Monday, August 22, 2011

English Tea Quilt

My latest quilt is complete. I call it “English Tea.”

After selecting the material, cutting the fabric was one day. Sewing the quilt top was one day. Selecting the boarder fabric and adding was one day. Quilting was one day. Binding was one day. It was a total of five days work for this beautiful quilt.

The combining of fabrics to create a quilt is fabric art, an American women’s tradition. Privileged I’ve been to share a bit of my quilting experience with the next generation of girls who are interested in learning about the art, and the skills required. As with all women’s work, this too is undervalued and teaching a dying art brings nothing but smiles on the faces of the girls who conquer the skill and create their own fabric art.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: The Evolution of the American Dream

Title: The Evolution of the American Dream: How the Promise of Equal Opportunity became a Quest for Equal Results
Author: Bob Skandalaris with Amber Clark
2011: Auburn Hills, MI: Pembrook Publishing
Hardcover: pages 296

Bob Skandalaris provides a nice overview the history of the American Dream. He sets out the historical perspective from the New World to the 21st Century, what it is to dream the American Dream versus what it is to attain it. In short, the American Dream was within attainment for the average American in the 1940s -1950s. Since that time, it’s become increasingly difficult for subsequent generations to attain the dream as the dream is increasingly financial expensive. In the end, the author blames the common person for the dilemma even though he laid out the historical facts to take the ending in a different direction.

In the beginning, immigrants in the 1600s were looking for the New World, a place to make their name and bring back or create wealth. Most immigrants found a difficult and short life.

As the colonies came into existence, subsidy from the home country was vital in the outcome of the immigrants’ success. While there was room in the new land for business and expansion resources were required to build the infrastructure. Thoughtful men began to understand the resources of the New World were ripe for the picking and export back to the home land and investors.

Freedom and Justice in theory came from the Enlightenment movement started in Scotland. The movement spread around the globe with great speed especially considering the time required for correspondence. The time was right for men to use their minds to improve not only their own condition but to guarantee rights to each man.

The Gilded Age built wealth in a way that was never seen before. The number of men who came to disregard the enlightenment premise of fairness to all came to find that freedom for the rich allowed them to collect wealth for the express purpose to manipulate markets for a better personal position without regard for others or society.

Reinventing the Dream came as the general public tired of the few disregarding society at the expense of the many. The many began to come together to require the few to pay their proportional portion to the workers and the government. This was done through gathering and union negotiations and government regulations by ethical men (at least in comparison to the Robber Barons).

The Good Life was found through the promise of fair employment, social security and a guaranteed chance at future generations attaining at least as much as their parents. The Dream of education and home ownership increased. Americans worked harder to attain. Women joined men in the work place. Consumerism increased and the top few percent of people enjoyed the benefits of a happy society and increased productivity.

With the Reagan Revolution society changed the thought that anyone and everyone was worthy an unending share of the American Dream without personal effort. While the examples of fraudulent activities were few, the media created the thought that neighbors and others didn’t deserve the government help they requests. End result the 90% tax during the Eisenhower Administration which built American was set to decrease the burden on the richest in America and increase taxes on the middle and lower classes. With the propaganda that fair tax meant equal percentage of income tax regardless of the echelon of the taxpayer, the effect was a drastic decrease in government income which resulted in fewer regular jobs and less taxes. Twenty years the country was in serious trouble with only a dot com bubble to shield the population from the truth.

The last few chapters outline the austerity plan which blames the poor for being poor. It also asks the question to the middle class why should you be worth food, housing and health care?

While I liked historical context of the book, I profoundly disagree with the direction and questions the book takes at the end. It would serve the reader better to ask questions about the solution rather than questions that lay blame with the average person outside the realm of responsible party in the larger American economic field. The countless sums of money lost by the average person in the loss of home values, the loss of employment, the loss of retirement funds, the increase in energy costs, the increase in financial fees, the increase in food, and the increase in health care costs while bankers and investment people thrive hardly supports the supposition that the average person is to blame.

