Category Archives: Things That Matter

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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Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest, Inspirations, Things That Matter

Enough is enough

My husband served in the U.S. Army, always an infantryman, from 1975 to 1999.  He is a Grenada and Desert Storm veteran.  When he decided to retire in 1999, his decision surprised me, because I believed he would serve 30 years, which was the limit for his rank.

When he talked to me about his decision to retire, his reasons were a combination of two factors.  The first factor was some of our kids were in high school and didn’t want to move again.  However, the larger factor was my husband had become very disillusioned with how political the Army had become among Army leadership.  A frequent complaint he voiced was that too many officers are politicians more than soldiers these days.

That was 1999.  Last summer, as America’s political parties were holding their presidential conventions,  the politicization of America’s generals moved on-stage at both the Republican and Democrat conventions, with generals literally on-stage spouting partisan rhetoric.

It alarmed me.

Everything in America now can become a political football, a cause for protest, a “national conversation”.

Words mean things.

Definition of conversation

1obsolete :conductbehavior

2(1) :oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas

  • … we had talk enough but no conversation; there was nothing discussed.
  •  —Samuel Johnson

(2) :an instance of such exchange :talk 

  • a quiet conversation

b :an informal discussion of an issue by representatives of governments, institutions, or groups 

  • conversations among the senators

c :an exchange similar to conversation 

  • We had a conversation by e-mail.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conversation

A conversation requires, not only talking, it requires listening, a willingness to open our hearts and minds to other people’s ideas, viewpoints, experiences and feelings.   It requires a degree of mutual respect between people.

In America, where scorched earth information warfare rages, like I wrote in my last blog post, even the most trivial issue can become a national political battle.  There are only skirmishes, thrusts and hit and run attacks, where each side attacks, tries to draw as much blood as possible, then retreats to reload for the next ambush.

There assuredly are few real “national conversations” about anything.

I’ve been guilty of putting on partisan blinders too, but I am working to remove them and refocus on looking at people as individuals, rather than pigeonhole them into an us or them tribe.   President George W. Bush gave a very powerful speech on that topic this past week:

“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/19/full-text-george-w-bush-speech-trump-243947

General John Kelly gave a powerful speech too and one comment struck me:

“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.”

A few things need to be clarified about this past week’s scorched earth information skirmish.  Some on the Left are using SGT La David Johnson’s death to create a narrative for “Trump’s Benghazi” and to attack General Kelly.  On the right, vile Trump mouthpieces, like Sheriff David Clarke, have used this skirmish to sink to the level of attacking  Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s looks:

. calling Frederica Wilson “whacky” is putting it mildly. The woman is a buffoon. Look at her.

The Trump spin masters are trying to divert attention away from the Gold Star family controversy and onto a Clinton/Uranium One storyline.

This morning Kurt Schlichter, one of the most dedicated Trump Twitter troopers, tweeted:

Put aside all the gold star stuff and George Bush’s catiness and understand that the Hillary uranium story is the only story.

Schlichter is a retired Army officer.  SGT La David Johnson hadn’t even been buried yet.  His funeral was this afternoon.

So many, on both sides of this scorched earth information war, are so entrenched at scoring cheap political points and “winning”, that all sense of decency has been lost.

Frederica Wilson might be a rabid partisan hack or she might be a friend of SGT Johnson’s family or she could be both, but her comments don’t have grave national consequences.

President Trump is the Commander-In-Chief.  He has a sacred DUTY to all serving in the United States Armed Forces.

How he handles this situation can have lasting impact on the morale and welfare of all of America’s brave men and women serving in uniform.

Trump mouthpieces and friendly pundits are working to do damage control, writing stories about how much President Trump cares about the military and penning pieces quoting other Gold Star families who received calls from President Trump and feel his words were comforting.  All that misses the point.

Military families need to have trust in our military chain of command and that starts with the President setting the right example.

President Trump has a duty to reassure the family of SGT La David Johnson that he did not mean to disrespect them and that he honors SGT Johnson’s sacrifice.

That is the right thing to do.

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Filed under American Character, General Interest, Military, Politics, Things That Matter

A very excellent opinion piece

Here’s a link to a very thoughtful piece by David Brooks, How To Roll Back Fanaticism, which ran in the New York Times on August 15, 2017.  I meant to post this, but the ensuing Trump commotion sidetracked me.

 

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Filed under General Interest, Things That Matter

The value of a Goodwill book?

