These Two Things

I’ve been scrabbling desperately to get a grip on the way forward this month, so I’ve been hanging back, practicing self-care, and just trying to get my head clear.

Here’s what I have:

The world has gotten scary.  People are dying in the streets.  The white hoods are back.  The government is torturing Indians in furtherance of giving them poison to drink.  Children are learning that hate is an American value.

There are two things that I know are true, that we can use against this terror and darkness.

Over the past weeks, they have seemed like laughably inconsequential things and impossibly large things, but they’ve never stopped being primal.

The first thing is love.  We can love ourselves.  We can love each other.  We can love fat people, not-conventionally-attractive people, “fours”, “losers”, black people, people who don’t speak English, trans people, disabled people, gay people, people who have had abortions, Muslim people, native people, people who have been “grabbed”, all the people.  We can love them.  We can love us.

And that’s the most powerful tool we have against hate and fear: we can choose love instead.  We can reject the notion that some are so different that they are unlovable.  We can laugh in the face of the cultural rubric we’re supposed to use to judge the value of femmefolk and just love them instead.

We can practice self-care.  We can make safe spaces for each other.  We can help one another.  We can reach out.  We can stand in the street in front of the mosque and say “These people are my neighbors.  I love them, and I won’t let you harm them.”  We can give a colleague a hug and say “You are loved.”  We can offer flowers to strangers, like hippies, and we can tell them– yes, those people we don’t even know– that we love them.  We can see someone struggling and offer our help.  We can ask what the family down the street needs to be safe, and help them get it.  We can love.  We can love the white working-class, and let them know that there’s a place for them in the future.  We can raise children who know, like Mister Rogers used to say, that there’s no one in the world quite like them and people can like them just the way they are.  We can tell gay kids and fat kids and brown-skinned kids that the world is fucked up, but they are just fine the way they are.  We can listen to people, especially when they say they are being harmed.

We can love the earth, too.  I know that this is like, “Again with the hippie nonsense?!”, but it’s still true.  We can love the trees.  We can lovingly plant wildflowers for pollinators to find.  We can pick up trash at the beach because we love the ocean, and the birds, and the sand.  We can sit outside and breathe deep and love the air.

We can reach out into our communities and our world and love what we find.  We don’t have to withdraw and fear what’s outside.  We can offer love as an alternative to hate.

That’s the first thing.

The second thing is a bit harder.

Yes, harder than loving strangers.

But it’s just as important.

The second thing is independence.  We can do it ourselves.  We can stop relying on the state to protect our interests.  We can stop calling the police.  We can stop shopping at the Wal-Mart.  We can stop expecting anomic society to take care of our problems.  We can take responsibility for our own needs.  It doesn’t matter how horrible, how corrupt, how oppressive these institutions become if we deny them legitimacy and reject their attempts to shape our lives.  They need US, not the other way around.

We don’t have to participate in systems that oppress us or others.  We don’t have to be complicit in the state’s oppression of its enemies.  We can choose and build our communities for ourselves.  We can think critically about our actions and listen to those who are harmed by them, even in steps of the process that seem beyond our control.  We can make slave labor, deforestation, pollution, and factory farming unprofitable for businesses by refusing to profit by them ourselves.

We can vote with our dollars for the future we want.  We can support local businesses run by our neighbors and friends.  We can see our supply chains and improve them.  We can offer help to people who are struggling instead of reporting them to the authorities.  We can share our resources with those in need instead of expecting the state to feed, clothe, and house them.  We can clean it up ourselves instead of filing a complaint about litter.  We can leverage our privilege to protect marginalized people.  We can protect each other and set expectations for our communities instead of relying on the police to enforce the state’s rules.  We can learn to make things ourselves.  We can grow our own food, or join CSAs.  We can buy things from independent artisans instead of faceless factories.  We can get together with our neighbors to do hard things together.  We can raise barns and put up jam and bring homemade bread and soup to the old lady next door who has trouble walking.  We can start a childcare co-op, or shop at the farmer’s market, or learn to sew our own clothes.  We can choose a midwife instead of submitting to industrial medicine.  We can learn about the natural world around us and work with it instead of destroying it.  We can buy good things, made with love and designed to work well, and maintain them.  We can mend things that break.

We can be proactive and make a better future for everyone.  We don’t have to accept the options the state-industrial complex offers us, and we don’t have to chase the 1%’s definition of success.  We can make our own society.

And together, if we all work on those two things– love and independence– we will be unstoppable.  Whether you can only participate in little ways, or you have the resources to make big changes, everything will make a difference.

I’m not saying that the dark forces at work in our world won’t matter or won’t be able to harm people, but we don’t have to sit back and let them take over.  We can both choose not to be bullies ourselves AND not to allow bullying around us.  We don’t have to give up ground.  We don’t have to stop pushing forward.  We can still make progress if we all work together.

