Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quilting Progress

After 8 long months, I'm happy to announce that I've finished the front of my quilt!  It is a king size quilt (approx 93" x 112"), and consists of 30 13.25"* blocks with cornerstones (2" square*) and sashing (2" x 13.25"*).

Once I had the blocks all finished, I laid them out on the living room floor to make sure the two styles of blocks I'd done (squares and pinwheels) alternated properly.

Once I had the order of the blocks ready, I then sewed the blocks into rows with the sashing between the blocks, and sewed the sashing and cornerstones into rows.  Below is what the square rows looked like (I don't have a photo of the sashing and cornerstone rows.

This is the method illustrated below:

And, viola! As shown above, here's the finished front part of the quilt!

*finished dimensions - I use quarter inch seam allowances

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Why I'm a Feminist

From movies, television, music and games to the workplace and the family, women are treated as inferior to men.  We have raised generation after generation to view the world and women from the point of view of men.  Women are objectified (denied agency), and are seen from the outside - our own consciousness , our thoughts and our feelings completely overlooked.

Even in our every day conversation, male pronouns dominate our vocabulary and our ideas.  Every dog we see is a 'he', every stick figure a 'he', even humans thought of as 'mankind'.  The only exceptions are boats, cars, bikes and ships - which are (not surprisingly) 'she' - because they are objects and possessions of men.
Even when we're shown cases of male violence and sexual abuse, we look at it from the man's point of view: "He must have been provoked", "He was a nice guy that just snapped", "She must have confused him with her signals", "I bet he was falsely accused, it's horrible he has to go to jail now."  We victim blame, we spit out rape/violence apologist comments, and through it all we start to see that as a society we only look through men's eyes.

Remarkably, even in defense of women we tell society to look at women as objects.  Even when we speak out against violence against women we see people telling others to imagine her as "somebody's wife, somebody's mother, somebody's daughter, or somebody's sister," As if it never occurs to us that maybe... JUST MAYBE... that woman is also a "somebody".

Movies and Television

I really shouldn't need to point out how we objectify and scrutinize and marginalize women in our movies and television.  But for the sake of consistency, I will.  I do want to start by saying Objectification doesn't necessarily mean women dolled up in varying degrees of undress purely for men's eyes.  Sexual objectification is certainly its own problem, but that is simply one part of the problem.

Women are reduced to the sum of their body parts, Photoshopped to fit an ever-narrowing standard of female beauty, and put on display as pieces of property to be owned.  This grabs our attention, and most if not all of us recognize the issue with this imagery.

Yet only focusing on the 'sexual' aspect can obscure the much bigger issue of real 'objectification' which goes on in our society.  The big problem is the difference between subject status and object status.  A subject is, by definition, active - with agency, while an object is passive - being acted upon.  For example, "Fiona stroked the cat" - we can see that 'Fiona' has subject status, while 'the cat' has object status.  Ideally, we would each find ourselves cast as either subject or object at different times in conversation and representation, because that's normal vocabulary.  However, in our society, the dominant verbage used is heavily gendered, with men granted the status of subject and women severely objectified.

These messages start at a remarkably young age in our culture.  Janice McCabe did a study that showed male characters in children's books outnumber female ones, and even when characters are gender neutral (like animals), parents often read them as male to their kids (Guardian).  This also happens in children's shows, where only a third of lead roles are female (The Independent).   It's referred to as the Smurfette Principle, where only one female character is present on an entire cast of male ones.  'Female' has become a characteristic all its own.

Our entire visual entertainment culture revolves around boys and men.  The majority of films produced tell stories about men, with women cast as girlfriends, wives, mothers or other periphery roles (LA Times).  In any given year, only about 12-15% of top grossing Hollywood movies focus on women and their stories (Motion Picture Association of America).  And those are degradingly referred to as chick flicks and are almost always focused on women looking for a man to 'complete' them, 'save' them,  or 'redeem' them in some way.

Video Games

There were about 17.4 million gamers in the US in 2012 (NPD).  This number means a significant part of our culture exists online in games, which also makes it a medium we simply can't ignore.  Just hearing a female voice used over voice-chat in online games is enough to illicit a negative reaction toward females in games.
Researchers from Ohio University ran an experiment within Halo 3 which looked to determine whether gamers reacted differently to male and female voices within the online game.  The experiment was run with two accounts, one male and one female who were not aware they were a part of the study.  For each account, identical phrases that were designed not to illicit a negative response were recorded by both the man and the woman, and were played through an iPod during live play.  The two accounts only varied in two ways - their nickname and gender representation.  245 games were recorded and played live, and 163 of those included verbal communication and were later analyzed.