My kids were teenagers in the late 90s, so I got exposure to “reality TV” with garbage like MTV’s Real World.  I hated it!  There were others they watched too and I was a harsh critic, even back then.  I rarely watch TV these days and if I do, I don’t watch reality TV shows.  I never watched Donald Trump’s reality TV show, but now, as a political news junkie, here I am stuck watching The President Trump Reality Show.  It is disgusting, demeaning to the Office of the President, a national embarrassment and exhausting.   President Trump is as disgusting, perhaps even more so, than the Democrat partisans, who will do or say anything to advance their political agenda, that I’ve harshly criticized for years.

Frankly, if he gets impeached, I’ll probably breathe a sigh of relief, even though another impeachment drama would be very damaging to the country.  At this point, I don’t know which would be more damaging – a full-term of this President Trump Reality Show or impeachment.  It seems to me we are headed toward a constitutional crisis either way.

Yesterday was Jeff Sessions turn to be thrown to the wolves or under the bus, depending who was behind the leak of the Russian ambassador’s accounting to his superiors in Moscow, that Sessions discussed campaign-related matters in their conversations.  This is high-level, national U.S. intelligence intercepts being leaked to the media.

When Trump’s tax return from long ago, showing he paid a lot in taxes, was leaked, I suspect that Trump was behind that leak.  He played it for all it was worth, extrapolating that one tax return as indicative of all his tax returns.  It was a self-serving leak, I suspect.

With the intel being leaked, it doesn’t matter who leaked it or why they leaked it, it’s completely illegal and beyond that this scorched earth partisan use of national security intel is completely corrupting the national security system.  If high level officials, based on their own whims, can use intelligence for partisan political objectives, then what good are any of the rules?

Trump’s leaked tax return, well, if someone else leaked that without his consent, the law was broken, but even if he leaked it himself, while perfectly legal, lying and acting like someone else leaked it is very unethical and a corrupting influence on the country’s moral fiber.  Yeah, yeah, I know – we don’t have much moral fiber left or the two major political parties wouldn’t have chosen Trump and Hillary.

During the election many conservatives, who should have known better, fell sway to Trumpthink, espousing morally bankrupt talking points to keep the Trump GOP insurgency ruthlessly laying waste to all rules and decorum, with a cutthroat scorched earth information war against, not only Hillary, but also the mainstream media.  Hillary and much of the mainstream media were definitely colluding to wage a scorched earth campaign to dump anything and everything on Trump in an information war too.  Here we are 6 months into Trump’s presidency and this scorched earth information war is still raging, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Yesterday I had to go to the vet to pick up some dog medication refills and on the way home I decided to stop by the Goodwill to look for cheap books that I wouldn’t mind cutting up for this “junk journal” hobby.  The picture at the top is a 1995 perpetual calendar book, I found.  There are lots of great quotes in it and my first thought was, I can cut a lot of these out and put them in my new quote junk journal.  I think the lady at the Goodwill charged me 39 cents for this calendar, but many of these quotes are priceless.  I also found a few other books, like this 1941, A Treasury of Gilbert and Sullivan, filled with music for 50 cents:

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Later in the evening, I sat flipping through the pages of The Little Book of Virtues and I realized that I didn’t want to cut this little calendar book apart.  In fact, I doubt that I will cut the music book apart either, since it’s very difficult for me to tear any book apart.  So, I spent some time thinking about books that matter to me and then I watched a few videos on how to repair old children’s board books.  Yes, I want to repair my little, Prayers For Little Children  book.  I also have the old, large dictionary that came with our set of World Book Encyclopedias, when I was a kid, which is in need of repair too:

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Instead of buying anymore books for “junk journaling”, I think my next purchase will be a Speedy Stitcher sewing awl, so I can properly repair my little prayer book….

I decided to set that virtues calendar book on a shelf here on my hutch and enjoy a new quote on virtue every day:

Since endlessly writing about how corrupt and unfit President Trump is for the presidency won’t help anyone or add anything to the political debate, I might share some of these quotes on virtue instead.

Of course, I also wish President Trump would have this book on his desk in the Oval Office, but I doubt he would read it.

He prefers tweeting…

I can hardly stand so much “winning”…

 

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Filed under Corrupt Media Collusion, General Interest, Politics, Public Corruption, Quotes To Ponder, Things That Matter

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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When everyone gets a gold star

” In the days when all properly brought up little American girls stitched their samplers, as all little boys did their chores, they wrote verses in each other’s Autograph Albums to record the eternal friendships of first days in school.  Their careful Spencerian penmanship is faded now on the brittle pages where you read two verses often repeated, the first usually signed by Abner or Joseph, the second by Eliza or Phoebe:

When Duty whispers low, “Thou must,”

The youth replies, “I can.”

