Monday, July 27, 2015

"No Readers Left Behind"

Clue #1 Daiwabo fabrics pre-shrunk and pressed...all ready to go.
 "No Readers Left Behind " is the first piece in my "Series on Change" blogs that I am going to write to inform you, my readers of the many changes that are happening at Little House! It all started last year when two friends came to visit me in close proximity of each other.  I  gave them tours of my work spaces and had dug out some of my projects to show them. I was excited for them to see the variety of my work.
Clue #2: My pressing and pinning station. Making quilt sandwiches!
 

Following both of their visits, I felt panic instead of pleasure! My projects and dreams were exposed enough that I could see them too clearly, and frankly were enough to overwhelm anyone, but mostly me! Once my projects were literally pulled out and in the open, I figuratively found them hard to get back into the genie bottle from which they came. I could see my own insanity and wondered what I was thinking! I didn't begin to have enough years to finish them all, much less create the many more projects that were in my brain, none of which matched the visions I had for my craft business. I was caught, in a matter of speaking, "with my pants down" and my dreams laid naked and exposed.

Clue #3: Home-grown Napa cabbage.
I have had many sleepless nights and confusion, befuddled with the conflicts before me. I began to read, explore and make changes though at the time they didn't make rational sense. I was "off  and running", but truly wondered where I was "off to" and was bothered by changes that didn't seem to make sense. I followed my heart instead of my brain and it is only recently that some of these changes are beginning to now make sense, such that I can  write about them with any clarity. They are not complete, but in process and there is still much uncertainty before me. As with most changes, some are planned and intentional, and some are not, and some seem quite serendipitous and "coincidental", though in my heart I really don't believe in coincidences. I believe that all things happen for a reason and any coincidences are really God Winks. I have found out more than once in my life there are plans that are greater than my own! I am always blown away when I see glimmers of this bigger plan unfolding, as fulfilled dreams that I really had not thought possible.

Clue # 4: Squash, Zuchinni,Watermelon, potato puffs, and a Kitchen Aid
 "The Bucket List" was a movie done in 2008 staring Jack Nichols and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of two old codgers that meet when they are hospitalized, each facing a fatal illness. Though very different in personalities and values, they share what they want to do before they die and challenge each other to face their fears, live their lives more fully, and complete their "Bucket Lists" before they meet their maker. I have a chronic illness but don't feel that  I am in any imminent threat of dying any time soon,but am growing more aware that we are all "terminal".  As my friend's insurance man once told her, "Death is not a question of if  BUT when and like these old men, I too have a Bucket List to complete!

Clue #5: Sewing station moved from left to right side of my living room.
Before the second friend left he ordered a quilted wall-hanging (featured in my previous blog), and this has made all the difference, though  I didn't know it at the time. His request was a much bigger challenge than I had imagined and though small in size, it was huge in terms of the changes that it started to create at Little House. I was astounded as to how long this project took me, but realized later that more was happening than met the eye.

Clue #6: Worse before it gets better!
Changes were needed within before the external ones could fully materialize. I wasn't ready to jump into the world of long term projects like quilting besides which, I hadn't really done serious quilting since my young adult years, albeit, I had made lots of simple comforters for family members and had given my mother advice regarding her quilt making.  I had even made quilted pillows and had started many bed-sized heirloom quilts. I thought I was a quilter and for a time I was. I had taken a quilting class at Bonnie Lehman's Quilts and Other Comforts in Lakewood, Colorado in the mid 70's and had learned all that I thought I needed to know, but like others, I grew up, got married, started a family and all hobbies got pushed aside and the following years became a blur.

My mother seemed to catch the "quilting bug" from me, though she had quilted in her youth. She did what I didn't have time to do; she quilted. I gladly shared my passion for quilting with her and became her official "quilting guru". I even took her to quilt shows! She collaborated with me on her quilt-making and went on to make quilted pillows for her sisters, a few baby quilts and then several bed-sized quilts. She even finished the hand-quilting on my first sampler quilt. Being her "partner in crime", she generously left me her three hand-pieced and hand- quilted quilts, along with one that was left unfinished. I promised her I would complete it and sincerely looked forward to finding time to finish it and proudly use it on my bed.
Clue #7:Strength AND brains!

