Louisiana Highway Cross Stitch Pattern

This Louisiana Highway cross stitch pattern and kit are now available in my Etsy shop!

louisiana highway cross stitch pattern

The stitched example, Highway 182, is a part of the Louisiana Bayou Byway, a scenic route between New Orleans and Lafayette. The website MyScenicDrives describes the Byway as “bayous, birds, and beignets.”

Stretches of Highway 182 were part of the “Old Spanish Trail,” an auto trail that stretched from St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California. There is an Old Spanish Trail 100 association that is organizing a cross-country motorcade in 2029 to celebrate the route’s one hundredth birthday. Their charter is to “locate, revitalize, and preserve the roadway, businesses, and historic sites of the original 1920’s Old Spanish Trail auto highway.” louisiana highway cross stitch pattern old spanish trail map

Whether you’re a Louisianan, a frequent visitor, or just a fan of the state, this Louisiana Highway cross stitch pattern and kit would be a great way to create a reminder of a favorite drive or place in “The Pelican State.”

Louisiana is just the latest in my series of State Highway signs! Thus far, there’s Colorado, Alaska, California, Texas, Washington, Michigan, Florida, New Mexico, Georgia, Utah, Montana, an Interstate sign, a US highway sign, and more are in the works. Until then, I hope you check out all the states and the other road sign patterns I’ve created – they’re a lot of fun!

Deeds Not Words Cross Stitch Pattern

This Deeds Not Words cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!deeds not words cross stitch pattern suffragette bannerThis was one of the mottoes of the women’s suffrage movement, as seen on the massive banner in this photo:deeds not words cross stitch example suffragette banner

Although the image is black and white, I imagine that the banner was in the purple, white, and green colors of the British suffrage movement. The three colors symbolized loyalty, purity, and hope.

Women worked so hard for the right to vote. They were jailed, went on hunger strikes, and even died for the suffrage rights women hold today. This right is something no woman should take for granted. I was encouraged recently to see women in the House of Representatives and Senate wearing white in honor of the suffragettes (in other photos and articles you’ll see some women wore purple as well).deeds not words cross stitch democratic women wearing whiteWhile “Deeds not Words” was a rallying cry for the more militaristic suffragists, I am by no means advocating violence. Instead, I hope this pattern will inspire us to demand action from ourselves, others, and our elected officials. Anyone can talk about “what needs to happen” while it’s a precious few who actually take steps to create positive change. I hope this Deeds Not Words project may serve as a reminder to do just that.

Photo Organization – Tackling Those Pre-Digital Prints and Slides

This photo organization procedure is here to help those of us with what may seem like a insurmountable challenge. You have a lot of old pre-digital photographs you want to organize. Some are in albums, some are in their envelopes from the developer, some are loose, some are slides… and it’s feeling a little overwhelming. Organizing them is a big job but you can do it!

After we followed these steps, my husband and I now have all our photos organized chronologically, digitized, backed up, and the volume reduced by about 80%.

ancora crafts projects photo organizationThis photo shows my collection of printed photos and memorabilia BEFORE I organized them. Note the albums and the other box of photos on the chair in the corner.

Things to have handy: business size envelopes, manila folders, post-it notes, pen and pencil, note paper, time, and focus. Let’s get started!

Photo Organization Step 1: Take all the photos out of their envelopes, albums, boxes, etc., and put them into chronological order.

You don’t have to dig and find the earliest photos first. Just grab an album, envelope, box, or stack and start taking out the photos. If the album is of a certain occasion, say you went to Kauai in February 2012, put all the photos in an envelope with “February 2012 Kauai” written on it.

If there is no specific occasion, can you determine the month and the year (this was around Mom’s 50th birthday, this was around Chris’ high school graduation)? If you can, put it in another envelope with, for example, “March 1987”, on it. If not, can you determine the year? If you can, put it in another envelope with, for example, “1975”, on it. If not, can you determine the decade? If so, put it in another envelope with, for example, “1940’s”, on it. Keep these envelopes in order because you’re going to find more photos that go in these envelopes as you progress through the pile. [You’re going to love those photos with the date printed on the margins.]