The result - the female received nearly three times as many directly negative comments as the male.
The phrase "hi everybody" alone was enough to spark reactions ranging from "shut up you whore" to "so whatever that voice was, are you a hooker or are you a dude?" When the female wasn't receiving derogatory gendered language, she was asked out (New Media and Society).


Women still only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.  That's a difference of $10,000 a year (Gender Wage Gap).

This gap starts as early as college in North America, where women make an average of 82% of what men make (AAUW).  In the first year of their careers, men typically make $7,600 more than women (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Women, on average, make up only slightly more than 10% of chief financial officers (Bloomberg).  More than 1/3 of North American companies have zero women employed in senior management positions at all (Catalyst).   Of the companies that did have women at the top in 2010 - they only made up 6.2% of those top earning positions (Catalyst).

On top of the statistical barriers that hold women back, there's the psychological roadblocks in our culture that aim to keep women in a position lower than men.  Women face a variety of stereotypes in the workplace like: They don't need more money because they're not the primary breadwinner, they can't do certain jobs that are considered men's work, they're supposed to act a certain kind of feminine in the workplace, they're not as committed to their jobs because they're the primary caregiver of their kids.  Office culture is the longest-standing gender biased area of our society, and the norms there are grossly dominated by men (Forbes). 

Why I'm a Feminist

I wrote a brief piece yesterday about some of the verbal attacks I've received in different situations, and attacks I've witnessed on friends.

The post got two responses:
abuse wise on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30% of the murders of women and 5% percent of the murders of men.(Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.)

More people die from aids, car accidents, smoking, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and hippopotamuses. With only 20% women experiencing domestic violence in their LIFETIME. I fail to see how this abuse is an out of control problem unless you mean, "someone said something mean to me" and we should "stand against this abuse" of mean words. Sounds like you ran into a jerk and they come in all races/genders. So maybe you not talk to those people anymore instead of making a call to arms on the internet.

And this gem:
Feminists are retarded. This article is proof.  

You see, even within 5 hours of posting I was already receiving confusion, discouragement, and abuse.  THIS is why I'm a feminist.  Our patriarchal society is so overarching that we don't even think twice about slamming women when they speak out against injustice, and even go so far as to cite statistics as to why we should 'not talk to those people' anymore.

Why hadn't I thought of that?!

*Starts packing for the shack in the woods*

Monday, September 9, 2013

Why you should be a feminist

Get a sense of humor.
It was just a joke.
You're too sensitive.
This is just how it is.
This is our world, not yours.
We only gave you rights to shut you up.
You should be grateful for what we let you have.
Your kind are the reason women need to get beaten.
Learn your place.
Get on your knees where you belong.
Someone is going to rape you one day.
I hope someone finds you in an alley.
If my wife talked like you do, I'd knock her teeth out.
You need a tampon.
Someone has sand in her vagina.
Sounds like it's somebody's time of the month.
Someone needs a man to put her in her place.
Get back in the kitchen.
Make me a sandwich.
You wouldn't talk so much with my ---- in your mouth.

There is an idea that this kind of scum only exists in seedy places like poorly-lit bars or in back alleys of sketchy neighborhoods.  Wrong.  These are things I've heard said to me, and I've personally heard men say to friends of mine.  At bookstores, in offices, in coffee shops, and on the street.  The place I hear these types of things the most often though - male-dominated parts of our world.  Places that men have claimed and hold on to with a ferocity that rivals wild animals.

The irony is how often these types of comments are thrown at women who have done nothing to provoke the attack.  Simply by existing in the vicinity of men, women are now the target for these kinds of attacks.  And we are made to believe that not only do we deserve this treatment, but we need to just allow it to happen because 'it's just a joke' or 'we need to lighten up'.


I am well beyond the point of rational, calm discussion about this.  This has got to STOP.   And the only way it's going to stop is by every single person taking a stand against this abuse.

These are your sons, your husbands, your brothers, your coworkers, the people you hang out with, the people you laugh at, the people you turn a blind eye to.

These vermin are attacking your daughters, your wives, your sisters, your mothers, your friends.  Are you going to stand up for them or turn a blind eye until you find yourself standing at their graveside wondering how the hell it got so bad for them they saw no other way out??

When are we going to wake the hell up...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Before we learned to document our knowledge into books, we told stories.  In every tribe, in every country, throughout history, our elders passed down their wisdom to us through the art of storytelling.  It was through these stories that we cultivated morality and self awareness.