I have since realized that I have "talked the talk" more than I have "walked the walk", or should that more accurately read, "talked and dreamt quilting" more than actually done it. When I was showing my friend some of my unfinished quilts and my mother's last and most beautiful candle-wicking quilt, the one that I promised to finish, I realized that the time is NOW! I am not getting any younger!

Clue #8: A bit of Yankee Ingenuity and I am ready!
I needed to muster some serious courage to re-learn all the quilting skills I had once mastered and learn new skills as well. It was also time to face my serious handicaps of starting long-term projects without finishing them. I remember too well, standing behind a boy at a quilt show and hearing him read aloud  and IN TOTAL AMAZEMENT, that it took the featured quilter, a WHOLE YEAR  to make her gorgeously detailed quilt! I laughed to myself and inwardly replied, "That's nothing honey!! My quilts take twenty or thirty years and none are finished yet, nor are they masterpieces like this one!" I then bought a plaque to hang on my wall that reads "Finished is better than perfect" and set about to change myself.

I have considered that I likely have serious attention deficit problems when it comes to finishing what I start and my Bucket List of UFO's (unfinished objects) proves this fact. Though I have since learned that I am NOT unlike many quilters in thinking faster than my needle sews, I also knew that defining the problem didn't solve it.  Serious changes were needed  IF I was to finish what I had started, and this year, on the top of my New Year's resolutions were listed some simple steps to start to make it happen.
Clue #9: "Oh had I a golden thread and a needle so fine!"

What I had learned about making pincushions needed to be transferred to larger projects. I shared with my readers how I read tips and tricks from prolific quilters and then devised new organizational schemes, schedules, and studio changes to work on my bigger and longer term projects to turn my dreams into realities, and create a new modus operandi  and then gave it a test run.
Clue #9: Remember these projects...moving ahead...with new learned skills.

I have learned much and  will share my experiences with my readers! Change seems to find us all, ready or not and I have come to learn that embracing it, along with accommodating and growing through it, may well have saved the skin on my knees and chins (yes, I have more than one!) "Keeping up" with change beats being drug through it!


Willing myself to change became more than surviving! I believe it has been vital to living my life to the fullest and accomplishing what  I have set my mind to do. Yes, I still have much to do on my bucket list, but there is progress! I still scratch my head and question as to how my changes will get me anywhere close to meeting my goals. I often lack vision when it comes to the paths that prepare and take me where I need to go, but I am  miraculously, getting some divine intervention it seems and am thrilled!


Clue #10: what does "Martin" Potato Salad have to do with anything?
My pictures are clues for my upcoming blogs that I am calling my "Series on Change". Do stay tuned....I am on a roll that I hope you will find as stimulating as it has been for me!





Saturday, July 18, 2015

Daiwabo Quilted Wallhanging Completed

Completed wall hanging, "Sun on Mountain". (Top straight--not lying flat here)
I love different sorts of fabric and years ago, when I was at The Vermont Quilt Festival, I fell in love with Daiwabo taupe fabrics. They are Japanese quilting fabrics that are dull in color but very rich in texture and quality of weave. They were too dear for me to buy except for a fat quarter or two, but then I found a selection of them at a discounted price at Sewitsforsale@yahoo.com. It is my favorite on-line shopping site where sewers sell fabrics and other sorts of sewing "stuffs" second-hand. I often find materials here that I otherwise could not afford to purchase.

I wrote to one of my friends, bragging about my great Daiwabo find and so when he came all the way from California to visit me, I pulled them out to show to him. He asked if I would make him a wall hanging and selected a pattern out of a Japanese quilting book by Yoko Saito and then picked out a few of these fat quarters.  My interpretation of the quilt border is hardly recognizable as the pattern that inspired this piece, but isn't that the way it is when you make a quilt?  A few changes in design and different materials and it becomes totally unique.