And

Straight is the line of Duty,

Curved is the line of Beauty.”

p. 52, chapter on Cross-Stitch, Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework, by Rose Wilder Lane, published in 1961

The oft repeated line for little boys comes from an 1863  Ralph Waldo Emerson poem titled Voluntaries.  Sage Stossel, in a piece in The Atlantic explains that the poem, “paid tribute to those prepared to sacrifice all for the sake of the Union. The final four lines of the stanza below are among Emerson’s most famous, and have been inscribed on veterans’ memorials around the country.”  That “Duty” the above verses speak to is a concept America’s founding fathers embraced and which J. Rufus Fears, the late historian and professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, described simply as:

“Civic virtue: The willingness of the individual to subordinate himself to the good of the community.”

In previous posts I’ve expounded on the demise of civic virtue in America and how it all begins in American families and communities, where the seeds of civic virtue must be planted and nurtured.   We have child-rearing experts, from child psychologists to educational professionals to celebrity experts and yet in bygone eras, most people, with few resources, managed to train and educate their children to be citizens of good character.

For a needlework book, Rose Wilder Lane, managed to explain a great deal of American history, along with the history of American needlework.  In the chapter on Cross-stitch, Lane offered photos of several American samplers, which young girls stitched to both learn how to stitch and as a future reference for various stitches.

Many of the samplers contain the girl’s name, age, and the year the sampler was stitched.   Some of the most beautiful samplers were stitched by girls  as young as 9 or 10 years old.  These girls designed their own samplers and diligently stitched them as Lane describes:

“Dutiful those little girls were required to be, silently repressing their rebellion while they did their daily “stint” of stitching that must be done before they would be allowed to play.  And the beauty of their work is in its four-square character, strictly faithful to the straight line  Yet, it is a gentle beauty, for in the beholder’s eye the straight line becomes a curve of vines and flowers, of woodland bird and rabbit and deer and of the darling dog and the long-tailed mouser on the hearthrug

So those grim hours of duty unexpectedly produced the deep joy of work well-done, a triumph earned by difficult self-discipline.”

p. 52, chapter on Cross-Stitch, Woman’s Day Book of American Needlework, by Rose Wilder Lane, published in 1961

Lane also describes a sampler completed by a girl, aged 14 and points out how that girl lacked self-discipline and should have been ashamed to produce such shoddy workmanship at her age.  Lane dissects how the girl began her sampler using harder stitches and patterns, which she abandoned for simpler stitches and poorly drawn motifs.  Lane attributes this to indulgent parenting and that the results show that girl was not required to do her “stint” of stitching daily.

The thing that Lane is referring to is the character-building beliefs and attitudes that created people like our founding fathers.

These beliefs dominated until progressive attitudes in the late 1800s gained a foothold and throughout the 1900s this new belief system trampled civic virtue.  The age of “I” took hold, where at every turn the belief, that above all else, “how you feel matters most”.   The suggestion, that there is value in self-discipline, self-restraint or self-sacrifice, in anything, will be met with anger and hostility.  You will be quickly cast as mean and a hater.

American academia is filled with nostrums to fix the social and political ills, that experts and pundits galore all agree are destroying America.  Most fixate on political panaceas rather than address the cultural attitudes and mores that produce our corrupt political morass.  It’s politically incorrect to point out the failures in parenting, the failures of individual citizens to learn civic values and live them, and the failures of the American spirit.  And into this self-indulgent culture, those who suggest “standards”  or behaviors that bolster the values, upon which civic virtue is built, will be attacked immediately as mean-spirited fascists.

In our schools, kids today are taught to care more about their own feelings than about learning to read, think, or acquire knowledge.  In the early 90s, our oldest daughter was in elementary school.  She wrote an essay and received a 100 as her grade on this pathetic effort.  I asked her teacher how on earth this essay deserved a 100 and the teacher acted like I had grown horns.  She lectured me about how important it is to encourage “creativity” and how I didn’t understand how fragile children’s emotions are, etc. etc.   For the record, children are completely self-centered and need to be taught how to care about other people.

The problem with my daughter’s essay was she used no capitalization and no punctuation and she sure isn’t ee cummings.  In addition her spelling was appalling, so it was almost impossible to make sense out of what she had written.  I knew my daughter could spell, write and use punctuation much better than her lazy effort.  When we got home, I told my daughter that despite what her teacher said, trying to do your best matters and that I knew she could write much better than that effort.