As you go through the photos, if there are any blurry photos, duplicates, shots of the back of someone’s head, or just subjects that are not important (e.g., poorly photographed scenery) THROW THEM OUT! No big deal, who cares! And it’s less to deal with later.

The idea here is that EVERY photo gets put in an envelope or tossed out as part of this first step.

You’re going to find all sizes of photos. Most everything will fit into an open business envelope, but there are going to be some 8 x 10’s or maybe some even larger, so put those in the manila folders and label the folders same as the business envelopes and keep them together.

photo organization - timelineAs you create the envelopes, it will help to make a sort of timeline of events for the family. As this timeline develops, it will make it easier to date the photos. Making a chronological list of dates for birthdays, graduations, weddings, travels, funerals, new houses, etc. will help.

 

Note 1: This excludes photo albums over 60 years old or where there are written notations in the album that identifies the people, places, and things in the photos – but only if these photo albums have any meaning to you. This also excludes scrapbooks with more than photos. I’ll describe more about what to do with notated albums and scrapbooks in Step 3.

Note 2: Negatives. What to do with them? I say toss ‘em, only unless you see a terrific (and I mean it better be National Geographic cover worthy) photo that you would want to get a reprint of. Then get the reprint made and move on.

Photo Organization Step 2: Refine the envelopes

You’ve got an envelope with photos from say, November 1985 for Monica and Bob’s wedding. Hurray! However, how many photos tell a story? Lay out the photos on a table and really sort through them. How many photos do you need of each person at this event? Do you need four photos of the cake? How many photos of the dances do you need? Pick the best and toss the rest.

You’ve got an envelope with photos from 1977. Once again, lay out the photos and really sort through them. Can you now determine if there was an event in 1977 that you can sort into its own envelope or into another existing envelope? How many photos have meaning? Pick the best and toss the rest.

You’ve got an envelope with photos from the 1980’s. Again, lay out the photos and really sort through them. By looking at the other envelopes for the years and events of the 1980’s, can you now sort these photos into more specific envelopes? Which photos are truly significant? Pick the best and toss the rest.

Now is the time to identify people, places, and things in the photos. If the subject matter is obvious, you don’t need to make notes, but if there’s something that other people might not understand about the photo – who this person is, the significance of the item, etc. – make a note on the back of the photo or on a post-it placed on the back.

If you have a slide projector, now is the time to set it up for its final performance. If you don’t have a projector, get a slide viewer or a convenient window and a magnifying glass. Go through the slides with the same eye for content as you have with the printed photos.

At the end of this step, you want to be looking at a major reduction in the number of photos, as well as a good grasp of the content and importance of the remaining photos.

Photo Organization Step 3: Scan the photos and organize the scans

The scanning is a big job and you can either do this yourself or hire someone to do it for you. We did it ourselves, so I can’t add much information about the process of hiring it out. In doing it ourselves, we made sure the envelope groupings stayed intact.

If you have albums or scrapbooks where photos are permanently attached, there is information written on the pages, or a specific layout are important to maintain, scan the whole book, page by page. Modern scrapbooks are on 12” x 12” paper, and those won’t fit on a typical home office scanner. In this case, a trip to a UPS or FedEx office store scanner might be in order. If you have photos in those sticky magnetic and photo damaging album pages, NOW is the time to get those photos out of there!

There are a lot of ways to scan slides. I haven’t had to do it, but here’s an article that describes some different methods.

The digital file organization structure and naming is important. File managers generally sort folders alphabetically, so you don’t want to name your folders with the month name first, e.g., March 2010, April 2010, May 2010. You’ll end up with months in alphabetical order (May 2010, May 2011, May 2012…) and that’s not helpful. Instead, name your folders 201003, 201004, 201005 and they’ll keep their chronological order.