Quilt border in Yoko Saito's Japanese Quilting book that inspired my design.

As I loved the many textures of Daiwabo fabrics, I couldn't limit this piece to the few fabrics my friend selected and so, with his permission I added other fabrics. For the background of the mountain, I used Osnaburg fabric. It has a rather primitive weave that complimented the Japanese Daiwabo fabrics. The additional fabrics, I thought added more texture and interest to this piece.

It is entirely hand sewn, for that is what I do best. The top woven embroidered striped material and the unbleached muslin colored Osnaburg fabric were pieced together to form the background. I then used Teresa Rawson's glue stick, hand-applique technique using freezer paper (Fabric Therapy, Tutorials) to transfer my design onto the various materials to be appliqued. I was grateful that the irregular sizes and shapes to be appliqued were most forgiving for my first appliqued wall hanging, though I was amazed to learn how easy and exacting this method of applique is to do.  Years ago I had laboriously basted under the edges on some appliqued blocks on a sampler quilt and after that stayed clear of appliqued quilt designs, though these were always my mother's favorite sort of quilts to stitch and now I see why. They are a challenge but so very lovely when done!
Glue and freezer paper applique technique (Teresa Rawson).

I had to make my applique stitches very tiny and pull them tight with the looseness of the Osnaburg fabric and so it gained "puff" before it was quilted.  I used two layers of a felted cotton batting to add even more body as well as dimension, making it almost look like I had used a trapunto or pre-stuffing technique, though it is simply appliqued and then hand-quilted around each piece.
Pieces to be appliqued pinned for sewing.  Paper pieces waiting to be cut.

Double layer of felted cotton batting used.

Nice puffing effect of applique and quilting.
I tried using silk thread when I could match them to the fabrics. I had heard that silk threads make for more invisible applique, but when I had to match other fabric, I found that a quality all purpose thread worked just as well. The looser weave of the Onasburg fabric wasn't the easiest to applique other fabrics to, but its appearance was a perfect compliment with these other woven fabrics.

After appliqueing all the pieces, and before quilting it, I carefully hand-washed it, using Woolite to remove the glue.  I added color absorbing sheets just in case one of my fabrics ran, though all had been pre-washed so as to shrink and test fabrics for colorfastness.
After appliqueing and before quilting, I hand-washed piece to remove glue.

I learned much in doing this piece. I learned that some of more textured Daiwabo fabrics have a rayon nub woven into them and would melt with a warm iron, and so I could not iron on my freezer paper pattern to those pieces and had to pin them instead.  I also learned that I had to be careful to be sure to turn under a sufficient seam allowance as some of the Daiwabo weaves can unravel more easily than other cotton fabrics.  I also had to repair some of the pre-embroided fabrics, if any threads were accidentally pulled. Much like a snag in a sweater, I took a very tiny embroidery hook to pull the threads to the underside. I resolved that I would never use such embroidered fabric again, but at the quilt show I found myself selecting similar fabrics to bring home as their textures are just too beautiful to pass up!  I will choose to use them in pieces that won't get heavy wear, however.
Pre-embroidered fabric beautiful but challenging!

I wrote to my friend that when I make a special-order piece, I continually think of the person I am making it for, and often pray as I work. Like the late Bob Ross, the well-known oil-painting instructor on TV, I am the creator of the quilted piece that I am making and so I work to convert my prayers into my fabric design. My friend had lost his wife of thirty-five years. The non-traditional pattern he selected, was transformed into a visual wish for my friend, a mountain with the sun rays warming and brightening it. I do hope he likes it as much as I enjoyed creating it for him.
"Pause" from hand-quilting.  Are these fabrics beautiful?!!