When everyone gets a gold star, a gold star means nothing.

I worked in Walmart almost 15 years, holding several positions, including being the department manager in fabrics and crafts a number of years.  Working in Walmart is like a social laboratory of American social pathologies, especially the fixation on “stuff”.   Speaking as a hoarder of craft and sewing supplies, I diagnosed my own bad behaviors years ago and am still working on gaining more discipline about my craft and needlework shopping habits.  The buying-too-much-stuff problem is a common behavior among way too many needleworkers, hobbyists, computer gamers, sportsmen, outdoorsmen and in every recreational pursuit.  Each pastime comes with a lot of “stuff” that we want.

Often, when talking to customers who were new to craft and sewing supplies, I would discuss what they were working on or wanted to work on and direct them to the supplies we carried.  I also would often direct them to websites or books where they could learn more about the basics of that particular craft or needlework.  There’s a mindset in America that has taken over quilting and needlework, that if you buy the “right” stuff (expensive frames, gadgets, fabric), you will be able to create beautiful work.  The entire building blocks, of learning the basics first and taking the time to practice those basics skills, are lost in the mindless pursuit of buying more and more “stuff”.

This same attitude prevails in the attention-seeking Reality TV culture and social media culture, where even thousands of cross-stitchers have their own floss tube channels, where they talk about their cross-stitch and offer support and encouragement to each other (mostly to promote mindless acquisition of more “stuff” and starting lots of projects).  Although, in the mix there are plenty of amazingly talented needlewomen out there.  For the record, I am just a competent cross-stitcher, who works hard to keep my stitches neat on the front and back of my work.  I have the build of a PA Dutch farm woman, as befitting my heritage, and I have large hands and wear a ladies size 11 shoe. Mine are not the dainty fingers of a needleworker.

Whenever I learn a new type of needlework, I try to learn the basics first and practice a lot.  My mother taught me simple rules about embroidery and I still follow them.  These rules are in the instructions in almost every cross-stitch kit and book too.  They aren’t my mother’s rules, but the time-tested standards for embroidery, of which cross-stitch is a popular type of embroidery.

Anywhere in social media, I run into issues stating facts or an opinion that offends someone or evokes anger, so it was no surprise to me that on floss tube, I would offend someone.  The prevailing attitude is it’s taboo to say anything is wrong, apparently, even when what people are promoting is not only wrong, it’s a recipe for disaster for new stitchers.  Some stitchers started a facebook group called “Stitch Maynia”, which began as some event in May, where they focus on starting a new cross-stitch project every day in May.  Their focus is all about starting new projects, not about finishing what they start. They believe they are promoting cross-stitching and doing something good.

There’s now also a common attitude among many stitchers that it doesn’t matter how the back of their work looks, it’s all about that stitching makes them happy.  If you don’t care that your work is sloppy and a messy back on needlework is sloppiness (that’s a FACT), fine, but once you have a facebook group and a floss tube channel, with thousands of followers, well, you can become a corrupting influence very quickly.  This happens with Reality TV stars constantly too.

I tried to point out to a fairly new cross-stitcher that from years of experience with needlework and crafting, that starting too many projects leads to lots of unfinished projects and also added stress.  To keep track of this madness, there are floss tubers waxing on about all their “WIPs” (works-in- progress) and the spreadsheets, stitch journals and stitching schedules, they are using to keep track of it all.  Into this chaos, they insist they love stitching and starting so many things makes them”happy”.  For a new stitcher, this approach assures lots of wasted money, lots of unfinished projects and lots of poor needlework.

There is no foundation, of focused practice and good stitching habits, upon which excellent stitching is built.

One of the ladies who promotes sloppy needlework at Stitch Maynia quickly tried to tell me I was wrong and that it’s all about being happy stitching and that the back doesn’t matter.  She also told me she has 20 years experience at cross-stitch.  I didn’t even bother to respond, because it’s lost on her.  She has no idea how sad it is to smugly state she’s proud of doing sloppy needlework for 20 years. Sadder still is most of these needlewomen, caught up in this “feel-good” ethos will follow her advice and believe I am mean for stating that standards in needlework (just like everything else we take pride in) matter.  She proudly told me Stitch Maynia has 9,000 followers.

People of good character, not government programs, build a society based upon civic virtue.

Good work habits matter.  

Practice matters.

Lazy, sloppy habits and work should not be cheered on or promoted, in tasks, whether small or large.

Learning self-discipline is the key to building good character.

It really is that simple.

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Filed under American Character, Culture Wars, General Interest, Things That Matter

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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