by her relatives.  She was a lovely old lady and it was a rewarding experience caring for her.  I am giving this to you Susie, as over the years I found pleasure in reading psalms and prayers.

As you know I’m not a person to force religion on anyone.  I do have faith in God and you will find comfort in reading psalms in times when you’re distressed and unhappy.”

In 1980, I was young and considered myself more agnostic than faithful, but my mother was right.  Over the years, I have picked up this little book or my Bible and turned to the Psalms when I feel  “distressed and unhappy”.

In 2001, my mother was hospitalized for several weeks and I began to worry a great deal, even though she and my sisters assured me that she was improving.  My mother kept telling me there was no need to come to PA, because she would be out of the hospital soon.  Still, I worried and I mailed this booklet to PA and asked my sister to take it to my mother in the hospital.  My mother was happy to see it again and to read it.

My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly on the day she was supposed to be discharged to a local rehabilitation facility for some follow-on care.

My mother quietly helped as many people as she could.  She never talked about it, she just did it, because it was the right thing to do.  People like Maude Fisher and my mother used to be the rule, not the exception.

I don’t have the religious education to argue Christian theology and truthfully if something doesn’t make sense to me, like so much in most religions, I refuse to say, “I believe.”   However, I think having rules or guidelines to serve as guard rails in life, to keep you on track, and sign posts to keep from getting lost, are very helpful.  I reread the Sermon on the Mount often.  I can understand that.  Matthew 6:1-4 has served as the guide for how I try to live my life and it assuredly was how my mother and Maude Fisher lived theirs:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205-7

Watching America’s endless game of partisan one upmanship has caused me to reevaluate my own strident partisan views.   Truly, so much of the extreme emotional investment in these “political hills to die on” won’t matter at all if the country is filled with raging partisans, who hate each other.  The hate bodes poorly, with many Americans who refuse to even talk to anyone with opposing political views, some want those with opposing views silenced, and there are even some wishing those with opposing partisan views were dead.

We could all take a page from Maude Fisher’s and my mother’s book.  Caring about other people is about more than clicking “like” on social media feeds or posting about every shallow thought that pops into your head.   I wonder how many people attending a funeral today would take the time away from their smartphone to even notice that the sun was setting when a young soldier was buried or the pretty meadow.   Assuredly, I doubt hardly anyone would take the time to pick “a few leaves of grass” for remembrance and pen a letter like this to a grieving mother.

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Filed under American Character, Civility, Food for Thought, General Interest, Uncategorized

A deep breath of fresh air

Andrew Sullivan wrote a compelling piece, The Danger of Knowing You’re on the ‘Right Side of History’, in New York Magazine.  Sullivan begins:

“I have to say I was deeply moved by the New York Times op-ed yesterday by an evangelical law professor from Alabama. The piece, by the wonderfully named William S. Brewbaker III, moved me because it was the first genuinely Christian thing I’ve heard an evangelical say about the Roy Moore scandal. It did more than renounce the tribalism that has led so many alleged Christians to back Moore; it presented Christianity, properly understood, as the core alternative to tribalism, as one way out of tribalism’s dead end. Brewbaker’s critical and deeply evangelical point:

To begin with, sin is a problem from which no one is exempt. If God’s love required the suffering and death of the Son of God in order to redeem us, we should not underestimate the consequences of sin in our own lives. The world is not divided into “good people” and “bad people”; to quote St. Paul, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Or, as the Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.”

It is thus wrong to attack one’s critics, as Mr. Moore did recently on Twitter, as “the forces of evil” and attribute their questions about serious allegations to “a spiritual battle.””

Sullivan steps back from our myopic hyper-partisan politics and takes a long view of civilization, covering a lot of ground, historically and theologically.  This piece is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

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Katie was right

A friend of my youngest daughter since her teens, Sarah, is a military spouse.  She is pregnant with her fourth child and they are stationed in Germany.  Her 25 year-old brother died in a tragic car accident, October 19, 2017, here in GA.  Sarah comes from a large family.  Her mother, a deeply religious lady, penned a message for family and friends who are angry or sad about her son’s death.  She reminded people that her son has just gone on ahead and she expressed gratitude that she had 25 years of joy having her son with her.  She lives her life with devotion to God and her family and gratitude for all of the many blessings in her life.  She also lives her life committed to forgiveness.