For earlier decades, there may be very few photos. You may want to only have one folder per decade, unless you can identify specific events, like Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding in October 1932. In this case, I’d create a file structure that looked like this:photo organization file structure 1930s

When I was organizing my 1970’s photos, there were so few that I just created one folder per year. Starting in the late 1980’s I had enough photos and events to necessitate monthly folders. Now, with digital photography, I have sub-monthly folders. For example, in February 2012 there was a family trip to Kauai. For us, that trip had three parts – Kauai with the family, then we went to Oahu to see an aunt who lives in Honolulu, and then we went back to Kauai to see friends on the other end of the island. The file structure looks like this:photo organization file structure 2012

The idea here is to create a file structure to keep the photos organized and in manageable groups.  You don’t need to create a folder for every year and month since the dawn of time. However, a good file structure can provide some context to the images.

Photo Organization Step 4: Tag the photos

This is optional, but tagging is a great way to sort photos IF you keep the tags very simple. I’m not sure how it works on a Mac, but on Windows File Manager, there is a data field for every photo called “Tags.” In this field, I put simplified names of people, places, and things.

As my Mom and Dad come from big families, there’s no way I can tag every dang person. My Mom, Dad, Grandmothers, and Grandfather have their own tags, but otherwise I use the first name (a lot of them have the same last name) of the relevant aunt or uncle for themselves and for their descendants.

I tag photos of friends with their last name. I tag photos of pets with their names. I tag locations with “Italy” “Hawaii” or “home.” For photos of my craft projects I use “craft.” I also tag the month and year, and when applicable, the holiday.photo organization tag field

I can then do a search in File Manager for a tag or tags. When I search for “Hawaii” it shows all my photos of Hawaii, regardless of the year I had taken the trip or their file location – because who wants to search through every dang folder?

This can be incredibly useful – when an uncle of mine passed away, his family put out a call for photos to include in a slideshow. It took me about three seconds to see every photo I had of him. From there it was easy to select the photos that I sent to the family.

Photo Organization Step 5: Back up the photos

Dropbox, Flickr, external hard drive, whatever. There’s lots of different things you can use here. Just make sure they’re in more than one place, one of which cannot be destroyed by fire or a natural disaster at your home.

Photo Organization Step 6: Keep the best and toss the rest, again.

Now that you have these photos scanned, do you really need to keep the originals?

I’ll give you a good example. I had a scrapbook of my first trip to Europe in January and February 1994. This was pre-digital photography. I had an inexpensive camera and it was cold and grey most of the time so most of my photos were dark and grainy. In the scrapbook, I mixed things like ticket stubs and museum postcards with the photos.

The photos and ephemera were not precious, but the memory of the trip was. So I scanned the pages of the scrapbook… and then I tossed them out.

The question is – how often will you look at these photos? Are they worth the space they take up? Are you more likely to look at them on screen or in print? Of course, there are going to be photos where you keep the originals – formal wedding photos, baby pictures, graduation shots, happy holidays, sentimental favorites. But do you need to keep ALL originals of the receptions, the birthday parties, and vacation trips? What is more important – holding on to the thing, or holding on to the memory of the thing? Keep the best and toss the rest.

Photo Organization Step 7: Organize the remaining photos

Decide how you want to store the remaining printed photos. Acid free albums and photo boxes, elaborate scrapbooks, frames, or just keeping them in envelopes in a Rubbermaid container all work. You may want to divide the photos amongst the family, or keep them together – it’s not as big a deal if everyone has digital access to every photo. That, and the sheer volume of the photos could be a small fraction of what it was originally.gypsy ways - what remains of my printed photos

The photo above shows the result of my organization effort – one small storage box plus a larger envelope for a few pieces that wouldn’t fit in the box. No more bulky albums for me!

Photo Organization Step 8: Include other items

My husband and I are in this phase now. Over the years, we’ve collected some stuff – a few Christmas photos from other families, ticket stubs, some choice greeting cards, kid art, just stuff we want to remember. We’re sorting, scanning, and adding these files to our digital photos. Then we’re keeping the very best and tossing the rest again… the result being a huge reduction in weight and volume in unnecessary stuff. It’s lovely!

Good luck with your photo organization! I think you’ll find that it’s very worth the effort.