I laughed as I packaged it for shipping using lots of paper so as to avoid having crease folds and then inserted it into a plastic bag just in case it should hit a rain storm on the way, and then used plenty of extra tape to secure the box. My chuckle came from the memory of a group therapy session we held on the psychiatric ward at Denver General Hospital many years ago. Each patient was to bring something of value to share with the group and "dear Eddie" brought a pair of his favorite "lady's skimmers".  He had a shoe fetish and his shoe box containing his prized shoes was covered with rubber bands to more than secure it...My package was equally coated with packing tape marking its high value to me! I had grown to love this piece. Though it is only bits of fabric and stitches, it is sewn with much love for my dear friend! I hope that he will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it for him.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thread Art

I wrote to one of my friends telling her that I saw two  quilts at the Vermont Quilt Festival in the section of Wall Quilts--Mixed and other Techniques, that instead of being pieced or appliqued were done with a technique new to me called Thread Painting. My friend wanted me to research this technique, post pictures and get back to her as to how it is done. So Veronica, this is for you.
Dad by ReeFagan, Bow, NH. Variety of thread used on silk print of photo.

Charlie by Patty Williams of Plessis, NY. Fusible applique & thread painting.

Thread Painting is a technique that is used to achieve realistic images like those in photographs or pictures and is done entirely using a free motion embroidery technique with a sewing machine. I must confess that this is "out of my league".

For any of you that have attempted free motion quilting or even succeeded at it, I tip my hat to you. Although I can do any sort of free-hand-embroidery and can also do hand-quilting, and even some machine quilting, speed up free-hand stitches on a sewing machine without prior sketching out where I am going and I freeze.

This is as much as I know about thread painting, though appreciating it, like I do, I will, no doubt, attempt this technique when the need arises. Now that my friend inquired, and I have seen what all can be done with this technique, I will spend more time checking out the instruction videos on line, but my dear Veronica, I will leave demonstration of this technique to the experts!! Click here for more images of Thread Painting and see a video demonstration of how it is done.

I will be eager to hear back from those that try this technique before I get to it!! Meanwhile I will continue to practice basic sewing machine skills to gain the courage to attempt this new-to-me technique of thread painting!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Off to the Vermont Quilt Festival

This last weekend was our annual trip to The Vermont Quilt Festival. We have only an hour and a half of travel time to get to Essex Junction from where we live.  It was raining very hard and so we literally rolled up our pant legs to wade across the parking lot and wore soggy sandals throughout the show, though nothing seemed to distract us from the sights of so many beautiful quilts.

Going on Sunday meant that the hours were a bit shorter and we knew time was important and didn't tarry. My husband carried his camera and photographed all of  the "contest quilts" entered by quilters of all ranges of talents. My eldest daughter carries her camera as well, but I am content to simply take in the show! I appreciate my husband and daughter's efforts to capture the show in pictures, as it will serve as my inspiration for the next year. For me, the show is a spiritual quest to see what I can see and pay attention to what really inspires me. I have to go quickly to give myself time to see their antique quilt display as well as quilts done by featured quilters and still have time to shop at the many booths of special quilt vendors.

Sometimes we know ahead of time what we plan to purchase, though every year, I say that I need for nothing, but it doesn't take long to know that need has nothing to do with it! I still want for much!!

If you have never been to a quilt show, I would add it to your bucket list, and get there sooner rather than later, just in case you want to add many more in your life.  They are great fun, whether or not you sew or quilt!  My youngest daughter and her boyfriend meet us there every year.  They are both artists and love to come and see this great art medium, that ranges from traditional to modern, in both fabric, and design.

Here are but a few photos that my husband took. To see who made each of these special quilts see the photo below of the quilt tags.  I have added their names to the captions as well to be sure that all can be read. Mind you, these quilts are displayed without great lighting, and most only with black curtains in back of them to showcase them.  I must say, under these conditions, my husband got some great photos!
"Really? What Was I Thinking" has 3700 pieces in miniature!!
By Karen Viega of East Bridgewater, MA.

Awesome applique work!!

by  Leslie Justice Cook of  Greenfield, MA. Quilted by  Timna Tarr.
Great use of color, applique on white and tons of detailed quilting (see below).

Kaffe Fassett fabrics used so well!


By Marilyn Young of Barton, VT.


 If you look hard you can see the subtle but exquisite quilting!

