Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pendulum Politics

Tell me, can you imagine a presidential candidate -- anyone! -- that all Americans could get behind? Someone who would unite the country and somehow erase the schisms that rip the nation apart now?

Thirty-five years ago, it wasn't so hard to imagine. I'm not saying that Ronald Reagan was such a person, that liberals fawned on him too. I just think that in 1980, Americans were still capable of unifying behind such a candidate. And such a candidate could have found compromises in Washington and worked even with those he disagreed with.

I can't imagine that now. There's too much anger, utter distrust, back-stabbing and hate. So much animosity. Liberals and conservatives -- whether in the Senate chamber or standing next to each other in WalMart -- loathe each other. They want to destroy each other. The gloves are off; it's all-out war.

That's why Trump is racing to the top. When people feel trod upon, as conservatives certainly do after eight years of Obama, they only want someone who will beat up the opposition. They don't care about much else, except that he be an overbearing bully. Conservatives have stopped caring about party platform and policies. People don't care about such things when survival itself is at stake.

Liberals should understand that they've done a good job of convincing conservatives that life as we know it is over. That abortion-on-demand and the gay agenda and universal healthcare and high taxes and whoppin' big government are here to stay. That doesn't make conservatives squeal "uncle!" anymore than it would liberals. It makes them look for a bigger persuader. Trump is it.

We can scream all we want that Trump is a joke, a horror, a thug, a schoolyard bully. We should understand that his supporters love him for those very reasons. Well, all but one. He is no joke. This political situation is no joke.

I personally believe that a new wave of nationalism is wafting across the planet. Conservatives seem to welcome it. We re-brand it "patriotism" and "defending our country."But make no mistake: when Trump speaks of throwing people out, of registering certain religious groups, of restricting movement, of rejecting refugees, he's spouting radically un-American ideas. That's the language of Nazism. The reason I find Trump so terrifying is that he's perfectly willing to use the federal government to slam huge restrictions and restraints on the American population, while at the same time not caring a trice for the deep ideals that conservatives still hold dear, somewhere in their hearts. Trump, reduce government? Not likely. Trump, interested in reversing liberal social trends? That's laughable. Trump will be an oaf and a bully. Sadly, conservatives who vote for him may find he turns that bullying on them as well when it suits him. He's not very picky about such things.

I believe the conservative agenda has shifted significantly. I don't hear Republicans talk anymore about the things that used to matter to them. They're against people, they're on the ground, their noses in the dust. They have nothing to lose. The nation should pay attention to this election. That many people, led by a bully, with nationalism as their new song, are very worrying indeed.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Two Scarves

I finished my golden scarf. Here are some pics.

I'm quite fond of this scarf. I wove for about three hours yesterday to finish it up. While weaving, I watched a slightly bizarre movie on Netflix called "The Face of Love." Then I watched two episodes of Poirot, which gave me enough time to finish weaving. Phew!
Today I warped up a new scarf in tones of black and white with a splash of red. Here are some pics:
 I tried to use some more festive yarns. But the weave always tones things down a little.
 I think this one will be neat too. Will keep you posted on that.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Magnetic Purse Snaps

I walked into the Michael's store in Morehead City and asked if they sold magnetic purse snaps. I'd seen them on Michael's online. But the manager said, quite definitively, that they had no such item in the store. A little hunting, however, and the helpful sales clerk and I found this:
I've been wanting to improve these two purses I made. I could never find zippers to fit them, so a magnetic snap seemed a good solution.
Here's how it went.
I cut some stiff cardboard squares from an old OJ concentrate can. The purse liner goes between the snap and this cardboard.
The magnetic snap passes through two slits I cut in the purse liner. (This necessitated my separating the liner from the purse, of course, which was an inconvenience.)
Now, layer on the cardboard square.
And lastly, layer on the round metal washer that came with the snap.
Next, you have to bend those prongs down firmly with a pair of pliers.

