Category Archives: Inspirations

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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America is more than Trump & Media Tweetstorms

Senator Ben Sasse posted this inspiring video on social media today.  It’s a much-needed blast of American spirit, to cleanse the air of the latest Twitter SPIN battle.

While the American media and President Trump fall into another SPIN “shithole”, today’s blog post is not going to be about politics.  Some Democrats, after a meeting with Trump, decided to attempt another #Resist Trump takedown spin effort.  The mainstream liberal media went into full hysteria mode last night… again… about “Trump is a racist”.

I had been working on a junk journal last night and didn’t look at Twitter until close to midnight.  It took me about 30 seconds of scrolling through journalists’ tweets to assess a full-blown #Resist SPIN attack underway.  By this morning, a great deal of the liberal Twitter shitstorm over “shitholes” was so over-the-top, that it’s clear they may, once again, end up bolstering Trump rather than taking him down.

Many of the #Resisters, who pretend to be objective journalists, sound  like hysterical lunatics.

The altered book junk journal I am working on is for my youngest daughter.  I found this lovely scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago, when they had this brand of paper on sale for 50% off.  The background is actually a skirt my youngest daughter sewed in her early teens.  She loved this dark navy fabric with the lobster print, even though I was trying to steer her toward pretty pastel colored fabric.  We found an easy skirt pattern and she sewed several pretty floral print skirts and this lobster print skirt, needing very little assistance, once she did a little bit of practice sewing on scrap fabric to get the hang of machine sewing.  I came across this skirt in the spare bedroom closet recently and my mind flew to thinking it would be great to repurpose it as a junk journal cover and possibly use more of it to make a tote bag for her too.

The picture above is one of my favorite childhood books, that I came across looking through old books for junk journaling.  It’s pretty beat-up and has pen scribbles on it, that I know I didn’t put there.  I know this, because I wrote my name inside the front cover of my books and did not scribble or write in them.  When I got to college and first observed the habit of using highlighter markers in your textbooks, well, I was appalled that people would deface their books like that.  I never got into the habit of “highlighting” or writing in my books and I tried to take good care of my books.   And of course, bending down page corners to mark your place in a book should be punishable with a good smack upside the head.

Book collecting (hoarding) is a lifelong habit, that I will never quit, although I’ve tried to read more kindle books and buy less actual books in recent years.  Sadly, my same book hoarding habits easily transferred to digital hoarding too.  My bookmarks always are out of control, same with the other crap I download and my Pinterest has over 200 boards and over 12,000 pins…   I have pinned way more recipes and craft projects than I can ever use, but I still keep pinning more.

Anyone else have this  “hoarding” problem with digital information?

One of my happiest memories of my early years of school was receiving my Scholastic Book Club flyer from my teacher, pouring over every book listing, then compiling my “wish list”.  Usually my list contained almost every book in the flyer.  My mother would give me money for books and then I had to sit there and decide which books I wanted the most, to fit my small book allowance.  I bought Codes & Secret Writing when I was around 10 years old and it fueled my interest in cryptography. Learning about its use in warfare led to my interest in military strategy.  I also liked reading mystery genre stories, as a kid, which often involved strange happenings or odd people rather than the more common adult crime detective mysteries.

Truth be told, I was never very good at codes and ciphers and I found military strategy much more my cup of tea.

Another of my favorite childhood book genres was biographies of great or famous people.  I still like reading about important people in history, but I prefer a narrower selection now, opting to read biographies about people whose lives and/or ideas impacted history in some profound way.   I also moved toward trying to read the person’s own writings and letters whenever possible, rather than relying on a biographer or historian’s assessment.  This habit grew out of observing that too often historians seem to work from having already decided on the character of the historical figure they are writing about and using their research to cherry pick historical documentation to bolster their preconceived character assessment.

In comments on my last blog post, JK provided links to several very interesting John Batchelor interviews with historians, H.W. Brands, Ron Chernow and Robert L.O’Connell on two fascinating and controversial historical figures, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.   It’s interesting that two of the most important generals in the Union winning the U.S. Civil War ended up with their characters frequently extremely maligned, yet Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate forces, trying to tear the United States apart, has consistently been recast as a saintly man of conviction and the “better” general, even though he lost…

I honestly believe that at the core of the perceptions of Grant and Lee lies a class bias, where Lee obviously had the pedigree of a Southern aristocrat and Grant came from a hardscrabble working class background.  It’s much easier to place Lee, with his impeccable personal appearance and stately bearing, as a majestic war hero on a statue than it is Grant, with his rumpled clothes and lack of a commanding presence.

