Grief is a journey

Grief is a journey

that nobody can really prepare you for.

You just have to walk through it,

step by step.

You will be surprised by how it affects you.

Keep to your regular routine as much as possible

(sleeping, eating, movement, prayer)

because not taking care of your body

will make this journey harder.

I’ve read that grief has a half-life

– it takes as long as

half the time you knew the person.

So, with parents,

the grief lasts a very long time.

It will change, and lessen,

but it will always be there.

You will grow around it,

like a tree growing around a stone.

Pandemic skills

Things I’ve learned how to do since 2020. Most of them I learned from watching videos online.

January 2020 – I bought a mandolin. Two months later I realized what useful thing that was to have in isolation. I watched a lot of videos and joined online communities, and have learned about a dozen Irish and Old-Time tunes.

April 2020 – knitting

June 2020 – traditional bookbinding

July 2020 – weaving (with a rigid heddle loom)

November 2020 bookbinding using a Proclick binding system

January 2021 – made a Socktopus (see the book “Stupid Sock Creatures”)

August 2021 – hand-sewed flannel slippers

September 3, 2021 – quilting

September 16, 2021 – finished first piece of embroidery (started in the summer)

September 18, 2021 – handmade moccasins (from a kit)

December 2021 – monoprinting (a gel press)

March 2022

baking – Welsh cakes, Cornbread, created Almond bread (breakfast bread)

April 2022

baking – Naan, blue pancakes.

Sewing – quilt blocks – log cabin, fence rail, bear claw. Made first zipper pouch.

May 2022

Cooking – Lavash bread, saltine crackers, kimchee, Farmer’s cheese (also known as queso fresco). Picking – carrots. (quick pickle technique).

Sewing – Better zipper pouch (boxed bottom, used interfacing, used zipper foot). ). Stuffed animal – stupid sock creature technique, used doll eyes for the first time.

June 2022

Cooking – tea cake cookies, pickled grapes, pizza (from scratch), yeast bread (a sandwich loaf), soup from scratch – a curried red lentil soup, mason jar ice cream

jewelry – Byzantine chain mail bracelet

Commissions

You’d think that commissions would be a great way to make money. You’d think they would be a guaranteed sale. Most of the time they are a guaranteed headache.

I have several things up for sale that I’ve made. Some things I make are for personal use, some things are made for gifts. Some things I make just because I like to make them and I have no idea what to do with them.

Sometimes people like to try to order things.

Special orders are tricky because people often have one idea in their head, and the result is often different than what they imagined – and meanwhile I’m out time and materials because of it. I discovered that when I was making beaded jewelry.

Say someone wants a necklace in blue beads.  Sounds simple, right? But there are important questions to ask. What shade of blue? What size beads? Shaped ones, or not? Translucent, or opaque? All the same, or some variety?

Any deviation from what they had in their mind and they won’t like it – and I’m out money and time. They may think that I can just sell that to someone else, and sometimes I can. Sometimes I’m stuck with it.

And all of that time was time I could have spent making what I wanted to make.

It reminds me of folks who wanted me to help them write their biography, or to write up a story idea they had. Nope. I have plenty of things I need to write – I don’t have time to write YOUR stories too.

Even if I’ve asked them to measure the length they want with a tape measure, half the time they still aren’t happy with the length of the completed necklace. If they want it shorter, that is doable as long as there is still room to work with the cord. If they want it longer I have to start all over from the beginning. Sometimes they don’t like the pattern of the beads so they want me to totally redesign it.

With crochet, a lady I knew from church asked for a baby blanket in specific colors and said that she’d give me $50 for that. I think that she thought that was generous, but in general customers don’t get to set the price, for good reason. They don’t know how much materials and time are involved. I informed her that wouldn’t even cover the cost of the yarn. They weren’t colors I happened to have on hand, so I’d have to make a special trip to the craft store. And would the shades of those colors be what she wanted? I told her it would be easier if I taught her how to crochet and she could make it herself.

When I worked at the library I had regular “Beading with Betsy” programs, where we’d spend an hour making a bracelet. People would want to design a necklace and I’d remind them that it took an hour just to make a bracelet. A necklace can take hours to design and assemble. I hope I introduced people to the idea of making things by hand – but also to gain a respect for crafter’s time.