We can find the way forward– or make a new one for ourselves– if we can all practice love and seek independence.

That’s what I think, anyway.

With love and gratitude for all of you,

Elizabeth

Felt Food: Strawberries

This very easy method makes realistic, conical strawberries, resembling the prized Hood variety grown in Oregon.

Supplies:
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  • wool or wool-blend felt in red and green
  • thread or embroidery floss in yellow, green, and red
  • stuffing
  • hand-sewing needle(s)
  • scissors
  1. Cut a freehand half-circle from the red felt.  I find that a radius of more than 1″ but less than 3″ makes a convincing strawberry.  It’s preferable if it’s not perfect– strawberries aren’t perfect!img_3980
  2. Using yellow thread, cover the red felt piece sparsely with tiny stitches.  Try to orient all of your stitches so they point to the middle of the straight side of your half-circle.img_3982
  3. Fold the half-circle in half, right sides OUT, lining up the straight edges.  Sew JUST the straight edges together with a small whipstitch using red thread to make a cone.img_3984
  4. Stuff the cone nearly to the top and pretty firmly.  If you’re using wool stuffing, remember to add another pinch after you think you have enough to allow for compacting over time.img_3987
  5. Sew a small running stitch around the top edge of your cone.  It doesn’t matter what color thread you use for this because it won’t show in the finished product.  Gently but firmly pull both ends of your thread to gather this seam as tightly as you can and fasten securely.img_3989
  6. Cut a five-pointed star from the green felt.  The center of your star needs to be big enough to cover the gap left in the top of your gathered cone.  Again, it’s preferable if this shape isn’t perfectly regular.img_3990
  7. Using the green thread, sew a ring of stitches to secure the center of your green star to the top of your cone, covering the gap left in step 5.img_3991
  8. Bury your thread ends and admire your strawberry!img_3992

I made 20 strawberries to fill a punnet, varying the size, the yellow thread (I used butter yellow and goldenrod), and the green felt (I used a tightly-felted grass green sweater and a sheet of apple green felt) to give each of my berries individual character.

Felt Food: Blueberries

Super-easy blueberries for a play kitchen: seriously, it doesn’t get easier than this!

Supplies:

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  • blue felt (a heathered indigo felt– if you can find such a thing– would be ideal)
  • blue thread (it doesn’t have to be a good match as it shouldn’t show much in the end)
  • hand-sewing needle(s)
  • scissors
  • stuffing (optional)
  1. Cut a small circle (1″ to about 3″ in diameter) from the blue felt.  It’s better if it’s slightly irregular.
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  2. Sew a small running stitch around the edge of the circle, leaving both ends unfastened.img_3996
  3. .Place the trimmed scraps from cutting your circle into the center.  On larger berries, you may want to put a little pinch of stuffing behind the scraps for more plumpness, but for small berries, the scraps are likely all you’ll need.img_3999
  4.  Pull on both ends of your thread to gather as tightly as you can around the stuffing.  Fasten off.img_4000
  5. Bury your thread ends and use a finger or a small tool to neaten the appearance of the blossom end, if necessary.img_4002

I made 35 berries in two colors– a navy blue 100% wool felt sheet, shown here, and a smoky royal blue felted wool sweater– to fill my mini-punnet.  I found that the wool felt sheet was much easier to cut and gather, but the thicker felted sweater makes a more convincing blossom end.

WIP Wednesday

img_4004start date: 14 November 2016
time elapsed: 2 days
completeness: 40%

After finishing Númenor’s coat and hoodie, I needed some color in my hands.  Normally I love gray and black and have no issue with working with them, but with everything happening in the world lately, I needed a bit of a boost.

So I’m putting together a cupcake-making kit.  In felt.  Cheery and colorful felt.  Scraps of felt from other projects.  Bits of old sweater waiting for a new life.

And between the bright colors and the small, modular pieces, I started to feel a bit better almost right away.  Now that I have more of the elements finished and can play with decorating cupcakes and making whipped cream and frosting, the whimsy is giving me life, too.

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As you can see, I made cylindrical cupcakes.  They’re obviously easier to make, but they’re also more versatile– it’s easier to imagine them as tiny cakes, or cheesecakes, or soufflés, instead of just cupcakes/muffins.  I’m making one white, one yellow, one light brown, and one dark brown, for a variety of flavors.

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My muffin cups are made from sweater ribbing.  With the edge cuffed a little, they look like ramekins.  With it at full-length, they look more like paper baking forms.

This will be a great addition to the smalls’ play kitchen.  I’m excited to finish up the layer cake for them as well– add in a couple cookies, some bread, and a pie crust and we’ll have a full play bakery.

