Thursday, January 18, 2018

Retreat in the Dead of Winter

I went to another quilt retreat. My cousin and a friend were in charge, so when they still had room, I signed up last minute. It was in northern Minnesota at a conservation center. This was the beautiful room in which we sewed:

I know it looks lonely here, but it was full of action for several days. This is at the end of the retreat when everyone but three of us had left; we were cramming in our last minute cutting and sewing.

It was very cold during our whole time there (at one point as low as -25 deg. F), so we spent very little time outside. My table was at this window, right by the bird feeder, so I had fun watching the birds.

You have probably seen this quilt before. It is very big (ten feet long!), so I had put off attaching the binding. I finally got that done, then I slept under the quilt the rest of the nights. It's a toasty warm quilt.

Jill worked on this; I love the pattern and wrote down the name... now if I can only remember where I wrote it down.

Kathy worked on this:

My sister made this quilt; I added some borders.

Several of us made drawstring gift bags. I'm in the front middle.

I enjoyed this retreat and the snow-covered, colder-than-heck north woods. I did not go crazy taking photos this time.

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Year Begins in Korea...

This year for Christmas my husband and I decided to buy one airline ticket to South Korea. Our daughter jetted off to spend some time with her brother who lives in Korea. They both thought it was a good idea and a good gift. It was for both of them, really. Other than that, they each got a book and a tiny bit of spending money.

Turned out to be an excellent gift which they both enjoyed immensely. They spent a few days in Korea, Daughter seeing Son's neighborhood and where he works and meeting his friends. Then they flew to Naha, Okinawa (Japan) for Christmas. They wanted to go somewhere warm, so they agreed to do this trip within a trip.

Daughter's caption on this photo read: I flew to Korea to see my brother! He looks pleased to see me.

Here's an Okinawa Christmas.

also appreciating the attractive manhole covers:

and the warmth and beauty of the beach:

On Christmas Day they saw Star Wars. It was in English with Japanese subtitles.

Back in Korea, here is a picture of Seoul. You probably know by now that I love to take pictures, and I take a LOT of them. My kids are not like me at all in this regard. This is about all I got to see. But this particular picture is monumental because of its circumstances. Daughter said: Went into Seoul solo while my brother worked. Took a bus, train and the subway all by myself!

They brought in the New Year in the city where Son works. All too soon it was time for Daughter to come back home. Husband and I felt so happy at the great reports we'd heard from them, and this final Facebook post from Daughter:
I can't explain how much this trip has meant to me. How much seeing my brother has meant. All you need to know is that he's amazing, and I'm going to miss him.

We think they're both amazing, and we are very pleased that they had such a magical time together. It was worth every penny.

The treats Daughter brought back for us -- cookies from Okinawa. The purplish ones on the right are sweet potato!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Love and Wonder: Why Trump Will Never Enjoy Christmas

A friend shared this essay with me, and it's excellent; I had to share. I hope Mr. Allen doesn't mind.