Now that I’ve gotten into weaving, people are asking for items in specific lengths and colors. There are several potential problems here. Again, we have the issue with color – what shade?  And then there are concerns with materials – do they want natural, or synthetic? Does it need to be washable with the regular wash, or can it be washed by hand? All of that factors into what kind of yarns I can use – and their prices vary considerably.

As for the length, that is a whole other set of problems. Getting the length exact is impossible, since the item is one length on the loom (which I’d have to keep up with using stitch markers, since the length is wound onto the beam), but another taken off (since it is no longer under tension) and another once wet finished (it usually shrinks). 

The worst commission was from my brother, but that wasn’t a real surprise.  He wanted a rose quartz necklace, hand-linked with sterling silver wire. I had the beads but I had to order the wire. I asked him to send me the money for that in advance – and he didn’t. Christmas was coming, and I was running out of time to make this and get it to him in time. So I went ahead and ordered the wire and made it. He paid me, eventually, but there was a lot of concern if that would even happen.

It would have been better for me not to have made his lack of planning my emergency. 

So from now on, IF I take on a special order, the person will have to sign off on the length and the beads (if a necklace, for instance) in advance. They’ll have to pay half before the item is even started. And when they get it, they have to pay the other half. I’ll have to write up a contract including no alterations.

But in general, it is far easier to not take orders at all, and simply let people buy what I’ve already made.

Basic quilting tips

Quilts don’t have to be hard. Take this for an example. It is 44 x 59 inches. This is a quilt top – the first part of making a quilt.

 The strips are pre-cut. I bought them that way.  That makes it easier. No reason to fool with cutting and measuring when you are first learning.

This is one “jelly roll” of 20 batik fabrics (2 in each color) and one roll of 20 cream strips. “Jelly roll” is one name for precut fabric that is usually 2.5 inches wide by 44 inches long. You can also buy “charm packs” which are 5 inch squares. There are others – “fat quarters” are generally 18×22 inches. I’d recommend waiting on those because you’ll need to get better at cutting fabric since they are too big to use by themselves.  (Well, you could…but you’d have really large blocks of color.)

I’m a big fan of showing that art can be easy and still beautiful. There is zero reason to make it more complicated than necessary, especially when beginning. Look for precuts to start with.

I’ve been to independent shops that sell quilting supplies and they were pretty snotty about precuts.  Beginning quilters have money too. If you don’t have what they need, they’ll never come back when they get better skills. So I bought these fabrics at a major craft store.

I’ve learned that I don’t even need to fuss with binding tape.  I make a “quilt sandwich” with batting, backing, and the top (wrong side up) and sew the 3 together, leaving a gap about 15 inches wide at the bottom.  Once sewn together, I clip the edges, turn the thing inside out and boom, the edges are tidy. Then I sew up the hole where I turned it, then quilt from the middle outward.  I use the machine for all of this. 

Curved quilting safety pins are essential to hold the layers together. You’ll need them at the quilt sandwich phase, then take them out when you turn the fabric, and use them again when you are quilting.

The patterns you sew for quilting can be easy. You don’t have to use a free-motion attachment on your machine – just get used to the idea of moving three layers of material around without getting them bunched up too much. One way of sewing is “stitching in the ditch” – which means sewing along the seams where two fabrics meet. Sometimes that is difficult for beginners, because there are several layers at that point.  It is OK to use the seams as a guide for sewing – so sew ¼ inch away from the seams.  How closely your quilting lines need to be depends on your batting – check what the tag or bag says.  A general rule is that your lines need to be a minimum of 4 inches apart. 

Start quilting in the middle of your quilt, and work outwards. This helps to keep the material from bunching up. It will still happen – just not as much. Puckers are part of the process – and they will become nearly invisible after you wash the quilt.

Don’t do like I did and sew all around the edge after you’ve turned it – and then start quilting.  The thing will pucker and shift in unhappy ways.  Start in the middle and quilt moving out to the edges.  Then, if you want, you can sew all around the edges. 

Making the edges curved looks nicer than square.  You can’t see it on the top photo because it is a quilt top. I’m talking about when you sew the quilt sandwich together. Curve the edges as you sew and see what you think. To me, it makes the quilt look more friendly.