On a day when America’s politicos continue to furiously tweet on about Trump’s shithole comment, it’s important to remember that America’s greatness lies in our commitment to the belief in the power of freedom to transform the lives of individuals.   It’s not where you came from, the color of your skin, your religion, or sex; it’s about believing that in America you are free, to borrow Emerson’s line, “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

Here’s a 2016 Marco Rubio quote that I came across in an Ian Tuttle piece at National Review, which sums up America eloquently:

“We are a hopeful people, and we have every right to be hopeful. For we in this nation are the descendants of go-getters. In our veins runs the blood of people who gave it all up so we would have the chances they never did. We are all the descendants of someone who made our future the purpose of their lives. We are the descendants of pilgrims. We are the descendants of settlers. We are the descendants of men and women that headed westward in the Great Plains not knowing what awaited them. We are the descendants of slaves who overcame that horrible institution to stake their claim in the American Dream. We are the descendants of immigrants and exiles who knew and believed that they were destined for more, and that there was only one place on earth where that was possible.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/432928/americas-pioneer-spirit-dead-gone

I wish Trump and his enemies waging these Tweetstorm battles would call a truce to this destructive information war, but each side believes they’re “saving” America, even though their SPIN battles deepen the partisan divides in America, incite rage, and fray the bonds of civil society.  You don’t need to understand any secret codes or ciphers to see how damaging SPIN is to America, all you need to do is listen to the Trump vs. the Media news a few minutes a day.

It’s depressing to think that this is what the world believes America is all about…

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Filed under American Character, General Interest, Information War, Inspirations, Politics

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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Bad title, but great story

Dr. Mary-Claire King, American Cancer Society Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, relates, in very personal terms, her awful week she secured a research grant from the National Institutes of Health in 1981:

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1

The title doesn’t do this amazing story justice.  The story isn’t filled with feminist angst or rage.  It’s filled with honesty about a young doctor and mother, faced with a week of terrible personal crises, who almost made a choice not to show up in Washington to pursue her NIH grant for her BRCA1 research, which has greatly advanced the understanding of breast cancer.  And like all good stories, there are some surprises to make you glad you read it.

 

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Filed under General Interest, Inspirations

Threads of Civic Virtue

“God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to defend it.”

– Daniel Webster, 1834

I’ve been spending more time sorting through sewing and craft supplies lately, trying to organize my sewing room, than following politics and the news. However, being an inveterate news junkie is a habit that isn’t easy to break, so I’m still reading some news online daily.  Watching the endless scorched earth battles of President Donald Trump pitted against the Left, the Democratic machine, and the mainstream media disgusts me and fills me with great concern for America’s future.  I wonder, “Who are we and what really matters to us?”

This post isn’t going to be about needlework, but needlework is the thread with which I’m going to try and sew the larger issue of liberty and personal sacrifice to preserve liberty into a blog post.

Through watching needlework videos from around the world on YouTube, I came across some “community” of counted cross-stitchers called “floss tube”, who post videos about their counted cross-stitch projects.  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.

The poem she is referring to is a poem, The Life That I Have, which she stitched and is combining with a floral design.  Sounds silly and pointless, until you consider the poem:

The text of the poem, by Leo Marks:[1]

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_That_I_Have

Mary Rose explains the history of the poem and how it became famous, in the WWII movie, Carve Her Name with Pride, which is based on the true life story of British spy heroine, Violette Szabo, who was just an ordinary young woman working in a department store in London at 19:

“Just four years before, she was Violette Bushell, a pretty, Paris-born girl selling perfume at the Bon Marché department store in South London. Then she met Etienne Szabo, a charming, 31-year-old officer with the French Foreign Legion, at a Bastille Day parade, and they married five weeks later. But Etienne soon shipped off to North Africa, where General Erwin Rommell and his Panzer divisions were on the move through the sands of Egypt. Szabo was killed in October 1942, during the Second Battle of El Alamein. He would posthumously receive the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military award for bravery in battle, but he would never see his daughter, Tania, born to Violette in London just months before he died.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/behind-enemy-lines-with-violette-szabo-1896571/#6ADyiWlgBSWG0i4T.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
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This young WWII widow, with a young daughter,  joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).  She was captured by the Nazis after being injured parachuting into France on a mission.  She was executed in 1944 in the German concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The poem above is a poem code, which Leo Marks used as Violette Szabo’s code to send messages.  Leo Marks was a British cryptographer in World War II.