Love and Wonder - by Neal Allen
Mr. Trump’s job is much harder than you or I can imagine. Yes, he accidentally stumbled into the position of leading the world. But that’s not his toughest job. Acting like a president is a cake walk for Donald J compared to his lifelong, relentless responsibility to hold together his sense of self and pretend to be a man. 
It’s Christmas, so let’s be charitable. Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re all perfect when you get down to it, even Mr. Trump. We’ve generally lost touch with that perfection, especially when it belongs to someone else, but it’s there, probably smirking from the back of your closet in the pages of your high school yearbook. 
For you or me, when life gets gritty and disappointing, we have a couple of readymade tools to give us relief, analgesic patches for the backbreaking job of life. Let’s call them love and wonder. Love is what gets me past my resentment when my boss ignores my brilliant solution. Wonder is what reminds me that there’s more to life than assembling an Ikea Billy bookcase. Love is our relationship panacea. Wonder is our worldliness panacea.
Love and wonder provide, at the very least, respite from everyday suffering. They make it all worthwhile, right? With love and wonder in hand, the search for meaning can be set aside for a while. Love can help me feel all right despite another drama descending on me. Wonder can be the feeling of living in a big, glorious world even if it’s Poughkeepsie. 
For people like Mr. Trump, love and wonder aren’t available. His ilk inhabit an alternate universe filed under several names, but my favorite is pathological narcissist. This isn’t the usual petty feeling that I’m at the center of the universe, which I am. Pathological narcissism is life encased in a lead suit, the kind that even kryptonite can’t penetrate.
Imagine being blind to the majesty of an ocean or mountain, or never noticing the vitality of an infant's grip. 
Imagine not throwing your head back and laughing at the time the toilet paper trailed behind you like a bridal train. Or feeling the soft satisfaction when you noticed for the first time that your new titanium alloy knee stopped throbbing.
For the pathological narcissist, it’s never time to drop your guard or care to be gentle. It’s hard like a rock and hard like hard work. Always.
As a president who ignores the social values of fair play and compassion, Mr. Trump deserves our resistance. As a human being who has never known the love and wonder that arise from fair play and suffering, he deserves our compassion. He didn’t ask to be a monster. He is responsible for his social actions; he is not responsible for how he came to suffer the way he does. Compassion is the form of love that arises in the presence of suffering. Mr. Trump suffers in ways that you or I cannot imagine. He suffers from the lack of respite from his own suffering.
Men like Donald J try to fill the empty hole (the persistent emptiness that substitutes for the soul of love and wonder) with one or more of three culturally defined masculine values: fame, power and money. While he has achieved prominence in all three, the weird thing is that he has done so in the most false ways possible. He is possibly the worst narcissist ever to reach the public stage.
• His money is built on debt and bankruptcy. He has never been accepted by the alpha moneymakers as one of them. They play by different rules, in which the game is already rigged legally in their favor.
• His fame is built on being famous for being famous. He has never been accepted by the Hollywood elite. They expect a little bit of hard work and talent. 
• His power is the insecurity-revealing belligerence of the autocrat and sexual predator. He cheated and lied his way to the top, and has no idea how to wield power within a normalized political system. He has to demand to be accepted. Otherwise, he correctly predicts, he will be laughed at and condemned.
So as he doggedly fills the three holes, only to watch them empty out through the bottom, a kind of lazy Sisyphus repeating a vacuous task, he doesn’t even get the satisfaction of periodic pats on the back. He's a false alpha who has managed to insert himself into a milieu of real alphas. He is the narcissist’s narcissist.
Leadership is tough enough on a person when they’re capable of compassion. The everyday leader feels the isolation and distance created by looking at other people as useful objects. 
Donald J doesn’t notice that distance; he hasn’t experienced what it’s like to occasionally merge with another object or feeling or presence and become something else that is bigger. He always feels isolated, but he doesn’t know it because he has nothing to compare it to.
So why on earth was Donald J. Trump born into this world and forced to live such a grim, cold, loveless, heartless, mean life? This is the same question that usually is presented as: Why would God take the life of a child? Only we don’t think of Donald J as a child of God, but a mature, responsible adult who is expected to obey the standard ethical codes, including wiping the pee off the toilet seat. But just as we show contempt for the entire stranger who preceded us into the public restroom, we make the mistake of applying the judgment of our political norms and political ideals to the entire person of Donald J. Trump or his sniveling bootlicker Paul Ryan, and conveniently ignore their participation in God’s unity. 
Sometimes I wish Christ had reminded us not to render unto Caesar anything that isn’t Caesar’s. I think it’s implied, but this tougher meaning is hidden in the positive. Object to Trump’s actions; that’s part of being in the political world. Hold him up to ethical and normative standards; those are Caesar’s world, and they’re relevant to nationhood and social survival. Be appalled at the greed and Social Darwinism that has descended on us. But also remember that Donald Trump isn’t having a very good Christmas. He never has and never will. As humans, that should be troubling. The rest of us, no matter our tribulations, have known what it’s like to be bolstered and immersed in love and wonder, which are, after all, the true architects of the day and birth we celebrate.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Some Sewing

Here are some quilt tops I have finished lately. They all still need to be quilted.

Ruzena, I hope you had a happy birthday!

Friday, December 22, 2017

It's Almost Christmas!

Merry Christmas, good readers! This year Husband and I are having a very quiet Christmas. It has its perks, but it's also a little sad. The reason is, our son lives in South Korea, and for Christmas we sent our daughter there to visit over Christmas. We are so happy they will be together and he won't be alone on Christmas as he has been several times in Korea. But it means our own Christmas will be a little lonely and quiet. Of course, that has its good points, too. We enjoy being home-bodies and love the quiet and slow pace. So.. all in all, we're looking forward to all of it, especially hearing from our kids and how they are celebrating together in Asia.