There are things I do to make the process easier.  They aren’t exactly short-cuts, but they are efficient. Maybe even lazy.

I don’t iron. Somehow the idea of pulling out the iron and the ironing board makes me want to not even start. So I don’t.  You can finger-press the seams to make them lay flat if you like.

Buy cotton fabric.  Don’t use polyester or other synthetic fabrics. Cotton just works better. Better materials make better finished pieces.

It is totally OK to cut up old clothing or bedding if you need fabric and don’t have a lot of money.  Also, you can often find material in thrift and secondhand stores.  You also might have an art material thrift shop in your town – ask around. Where I live, there are two!

If you are buying fabric that you need to cut, look into getting a rotary cutter. They are a little tricky to learn how to use to start with, but worth it. You’ll need a mat to cut on and a ruler. For quilting, there are special see-through rulers that make it easier. 

Don’t buy really expensive fabric for your first quilt. You won’t want to use it. Get something that you like, but don’t love. That way you won’t be sad when it turns out differently than you imagined. This is a new skill for you, and has a learning curve. Be patient and set yourself up for success by choosing forgiving fabric.

Don’t prewash the fabric. Prewashing would make a big mess of precuts, and it makes the fabric wrinkle.  It is easier if you aren’t going to iron to skip this part. When you finish your quilt, then wash it and all the fabric will pucker in a nice way that makes the quilt look better.

I don’t pin my fabrics together. I just can’t be bothered. I hold them together and work slowly and carefully as I sew. The time spent pinning is spent sewing instead. And this also means that I skip having to pick all the pins out and forgetting several.

Patterns to consider – Four Patch, Nine Patch, and Disappearing Nine-Patch.  Look online to see examples. You can also make a “crazy quilt” with lots of random fabrics however you like.

Disappearing Nine Patch is a very nice pattern to give you a lot of interesting fabric arrangement with not a lot of fuss. It looks like you did a bunch of piecing. You make a nine patch panel, and then cut it horizontally and vertically. Move the resulting squares around until you get an interesting design and resew. You can get different effects by planning where you place the fabrics at the beginning. Since the corners don’t get cut, consider putting the fabrics you like the most there. The center is cut into four pieces – so make it the busy fabric.  The middles are going to be rectangles, so experiment with making them all the same neutral fabric.  You can experiment using colored paper and tape first if you like.

You can do all of this using a regular sewing machine. No reason to hand sew or quilt unless you really want to. And no reason to buy a fancy computerized machine either. Get one that you can open up and clean out and oil by yourself. That will save you a lot of frustration when (not if) your machine starts to sound clunky.  You can clean and oil it yourself rather than losing time taking it to the shop.  Buy actual sewing machine oil with a long spout. It is smell and stain free, and easy to get into the spots it is needed.

To make my life easier, I bought the entire bolt of cream colored muslin at the fabric store. It is 120 inches wide (it is wrapped on the bolt folded over 4 times) so I have enough to work with for a long time. To me, the back doesn’t matter much. Some people like to coordinate front and back, or even make a second quilt top from the scraps from making the first one and use it as the back.

I also like buying a king-size bag of batting. It is 120 inches square, which is enough for 4 quilts that are 60 inches square.  If you make smaller quilts, you can get even more.  Save the larger scraps of batting – you can Frankenstein them together on your machine by butting them together and using the zig-zag stitch.  Or scraps can be used if you are making a bag or clothing that needs some thickness. Not all batting is the same – some are easier to work with than others. Find what you like and stick with it.

YouTube quilters I like:

Just Get it Done Quilts

Melanie Ham

Missouri Star Quilt Company

April Story

Probably the most important instruction is to have fun. This is supposed to be a hobby – not a job. Enjoy doing it. There’s no reason to make it stressful. Sometimes I’ve made a quilt top and I just don’t want to finish it into a quilt. That’s OK. It can wait. I move on to another quilt top that I want to make.

Lemon delights

Crust:

One stick margarine (or butter) – melted

1 cup flour

1/4 cup xxxx sugar (confectioner’s sugar – can use 10x)

Combine together, press into 8×8 inch greased pan.  Bake 15 minutes at 350o F.

Filling:

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

2 eggs

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

2 Tablespoons lemon juice, plus rind

Mix together and pout over baked crust. Bake 25 minutes at 350o F.