By Wendy Coffin of  Rye, NH.; Quilted by Margaret Solomon Gunn.
Old fashioned hexagon pattern making for great flowers!!


By Margot Cohen of Cedarhurst, NY.
Very Striking quilts!
By Susan Edelman & Susan Sasser of Abington, PA.,Quilting by Linda Carey.
By Claudia Gass of Pierrefonds, QC, Canada. Quilted by Karen Desparois.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Higher Intelligence of Animals or Who Trains Who

Cassie, serious about my bribe of an anise pizzelle poses for a  picture!
Sometimes it seems that my animals understand nothing and other times they amaze me and demonstrate that they understand every word that I say and occasionally they let me know that they have a mind of their own and I am only here to serve them.

Cassie was but a pup when I had to be clear with my family, that I had issues  training her.   She is a lab/coon dog according to a cheek swab that determined her exact breed. We had "rescued" her from our local SPCA when she was only weeks old. She has a chest on her that seems more like that of a bull terrier breed,however, and when she was young the combination of her coon dog nose and her strength got the two of us into trouble!

I had taken her out for a walk, joining the two of us with a leash. She smelled a neighbor's cat and took out after it, forgetting that I was attached to her and we both ended up in my neighbor's yard with me still attached to her, my heels dug into the ground, and my bottom planted firmly on the ground at the base of a tree. My neighbors cat seemed to be laughing while perched in the tree looking down at the both of us, and my frail little neighbor offered to exercise Cassie for me, as I think inside she was laughing too. I can laugh about it now, though I soon learned that Cassie's training must include training me as well.

I immediately went out and got her a "Haltie" face mask to be able to safely manage her strength which surpassed my own. She has not tested me since with or without a "Haltie". She seems to watch out for my physical limits and is patient and slow with me now. This was only the beginning of her proving her high intelligence.

Cassie has a bed in the kitchen not far from the table.  She knows it is her place and she has been trained to stay in her bed and not beg while we are eating.  One night after dinner, as she sat quietly on her bed, I asked if she wanted to say something to say to us. On cue she started talking to us in "hound dog language". We have since tried to take up her language and she not only talks with us when spoken to, she even sings with us, howling on cue and in tune with us! We thought ourselves very clever and as one of my friend's so aptly wrote, we thought we spoke "dog" quite well.

Only recently she really let us know that her intelligence surpasses normal "dog intelligence". While my daughter and I were watching TV in living room, Cassie joined us.  I knew that she was there because my daughter was at home for the evening, and she had come to sit with her. She has always tolerated my company more than preferred it. She knows who loves her best but she also honors who brings home her treats, That night my husband had given her a rawhide chew and she had brought it with her to chew on as she sat with Hannah. It was near dog nirvana having her favorite person at home and a chew treat as well.  She knows, however that she is to chew her chew bones on her bed. I don't like the gummy goo that they leave on the carpet, though until that night, I had always figured that she simply obeyed the command "On your bed".

On this particular night, I didn't command her to take it to her bed in the kitchen, but rather spoke to her and told her that I knew that she wanted to be with Hannah, but that her chews made a mess on the rug and that is the reason I wanted her to take it to the kitchen to chew it.  With that she stood up, picked up her chew and headed toward the kitchen, or so I thought, but she simply moved her chew out of the way on the rug and then laid back down where she was and started licking the carpet...cleaning up the chew goo.  She then went to her chew bone and picked it back up to chew on again, and then repeated her actions of cleaning up her mess again. When my daughter left the room to go take a bath, Cassie took what was left of her chew to the kitchen to finish chewing it while on her bed. It is now clear to me that she has mastered human language more than the kids ever did, and certainly more than we have mastered speaking "dog"!

This reminded me of a school traffic guard I met while substituting at our local elementary school. We talked about people and animals, and though I remember little about the conversation, I will never forget her Vermont wit and wisdom as she said, "As my husband says, some people should be animals and some animals  should be people". I will refrain from commenting about the people part of this statement, but truly my dog, Cassie should have been a person!
Zeldies revenge....39 + holes!

