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.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Talk about Batting!

Which batting to use? Perhaps too many choices? 

Talk about batting! For those who thought baseball think again...That is not the only sport that has "batting practice". I am choosing batting for my various quilting projects and am finding it is no small decision. Years ago my mom and I used to always go with polyester batting, thin or high loft.  We used the thin for hand-quilting and the high loft for tied comforters. They were warm and fluffy and very light-weight and laundered beautifully.

Our favorite battings were sized or bonded on both sides, keeping the fibers together as they rolled out evenly, stayed together and did not bunch when washed and dried, no matter how much quilting or tying joined the top, backing, and batting together, or what is now referred to as the quilt sandwich.

Now the choices are more numerous: 100% cotton in different lofts (thicknesses); cotton/poly blends with different percentages of each as well as different lofts; recycled plastic bottles which sounds crazy but is very soft and reports little shrinkage (and whether we realize it or not, is likely just a polyester made of recyclables, helping the environment); bamboo, or blends of bamboo, silk, cotton and botanic Tencel in a variety of lofts; and last but not least wool. Sometimes different colors of battings can even be found. The usual colors are white, off-white, black or light green. Fusible battings are even a possibility so that the batting can't shift as you are quilting it. The brands and costs vary according to organic and non-organic fillings. Of course, some people still use a blanket between the top and backing for their quilts, just as they did many years ago.

I have chosen a cotton batting to use for my wall hangings, just in case they fall into hands that might want to wash them and give a slight press to them.  Polyester will flatten when pressed, and I am hoping that cotton will retain its loft a bit better, in case a light press is used. There is no fear that my quilts will ever see an iron after washing!!

Cotton does shrink and as I am still old-fashioned and preshrink my materials to assure me that they are not only pre-shrunk, but colorfast as well, I am going to go with a batting that advertises itself as one that requires no need for pre-shrinking.

My plan is to record what I use and how it quilts under different conditions, conducting my own quilting experiments, if you will. Everyone has their own preferences and this is how I will determine mine. Initially I will be using the same batting for all three of my small quilts/wall-hangings. Purchasing one large queen-sized batting to do all three is less expensive than buying a separate batting for each. I chose a low loft, almost felted-sort-of cotton batting that can be used for either machine or hand-quilting. I am using Mountain Mist as that is the brand I used to use in my earlier days of quilting and feel it is a good omen that they are still making battings. My first wall-hanging is done with only one thickness of this batting and is a nice weight to practice my hand-quilting stitches.

A single layer of "felted" cotton batting is thin, making hand-quilting easy.

Practicing making tiny hand-quilted stitches-- tiny and even is my goal...

Simple quilting next to seams makes my quilting design easy and effective.

I am using two layers for my appliqued wall-hanging to get more dimension, though my hand-quilted stitches are not quite as close together as my first project, due to the thickness of the two battings used together, though I really like that it gives an almost trapunto sort-of-puff to my design.

It is fun to see how my hand-quilting adds dimension to this piece.

I am using two layers of felted cotton batting.  Not the easiest to hand-quilt.

I am getting what I hoped for, a trapunto-sort of effect.

I plan to machine quilt my third small quilt using only one thickness, and it is really nice that I still have large pieces of batting left over that will likely be enough for another small quilt or wall-hanging when I am finished with these three. I learned when I first started quilting that left-over pieces of batting can be stitched together as long as the type of batting, and loft are the same. Just push the edges of the batting together  and then hand-baste them using a large z-patterned back- stitch, from one piece of batting to the other. I like to do it on both sides to be sure that it doesn't pull apart. When quilted you won't have a clue that the batting was pieced.
This piece has one layer of  "felted" cotton batting to machine quilt.
So when choosing your batting consider your options and decide which batting will best suit your needs in terms of type, thickness or loft, size you will need and the amount of stitching required to keep the batting stable and secure.  If you are like me and are uncertain, either consult your local quilt store expert, or make more than one quilt and try different ones.  I think that when I am done, I may consider making small unfinished sample quilt sandwiches, labeling the brand and loft of the batting to refer to in the future. I love "hands-on" samples when making my decisions. Different battings suit different needs and a little practice does make perfect!
"Time out!" 

Monday, June 1, 2015

June's Common-Thread Give-Away Artist is...

Rachel Barlow is this month's Common-Thread Give-Away artist.  She will be giving away a Pocket T- shirt in honor of upcoming Father's Day. It is one that she designed with the coat of arms and Chivalric Code of the Order of the Eternal Missing Sock. The coat-of- arms is on the front and the code is on the back. The shirt comes with a certificate conferring the winner as a Knight (or Knight-ette) of the Order. Modeling the shirt (printed by Zazzle) is her Big Guy. Go to her website, Picking My Battles, to register, by leaving a comment for her any time between Monday and Wednesday. Know that her shirt comes in XS-2XL and she has let us know that the winner can pick any color as long as it’s white. For those that are curious about the code, it reads as follows:

A Knight of the order shall
 Show Courage when Battling Bills or Backed-up Toilets
(even if the knight can’t tell the difference),
Show Honesty always except when Wisdom is wiser
(as when asked if This Outfit Looks Fat), 
Show Mercy for those using the bathroom next 
(by turning on the fan, Man!),
Have Faith that there will be enough 
mismatches to make at least one
               complete pair of socks.

The drawing will be held after Wednesday, at which time she will announce the winner.  This is our Common-Thread Artist Group's way of thanking you for visiting our websites, reading our blogs, and viewing our artwork. All members of the group are located on the right side of my blog and their website's accessed by merely clicking on them.

Rachel is the busy housewife and mother of two boys, who lives in rural upstate New York. Her blog is filled with cartoons and stories that will make you laugh and warm your heart. She also illustrates writes, draws and paints besides. Do visit her site and leave a message for her if you would like to win this free gift, and thank you all again for visiting all of our websites. If you have any questions regarding our artwork or life, we would be happy to respond to you.

The other members of our Common-Thread Artist include Jon Katz, a well-known, New York Times Best Selling author, and photographer.  I start everyday with reading Jon's news about his life in rural New York, on his blog, Bedlam Farm Blog. Maria Wulf, his wife is a fiber artist.  Her artwork and blog, Full Moon Fiber Arts are filled with fun and interesting bits about her life while living with Jon and their assorted animals on Bedlam Farm. Kim Gifford is both an artist and writer, whose blog, Pugs and Pics is uniquely Kim. Her writings are not to be missed and don't miss seeing her artwork while you are there. Kim's work includes collage, photography and other mediums. I am also a member of this interesting collection of artists that have banded together to support one another.  I am best known for my penny-rug-style designer wool pincushions and sculpture as well as other Home Arts. I have recently been getting back into quilting and share my sewing tips and personal journey in my blog. Thank you again for you visiting our websites and good luck in winning this month's featured artist's gift!