It's a quite neat little job, and not difficult.
The finished snap works well. It's stronger, magnetically, than I'd prefer, but the cardboard helps stiffen the liner so it doesn't pull.
 I also tacked the liner to the purse with a few little stitches below each snap half.
Now I just have to do the other purse. This took me about 45 minutes, and one snap cost me a bit over $3. All those expenses add up, when pricing a purse to sell.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Weaving Sunshine

I finished that crazy night-and-day woven infinity scarf.
It's actually kind of cool.The one downside is the loose warp strings on each end. The baby blue just does not fit in with the look of the scarf  at all. I tied them together to make the scarf a loop. They are on the underside. If the scarf is folded in half, they are hidden inside.
 I've trimmed them a bit. They are much too bulky to weave in. I might conceal them under something -- a strip of neat fabric? Not sure.
But if I hide them at the nape of the neck, the scarf looks rather neat:

Those gold bands gave me an idea for a long, thin scarf as my next project. 
I used most of the same weft insertion yarns to warp up this piece:
I really like all those warp yarns, and I want them to show. So I need a weft yarn that will blend in and not dominate. Of the three I laid across the warp yarns above, the cream-colored one (top) is too bright, as is the yellow (middle). The variegated gray/beige/cream yarn on the bottom is the most unobtrusive.
Even the tied-off ends of this warp looks like a festival!
I really pulled out all my fun sparkly yarns, even if I only had a little of them. Some were pricey yarns from "Weaver's Web" yarn store; some were cheap ends of skeins I found at thrift stores.
Here's how the scarf is looking so far:
The warp yarn is showing, although not as much as I'd hoped.
I think some lady out there will see it and love all that texture and glitter, and buy it at the market. I've sold two scarves so far, which isn't a lot, but they cost more than my crocheted/knitted things, so it takes time.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Easter Timeline

Recently we studied this topic during our Tuesday night Bible study at church, and it was so fun and interesting that I had to do it as a blog post -- if only for my own enjoyment, and to record my thoughts. Have you ever pondered what happened when, on Easter morning?
Mary came first.
All four gospels record the events of Easter morning. Remember -- the Jewish day went from sunset to sunset. So "Sunday morning" (or, the end of the Sabbath) started for them as soon as the sun set on (what we would call) Saturday evening. With that in mind, it seems to me that the first event of Easter morning was:
1) The stone is rolled away and the guards are stunned, and Jesus is resurrected. (Matthew 28:2 - 4). This event occurs before anyone comes to the tomb to visit. It happens while it is still dark, in the night before Sunday morning. If we think of Jesus rising with the sunrise, we're wrong.
2) Mary Magdalene comes alone to the tomb (John 20:1). It was already Sunday ("the first day of the week"), but that only means that the sun had set Saturday evening. She comes in the dark. John notes that it is "early." Mary might have come at midnight, or sometime in the middle of the night. Perhaps she couldn't sleep? Perhaps she was worried because Jesus's body had been hastily prepared for burial and she wanted to get a jump-start on that job? Was she simply mourning? For whatever reason, she came alone, in the dark, to a cemetery (a rock face probably lined with tombs). She found the stone rolled from the entrance. She assumes since the stone is moved, the body is stolen. She doesn't go inside the cave. She runs to Peter and John (who are probably asleep at their homes) and tells them the body has been stolen.  John does not say it's sunrise yet, so I'm assuming all this happens in the dark.

Mary says to John and Peter, "...and WE do not know where they have laid him." It's possible that even at this point, Mary is not alone but is with a group of women. Just because one of the gospel writers says certain people are at a location doesn't mean they are the only ones. It simply means those people are there. However, this interpretation doesn't fit well with later events.

It's also possible that Mary (and the other women) leave their homes while it is still dark (as John says), but arrive at the tomb after the sun is up. The other gospels indicate that a group of women (including Mary Magdalene) come to the tomb after sunrise with spices for the body. Mark (16:3) tells us that the women are wondering "who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?" If Mary is among them and she's already been to the open tomb, why would she be wondering how to move the stone? In order for Mary to participate in this conversation, others must have convinced her that she visited the wrong tomb in the dark, an unused tomb, and assumed it was Jesus's tomb.