*********************************************************************

Recipe from family friend Diana Hudgins, June 1966. I’ve since learned from her daughter that the original came from Diana’s mother.

Can add a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar to the top once baked.

I prefer this to a birthday cake as a celebration food. Also delicious with lime instead of lemon.

My belief about Jesus in a nutshell.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been to Oz and seen behind the curtain, and so I can’t pretend anymore. 

Jesus isn’t God, and Jesus isn’t my Savior. Everything I was told about Jesus didn’t match up with what I read about him in the Gospels.

For me, Jesus is the Messiah – in that he kept pointing people back towards God. When someone called him “good teacher” he got upset, and said only God was good, and only God should be your teacher. God never intended for the people of Israel to have a King. God was to be their King. But they felt left out, because all of the other nations had kings. So God relented and gave them Saul. And boy howdy, that should have cured them of a desire for a king!  So, the Messiah is supposed to be the new King. But the problem with that is that any person who says they are King – is once again taking away the focus on God. God should once again be worshipped as King of Israel, and the world. And the rebuilding of the Temple – Jesus was totally right on that. The human body is the Temple, and the intent is for the Holy Spirit to dwell within. That was God’s plan all along. Anyone who thinks it is a building is practicing idolatry. Jesus also wants us all to be equal – nobody is to be higher or lower. So: no ordained ministers. 

So, yeah, I’m too Christian for Jews, and too Jewish for Christians. I don’t fit in with Messianic Jews either, because they are all about Jesus as God and Savior, but with Jewish holidays. 

To all the Others on Mother’s Day

To all the Others on Mother’s Day,

I see you.

To all the Others who don’t have a Mother

perhaps because of death, or abuse, or neglect,

I see you.

To all the Others who wanted to be a Mother

but can’t, perhaps because of money or biology or pressure,

I see you.

To all the Others who are Mothers

but your children are absent from your sight,

I see you.

To all the Others who are Fathers

doing the job of two,

I see you.

To all the Others who are doing the work,

who are showing up,

who are doing the best they can,

I see you.

Family Monkeys

You know the phrase: “Not my circus, not my monkeys”.  Sometimes you have to admit that it isn’t your problem to fix. But sometimes – it is your circus because the monkeys are in your family.

And then it is OK to tell them to shove off so they don’t throw shit at you – because that is what monkeys do. And then, it is OK to talk about it publically, because their bad actions aren’t yours. There is no reason to feel guilty for someone else’s bad behavior. If they try to make you think otherwise, that too must be exposed. Darkness hates light.

To paraphrase Anne Lamott- if people want you to talk better about them, they need to behave better.

My brother spent years attempting to brainwash me into remaining silent about *his* illegal and unethical actions, somehow twisting them into “family” secrets that should be hidden. His sins aren’t mine.

I have a sister-in-law who attempted to convince our parents-in-law that I was crazy and should be treated with suspicion, all because I refused to accept her abuse. This is especially concerning since she is in the mental health profession and her opinion could have been seen as a diagnosis.

I would have thought that someone who had been involuntarily committed by her own parents would understand the danger in accusing someone of being insane. Her statements to them were unethical and unprofessional, and untrue.

Thankfully the parents-in-law knew me better than she did, and they did not take action on her views.  

No matter who they are, how they are related, how long you have known them, evil people must be confronted with their actions. If they do not change, remove them from your life or else be drawn into their orbit of evil.

You are under no obligation to tolerate people who treat you badly.

It doesn’t matter who it is – friend, family member, coworker, or customer.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve known them forever or if they’ve been kind to you in the past. 

It is OK to tell people how their actions have negatively affected you.

It is OK to set boundaries and decide what kind of behavior you are willing to accept.

It is OK to speak up about how their bad behavior makes you feel – even with other people.

And it is OK to cut off all ties with people who treat you in a way that isn’t OK.

That includes in person and online.

You do not have to allow anyone to treat you badly.

This also goes for strangers on the internet who think they have the right to have a negative opinion about your writing or art.

Illegal immigration thoughts

I’m in an odd position about immigration / citizenship. So many people are illegally here already. And because they are illegally here, they are the new slave class. They work for very little money and have no protection against workplace dangers. And yet they stay – because it is better than where they came from. And if they speak up, they risk being sent back. So that tells me a lot about what they are trying to flee. 