Zeldie pushing me into re-designing quilts her way!


In this very same week, Zeldie, our cat has also taught me a very good lesson: to never accidentally shut her in my bedroom! She was so upset with me that she sought revenge by attacking the quilt on our bed! She bit 39 + holes in it with her teeth, forcing me to, once again, re-design a quilt, this time by  appliqueing  hearts over all the holes. She clearly is letting me know to not forget that I am here to serve her!  I might have to have a chat with Cassie about bobbing Zeldie's tail behind her ears!

Zeldie with an attitude!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My TV Family

As many of you know, I retired several years ago due to medical issues.  As with many of us "stuck" at home, TV has become part of my daily routine, keeping me company and extending my four walls. People on TV are like personal friends and family, for they come into my home each day or week as the case may be.

I know I am not the only one to feel the loss of  19 Kids and Counting, the reality TV program about the Duggar family. Unlike some who are glad to have it removed from the airways, it has saddened me instead.  The scandal surrounding Josh Duggar's actions that took place many years ago as a young adolescent boy fondling his sisters and babysitter as they slept, has rocked the nation, causing an uproar and schism equal or surpassing the recent racial polarization, concern regarding officers of the law and whether or not they target and abuse those of color, scandals that have dirtied our sacred White House, or other despicable crimes that have rendered the loss of human life.

It seems that this family's outward display of their Christian values despite their family's "secret sins" have caused such controversy that there is hardly anyone that is staying silent in this matter or not choosing sides. Many are shouting "Hypocrisy! How dare they throw stones at life styles, gay or otherwise, that they don't believe in when they are not perfect themselves!" Many feel they are "insincere in their beliefs and talk the talk but don't walk the walk"!Others are criticizing their "insulated or isolated" style of living that they feel is responsible for keeping their many children living in a world that oppresses, suppresses and minimizes their growth and potential, while favoring their "cult-like narrow set of beliefs"! Still others feel this family aspiring to be more than the flawed human beings that we all are, should be put down, for their disturbed mental grandiosity and self-righteousness.

Sadly Josh's bad decisions and the discretion of his parents in keeping this matter less than public are literally bringing down their house, fame, fortune and good name. Inappropriate actions by their immature adolescent son, it seems to the media, have negated what these parents have tried to do and actually accomplished in raising a very large, mostly well-behaved and upstanding family.  Many rejoice that "too-good-to-be-true-Christians" are being caught with "their pants down", and are rushing to judgement,insisting that no one has the right to express their cherished values or standards that they themselves can't keep 100% and it seems that the very essence of Christian values is being crucified once again!

How sad this world has become that those that aspire to strict Christian standards are the subject of ridicule, picked apart, "thrown the book at" and hung out to dry by the media of today!! Legal laws have been broken and interestingly, not all by Josh and his "confessed inappropriate touching". The media has wrongly exposed and exploited his victims.

After this illegal leak of confidential information, two of his sisters spoke out to defend their brother, adamantly attesting that they were not molested, despite his confession to their parents of his inappropriate touching.  None were aware of him lightly touching them in their sleep. Worse behavior, it seems to me, has been displayed on playgrounds everywhere where young boys and girls have reached out to "not so accidentally," touch their peers in private places, stalked those they admired and stole kisses without permission, though in our society any thoughts of incest seem to hit the top of the charts of indecency and normal sense of propriety.

I have worked on a psych ward and I cannot begin to tell you how many grandfathers decline mentally and touch their grandchildren inappropriately and most, at least in my days of nursing were not arrested and "hung out to dry" by their loving families, though sadly I have heard that such legal action is now taken against these seniors, by less than loving off-spring. Brain decline is often the cause for a such lapse in judgement in seniors and isn't something that punishment corrects. In these cases the fault should be placed in the hands of those who leave children alone with such elderly relatives.