However -- Mark says this group of women enter the tomb, see an angel, and are told Jesus is miraculously alive. If so, this simply cannot be the same tomb visit that Mary did in the dark. She left the tomb that time thinking the body had been stolen, and she did not enter the tomb that time. So, I'm inclined to think Mary did a solo tomb visit first, and returned later with a group of women after sunrise to rewrap the body, convinced that she'd visited the wrong tomb earlier.

Mark (16:9) seems to make a special note to the reader that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene alone, and then later to others, after she'd reported to them.
Mark also says (15:47) that Mary Magdalene and Mary Joses's mother looked on as Joseph and Nicodemus laid Jesus's body in the tomb on Friday (before the Sabbath) "to see where He was laid." Mary wanted to be sure of the location. This was a tomb location they were unsure of at first. On Friday the women were already making plans to care for the body.

After Mary's first visit, what happens next is:
3) Peter and John run to the tomb at her prompting. (John 20:3-10) This account is only found in John, which makes sense since he's one of the two disciples involved. It's quite detailed. John outruns Peter and arrives first at the tomb, but doesn't go in. (Remember than if a Jewish man is in contact with a dead body, he becomes unclean for a period of time.) But when impulsive Peter arrives, he passes John and runs into the tomb. He sees the linen wrappings folded neatly. This made an impression because John describes it. Why would a body thief fold the wrappings so carefully? (Indeed, isn't it a lovely mental image to think of Jesus, newly resurrected, standing by the stone bed, carefully wrapping his bedclothes in the dark before he went to walk about? Did He do it because it was a good thing to do? Or so that these two men could see it and made deductions from it?)

John sees the wrappings and "he believes." But I'm not quite sure what he believes, because in the next sentence we're told (by John) that he and Peter "as yet did not understand ... that He must rise again from the dead." It seems John believes what Mary has told him: the body is gone. But resurrection? The men can't conceive of that yet. Mary didn't either. And their next actions (I think) show that lack of understanding; they split up and go back home. If it's still dark, they're probably going back to bed.

Are they worried that the body is missing? Do they begin to worry that they'll be accused of stealing it?

4) The disciples and followers gather somewhere in one place. All four gospel sources (Matt 28:8, Mark 16:10-11, Luke 24:9, John 20:18) indicate that the disciples are gathered together, mourning. Luke says the women reported the resurrection "to the eleven and all the rest." This means that sometime after Mary's first visit and after Peter and John's run to the tomb, the disciples gather as a group. Something has prompted them to meet and discuss things. Is it the apparent theft of the body? There is nothing to indicate at this point that anyone thinks Jesus is alive. They just know the body is missing. Mary saw it first. Peter and John went to check. Sure enough -- it's gone. What are they going to do? As they are meeting and talking, the group of women take spices to the tomb ...

5) The women take spices. They come "when the sun had risen" (Mark 16:2), "as it began to dawn" (Matt. 28:1), "at early dawn" (Luke 24:1). This seems distinct from Mary's visit, which was in the dark. All four writers make a point of what time it is. Here are the women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary James's mother, Salome, and 'other women.' They wonder how the stone will be removed. They anticipate finding the body, because they bring spices for it. Matthew says an angel speaks to them, telling of resurrection. Mark says the angel is inside the tomb. Luke says there were two angels inside the tomb. John says that Mary also saw the two angels inside the tomb when she is eventually left there alone again.

The women are instructed by the angels that Jesus is resurrected, that He had told them this would happen, that He will meet his disciples in Galilee, and that the women are to hurry and tell the disciples that Jesus is alive. They clearly do this. Luke says the women's words "appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them." Mark notes that when Mary reported to the disciples that He was alive, "they refused to believe it." Matthew says that Jesus appeared to the women while they were on the way to the disciples, "and they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him."

Mark, however, gives this interesting piece of information: the women fled from the tomb after the angels talked to them, "for trembling and astonishment had gripped them." These women were terrified of the miraculous spiritual events that had just happened. They were already in shock from the crucifixion of two days before. They'd come to apply spices to a body; instead they were addressed by angels! Mark says: "and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." You can hardly blame them. When they do decide to tell the disciples, their words are rejected and they're counted as idiots. Jesus has to appear to the disciples Himself on Sunday evening before they will believe. But the women apparently delay relaying their message for a time.