This morning I read a sad story, written by Jason F. Wright, about a mother who died in a tragic car accident, with a drunk driver.  This mother in California died on the drive home from visiting her premature twin daughters at the hospital.  She left behind her husband, four young sons and two premature infant daughters.  The story is an interview with the grieving husband.  The husband also penned a letter when he heard co-workers were expressing anger about his wife’s death:

“Obviously this is a difficult time for me and my family. It has been more difficult as I have heard that some are angry with the driver who killed my wife. Katie would not have wanted that. She was the embodiment of compassion. The hateful activities reported in the news recently troubled her greatly. She felt there was already too much anger in the world. I want you to know that I forgive the driver of that accident. Of course I am sorry that it happened. Of course I wish I could go back in time and change it, but we are all best served by moving forward with today’s reality and the best way to move forward is to honor Katie’s memory and focus on how to take care of her six children. Trials and tribulation are mandatory. Misery is optional. Happiness is a choice, sometimes a difficult choice. I confess I feel little in the way of happiness at the moment, but I am determined to be as happy as I can be and for now that is found in my profound gratitude to a generous and supportive community for the love they have wrapped around me and my family during this challenging time.”

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/10/28/katie-evans-loving-mom-killed-in-car-crash-following-visit-premature-twins-leaves-behind-beautiful-legacy.html 

All around us, we have leaders and media bombarding us with messages geared to fuel animosity and rage.  Sarah’s mother and Katie’s husband sparkle like small glimmers of hope in an America, where too many people live consumed by anger and hate.  Their message will likely resonate only within their small circle of friends and family, but it’s a message worth passing on to as many people as you can.

Katie was right.  There already is too much anger in the world.  We should all dedicate ourselves to showing more compassion for other people, looking for the good in others and trying to make the world a better place.

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A world without people?

Newsweek has a major scare cover, Who’s Killing America’s Sperm? The story, Male Infertility Crisis in U.S. Has Experts Baffled, delves into a decline in male fertility, not only in America, but throughout most of the world, particularly in the industrialized western world.  The article begins:

“Hagai Levine doesn’t scare easily. The Hebrew University public health researcher is the former chief epidemiologist for the Israel Defense Forces, which means he’s acquainted with danger and risk in a way most of his academic counterparts aren’t. So when he raises doubts about the future of the human race, it’s worth listening. Together with Shanna Swan, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Levine authored a major new analysis that tracked male sperm levels over the past few decades, and what he found frightened him. “Reproduction may be the most important function of any species,” says Levine. “Something is very wrong with men.””

The Newsweek article portends great danger to human existence, a world without people.  Back in February, in a blog post, An extreme feminist Utopia, I wrote a book report, of sorts, on Charles Eric Maine’s  1958 dystopian novel, World Without Men:

“I reject feminism, because it’s not just some benign battle for “fairness” in the workplace or expanding opportunities for women, it’s about tearing down the entire framework of western civilization. Maine’s novel, set 5,000 years into the future, describes a world literally without men. Although sounding totally implausible at first glance, Maine offers snapshot-like short chapters into the past, that lay out frightening events along the way to how this “world without men” came to be. While novels like this aren’t to be taken literally or as prescience for what is to come, like 1984, Maine touched on some issues that are worth thinking about.”