I do not ascribe to the NewSpeak of “undocumented people” or “refugee”.  I call a spade a spade.  If you are illegally in this country, you are an illegal immigrant. Changing the terms does not change the facts. 

I’m opposed to anyone illegally here getting free anything – education, healthcare, etc.  However – if they do, it is the fault of the government for giving it. It isn’t meaningful to demonize illegal immigrants for getting anything for free.  The system needs to be fixed on the government side. 

Also, the American government needs to stop: 

giving money to other countries

going to war with other countries

We have enough problems here that need to be fixed. 

Americans need to get over the idea that this is “our” country.  We stole it from the people who were already here, and then committed genocide. That must be addressed and healed. We will not move forward until that wrong is corrected. 

Our immigration laws are racist – Europeans invade an already-occupied land and colonize it.  Then they make rules about who can and can’t come here – that are often skewed towards other Europeans and away from anyone who is not white. 

It is as if someone invaded your home, kicked you out, and then changed the locks and only let their friends in. 

The new cyberbullying

I’ve finally realized what call-out culture is.

It is Newspeak for codependency.

If you focus on what is wrong with other people you don’t have to work on what is wrong with yourself.

And deep down, further back, it is the old “speck and plank” tale all over again.

And worse – it is a new form of cyberbullying.

There are very few people who make an effort to make their social media page a safe space to discuss ideas. All too often I have been dogpiled by friends of friends to the extent that I don’t feel safe discussing anything with them. So sometimes I bring the discussion over to my own page, where I know that my friends are civil and can discuss without being ugly.

This image is a case in point –

The idea of “we can agree to disagree” is the topic – but note the derogatory term from the lady on the right. The use of the word “bitch” immediately changes the conversation into something hostile.

I had two friends who consider themselves to be activists (both white) who grew very upset about this post, saying that my focusing on the language of the lady on the right is more concerning.

I said that “Change will not happen by insulting, silencing, or cancelling people.”

The one who had originally posted the image said “I think you’re missing the woods for the tree here. And I don’t appreciated being subposted on your timeline to make a point.”

She was trying to shame me to remove it, which I did. But I also unfriended and blocked her. The post was not her creation, nor did I tag her in it. It was not connected to her. So I don’t understand how she could be upset.

However, she proved my point. It is impossible to discuss anything of meaning these days.

Another former friend finally admitted that she had no desire to educate people who had less-progressive ideas. (Translation: agree with her.)  Her activism consists of quickly and vigorously telling people they are wrong. She has no desire to change people’s hearts and minds or actually break down barriers. She just wants to be angry.

I was surprised how virulent their friends were towards me when I would ask a question about something she had posted on her page. But, that is her page, so her choice.  I chose not to discuss anything on her page.  But then she started arguing with my friends on my page and I asked her not to.  She complied and limited her arguments to just me.

After a while it became interesting to note how quickly she would argue with anything controversial that I posted.  Guaranteed within 10 minutes she would protest and tell me how wrong I was. She would rarely comment on anything else.

Please understand: I am for polite disagreement.  I am not for arguing and being talked down to.  I finally realized she had zero desire to educate – it was simply all about arguing and calling out.  I feel that kind of activism is counter-productive. It can actually cause someone who was on the fence to become radical.

I have considered myself a liberal, but these days I’m not so sure. I’ve been attacked by liberals in their effort to be “woke”. And if you don’t use whatever the current New Speak term to talk about an issue, you are demonized.

Soon we will all be in echo chambers of our own creation, where we are surrounded by people who think just like we do. There will be no growth.

Imagine, instead, remaining friends with someone who thinks differently from you but is still open to conversation. You will continue to have a chance to influence them. But if you silence them, they will most likely become more racist or homophobic, or any other “-ist” or “-ic” you can think of.

It is a mark of maturity to be able to discuss topics from different viewpoints without insulting each other. Otherwise no one will ever develop informed and mature opinions. And it is also very likely that someone who might have been an ally could become an opponent from being badly treated.

Please note: I have not named anyone or given details about them. There is nothing to indicate who I am talking about. Demanding that I remove this post (this has happened to me before, so I’m not being paranoid) is censorship.