6) Mary speaks with Jesus. John tells us this sweet account. I place it last because it seems the other women have left the tomb. Mary has already been here once in the dark, run back to Peter and John, come back with a group of women (who've now run away in fear), and is emotionally exhausted, sitting by the empty tomb. Even after the angels' words, she thinks the body is stolen, and she is weeping. When Jesus is standing by her, she thinks he is the gardener ... and she still thinks the body has been stolen! Really? When asked why she's crying, she says to the supposed gardener, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." Then she says to the supposed gardener, "If you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." She doesn't believe the angels. She doesn't believe the empty tomb or the folded cloths. No, she has to see Jesus in the flesh herself, before she'll believe. She's not much different from Doubting Thomas, is she?

In summary, what strikes me from this study is how nobody considered resurrection. They all assumed the body was stolen, i.e., that Jesus's body didn't leave the tomb on its own two legs, but that somebody carried it away. It took a lot to convince them! I love thinking about the various people coming to the tomb, drawn by God to come witness and not-believe. We think of Jesus rising from the dead as the sun comes up, but it didn't happen that way. He rose in the deep dark of night, when nobody knew it was happening. There was an earthquake, and the stone rolled away, and the angels came, and the guards fainted away, and Jesus quietly folded his grave clothes and left the tomb. The next steps there were Mary's, wondering in the darkness if she'd found the right tomb. From then on, it's a story of repeated disbelief.  No one believed  until he/she had seen Jesus.  Jesus finally appeared to the men on Sunday evening. I bet that was a rough day for the women!

We take resurrection for granted. We glibly say, "Jesus rose from the dead," as if that's the most common thing on the planet. But it's not, and if we witnessed a real, bodily resurrection ourselves, we'd be fainting and screaming and running too. And we wouldn't believe it, no matter who told us, until we'd seen and touched and talked to the resurrected person ourselves. Mary had quite a morning! First to the tomb. First to see Jesus, and therefore first to believe. First to say, "I have seen the Lord!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Back to the Munsters

Last night after dinner I told Adam I missed the old days when you drifted from the the kitchen to the living room, sat on the couch, and watched a little light-hearted T.V. Gilligan's Island. Brady Bunch. Bonanza, for goodness sakes!

The thought of plopping on the couch, opening my tablet, and spending an hour scrolling through Facebook posts was more than I could bear! I'm weary of Facebook.

I feel guilty saying that. It sounds like I'm tired of my friends and prefer Marcia Brady and Mr. and Mrs. Howell. Adam was obliging, He found The Munsters on Netflix, a show I never, ever watched as a child. He and I had radically different family television viewing habits :)

Why am I tired of Facebook?

#1 None of my siblings or their spouses are on Facebook on any regular basis.
#2 None of my children are on Facebook on any regular basis. Anna is, a bit, but she doesn't post much.
#3 Very few of my nieces or nephews are on Facebook regularly.
#4 My parents are not on Facebook.
#5 Although I do have good current friends on Facebook and some good friends from years ago, most of the personal posts on my feed are from people I know so little that they might as well be strangers. I know nearly nothing of their lives outside of Facebook. More important, I have absolutely no contact with them, other than Facebook.

At some level, Facebook is a superficial friendship medium.

That's not to say that I don't treasure the contact (and fun personal information) I view from some friends. And I will always appreciate Facebook for bringing me back into regular contact with some friends that I thought I'd lost forever. Those are the reasons I've stayed.

But now that I know I can find those friends, I can contact them, is it a good idea to spend an hour each day with glazed eyes panning over irritating political memes and vapid, ignorant comments from people I don't know? It has the same low-grade irritation as a skin rash. Finally last night I said, "No!" And we watched The Munsters.

I told Adam I wanted a screen to look at that demanded nothing of me: no emotional reaction, no political response, no guilt tripping meme about Jesus or soldiers or cancer patients, no friend request from a total stranger, no weepy videos about tragedies afar, no passive-aggressive click-bate.

