Caution: Hard Right Ahead

IMG_0366Back when I was teaching, when we actually had to write on chalk boards, I’d patiently wait for the kids to offer their predictable September insight.

Ms. H,  do you know you never write in a straight line?

I’d stand back, survey my scribbling that always ended taking a hard left, heading upwards.

Yep, you’re right.  It means I have a positive attitude.

Of course they believed me as they believed most of the non-English nonsense I shared with them.  Teenagers can be a very gullible group.

I remember one very hot summer during one very tedious summer school session, when the air conditioning failed and we were collectively dying.  I gave up the ghost of the lesson and showed the kids how to hold energy in one hand, then move it from one hand to another.

It was an act of desperation.  There were only ten minutes left in a four hour class with thirty teens repeating an English class they didn’t like in the first place.  The kids immediately focused on holding energy and forgot all about the oppressive heat.  One young man was still struggling when the class ended, but burst into my room the following September.

Ms. H, Ms. H, look!!!  I can do it!! I can move energy!!  I am now a man!!!

I’m at a loss to know what moving energy has to do with be a man as opposed to being The Man, but back to writing in a straight line.  I failed at it.  Even on paper, my writing still takes a hard left upwards. 

I also have a rough time walking in a straight line, but have never really focused on whether I am veering right or left.  Most of the time I am just trying to stay out of harm’s way.

We won’t talk about my driving; my daughter is already terrified that her kids may one day find themselves in a car with me behind the wheel.

So it wasn’t a complete surprise that my sewing — I know, I know, those of you who knew me in my past lives might be very shocked to find that I am now a struggling novice quilter — also takes a turn towards the end of a seam.  The surprise is that it takes a hard right.

I’ve never taken a hard right in much of anything.

I figured that out over the past couple of rainy days, standing at the windows, watching yet another downpour and musing over the quilt squares that needed to be ripped out.  Again.

It began last week when I thought I was putting the quilting away until next fall, but first there was a trip to drop off my stack of quilts to the monthly Project Linus meeting (for those of you new-to-this-blog quilters or knitters who have no one remaining to give your projects to, check out the website)

Kathy, our fearless local leader, invited me back into the Stash Storeroom.  Oh jeez. It looked just like our old department offices, loaded with stashes and stashes of lesson plans and handouts, only this was all fabric. 

I left with with a very large bin filled with what one might generously call strips of fabric and another armload of charm packs of thousands of five inch fabric squares.  The internet, thank the goddesses, is generous with patterns for novice quilters who only sew in more or less straight lines and don’t do corners or reverse.

I thought I was in relatively safe territory.  Sort of middle of the road, staying on the straight and narrow stitching course and coming up with a few acceptable quilts for our next get-together.

It was going fairly well, with both quilts for a teenage girl and boy progressing nicely. Then I opened a charm package of plaids and stripes squares and began making a Disappearing Nine Patch pattern for a baby quilt. Nine lousy squares.  Should have been Easy Peasy.

It all looked marginally fine until I started stitching the squares together. That’s when things got very ugly, very quickly, and I discovered my hard right sewing tendency creates havoc with plaids and stripes. 

So I’ve been back to the sewing table, so to speak, ripping out seams and now determined to sew in a straight line forevermore. 

I suspect it’s going take some mighty strong will-power to see this through to the end.




God’s Country

I am an occasional IMG_0362political junkie and I live in God’s country, which is another way of saying I live in a simply beautiful area that is populated by, well, a fair number of 1960 hippie throwbacks meet ex-suburban rednecks.

Somehow their political views mesh, in sort of a generic keep-the-government-outta-my-face-unless-I need-help mosaic.  Most are very nice people except when they’re angry.  I’m not sure why they’re angry — it’s something about the people having spoken.

On the other hand, I am tad upset, too. Beyond the system being rigged and out of control, there’s an enormous ethical issue that has been casting a wide dark shadow. 