Maine’s novel delves into what a world social order, where only females exist, would be like.  His novel centers on a world where humans, over time, began overproducing females, until males became extinct, except for male genetic material saved in labs around the world.  In Maine’s futuristic world, government-controlled scientists work tirelessly to try to reproduce a living male child, while the female world is indoctrinated into a media fed lie about parthenogenesis, that men became obsolete and unnecessary, with all their endless wars and exploration.  A world without men allowed for an evolution to an orderly, stable world of only women:

The official P.A.S. history teaches:

“There never could have been a Utopia while man survived and controlled human affairs, for his innate aggressiveness and insatiable curiosity forced him restlessly to pursue the ever-widening boundary of knowledge without giving a thought to the application of his newly found powers in the service of humanity.  In abolishing man, nature had opened the way to the permanent establishment of peace and plenty.  Several women scientists had pointed out that man had been necessary to nature’s purpose; he had tackled, with considerable energy and ingenuity, the problem of adapting his environment to himself, and had succeeded in wresting from the blind forces of the cosmos all the power he needed to secure the supremacy and ultimate survival of the human race as an entity.  And at that point man became redundant. Worse he became an obstacle to the wise and peaceful exploitation of natural power for the benefit of his species.  So man ceased to exist, and woman became mistress of her planet, and nature provided parthenogenesis to replace the outmoded reproduction mechanism that had vanished with the male sex.”

p. 35, World Without Men, Maine, Charles Eric

In his fictional novel, the catalyst for Maine’s fake parthenogenesis is the advent of female oral contraceptives, which, over several thousand years, led to human reproduction going haywire, overproducing females and the eventual extinction of males.  Oddly enough, the Newsweek article chronicles a lengthy list of concerns for the decrease in male fertility from obesity to chemicals, but it does not include any mention of female oral contraceptives, as something to look into, even though they dramatically alter female hormones levels and the female reproductive system.  The Newsweek article states:

“Most sperm will never come close to an egg—while a fertile man ejaculates 20 million to 300 million sperm per milliliter of semen, only a few dozen might reach their destination, and only one can drill through the egg’s membrane and achieve conception. The chemical makeup of the vagina is actively hostile to sperm, which can only survive because semen contains alkaline substances that offset the acidic environment. That’s the paradox of sperm counts—although one healthy sperm is enough to make a baby, it takes tens of millions of sperm to beat the odds, which means that significant declines in sperm counts will eventually degrade overall male fertility. Notes Swan: “Even a relatively small change in the mean sperm count has a big impact on the percentage of men who will be classified as infertile or subfertile”—meaning a reduced level of fertility that makes it harder to conceive.”

Of course, the article does offer feminist-tinged agendas about how poor women bear such a burden, “it is women who bear the medical and psychological burden of trying to get—and stay—pregnant”…  Despite, the scare headlines warning that human reproduction is at risk,  there’s nary a mention of the increased use of female oral contraceptives in the Newsweek story and that glaring omission bothers me.  You’d  think that scientists, who are looking for all sorts of causes, even cellphones, BPA and smoking, to explain the drop in fertility, both female and male, perhaps they might add looking into the impact of increased use of oral contraceptives on human reproduction too.

Would looking into the impact of oral contraceptives rock the boat of acceptable scientific inquiry?  I suspect, that although we aren’t living in a “world without men”, we, to include our scientific research, are rigidly controlled by politically correct, feminist-driven conformity.  Is our scientific research ideologically castrated, to be performed only by PC-indoctrinated eunuchs?

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Lovely Things

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In the July 2017  The Smithsonian magazine, there’s a very interesting article,  From Ptolemy to GPS, the Brief History of Maps, about the history of maps, written by Clive Thompson.  The article begins by relating some recent incidents of mishaps attributed to hapless drivers mindlessly following inaccurate GPS directions while driving.  Thompson writes:

“You can laugh, but many of us have stopped paying attention to the world around us because we are too intent on following directions. Some observers worry that this represents a new and dangerous shift in our style of navigation. Scientists since the 1940s have argued we normally possess an internal compass, “a map-like representation within the ‘black box’ of the nervous system,” as geographer Rob Kitchin puts it. It’s how we know where we are in our neighborhoods, our cities, the world.