Bonus came here a couple days ago, and I gave him his Christmas presents: a shirt, books, and this car. He enjoyed the car quite a bit. It was fun to watch him maneuver around on it. He is the sweetest little boy. I just love having him around! I'm so lucky to be his Bonus Grandma.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful day. Also, have a very happy new year! We have many things to look forward to in 2018.

Christmas tree at my niece's house

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Book Review: Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.

This is a very interesting look into daily life in North Korea over a fifteen year period. Needless to say, it's devastating as we watch the collapse of a country and its economy. Millions of people starved to death, and most people have almost nothing to their names (including underwear)! This is a current story, not something from the dark ages. It ends in about 2009. It's shocking to realize how horrific life was and is in North Korea while most of us in the USA struggle to keep our weight down and stop accumulating so much stuff. A bowl of rice and a pair of socks would be a luxury in their world. Amazing! The author was allowed into North Korea a couple of times, and she also interviewed six defectors after they made their way to South Korea. The last third of the book is their stories of escape and their new lives. I found that part to be riveting.

satellite view of the Korean peninsula at night

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

In Response to a Facebook Question: By Whose Standard?

Written in response to my Facebook post which said “Our current president is not normal.” A friend asked me, “by whose standard?”

You ask “by whose standard” do I consider our president to be not normal. My answer is as follows:

I have known you over many years, sometimes while you were in the role of quilt guild president. You have interpersonal experience and know how to lead a group. I contend that it is by your own standard that one could consider our president to be not normal. Consider these examples:

1) While attempting to publicly honor someone for their past great deeds, Trump threw out a racial slur and indicated his complete lack of knowledge of who he was honoring and what they accomplished.
As guild president you never publicly disrespected our guests or uttered racial slurs. You prepared yourself and knew why our guests were at the guild meeting.

2) While speaking publicly, did you ever mimic and ridicule a person with a disability? I never saw you do this in public. Trump, while running for president, did it.

3) I know your Christian values are very important to you. I know you probably attempt to instill these values in your children and grandchildren. I am sure you aim to socialize them to live those values, such as being kind and giving a helping hand when they can. I have seen you yourself do this in your generosity with your quilts and quilting services and in your friendliness with people.

It is not an attribute I have ever observed in our current president. He mocks people, he takes advantage of people whom he considers to be beneath him, for example refusing to pay blue collar workers on his job sites. He behaves in immoral ways and brags about it. He has five children from three different women and has cheated on all his wives and then bragged about it. He assaults women and brags about it, but later, when it’s no longer convenient to brag, he pretends he didn’t do it at all. Even in his supposed philanthropy, he brags about the millions he donates to good causes, but it is always shrouded in mystery and questions about whether it really happened. He loves to be praised for everything he does, so my guess is that the “millions” he donated is all hot air. All of these behaviors strike me as being brazenly un-Christian, far below your own standards.

4) As leader of this country, Trump has put his efforts into undoing major legislation that protects the citizens who put him in office (health care laws, environmental protection laws, consumer protection, undermining the judicial system, etc.). Did you ever do this as quilt guild president? Attempt to undo everything that was done over the past years and stick-it-to the members, making their lives unpleasant? No, it was not up to your standards to do so.

5) Trump is only concerned about himself and needs constant attention. His perennial need for accolades is immature and maddening. As a member and/or as president of the quilt guild, was your main goal to see how many of the members would give you a standing ovation every time you spoke or proposed an idea? No, that was not up to your standards.

I expect much, much more from a president of the U.S. who represents us all. His job is to represent us internationally (which he has failed at completely, making us the laughing stock of the world). His job is also to help run this country in a way that ensures we can all enjoy the “pursuit of happiness.” So far, I have not seen an increase but only a decrease in our happiness, cohesion, and trust in the future. This is all Trump’s doing and for a president is not normal.

Using the above examples, I contend that according to your own standards, Trump is not anywhere near normal. Instead he is divisive and dangerous. His actions are decidedly un-presidential which is why I say “not normal.” He doesn’t seem to understand what job he currently holds nor what it requires of him. I would never vote for him for president of a local quilt guild or for anything else. We need a return to normal.

...happily ever after?...