Every aspect of our barbaric lives were accentuated by parallel stories and legends - stories meant to teach us and guide us.  After many generations, the stories told by the elders were refined and polished by the wisdom gained by each retelling of the story.  As our tribes grew and our travels reached ever outward, our curiosity expanded our knowledge, and we told new stories.  What always endured, though, were the core legends of our people.  We held fast to our traditions and our rich history of stories because they offered us a way to honor and practice the knowledge our people had gained.

And before long our tribes had grown, split off, spread out and multiplied.  And with them went their stories.

I wonder how our elders would feel seeing what we've done to their stories.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sarah's Choice quilt block

Quilt Block Pattern: Sarah's Choice
Approximate Finished Quilt Size: King Size (100" x 100")
Blocks: 14" x 14" (x36)
Fabric Yardage: 

  • Dark Brown: 2 yards (1.8288 meters rounded up to 2 meters)
  • Blue: 2 yards (1.8288 meters rounded up to 2 meters)
  • Cream: 4.5 yards (4.1148 meters rounded up to 5 meters)

two each per block (x36)

four each per block (x36)

four per block (x36)

four per block (x36)

Gather the two 4 1/4" dark brown squares and the two blue squares of the same size. Use the sandwich method to sew a dark brown square to a blue square. Cut them apart to create two half-square triangle units. Press flat, with seam allowance in the favor of the blue half. Repeat to create four units.

Gather four 4 x 7" cream rectangles, two 4 x 4" dark brown squares and two 4 x 4" blue squares. Use the quick flying geese method to create four flying geese for the outer rows of your quilt block. Take care to orient the squares as shown to end up with a unit with a dark triangle on one end and a blue triangle on the other.

Arrange the pieced units and four background squares into three rows - as shown in the example illustration below. You can get creative here with how your pieces are arranged. Sew components of each row together. Press seam allowances in top and bottom rows towards the corner squares. Press seam allowances in the middle row towards the center unit.  Create thirty six blocks.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Things I Learned Before 30

Happy 30th

In three short weeks I'll finally dance gracefully stumble into the big 3-0.  It's incredible the magnitude of that number for some of us.  Thankfully, after many years of rewiring my thinking and an infinitely patient counselor, I'm happier looking back and remembering the lessons I've learned, the successes I've had and the obstacles I've overcome.  I'm going to share with you 30 life lessons I've learned so far.

30 Life Lessons

1. Change is a must.

For many years I knew things needed to change.  Bitterness was a constant companion and it took looking inward at very uncomfortable moments sometimes to realize that the only person that could change my unhappiness was me.  For me, change wasn't just a nice idea, but a necessity for my own peace of mind.  But changes don't happen for people when they're not ready.  The change has to be a necessity before you'll work for it.  Recognizing that necessity will give you the courage to make significant changes in your life.

2. Your ego won't save you.

Ego is the antithesis of humility, and without humility we cannot accept growth and change for ourselves. The Japanese method called Kaizen, which essentially means continual growth and learning, is impossible to even begin to practice without first sacrificing one's ego.  Ego will blind you to truths about yourself, it will prevent you from apologizing for being wrong, it will hinder your ability to accept criticisms, and will eventually sabotage your relationships.

3. Growth and Giving are the meaning of life.

Living a meaningful life is simple; commit yourself to a lifetime of continual growth as an individual and give to your community in a meaningful way.  It's just that simple.

4. Finding your passion is important.

My passion is social activism.  I used to think it was drawing, painting, reading, or some other more creative outlet that I have accumulated over the years.  Once I realized what my true passion was, it changed my life. Do yourself a favor and find yours - it will change everything.

5. Relationships matter.

Not all relationships will equate to ground-breaking, life-changing phases of your life... but there are a few key relationships that matter significantly more than the others.  For me there have been less than ten that I've experienced that have genuinely changed who I am as a person and have profoundly effected my state of mind in relation to a great number of topics (family, politics, religion, technology, etc.).  Remember those relationships (you'll know the ones), and what they taught you about the world around you and about yourself.  It's those lessons that will serve as pins in the roadmap of your growth.

6. You don't need everyone to like you.

It's natural for us to seek acceptance, but just like you can't place equal value on every relationship you have, you can't expect other people to always value you as much as you'd prefer.

"Popularity is the crown of laurel which the world puts on bad art. Whatever is popular is wrong."
 - Oscar Wilde

7. Status isn't important.

Along the lines of popularity, as a people we place a lot of value on material wealth as an indicator of true wealth.  I've met plenty of people with what appeared to be very lavish lifestyles who were, in reality, almost completely devoid of true contentedness and bankrupt emotionally.  Like the quote from Fight Club:

"You're not the car you drive.  You're not the contents of your wallet.  You're not your khakis."