Rich immigrants come to America, buy houses, cars, and businesses. The American Dream is available and for sale to the rich of the world. The question needs to be: is the American Dream available for the less fortunate, the homeless, the tired, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free who are already here? If so, how does America restructure to offer the Dream to the average person again? If not, who’s responsible and what do we do without a dream or hope?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: The Whole Brain Path to Peace

Title: The Whole-Brain Path to Peace: The Role of Left and Right Brain Dominance in the Polarization and Reunification of America

Author: James Olson

Publisher: Origin Press, PO Box 151117, San Rafael, CA 94915

2011: 235 pages, Hard cover.

James Olsen is a former farmer and Christian church deacon from Missouri. Beginning with a conservative Christian point of view, he strives to use science and Eastern philosophies to blend a new perspective of integrative thought into a unique path to peace.

The book is divided into three parts: Universal Fundamentals Who We Are and What We See, Theory: How Perspective and Dominance Produce Polarization, and Application: Perspective’s Influence on Culture.

In the beginning there is the brain. The brain has a dominant functional path: right or left. Using basic philosophy of neuroscience to explain right brain dominance, a naturally whole thinker versus left brain dominance, a naturally compartmentalized thinker, Mr. Olsen seeks to explain why women and men are basically different.

He presupposes brain dominant function is gender biased rather than culturally or educationally taught. Although he offers the caveat that both men and women or right and left brain dominant people can learn to integrate other brain-sidedness through education. In most cases, this would be seen as women changing their natural right brain views to include left brain values.

Through a series of examples, Mr. Olsen argues the overall male dominance of the left-brain compartmentalized thinking dominating culture over the millennia has culminated in the world’s cultures we see today. Rather than choosing to get along, men basically defend their territory and seek to expand their beliefs and culture into other areas.

A world survey for "Global Peace" places the United States between 80 – 95 in ranking out of 121 countries when ranking from the most peaceful to the least peaceful societies. Norway, Finland and other Scandinavian countries rank in the top 10. Iraq ranked last in 2008 & 2009 surveys.

Toward the end of the book, the author debates ideas such as truth is internally harmonious. Beliefs about God may be juxtaposed: God is Love versus God sends people to Everlasting Hell. Mr. Olsen agrees that these issues must be resolved in some way. He suggests that by integrating both sides of the brain processes that these issues may be resolved.

The Whole Brain Path to Peace is an ambitious book blending portions of Eastern thought with traditional conservative Christian belief. There is much to learn from World cultures. Perhaps, incorporating more whole thought into our culturally compartmentalized thinking may help bring about world peace. Certainly, individual blending of right and left brain dominance will open new opportunities to share love and peace on a personal level with our neighbors.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Water Wishes

Guardian water spirits bless each place they reside. People instinctually know that giving gifts to the water brings good back to them. Following that simple instinct is the reason for many places of open water, ponds and wishing wells are filled with coins and other gifts to the sprites, nymphs or deities.

Since ancient times, legends agree the blessings of the water spirits are truly worth making the wish and tossing the coin.

Celtic and Germanic people of Ancient Western Europe believed water was a gift from the gods, wells and waterways were sacred. Norse legend tells that Odin rode to Mimir’s Well to seek wisdom.

More recently, Saint Catherine is associated with wishing wells and wishing for a husband. Drop one coin with each line of the wish…

A husband Saint Catherine
A handsome one Saint Catherine
A rich one Saint Catherine
And soon Saint Catherine
Amen ;)

Whatever you wish for… wish well!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday

Kinderfeste or Kid’s Party celebrated birthdays of children, not just nobility, beginning in the 19th Century. The tradition spread throughout the world and was particularly embraced with the 1893 musical composition, “Happy Birthday to You.”

Societal acknowledgement that every child is special lead to the thoughts that children and childhood should be preserved as a time for education and play rather than reduced cost labor or child labor of the earlier eras. The progressive thoughts were championed at the turn of the twentieth century with protesters marching with signs “Abolish Child Slavery” in New York City parades.

In more affluent counties, children grown into adults continue to celebrate the yearly anniversary of their birth. This move to annual celebrations supports the retail culture in the desirability, if not requirement to either celebrate with co-workers & friends at a local eatery/bar or host a party complete with dinner, dessert and gifts.

While I celebrate a special birthday today, not mine. Our celebration is subdued in remembrance of the young military people (just out of their kinder years) away from home today.