Is it possible that today’s global positioning systems and smartphones are affecting our basic ability to navigate? Will technology alter forever how we get around?”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/brief-history-maps-180963685/#GwdJLeK41bIuW2jo.99
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The article is definitely worth a read and I don’t have the answer to whether our “smart” computer technology is making us dumber or more inattentive, but it sure does make us lazier and more inclined to take short-cuts.  A year or two after we had our first home computer, I lectured my kids for their insistence on checking the weather online in order to decide on their apparel for the day or whether to wear a coat heading to the bus stop in  the morning.  I told them to step outside and see how cold it was or to look at the sky and they could see it was likely to rain.  They scoffed at that, telling me how the weather report relied on “expert” meteorologists and besides, who wanted to walk outside, when they could find out more “accurate” information online.

I prefer to look at the sky or look at the leaves on trees, which can speak volumes about impending storms or even how the birds act, as my first barometric reading, so to speak.

One thing I have noticed with my use of computers for almost all of my writing is that my spelling has become atrocious without spellcheck and now with beginning my “gratitude” journal, my handwriting is beyond terrible and it felt very awkward holding a pen for more than a few minutes at a time.

One of the first books I learned to read was a small children’s book my grandmother gave me, as part of my Christmas gifts for Christmas in 1964.  I was 4 years old:

I think I was around 7 or 8 when the cover started coming loose and I took some of my mother’s bandage tape and taped it back together.  I remember this, because my mother told me that wasn’t a good tape to use to repair a book.  I kept that book all these years and I came across it recently, sorting through some old paper stuff in my decluttering efforts.  Perhaps, I will attempt a better repair job.  The prayer at the top of this post is one of my favorite prayers in this book.  I remember loving this prayer as a child.

It is a prayer about gratitude.

That brings me to my ugly, dollar store journal, that is now my “gratitude” journal.  Why I picked the ugliest journal to start a journal is part of how I always worry about messing things up, so I didn’t want to begin “journaling” in my nicest journal, in case I messed it up.  It’s the same reason I keep many very nice things and don’t use them, because they might get ruined.   The same applies to many of my sewing and craft supplies, where I purchased fabric I loved or a craft item I thought was wonderful, but then I put off using it, because I was afraid I would waste it on a project that turned out crappy or that I might mess it up.  So, I have many lovely things awaiting the perfect project or for me to feel that my crafting/sewing skills will do justice to them.

“Junk journals” might be the perfect project for me.  My first junk journal turned out nicer than I expected.  Now, with this gratitude journal,  where I’m starting with junk, if I mess up this ugly dollar journal – so what!   And besides it’s just for me to write in, look at and read.

From the time I was around 9 or 10, I began cutting out pictures and stories from old magazines, like Highlights for Children, that I wanted to keep.   I had folders and an old shoe box for my clipped items.  By the time I was a teenager, I still had folders and I had boxes that I had decoupaged clipped pictures or old, pretty wrapping paper onto, making them pretty, but still functional.

After gluing some pictures in the altered composition books for my granddaughters, the other night, as I was trying to think of what to write in my “gratitude” journal, I decided to cut out pictures from some old magazines to glue into my journal.  I always try to make everything perfectly straight and agonize over perfect color combinations, perfect page layouts and if the overall arrangement is perfect.   As I started gluing in pictures, I decided not to stress over it and just glue in some pictures.

I started with just a picture or two on the two-page spread of the journal, but the next night I decided to do some collages of pictures and I started with this one, with the very crooked edges on the left side:

Then I decided to do collages inside the front and back covers:

Usually when I think of collage art work, I think of those edgy artists, who paint bold sweeps of colors and combine dismembered body parts into odd new arrangements or who have some giant eye somewhere in the picture peering at you.   I lack artistic ability, so mine is just gluing in pictures I like, with a glue stick.

I had done the porch page on Monday or Tuesday night , then yesterday I found the words, “The Porch: The soul of the house lies just up the front steps”,  in another old, Southern Living magazine and knew it had to go on this page.