Bill Hicks Cross Stitch Pattern “Life is Only a Dream…”

This Bill Hicks cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!bill hicks cross stitch life is only a dream and we are the imaginations of ourselves

Bill Hicks was a comedian who died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer. You might not expect such a metaphysical quote from a comedian… only if you’re not familiar with Bill Hicks’ work. He was controversial, biting, and certainly not for those with delicate ears. At the same time, he was often spiritual, philosophical, and personal.

This project is only a part of a longer quotation of Hicks. Although he stopped using drugs in 1988, he still espoused their use, saying ““I’ve had some killer times on drugs.” He railed against the war on drugs and on the media focusing only on negative stories about drugs. Hicks instead hop[ed] for a different perspective:

[As if giving a news cast] “Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration—that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imaginations of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.”

anchor 1345 variegated flossOn a more superficial note, I filled the stars in border with seven different variegated flosses. The one I had really been wanting to try is Anchor 1345, called “Blue Hawaii,” and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s gorgeous and you can see it in the star in the upper left corner of the pattern.

I stitched some of the stars filling in a serpentine way and some in a spiral way, and it was interesting to see how differently the colors pooled. For example, all three were the same color, Anchor 1345, but the star in the upper left corner was stitched serpentine in horizontal rows, while the fourth one below it and the first one from top right were stitched in a spiral.

This Bill Hicks cross stitch pattern is perfect for everyone who appreciates counter-culture ideas, alternative spiritual philosophies, variegated embroidery floss, and of course, Bill Hicks.

If you’re interested in seeing some of his work, below is a clip from The Late Show with David Letterman. At the taping in 1993, Letterman and CBS decided that his material was too controversial and his performance was not aired. However, in 2009, Bill’s mother was a guest on Letterman and they aired his set in it’s entirety. [Warning: this is not for the easily offended]

Think for Yourself and Question Authority Cross Stitch Pattern

My Think for Yourself and Question Authority cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!think for yourself and question authority cross stitch pattern

The inspiration for the pattern comes from a famous quote from Dr. Timothy Leary. He was a psychiatrist who advocated the use of LSD for therapeutic uses, and he was a counter culture icon from the 1960’s until his death in 1996. In fact, Richard Nixon considered Leary one of the most dangerous men in America. In the 60’s he popularized the phrases “turn on, tune in, drop out” and “think for yourself and question authority”.

The pattern features a mirrored pair of fun 1960’s pop art style flowers that I intended to bring a little color and flair in juxtaposition to the more serious nature of the quote. Pop art started in the 1950’s, bloomed in the 1960’s, and the style of these flowers could easily be seen in the works of artists such as Peter Max and the animation team behind the Beatles‘ movie Yellow Submarine.

Of course, I don’t advocate that we all drop acid and form our own psychedelic religions while skipping in and out of jail. However, the idea that we read, research, and think for ourselves and question all kinds of authority (political, religious, economic, et al.) is certainly valid. And if the political culture of 2016 is any indication, it appears that a little 1960’s-style peaceful counterculture would be a welcome change.

Let this think for yourself and question authority cross stitch pattern be a good reminder to have some healthy skepticism of authority.

MST3K Patrick Swayze Christmas Cross Stitch Pattern

This MST3K Patrick Swayze Christmas cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!mst3k patrick swayze christmas cross stitch pattern

The inspiration comes from the the classic Episode 321 – Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The lyrics are from Crow’s song “A Patrick Swayze Christmas,” performed by Joel and the ‘bots during one of the host segments. It was inspired by Crow’s favorite movie, Road House, starring Patrick Swayze. With it’s references to barstools, action sequences, and Santa drafting his will, it’s a modern holiday tradition!

In 2013 Reddit and Joel worked with acapella group The Lost Keys to create this version of the song:

Joel’s reaction at end of the video is a funny reference to another outstanding MST3K episode, Pod People.

mst3k patrick swayze christmas cross stitch patternThe cross stitch captures their usual silhouettes, plus with Crow’s red nose, Joel’s ivory scarf, and Tom’s blue and white snow globe noggin from the sketch. It also has the draped gold garland and the Christmas tree from the set, and I added a colorful string of lights around the border. This project was a lot of fun to put together!