I have a dear friend, a conservative, whose email has been overwhelmed the past eight years with forwarded emails, usually about the President or his wife.  My friend asked me to check out some of the claims, as he doesn’t navigate the internet, and let him know what I found.

It was appalling. One blatant lie after another, one accusation after another, one photo-shopped picture after another, usually in the context of making the First Lady look like a street-walker or linking Obama to a Kenyan birthplace or Islam or terrorists.

My friend deletes the emails now, but it’s no wonder the majority of Republicans doubted the president’s birthplace and still doubt his religion and loyalty, not that religion should matter under the Constitution (Article Six, Section Three).

Apparently, any God and religion are just fine, as long as He’s a WASP. Not quite what the founding fathers had it mind.

It’s a bit sad in how quickly people forget their roots and history.  I recall a thousand years ago when I was teaching in a very white, affluent high school. I had one black student.  We had just begun celebrating MLK Day when another student, a bit of a loudmouth and bully, started mouthing off about the day. 

The goddesses must have been listening, because there was an immediate inspiration for a new lesson.

Everyone stand. We all stood. We’re going to go see which of our families have endured prejudice. 

Anyone who’s African American, sit.  My one student sat. He was very, very alone.

Latino, Hispanic, sit.  I sat.  Now there were two.

Asian, sit.  Another joined us.

Native American. Sit.

Eastern European. Russian. Sit.  

Latin Countries (Italy, Portugal, Spain). 

Middle East.



Now, for families or you — parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles



Muslim, Buddhist.

Gay, Lesbian.


By the end, we had our one WASPy male kid, the classroom bully, still standing while the rest of us were sitting, united in our minority status.

It’s kind of like that, America.  Most of us have been or still are “those people.”

That one bully rather reminds me of The Donald, who also speaks at a 4th grade level (Boston Globe and the Flesch-Kincaid readability test) and evidently struggles at math as well. I’m no math wizard, but even I understand that the Republican Convention hosts some 2,274 delegates, and it takes just a majority (1,237) to become a marginally weak candidate. The D has 673, a little over half way to getting the nomination, and he’s throwing a temper tantrum over not having been crowned as of yet?

Of course, he has a model in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who announces that the people need to speak before we can proceed with approving a Supreme Court Judge. 

ah, the people already spoke.  Sixty six million of them. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the majority party from blocking most appointees, effectively denying the legitimacy of an elected president and undermining the work of the government.  Unethical in addition to setting a very dangerous precedent.

That said, the Republicans deserve The Donald.  It’ll be interesting, if a tad painful, to see which group of Republicans can out-con and out-bully the other as their convention grows closer.

Needless to say, I am trying to focus on quilting and walking, at least through November.

Although walking may have to be tempered if we’re to believe Trump’s veiled threat of rioting if he’s not selected, not that he’s encouraging rioting, you understand, just sayin’ it’ll happen.


Dark Clouds Gathering

dark cloudsIt is dark, stormy and I am trying very hard to escape the gathering dark clouds of both the weather and the national politics.  Both are difficult to ignore.

I cannot fathom the current national debate nor the ignorance that abounds. All common sense, to say nothing of functioning brain cells, seems to have gone missing. The candidates?  Am I listening to a policy debate, a Kardasian script or a reboot of Hitler?

The people are angry. The people have spoken.  Well, yes, we are all angry regardless of our political views. The system is failing and the middle class, to say nothing of the social safety net, is fast disappearing. And, yes, it’s relatively easy to follow the thread and see where both sides of the aisle failed the country and her people.

And yes, people are speaking, although, as noted above, I’m not sure with how many functioning brain cells. The nomination process is only one third of the way complete and no one, in either party, has secured sufficient delegate votes. Didn’t anyone in required government classes learn anything?

I sure as hell hope, however, that delegate votes are not being secured on the basis of the best endowed male, although, by the looks of things, it’s getting close to that.

Come to think of it, isn’t that how the Kardashians, with their well endowed asses, gathered such an enormous following?