Funny how something like gluing in pictures from some old magazines made me realize how grateful I am to have grown up poor, in a large family, in the mountains of PA.  The front porch of our house was where I spent hours in the summertime cutting out pictures from old magazines.  We would carry my great-grandmother’s rocking chair out on the front porch for her in the evenings, because she didn’t want her rocking chair left outside.  It was a part of the routine to cart her rocking chair in and out, when she wanted to sit on the front porch.  My parents, brothers and sisters, cousins next-door, sometimes neighbors too, congregated around our front porch in the summertime.  Often, friends of my parents would stop to chat a few minutes, as they were driving by.

We were never bored, we talked a lot, we never wanted to go inside and we begged our parents to stay outside longer, long after it was dark.

And of course, I do get lost easily, so I pay close attention to everything when I drive, taking careful notes of landmarks, buildings, road markers of every kind, even distinctive trees.  I don’t use GPS directions, instead I keep road maps in my car and I write down careful directions on a piece of paper before I take any trip.  My father built roads for a living.  He taught me to keep track of the mile markers on the interstate, so anytime we are on the interstate, I can tell you which mile markers we are between and which direction we are headed.

There’s no way I am going to trust a GPS voice on my phone to guide me.   Years ago, I did a google mapquest search for a friend from work’s home.  I had never been to her house, so I typed in my street address and hers.  Those directions included a turn onto a street that does not exist.

And, amidst having so many gadgets,  gizmos and fancy things, I am going to refocus on being thankful “for the lovely things” in my life, like “the pretty flowers and the little birds that sing”.  Kind of odd that a “junk journal” brought all the real treasures in my life into focus.

Note: The prayer, For Lovely Things, was written by Edna Dean Baker and the book, Prayers For Little Children,  was edited by Mary Alice  Jones and illustrated by Suzanne Bruce.

Books with collages of all pictures glued in are often referred to as “glue books” and it’s a very relaxing pastime.  There are many good videos on YouTube explaining how to go about doing a glue book.  Here are a couple of videos that I found informative:

 

 

 

 

 

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True heroes, no capes required

The story of this rug, that  my father bought for me when I was a child, is in my 2013 blog post, My Lucky Rabbit

Today is Father’s Day, so the debate going on in my head as to blog post topic is, Should I write a sappy, “my father was the greatest Dad ever” ramble about my Pop or some larger cultural issue? Perhaps, this post will be a little of both.

I loved my parents a great deal, but I respected them as much as I loved them. My mother was a serious type person, but my Pop was the most happy-go-lucky, cheerful, practical joker to the max, kind and umpresuming man imaginable.  My parents were both extremely hard workers, but they also were hard workers with taking care of my 3 sisters, two brothers and me.

My mother was reserved around other people and cautious around new people, while my Pop never met a stranger.  My mother marveled at how Pop had this ability to strike up conversations with strangers and within minutes find common ground.  And, before you knew he it, he had acquired more friends.  He was also dedicated to helping people whenever he could, but he did it in a quiet, nonchalant way, with no fanfare, often with no mention of it all.  A few years back, I wrote:

“As a child, I marveled at how many people stopped by our home bearing everything from fresh garden produce to hams and bottles of whiskey at Christmas time as thank-you gifts to my Dad for “favors” he did for them (of course the whiskey sat gathering dust at our home, as my parents weren’t drinkers). My Dad made helping people part of his daily life, with no mention of it and certainly no desire for anything in return.”

And

“When my father passed away a couple attended the services and they expressed their great admiration for my father and told my siblings and my mother about how many times my father helped them with things around their house, This couple were newcomers to our community and I assumed my mother knew them, as I had years before moved away from home. Later as my family sat discussing the services, one of my sisters asked my mother about this couple. My mother said she had no idea who they were and she thought one of us might know who they were. My Dad’s brand of quietly doing “favors” for people could sure put us on the right path to rebuilding the American team and his “small town values” still serve as my personal model on how to treat other people. Often when I queried why he did so much for other people, his usual response was, “Well it didn’t cost me much except a little time and everyone has a little time to spare.””
https://libertybellediaries.com/2013/04/26/time-to-spare/

My Pop was an illegitimate child born to a mother who wanted nothing to do with him.  He was raised by his maternal grandparents.  My husband’s father left when he was 5 years old and he never saw him again.  His mother went through many failed relationships with men moving in and out of my husband and his five siblings’ lives.  I wrote about this in a post about J.D. Vance’s book, Hillbilly Elegy, because the experiences and problems Vance faced in childhood reminded me of my husband’s family.  My father may not have had a mother or father who wanted him, but he had grandparents who loved him and were good role models.