Remember the day when a few silly T.V. commercials were more than we would tolerate, and we switched to DVDs? Look how far we've descended, how many slaps in the face we'll take from a screen! Well, no more. I'm reminding myself that the screen is here to serve me, no the other way around. I'm going back to reading blogs of people I enjoy. I'll dash into Facebook when I need to see a friend there, but I won't be a slave to the newsfeed.

Tomorrow night, however, I may ask for Bonanza instead of The Munsters.
Yeah, they're not quite so green.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mental Laziness and Choosing Books

I've been trying for a week to sink comfortably into reading Marilynne Robinson's Home. I'm finding it a hard slog. I'm finding it boring. I hate to say that. Her other novel, Gilead, was so good. Is there a significant difference in the quality of the two books, or has my preference in reading shifted so dramatically in seven years? That's how long it's been since I enjoyed Gilead. I also have Housekeeping on my shelves and haven't read it, I'm embarrassed to admit.

So last night I put Mrs. Robinson back on the shelf and pulled down Miss Austen.

(I didn't know whether to call Robinson "Mrs." or Ms.," so I went to look. That took me to an article about her that I'm reading now. And now I feel I must go get Home back off the shelf and try again. Clearly the weakness was in my brain and not in her prose. Here is the article from the NY Times. I'm only about 1/3 the way through. Repeatedly I find my mind wandering away like a car with bad alignment, and I must jerk it back and refocus on the sentence I just didn't comprehend. "Comprehension has an ethical content," Robinson tells me. What would Robinson tell me? To keep plugging away at Home or switch to Persuasion, which I've read before?)

As an aside (to a few of my bookish friends), Marilynne Robinson is a strong rebuttal to Peter Leithart's recent ridiculous assertion that non-Protestants can't write. Robinson is a Presbyterian/Congregationalist. His article was shallow and arrogant. Her writing is deep as Dante's hell and complex enough to weary the mind. Does the woman never stop thinking? Of John Calvin (the ultimate Protestant), she says, "Calvin has a strange reputation that is based very solidly on the fact that nobody reads him."

Her attack on Americans' defense of fearfulness first grabbed me in the article. Listen to this: "I hate to say it, but I think a default position of human beings is fear .... What it comes down to -- and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently -- is that fear is an excuse: 'I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn't.' Fear is so opportunistic that people call upon it under the slightest provocations: 'He looked at me funny.' -- 'so I shot him.' -- 'Exactly.' -- 'Can you blame me?' -- 'Exactly.'

(The last there is a short dialogue with the article writer.)

My mind is tired from ... what? Age? That's no excuse. Robinson is 70. Work and busyness? Hardly. Many work harder than I do. Perhaps I'll blame it on the 50 mg of benadryl I take nightly to help me sleep; it's connected somehow to Alzheimer's according to some studies.For whatever reason, my lazy mind rebels against the deep comprehensive reading that might make it work and flex its mental muscles.

If I were you, I'd go read the article from the NY Times. Ask yourself when was the last time you thought that deeply. I'm ashamed of my mental chicken-heartedness. Perhaps it's simple fear, and not exhaustion, that keeps us from thinking as deeply as we ought. Thinking deeply might compel us to change our positions, to act or feel guilty for not acting. "If you do not object strenuously to a superior's bad behavior, you are as bad, as guilty as he is of what happens." That's Robinson, quoting Wycliffe. Against the opinions of her culture, she defends the old theologians and reformers.