Personal boundaries are also violated each and everyday by siblings against siblings, friends against their peers, and worse yet, family friends against children who trust them or even by fathers or mothers who violate and abuse their own children. I do not condone violations of anyone's personal boundaries, but I do want to shout, "wake up world and be careful who you are throwing stones at...or worse yet twice victimizing through unsolicited gossip and unwanted publicity of innocent victims"!

Let us also remember that those who violate are often the same people that are known, loved and cherished by their victims, and therefore treating them as monsters and less than the human beings may well cause further suffering and guilt of those that were violated. If such behavior is being addressed, allow those involved the respect of not violating them further, and except for supporting victims to get appropriate justice, allow families, treatment agencies, and the law to do its work. I am NOT speaking about predators whose depravity exhibits no moral conscience and terrorize neighborhoods and threaten society at large!

Parents used to be the people who were responsible to train and discipline their children and to see that unsafe situations didn't give cause to inappropriate behavior. It was and still should be their job to safe-guard the rights of those that need protection. Correcting and teaching their children as to what is and isn't appropriate and selecting consequences for bad choices in their children is also their responsibility. Punishments, done in earnest and with love often correct with good results,though I am not undermining the value of professional counseling as well. Our legal justice system is the agency that is set up to protect the safety of the public, and so they too deal with behaviors that violate others. It is with reason that a different system has been established for juvenile offenders than adult offenders. Juvenile records are kept private to protect both the violators as well as those violated as statistically young violators, appropriately dealt with will most often never violate again.

Josh Duggar's conscience was so well-developed that he reported to his parents what he had trouble controlling. He seemed to be rightly frightened of what might be next if his actions were not stopped. His guilt and fears about his thoughts became the real issue, it seems to me, fearing what he might do seemed to exceed what he actually did do. Confessing to his parents seemed to be a cry for help in controlling behaviors that he didn't feel he had control over at the time.

His parents, it seems to me, took his fears and misbehavior seriously, and responded to his cries for help, and further actions were take to deter and eliminate his behavior, going so far as to remove him from their home and seeking a safe environment for him, as well as adding safeguards for the other children along with seeking professional counseling for he and the rest of their house. They also took Josh to law enforcement and had him confess what he had done and was tempted to do, to further instill the awareness and knowledge of the seriousness of the consequences for such behavior if fully acted out. It seems to me that his  parents were more concerned with correcting their son than protect their good name.

His parents did not rationalize his behaviors or deny them, or change the standards to which they ascribe. They continued to teach him their values of abstinence and respect for women, and that sex belonged in the context of a meaningful relationship with a life partner.  They dared this boy to learn and grow, face his guilt and temptations and their actions changed him and averted his negative behavior and thought processes. I don't believe that their actions negated their attempts to raise their son with values and standards in keeping with their religious beliefs, and never did I hear them indicate on their shows that they were perfect people. Their values are high and so are their standards. I don't believe that their discretion in handing this matter was out of the ordinary.  Parents, out of love would not want him branded for life as a sex abuser if the behavior could be permanently stopped.

The media criticizing Christians who aren't perfect is wrong to think that churches were created for saints and not sinners. "Sainthood" is only achieved by those humble enough to know just how human they really are,  seek God's help to live a life with values impossible to achieve by their will alone. It is by grace, that Christians aspire to heaven, and the guidebook and the commands they attempt to follow are God's, not their own. Comfort and peace, Christians believe aren't achieved by lowering standards, or rationalizing behaviors. Effective correction of "sinning behaviors" must, they believe, involve a conversion of heart and with it a change of behavior.

So be careful what and who you tear apart. And let us remember that our judicial and penal systems were set up to not only punish but to rehabilitate people who violate others.  Elaborate and expensive programs have been put in place to correct behaviors gone askew. The ultimate goal of any program is to help those that violate others take responsibility for their actions and  never repeat their offenses again.

The Duggar  parents worked to see that their young son would never be tempted to act on his sexual desires again outside of an appropriate responsible, consenting and committed adult relationship.  I say. "well-done" to these parents.  They not only acted to correct their son's behaviors but did so in the context of being loving and guiding parents, and effectively taught their son to develop his moral and civil conscience.