8. Jealousy and Envy are wastes of energy.

Jealousy used to be a driving force for my ambition; making me a slave to keeping up with the status quo.  This is still something I suffer from, and work at overcoming constantly.  Now that I've refocused my ambition to more altruistic pursuits, I am able to see more clearly the effects jealousy and envy have on relationships.  I've never subscribed to the idea that displaying jealousy in relationships is a sign of caring.  From what I see, it is better for the health of a relationships to show you care by trusting people, and telling them that you trust them.  When you trust people around you, jealousy just sort of naturally disappears.

9. Find your comforts, but don't let them become crutches.

Many of us develop bad habits with the idea that they are an outlet for releasing negative energy.  Realizing the difference between a vice and a comfort can prevent developing crutches.  Crutches serve only to foster a dependency on unhealthy habits.

10. Love.  A lot.

It sounds cliche to repeat that old saying 'it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all' but the message is no less true.  Just as it's important to remember those key relationships that have changed you, committing yourself and allowing yourself to love is key.  Loving is what slows down life and creates those moments of surrealistic beauty in between the daily grind.

11. Just feeling Love is not enough.

It's important for us to love.  But feeling love and showing love are entirely different.  Express your appreciation to those you love by actively showing it.

12. Success is just perspective.

Some people view the house, car, 2.5 kids and a pile of 0's in their bank account as success.  Some people think success is the ability to find contentedness in any situation.  There is no right or wrong answer to what success really looks like.  Find what fulfills you and satisfies you; discover what your dreams are then go out and work for them.  Satisfaction is success, and only you can define what that means.

13. Health is much more important than most people realize.

Without a healthy body, nothing else matters.  Your self-esteem suffers, your activity level suffers, and eventually relationships begin to suffer.  Take care of your body, and it will repay you.  It is, after all, the only one you get in this life!

14. Sentimental items are disposable.

Recently I lost a great deal when a harddrive suffered a mechanical failure.  I lost 13 years worth of photos.  I am a casual but thorough photographer.  I tend to come home with several hundred pictures to edit and post and file away when taking photos.  The upsetting reality I had to face when accepting that those photos had been lost was nothing compared to the resignation of the beautiful memories of the moments I'd captured.  Realizing that it was enough to remember fondly became enough of a comfort.  It's been a lesson I've been reminded of a handful of times in my life.

15. Awareness is the key to freedom.

The ability to focus on what is important is a habit more difficult for some than others.  A part of having a keen awareness is the acknowledgement that most of our lives are filled with excess and to see things clearly we need to clean out the superfluous junk that distracts us.

16. Live in this moment.

Stop allowing your 'should haves' and 'what ifs' to be anchors holding you back from living in this moment.  Instead, allow yourself to fully concentrate on making this moment as meaningful as possible.  Living in this single instance will prevent you from stumbling from looking over your shoulder for reminders of your past failures and missteps, but will also serve to focus you on forward momentum.  Living in this moment will build a series of positive forward-moving moments that will lend themselves naturally to a successful and fulfilling life.

17. Honesty is one of the cornerstones of a healthy state of mind.

Don't lie.  It's really that simple.

18. Never be afraid to be Open.

Being open is more complicated than simply being honest.  Openness requires being articulate, and telling the entire truth.  There are no expansive rules for openness that apply to every person; it is subjective to the individual.  You have to learn how to be honest with yourself before you can be open with other people.  But that's not to imply that you have to open up about everything in your life - just what matters and what you know you need to share with others to obtain what you need - whether it be as simple as them listening so you can vent, or some other type of support.

“It judged indecent in me to come forward on this occasion; but when I see a fellow-creature about to perish through the cowardice of her pretended friends, I wish to be allowed to speak, that I may say what I know of her character.” 
― Mary Shelley

19. Hype and Shock can deteriorate rational thinking.

We are pawns, my dears.  We are all victims to the unstoppable corporate machine.  It isn't hyperbole, it's just a sad truth we face in our society.  But luckily there is a way to counteract the barrage of fear-mongering, war-romanticizing, emotional propaganda making talking heads.  We can train ourselves to not only ignore the hype and the shock messages, but to respond with a venomous distaste so strong we begin to encourage those around us to think more analytically about what information we're told and what emotions we're being encourage to feel.

20. Fear is often an unnecessary emotion.

What do you fear?  Often what we're scared of doesn't actually have a real impact on our lives, or is something out of our control anyway.  Overcoming those irrational fears is a must.