Well, I intended to tell you why I was more interested in the Introduction to Persuasion than I was in Home, but instead I've persuaded myself to stay the course. Anne Elliot, you'll have to wait.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Weaving Extremes

I'm still weaving, in case you wondered. I finished this last week. It's a plain piece; any complexity in it, is in the warping. The weaving itself was straightforward. This was an attempt (as I said before) to get the stripes of the warp to stand out, and get the dominating weft to back off and let the warping shine.
And I think it worked! It's the right size for a shawl.
pardon the speckles from the antique mirror
Now I've moved on from that easy, predictable, tame piece, to something more crazy. I had this idea to do a weaving that would represent sunrise and sunset -- contrasting wedges of gold and deep blue.
I chose a wide array of dark/blue/gray yarns ...
... and golden tones and textures for sunrise.
I'm keeping both base colors loaded on my shuttle.
Because I wanted the weft to be quite bold in its statement, I chose the most subdued warp color, just pale blue. It fades away under both the golds and the deep blues.
I'm not sure yet what I think of this piece. I was quite pleased with the initial gold wedge. The uptilting fan is made by gradually adding a bulkier insertion in each shot (row of weaving). I cannot tell you how time-consuming this is! It slowly makes one side of the weft rise up, while the other remains compact.
I want this to give the eye a reminder of the slow fanning-out of time as the day passes, and as the night passes -- or perhaps an image of the rays of the sunlight as they splinter the sky each morning.
I'll keep you posted on its success ... or not. The family members all think it's very cool. I'm reserving judgment.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sick Day

Monday is my Very Busy Day, but I woke up this morning sick. Just a cold (hopefully not the flu ...), but after I'd contacted nine people (!!!) to cancel all my various Monday commitments, I crawled back into bed, took my sleeping tablet, and slept until 3:30 PM.
People deal with mild sickness differently. Adam's modus operandi is to ignore a cold. If he acts like it's not there, he's not sick, right? It seems to work for him ... mostly. But not me. If I don't Absolutely Rest, I get sicker and sicker. And I pay for it in the end. For me, the best solution is to cancel everything, and sleep until I'm well. My sick day involved:
Ricola lozenges, benadryl, very old Mentholatum 

chamomile tea with our honey
And the latest episode of Downton Abbey, of course.
Now I'm going back to sleep. See you on the healthier side of life!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Salve Plantain

I make a skin care product I call Salve Plantain. My friends affectionately call it Green Goo. Click here to read the blog post about making it.
 It's gloopy and a bit oily. It also works wonders.
On Tuesday we had a burn pile outside that I tended. I burnt my finger (middle, left hand) pretty badly. I picked up a stick that I didn't realize was as hot as it was. I knew immediately it was a bad burn, my time doing farm work that day was over, and I needed to treat it immediately. I dashed straight into the house. Within two minutes I'd put the fingertip into my container of Salve Plantain, applied a big glob to the wound, and wrapped it in gauze.
Salve Plantain immediately soothes and relieves the pain -- and I mean immediately. This burnt finger never hurt at all. Knowing how bad burns hurt, it seems crazy to say that, but it's true. But just because it doesn't hurt doesn't mean you can quit treating it. It's essential to keep the burn wound heavily coated with the salve and well-bandaged for about 24 hours.
Twenty-four hours later, the burn looked like this:
It's a flat blister. It doesn't hurt. It's not tender, inflamed, or red. I could run hot water over it. It felt perfectly normal. I played the piano with it. This was yesterday before noon.
By last night (not quite 36 hours after the burn happened), the finger looked like this:
The blister disappeared. The finger looks perfectly normal. The blister itself was never filled with fluid or raised at all. And the blister never peels off. It just went away.
I'm not trying to sell anybody anything. I only have three tubs of this stuff left until new plantain grows this spring. But I'd encourage you to make your own. It's a bit finicky, but not hard, and what a wonderful salve to have in your medicine cabinet! It will work better than any other product you have for burns.
You must apply it very soon after the burn happens -- within minutes.
You must apply it very liberally for at least 24 hours.
You must bandage it well and keep putting new salve into the bandage.
If you make your own salve, remember that the more plantain leaf you get infused into your oils, the better the salve will work. Chop up lots of leaves, chop them small, and let them infuse for a long time, getting the oil quite warm. The leaves need to release their oils into the infusion oils. When you press out the leaves, do it firmly, as if you want to get all the goodness out of that plantain. I hope you're able to make some and have it handy! It is marvelous for kitchen burns, but really any kind of burn, and is quite helpful for abrasions and skin irritations. If you don't want to make your own and really want a tub of mine, leave me a comment and we'll try to work something out :)