I say," Leave this family alone". I wouldn't want the media in my living room judging my kids or my husband or myself, and twisting the facts, anymore than any of you would. The law has thoroughly investigated this situation to be sure that the problem has indeed been dealt with and is no longer a problem. They are assured that these parents have created a safe environment for their children. I hope that the media and tabloids develop a social conscience and see how their exploitation has caused as much,if not more damage than what Josh Duggar did. He has openly and honestly confessed his problems and gone on to change his life. Those in media and journalism need to do the same! Are any other programs eliminated when someone doesn't 100% approve of its content?

To learn more about the issues surrounding serious sexual assault, I highly recommend reading Lucky by Alice Sebold. This is the author's personal story of being the victim a brutal rape. The name of the book came about as  Alice was told how "lucky" she was to have survived the assault, for another woman who was attacked only days before her did not. Her book teaches what rape meant to her and how it shaped her life for many years to come. Her story doesn't end with her violator locked up, and sadly her molestation is quite different than Josh's inappropriate touching, and her finding peace, justice, safety, and healing was challenging in the extreme.

Safety or lack thereof is often a matter of circumstances. The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, author and sex crimes prosecutor, is also a valuable book about our "gift of fear", which he describes as a well-functioing built-in radar system that each of us has  in order to sense danger and avoid it if possible, and if not how to use it to help us survive dangerous situations,


Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Prayer for Paul

Life is like a flower, blossoming and dying in its own time.
Many days ago, I went to my computer as usual and clicked on my various emails and then to Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm Blog. It is my version of turning on the day. Jon and Maria were spending lots of time at the Blue Star Equiculture, his friends' horse rescue farm.  I was touched by the solidarity of the friends that had gathered there to mourn and celebrate Paul Moshimer's life and support his wife.

There it was in black and white, the answer to my question as to what took Paul's life so suddenly: Paul committed suicide.  I can't read that without recalling my close friend who took his life many years ago.  It is always a shock to those closest and I am saddened about the upcoming days, weeks and years that lay ahead for his wife. I know what she is going to go through, though to be sure everyone grieves such personal loss differently.

I didn't know Paul or his wife, but feel like I  knew them through Jon and Maria's writings about their horse farm. I have also been following Jon's writings about all the hassles that animal owners everywhere are going through. There seems to be no room for human error or catastrophic events, as animal rights activists seem too ready to pounce on anyone who loves animals enough to sign up to be their caretakers and guardians, and they seem to cut them no slack in their critique of their mission. No one is perfect, be it animal owners or parents of children or guardians of loved ones. Any form of care-taking is a huge responsibility that is day in and day out and no matter how dedicated care-takers may be, things can happen, and activists everywhere are too ready to see the faults in those individuals that assume more than their share of the responsibilities to care for others, people or animals.

I am not sure what pressures acted on Paul to take his own life, but I do know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Like Jon, I judge no one who succumbs to the burdens of their life, I only feel sad that somehow the world seems to be hard enough to drive the more gentle and loving from us, and can only pray that with each suicide comes the resolve in everyone around them to never inflict that sort of pain on anyone else. People who commit suicide, I am convinced, were  clueless that their exit would rip holes in hearts that will take years to scar over and heal, or I am certain that they would never do it.They truly seem to be the ones sensitive enough that inflicting pain can't be any part of their plan. Though I don't know you Paul, I pray that you are at peace from your personal sufferings and that your friends and loved ones will be strengthened to stand tall and strong and pick up the work that you were doing and carry on in your absence.

I can't help but think of the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, where on the edge of committing suicide, George Bailey,the main character in the story, gets a chance to see his life through everyone else's eyes, and to see how different the world would be if he had never been born. Each of us has a role to fill that no others can and how important it is for us to realize this, and then to go out of our way to appreciate this uniqueness in others as well. I pray that all of us may remember to reach out and communicate our appreciation, love and support of those whose lives touch ours every day. May we never forget how small acts of kindness may help heal the brokenness in us all.