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100% wool felt in various colors from Material Evidence (closed) and CraftyWoolFelt.  Natural cream 100% wool felt from JoAnn.  Barnyard Red 20% wool felt from JoAnn.  White 35% wool felt from JoAnn.  Various cashmere and wool sweater scraps from DoDadChick.  Various vintage threads, stuffing scraps, and bamboo polyfill from my stash.

Resource Round-Up

This same strategy will work for ALL public harassment– don’t be a bystander when you could help someone!

Some things that have come across my virtual desk recently on the topic of resistance/survival in Trump’s America:

The “Oh Shit!  What Should I do Before January?” Guide.  Some really phenomenal ideas in here for both self-care and advocacy– a one-stop shop.  Personally, I highly recommend checking out the section on abortion access and reproductive health for advice about getting and removing an IUD, notes on how to self-abort if you need to, and excellent suggestions about securing emergency contraception access.  Please please please, if you have disposable income and a decent relationship with an OBGYN, get a prescription for Ella (which is the only emergency contraceptive approved for people who weigh more than 160 lbs) and buy up as much as you can.  Store it in a red wine fridge for maximum shelf-life, which should be, co-incidentally, about 4 years.  You might need it, your friends and family might need it, strangers might need it– it might literally save lives.

If An Agent Knocks.  Available in English, Spanish, Urdu, and Arabic, a comprehensive guide to your rights and abilities when dealing with federal agents such as the FBI and anti-terrorism officers.  Print it out if you can and leave it in high-traffic areas in neighborhoods with lots of immigrants, especially laundromats, grocery stores and bodegas, libraries, and mosques and other places of worship.

What To Do Instead of Calling the Police.  A collection of links to articles and other resources intended to move people and communities past the need for violent authoritarian state-backed law enforcement.

Support organizations and causes that will come under fire or that work to defend the vulnerable:

Planned Parenthood  STI testing, pregnancy options counseling, safer sex information, contraception education and access, well-woman care, reproductive cancer screening, abortion access.

NOW— their website has crashed, for now you can donate here.  Women’s rights, equal pay, workplace protections, anti-rape advocacy.

NARAL  Abortion access.

The ACLU  Constitutional rights.

KIND  Legal services for child migrants and refugees facing deportation.

HRC  LGBTQI+ rights and equality.

NRDC  Climate and environment, natural resources, water and land rights.

Obviously this is not a complete list, but it’s a good place to start.

Stay safe out there, people!

Remember this moment

“Remember this moment.”  I said to my children.

“Someday, someone will tell you that feminism is no longer necessary.  That men and women are equal in society.  But right now, you can see that’s not true.  Because more than 50 million Americans have just legally declared themselves willing to be led by Donald Trump, even though he is terrible and dangerous and unqualified in every way, rather than a woman, even though she may be the most qualified candidate for political office in all of human history.”

We were huddled together against the chill and the hatred, watching the election returns.  The mood had been jovial, if a little manic, but slowly turned to terror and shock.  I couldn’t stop shaking and felt nauseous.  Robert tried to argue that it wasn’t over yet, but I knew it was.  None of us understood it, but we saw it.

Ithilien put his hand to my face.  “Shh, Mommy, it’s okay.  He won’t win the whole race.”

“Yes he will,” I said, my eyes stinging, “this is the whole race.  It’s over.”  Ithilien curled his lip as tears formed in his eyes.

“Maybe it’s just a mistake.” Númenor offered, his fists tight with anger and incomprehension.  “It must be wrong.”

But we knew.

I started to cry.

What went wrong?  What happened?  Could we have prevented this?  Would it have made a difference if we had donated more money?  If we had been brave enough to put up a yard sign?  If we had flown to Florida to GOTV, would that have been enough?

I suspect not.

I think, in my heart of hearts, that what we saw tonight was an ugly reminder of how much we have left to grow as a society.  A frightening harbinger of a new era of hate and horror, certainly, but mostly a reflection of how hateful and horrible our past and has made our present.

I have said that America isn’t great.  That there’s still so much left to be done.  I wish I hadn’t been shown I was right tonight– I honestly thought we were ready for a female president.  I know I was.

Hillary Clinton lost tonight.  So did tolerance, love, peace, fairness, understanding, rationality, and the way forward.

Right now I don’t know if we can find those things again.  But I’m going to keep looking.  I’m going to keep raising children who expect those things and who will help foster them.  I’m going to keep looking for the light ahead, the distant goal, that “greatness,” and strive for it with my whole being.

Just as I would have if the election had gone the way we expected.

 

New Feathers, New Flights

My chickens are molting.

And frankly, they look ridiculous.

Feathers are scattered all over the chicken yard, and from some angles our buff orpington, Took, more resembles a bird you’d find in a bag in a grocery store deli than a healthy, living, laying hen.