21. Change is nothing to fear; it is simply growth.

Everyone talks about hopes for a brighter future; something they could be proud of one day.  But many of us don't have the courage to change the present to attain that brighter future.  Change is something we believe we should fear because it means uncertainty, and that can mean discomfort and nobody likes that.  It's only when we learn to enjoy the process of change and welcome it when we recognize the signs for it that we can really enjoy the rewards of change.  Change is how we grow.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
― Haruki Murakami

22. Events of the past do not predict outcomes in the future.

You can't change the past, so it's important to focus on the present.  Learning and applying the lessons you learned in the past is how to effectively live in the present.  If you find yourself looking backward from time to time, learn to reflect on the lessons instead of the 'what ifs'.

23. Your job isn't always your mission in life.

There is a difference between having a job to make ends meet, and having a job that is an extension of what you're passionate about.  And there is no better or worse; just different.  Your job doesn't have to define who you are.  In fact, those who are lucky enough to have found a way to make a living from what they're good at and enjoy doing, are in the minority.  It is a rarity, and nothing to be ashamed of if you haven't found.  There is great respect to be given to those people who spend time invested in a job that they recognize is a necessity and still apply all their work ethic to.

24. You are not the center of the universe.

Looking at the world around you from a perspective not your own is not easy for everyone to do.  We are predisposed to worrying about what is going on in our own lives to such a degree that it may be difficult for us to see things objectively sometimes.  We are acutely aware of what is going on in our own lives that we start to believe and behave like everything is connected to our own lives.

Only when you disconnect yourself from the idea that you are the center of the universe can you truly pay attention to what is going on in front of you, around you and inside you.

25. Pain happens; suffering we choose.

Pain is what we feel when something is wrong.  It's a valuable indicator that we need to change something immediately.  Suffering is an active choice.  Sometimes we choose suffering when we can't muster the courage to make a change to stop our pain.  Once we accept the lesson the pain taught us, we can end our suffering and move on.

26. Doubt will hold you back.

The only person stopping you from doing everything you want, who stops you from being free, who stops you from being healthy or happy or passionate or ambitious or living a meaningful life, is you.  Doubt can drown every ounce of your life if you let it.

27. Wait sometimes.

We are in such a rush in our lives.  Sometimes it seems as if the entire world flies by us and by the time we look up for air, months have gone by and we're dizzy trying to regain our perspective.

Pause for a moment.  Enjoy this moment.  Stop wherever you're rushing off to, and wait.  Look around, take a deep breath, hear the sounds around you, take in those moments for a brief respite from the blur of time flying by.  You'll remember those moments later, and they will help you feel as though you lived each moment  instead of wondering what you did this past year.

28. Happiness can't come from without.

Lacking happiness creates a void within us.  We often fall victim to attempting to fill that void with things.  Shopping, eating, distractions, alcohol; whatever.  At best, these things will only briefly satisfy you.  At worst, these things can become the focus of our lives, and we end up watching helplessly as we dismantle our lives right out from under ourselves by being empty and depressed and more alone in a sea of material items.  It is during those moments when even being in a crowd of people you feel completely alone.

Find happiness that will truly fulfill you.  (See 4. Finding Your Passion is Important)

29. Learn to say Goodbye.

The first lesson I remember ever learning was: overcome grief.  At its core, grief is the process of saying goodbye.  Saying goodbye to a friend, a job, a house, a pet or a family member; grief manifests itself in so many ways in our lives, and will be a constant companion until those around us must grieve our inevitable death.

It is understanding the process of saying goodbye, and the necessity to overcome grief that allows us to not become a slave to the griefs we are bound to encounter in our lives - over and over.  To be a master of the grieving process is a must for a healthy mindset regarding the end of things, the change of things, and accepting opportunities that present themselves.

Mastering grief is a must in the process of accepting necessary growth.

30. You don't have all the answers.

Accepting change, abandoning ego, and welcoming what the future holds allow me to comfortably say that I don't know everything.  My beliefs, principles, and values change with new knowledge and new experiences... and I accept that I will look back on these things I've learned, and I will modify what I've learned, and will continue to add to what I've learned.

I don't expect these lessons to apply to everyone, and certainly I am not attempting to categorize anyone inaccurately by supposing these lessons I've learned are even relevant to other people or that anyone can definitively appreciate or empathize with any of the things I've come to learn.

It's only my hope that in reading some of these things, you may have found answers to areas of your own life that you've been having struggles with.  And it is my hope that you'll be inspired to look back and take stock of the things you've learned in your life, and perhaps be able to acknowledge areas you then recognize that have a need for some changes... and the courage to take steps to make those changes happen.

(Note: this was inspired by the brilliant Joshua Fields Millburn: 30 Life Lessons from 30 Years)