The interesting thing about my parents and so many parents in previous generations is they never read a single book on parenting, yet they were dedicated, constant in their devotion to their families and unswerving in their belief in their moral and religious principles.

“True heroes are there for the long haul, and you can see their weaknesses along with their strengths.”

p. 12, How To Be a Hero To your Kids, Josh McDowell & Dick Day, 1991

My husband and I had plenty of disagreements on parenting, because my husband’s frame of reference for discipline was the Army and I told him children aren’t soldiers.  The barking out orders and yelling at them rather than talking to them was met with resistance and temper tantrums.  It made their behavior much worse and escalated problems rather than solving any.  Yelling does not solve anything.  And that’s where the above quote comes in.   When our kids were grade school age, my husband came home from work one day with the book, “How To Be A Hero To Your Kids” in hand.  He told me the chaplain brought this book to him, after a talk they had about parenting.  I was stunned that my definitely-not-religious husband turned to an Army chaplain in a casual conversation about his parenting difficulties.

I think almost every parent has yelled at their kids about something, especially dealing with teenagers.  My father was not a yeller, but I recall the one time he yelled at me.   I was in my early teens and started arguing with my father about going to catechism class, which was a weekly ordeal for two years, before confirmation in the UCC/Lutheran church.  I didn’t want to go to catechism class and argued about it the entire two years.  One evening, I was supposed to go next door to my great-aunt, who was going to drive me and her daughter (my second-cousin) to catechism class.

My mother was at work at the hospital, so I started this tirade about how I wasn’t going to catechism class and I stormed out the back door by our kitchen and I slammed that door as hard I could for good measure, to make my point.  The glass in the door shattered.  My Pop, who never raised his voice, came tearing out that door after me, as I scrambled across the ice-covered snow in the yard.  He caught me by the arm, kicked me in the butt and yelled, “That’s enough out of you!”.  He firmly told me I needed to march down to my great-aunt and go to catechism class.  I was so stunned at his yelling and kicking me in the butt, that I went to catechism class without another word.

When I got home, my Pop was his usual calm self, but I knew he wasn’t going to let me get away without mentioning my bad behavior.  He told me he couldn’t get glass to fix the window until the next day, but he had already covered the hole with cardboard.  And he told me I needed to start thinking about other people in our family instead of just what I wanted.  He made me feel selfish, because my actions were totally selfish.  He apologized for kicking me in the butt, but truthfully, I think I deserved it.  It wasn’t just my Pop who had to endure my temper tantrum, it was my entire family and while it may have felt great slamming the door in defiance, that door window was the top half of the door.  The broken window let ice-cold air blow into the house.

I started thinking about self-control after that incident and I started working on my temper.  I’ve never reached the same level of calm as my Pop, but I keep striving to treat other people like he did.  We all make plenty of mistakes at parenting, but the one thing everyone can strive for is to tamp down on anger and work at not yelling.

People flying into rages about everything is an American pastime.   It’s not just our politics where Americans have gone off the deep-end, it’s all around us in our culture and in way too many homes across America.

Although, How To Be A Hero To Your Kids , is a little dated and written from a Christian perspective, the lessons are universal.   You don’t need a cape, superpowers, or celebrity status to be a good role model for your kids, but you need to get your priorities straight and be dedicated for the long haul.

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Time for a truce in the civil war of words

The political atmosphere in America continues to descend into deeper partisan divides and the media’s frenetic spinning the news keeps perpetuating confusion and keeping America’s politics in a state of constant chaos.