As the new feathers grow in, they appear first as hard shafts sticking out of the skin awkwardly.  They don’t provide warmth or shed water yet, they have virtually no color, and if they are cut or torn, they’ll bleed.

And, of course, while the chicken is putting all her nutritional resources into growing new feathers, she doesn’t have the energy to spare to lay eggs.

So it’s a time of deprivation for us as the farmers, and uncertainty and hardship for our vulnerable, naked little birds.

Watching the chickens shed their old, damaged, dirty feathers and take the brave an unceremonious step to grow new ones seems appropriate, somehow, for the election season.

A change in leadership is like a change in plumage– possibly just cosmetic, possibly dramatically transformative, but always resource-intensive, inconvenient, and awkward.  And, even if it appears to be a cosmetic change only, the fact remains that molting every so often to refresh the feathers helps them function as they should, keeping the body warm and dry, and on a good day with a prevailing tailwind, carrying us upward and forward.

We’re well past the halfway point in this arduous process now.  We just have to keep going, get through it, and we’ll be better off for it.

And then a little while after that, we’ll have our dividends coming in again, eggs and governance.

WIP Wednesday

We haven’t had one of these since July!  I missed them!

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start date: 15 September 2016
time elapsed: 34 days
completeness: 50%

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that Númenor once again needed a new hoodie and coat for the winter.  I don’t know how this happened, because he JUST got new ones last year, but during the Dance of the Hand-Me-Downs, I noticed that his wrists and forearms had made a break for it and replacements were urgently needed.

We talked about his hoodie, and he described this fantastical vision for a T-rex skeleton costume piece, complete with tail and functional teeth and glow-in-the-dark bones.

I said, hmm.  And uh-huh.  And yes, that would be super awesome.

And then I said, here’s what I can do: fuzzy appliqué bones, full ribcage, upper limbs, and skull.

And he said, “Oh, okay.  That will be easier to sit down in the car and play on the playground.  Plus then I can sneak up on people in the dark.”

Such wisdom, from one so young.

So now I’m studying the skeletal anatomy of the T-rex in astounding detail, and desperately trying to adapt what I learn to a hooded sweatshirt for a human-shaped child, because it turns out that if I had wanted to buy this garment in a store, I would have been totally SOL.

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It’s been an interesting process.

And the end result will be imperfect and definitely homemade-looking, but pretty cool, I think.  If nothing else, Númenor and I can look back on this project and laugh, and he will at least know that I love him, and I’m willing to try audacious things to make him happy.

Here’s hoping that’s what counts.

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Organic black sweatshirt fleece from Organic Cotton Plus, white bamboo rayon/organic cotton velour from Etsy, the pattern and technique are my own and not recommended.

Three Things to Do for Indigenous Peoples Day

if you need background on why Christopher Columbus doesn’t deserve celebration, click here for an approachable primer


Tomorrow, Monday October 10, is Indigenous Peoples Day.  If you’re thinking “Gosh, that doesn’t sound like a holiday one can or should observe by shopping the sales at the mall!” give yourself 10 points.

If you’re wondering what you might do instead, read on!

Research your local Indigenous people

Maybe you live in a place that was wrested from an indigenous group by force during a protracted military conflict, maybe you are living in your people’s traditional homelands, maybe you’re somewhere in between.  You can find out.

Research the ethnic groups and languages that were present in your area before colonial control solidified.  Learn about the history of those people, either before conquest or after.  Imagine how your area would be different if the cultural frontier had been more amiable.

Find out what indigenous people are doing in your area now.  Where is your closest reservation?  What issues matter to native communities near you?  How have their cultures influenced the dominant culture (consider language, cuisine, holiday and seasonal observances, etc.)?

Consume art about and by Indigenous people

On Youtube, watch this.

On Netflix, try Rhymes for Young Ghouls, Songs my Brothers Taught Me, or Strange Empire.

Read something.

Stand in solidarity with a cause that disproportionately affects Indigenous people

Donate or sign to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux against an oil pipeline that would threaten their water sources and has already destroyed a burial site.

Sign to support the efforts of the Gwich’in Nation to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Donate to the National Congress of American Indians, which recently won a landmark legal case against the Washington R*dskins concerning the defamatory nature of their name and logo.

Donate to the Endangered Language Fund to support research and revitalization of indigenous languages.

Sign to demand BIA recognition for the Celilo Falls (Wy’am) Indians, the indigenous inhabitants of the oldest continuously-inhabited human settlement in the Americas.

Urge President Obama to free Leonard Peltier.

Donate to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition to further their work pursuing reparations and peace after the horrors of Indian Residential Schools.

 

Of course these lists and suggestions are not intended to be authoritative or exhaustive– these are just some ideas to get you started.