Violette Szabo, didn’t have the education or background to be a likely choice for a SOE agent, but in that day recruiters for the SOE were looking for unique people, with unique character and skill sets.  The Smithsonian Magazine article, Behind Enemy Lines with Violette Szabo, describes her:

“…she was fluent in French and, though just 5-foot-5, athletic and surprisingly strong for her size. She was already a crack shot in a family comfortable around guns and target practice; under rigorous SOE training, she became an accomplished markswoman. Reports described her as a persistent and “physically tough self-willed girl,” and “not easily rattled.””

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/behind-enemy-lines-with-violette-szabo-1896571/

Like so many of her generation, Violette Szabo, knew liberty is precious and worth fighting to preserve.  How she lived though, by courageous self-sacrifice, says more than all the focus-group tested speeches, ever delivered  by self-serving, pompous, iconic feminist windbags, like Hillary Clinton.  This 23 year-old war widow, with a tiny daughter, parachuted into France and here’s how she conducted herself:

“Two days after landing, a car transporting Szabo to a rendezvous was stopped at a German checkpoint. With weapons and ammunition in the car, Szabo and the resistance fighter accompanying her had no choice but to open fire and try to flee in the confusion. Szabo twisted her ankle, but urged her companion to go on without her while she sheltered behind a tree and provided covering fire. According to two of her biographers, Szabo held off the German pursuers until she ran out of ammunition, when she was captured and taken away for interrogation, still defiant and cursing her captors.”

http://www.theweek.co.uk/64502/violette-szabo-how-ww2-heroine-earned-her-george-cross

How important messages are sent and received matters.   Leo Marks used his original love poem as a secret code.  Violette Szabo’s selfless courage speaks of a civic virtue, desperately needed, but rarely found in our rudderless trash culture these days.

In today’s world, where checking the “right” boxes for educational background and resumé or knowing the “right” important people matters more than actual character or talents, I doubt our intelligence “experts” would even notice the talents of a heroine like Violette Szabo.  Assuredly, assessing character is a rare ability in America, where the two major parties’ 2016 presidential candidates were both pathological liars and willing to say or do anything to win.  That millions of people cheer on two such morally-bankrupt characters speaks volumes about we, the American people, and what we think matters.

My blog is just my opinions.  When I write posts, often I walk away not sure I expressed what I really intended to say.  Storytelling isn’t my strong suit.  In fact, in most things in my life, I don’t have a great deal of talent.  That’s the truth.  I love needlework, but I’m not a “natural” at it and I don’t produce any heirloom-quality pieces.  Most of what I stitch are small or medium, not highly complicated patterns and I try to keep the back of my work as neat as the front.  My writing is much the same… a great love of writing, but not nearly the skills and talent, that I wish I had.  With just about everything I have done in my life, I had to practice… a lot, to become even halfway decent at it.  So, I stitch things that I like, even small, simple things, like this, that I want to turn into a small quilted wall-hanging for in my I love America room:

wp-1490373121466.jpg

Being willing to listen, with not only an open mind, but an open heart matters.  Often, not only messages come in surprising ways (like via a needlework video), sometimes they are delivered by highly unlikely messengers, like Mary Rose, sitting in her  “stitchblisscorner” chatting about needlework.




Here’s a link to a 2015 news story about Violette Szabo’s medals:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11755734/WWII-heroine-Violette-Szabos-George-Cross-fetches-260k.html

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Sewing that does change lives

Here’s an inspirational story about a young woman in Detroit, who started a non-profit that hires  homeless people to manufacture multi-functional coats.  She designed this coat, which converts into a sleeping bag, for homeless people.

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