Believing the worst of political opponents and those who hold differing views is the new normal.  Extreme partisans feverishly work to launch vicious smear campaigns to destroy the character of political opponents, without any concern for the veracity of their scurrilous attacks in this endless scorched earth information war.  With American partisans so entrenched in this self-destructive, by-any-means necessary, war of words, the Russians don’t have to do much to “influence” or work to destroy our democratic institutions.  Our own partisans are burning them down rapidly, while Putin sits back and laughs at “America developing political schizophrenia”.

Here are two reading recommendations

David French’s piece: To Defend Trump, The GOP Is Becoming a Party Bill Clinton Would Love

The other is a book, Stopping Words That Hurt, Positive Words In a World Gone Negative, by Dr. Michael Sedler.  I read this book a couple years ago and last night I started reading it again.   I have it in kindle format, but it’s available in paperback at amazon now.  While the book is written from a Christian perspective, the lessons really are universal and just plain old common decency.  He explains why, what biblically is referred to as “evil reporting”, lying, gossiping, spreading negative stories about others, is only half of the issue.  He explains why listening to “evil reporting” is very destructive and he offers many positive personal strategies to “stopping words that hurt”.  I need to work a lot harder on this.

In a country where the media and politicians are consumed by their scorched earth war of words, to win the news cycle, I think all of us need to start demanding a truce in this “cold civil war”.

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The cost of freedom

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Standards of excellence… or not

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Do standards matter and are they worth teaching and preserving?

A month or so ago, I stitched this small American-themed design to add to my “I love America” room, which is the foyer by my front door.  That space is approximately 4 feet X 10 feet.  I get lots of ideas for this small area, as I mentioned in a previous post: here.  The foyer had vinyl flooring when we bought this house in 1994 and although there was a chair rail trim, about halfway up around the walls, above and below the chair rail were an off-white color.   It took me a few years to find the wallpaper I wanted, which has an English hunting vibe.  Above the chair rail is the animal print and below the chair rail is a coordinating striped-print.  My husband hung the wallpaper, but then I decided I wanted hardwood flooring in the foyer.   However, after shopping around and asking a lot of questions, I decided I wanted a vinyl flooring that was cut into “planks”, like hardwood floors.  The easy maintenance and durability, with having 4 kids and dogs in the house, sold me on the vinyl option.  These vinyl look-alike planks were about the same price as going with hardwood flooring.  My husband laid these vinyl planks, but in typical LB style, I had looked at hardwood floor designs and decided that I wanted them laid in a herringbone pattern.  So, I showed my husband some pictures from a book and he drew it all out on paper with measurements, then installed my herringbone floor.

About 10 years ago, we replaced flooring and carpet in our home and my husband really wanted tile flooring in the kitchen, bathrooms and foyer.  I opted for a high-quality vinyl “tile” floor for in my kitchen, because it’s not as hard to stand on cooking and it’s not as cold as tile on concrete-slab homes here in coastal GA.  He got his real tiles in the foyer and bathrooms.  We had someone install the tiles, because my husband wasn’t in good health, by that point.  I missed my herringbone pattern on the floor, but these big tiles are nice too.

My beloved wallpaper should be removed, but I am hanging onto it as long as I can.  The above craft project isn’t anything great, but I am satisfied with it.   Instead of just framing that little piece, I opted for trying a finishing using a paint canvas.  The fabric is a print I love, which I had sewn into a travel-size pillowcase years ago.  I used a travel-size pillow on my lap for propping my Q-snap frames or embroidery hoops, when I do needlework.  Lucy, my stray-dog rescue, loves to chew holes in the corners of throw cushions and even furniture cushions.