I got a call over the weekend from a “national polling” group; in a round-about way, they wanted to know if I’d vote for Sanders. Not sure. They read a paragraph from his well-known policy statement on what needs to be done.  I responded with yes, I agree.  And Congress has the authority and power to tax.  He’s been there for twenty-some years.  What has he done to mitigate the situation?

I do remember my government lessons.

I listen to the two front runners on the Republican side, and am very frightened of their rhetoric. Cruz conveniently forgets that there is separation of Church and State and wants to re-cement the Constitution in religion.  His religion; screw everyone else and their beliefs regardless that pesky First Amendment protecting freedom of religion.

Trump?  For the first time in many years, I agree with Governor Romney. Trump is a con artist. He is also an adult caricature of students that repeatedly fail — strong-armed bullies, terrified that others will learn of their shortcomings so they play on fears, certain that if they out-yell and out-intimidate, they’ll show everyone they’re great successes.  It seems to be working, God help us.

That leaves Clinton.  Of all the candidates, she certainly has both the credentials and experience. That said, she is also the most mis-understood candidate in history, the most maligned, or, as David Alexrod noted, there’s a problem.

Perhaps it’s time to revisit a quote by Abraham Lincoln from his Lyceum Address:

If it (danger) ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher.

On that note, I’m going to go back into hiding. Project Linus put out a call for infant quilts and even I can make one of those in a few hours, although, at this point in time, I’m not terribly optimistic about the future these young ones will have.


Driving the Ferrari

gammillGentlemen, don’t hold your breath on this one…

I was buying material at one of one of my two favorite quilting shops in the Sierra foothills (Whistle Stop in Auburn and Sugar Pine in Grass Valley, should you ever be up this way) and chatting with the owner about sewing machines while waiting to connect with Sister Jane so I could begin quilting the two quilt tops that were my gloomy, stuck-in-the-house January projects.

The owner suggested that I drive down to Sacramento and check out an inventory of new and used machines at a large warehouse type store.  I did just that, with the plan of getting an overview of what I might, possibly, need somewhere in the future. Maybe.

A young clerk smiled and offered to help.  I was ready for the sticker shock, having already visited one of their satellite shops nearby, but, row after row of machines doing more that I’d ever use at prices I wouldn’t want to afford was still overwhelming.

She finally stopped, looked at me and said, Let’s go down to the other end of the warehouse.

We made the long trek down to a row of four or five ENORMOUS machines.  They were beyond what you’d call long-arm. They were each 12 feet long and we won’t talk about the price other than to note they’re in the tad pricey category. One would doubt take up an entire garage, which given the price, may be an appropriate place for them.

But those machines sure did the job of making quilting a breeze.

The driver of the machine stood, holding a bicycle handlebar, on which was attached a laser light.  The beam shown down on a design that extended along a 12 foot long roll of what looked like the old continuous feed computer paper.  You just selected the design (or make your own), attach your quilt top, the batting and the backing to the machine, turn it on and follow the design.

The clerk had me hooked, especially after explaining that after a day long training and $15 an hour to rent said machine, I could be on this Ferrari model of sewing machines and quilting!  And have someone around to answer questions and provide the thread!

Whoo Hoo!  Sign me up!

Earlier this week, I attended the six hour class. It was learning to drive a Ferrari, including trying to remember how to use a stick shift while following the laser dot on the pattern and keeping an eye on the computer screen.  Good Grief.  I used to be able to multi-task, but this was more challenging than I imagined it would be.

I was also the novice in the group.  The instructor asked how long we had been quilting.  Twenty, thirty, forty years. Eight weeks.

Nonetheless, I got four rows quilted on a dummy quilt.  It was not close to being ready for prime time, but I am going back in next week, with more scrap material in hand and will practice some more, and some more and…

…and a whole lot more before the Ferrari and my two quilt tops will ever be introduced.  I figure that when I can quilt a pattern and have it kind of, sort of look like the pattern is the time that I will bring in my quilts.  In the meantime, my two quilt tops will just be folded, looking tidy, neat and very impressive to my non-quilting friends.