This is partly another “happy hoarding” story, as after she chewed the corners off my travel-size pillowcase and pillow, I washed that damaged pillowcase and kept it with my patriotic fabric.  Last night, I cut up the pillowcase and used one side of it to cover this paint canvas, then I added some rickrack trim and the cross-stitch.  I am keeping the rest of that pillowcase too, because I can use it for the backs on some small patriotic-themed cross-stitch pillows.  I decided to add the pins, which were a set of 6 pins I bought at a yard sale years ago.  The hanging ribbon, was just ribbon that I twisted up to look like cording.  There are obvious imperfections, but overall I am satisfied with it.   It’s a small piece that I can stitch up again, easily and finish it differently or I can take this apart and finish it differently, if later I decide it needs improvement.

The “imperfections” are really what this blog post is about, despite it taking over 500 words for me to get to the point. The lack of concern with doing things “right”, maintaining “standards” and the pervasive willingness to heap praise on mediocre work is as destructive to the moral fiber of our society as all the more obvious cultural revolutions in the past century.  This attitude, that how you feel about your work matters more than the quality of your workmanship, permeates even into needlework.

The 2016 election, with two venal, lying, corrupt candidates, both running vile scorched earth propaganda campaigns left me wondering how on earth, these two disgusting candidates could be the candidates the two major political parties put forth.   More Americans, who voted in the primaries, opted for these two candidates and that speaks volumes about the state of our republic.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I started watching embroidery videos on YouTube, then discovered “floss tube”, where cross-stitchers post videos about their work.  I wrote:

  “The usual floss tube video seems to be about an hour, divided into sections of show and tell about finished projects, works-in-progress (WIPs), and “Haul” (more cross-stitch junk purchased).  Then there are a few floss tube contributors, like the expert needlewoman , Mary Rose, named after Mary, Queen of Scots, who present much shorter, highly educational and deeply thoughtful videos that deal with much larger life lessons.”

My craft project last night was a technique, covering a paint canvas with fabric, which I saw on a floss tube video by Silvia.  Silvia, who posts under the name beckisland, is a sweet, German lady who stitches small cross-stitch pieces and finishes them in creative ways.  Silvia is very dedicated to doing the best work she can and often she will dissect an older piece she finished and discuss what she isn’t happy about with her work and how she would do it differently now.

She’s focused on excellence.

Since floss tube is an informal community, people from around the world post their videos, which offers an unfiltered look at the good, the bad and ugly (and not just about cross-stitch).

Last year, I mentioned another YouTube video by  Dr. Saul Cornell, the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair, American History, Fordham University.  His video explains the concept of civic virtue.  At minute 26:56 Dr. Cornell discusses how after the American Revolution women in America started including elements of American civic values into their needlework samplers:

Listening to people is a lifelong hobby of mine too, so watching these videos, I detected that many of the same attitudes and beliefs that are corroding our social fiber, have had an effect on needlework too.

There are stitchers posting videos in which they declare that they don’t care if the back of their needlework is a knotted up mess.   There are plenty of stitchers who make comments that the back of their work isn’t neat and they are embarrassed about it, because they know it’s not up to accepted standards.  These younger stitchers, who boldly proclaim those standards don’t matter offer an assortment of rationales… like “my friends love my work and I love my work, so who cares” or “the back of your work only matters if you’re entering your work in needlework competitions” or “no one sees the back, so who cares”.

Keeping the back of your needlework as neat as the front is a standard of excellence in needlework, because the neatness on the back assures the stitches on the front will remain snug and keep their shape.  Neatness on the back also assures there are no unsightly lumps on the front from tangled and knotted threads on the back.

I’m trying to use up scraps of Aida cross-stitch fabric, that I’ve had since the 90s, for small projects.  I stitched this little piece on an old Aida scrap yesterday.  My back is pretty neat, but I need to improve on neatness with my backstitching, where the lettering is.  The creases in the fabric are where it was folded in a box for years and then wrinkles from my hoop.  With washing and pressing, I will get all of those out.  I try to trim loose threads as I stitch, because loose threads are like pythons lying in wait, ready to wrap around other threads and they create tangled nightmares.

This post ran way longer than intended, so in another post, I want to discuss how this disregard for standards of excellence hits you in the face at every turn… even on needlework videos.

It is destroying the American character.

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