 

I know that for many MSTies (fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000), including myself, the holiday season is not quite complete without a viewing of this hilarious episode.

mst3k turn down your lights cross stitch patternI have two other MST3K themed patterns available. One is the “Turn down your lights…” pattern you see at right. This image unfurled at the beginning of Mystery Science Theater 3000 from Episodes 201 – Rocketship XM to 404 – Teenagers from Outer Space. It’s a welcome and happy sight to the fans of the show.

 

mst3k cross stitch pattern the answer my friend is blow it out your assThe other pattern is this “The answer my friend, is blow it…” which is a funny quote from Episode 614 – San Francisco International.

 

 

 

 

For those of you who have read this far and don’t have a clue as to what MST3K is, read this Wikipedia article. A MST3K revival just became the biggest Film and Video category Kickstarter project of all time, raising $6.3 Million for 14 new episodes in 2016. Can’t wait…

This MST3K Patrick Swayze Christmas cross stitch pattern is perfect for all MSTies past, present, and future.

Keep circulating the tapes!

DMC Coloris Variegated Flosses

The new DMC Coloris variegated flosses have just been added to my Etsy shop!

dmc coloris 24 new variegated flosses

These 24 flosses are outstanding additions to DMC’s already excellent line of variegated threads. These are all true multicolor combinations, where most of their predecessors have more subtle color combinations.

These are so new in the States that it’s a little tough to find information about them. DMC USA has not updated their website yet with Coloris information, however the DMC UK site has a little information and five free charts.

I felt like a kid on Christmas morning when opened the boxes containing these flosses – it was so fun! I’m sure my husband got tired of me repeatedly saying “oooh” and “wow” as if I were watching fireworks. But these combinations are just so different and striking that I couldn’t help myself.

Here are a few of my early favorites…

DMC 4501 ColorisDMC 4501, called Fleurs des Champs (Wildflowers), is a springy blend of watermelon pink, green, and light teal. It reminds me most of the inner layers of a watermelon rind.

 

 

 

DMC 4502 ColorisDMC 4502 is called Camellia and is a springy combination of bright pinks, green, and light blue.

 

 

 

DMC 4506 ColorisDMC 4506, Primavera (Spring), is a gorgeous blend of green, blue, and yellow.

 

 

 

 

DMC 4507 ColorisDMC 4507 is called Bougainvillea, and it’s a gorgeous group of teal greens, blue, and dark pink. It reminds me most of peacock feathers.

 

 

 

DMC 4523 ColorisDMC 4523, Vent du Nord (North Wind), is a lovely combination of light purple, light blue, and sandy browns.

 

 

 

DMC 4520 ColorisOne curious note: I think DMC 4520, called “Christmas Story,” is identical to the older DMC 4042 “Very Merry.” I will have to compare them in more detail, but in the meantime I’m wondering why they repeated this combination.

 

 

These DMC Coloris variegated flosses are just lovely and I really look forward to stitching with them. I also think they will look great in any of the multitude of crafts that can be done with variegated floss (check out my six-part series on variegated floss projects!).

Compass Needlepoint Finished

Here’s my compass needlepoint project finished and framed!compass needlepoint project compass rose finished

persian needlepoint kit and pattern ancora imparoI’m absolutely thrilled with the result. It’s just gorgeous, and as good or better than I even imagined. I designed this compass rose project in 2013, hoping it would be a quicker project than my earlier Ancora Imparo needlepoint. However, once I got into the design of this compass, I realized that the number of stitches necessary would be roughly the same as in Ancora Imparo. So much for being quicker!

I started stitching this compass project in January 2014 and finished up in February 2016. It didn’t take up all of my crafting time during that period as I was working on other, mostly cross stitch, projects concurrently. This compass needlepoint even crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice! I have vivid memories of working on this project while sitting on the patio of a house in the mountains of Asturias, Spain.

This project was inspired while we were traveling in Europe; it is based on a compass rose made of tile pieces on the patio of the charming Cuq en Terrasses hotel in France. The hotel is in the countryside near Toulouse, and it’s one of our favorite places to stay in the world.

Here you can see the needlepoint early in it’s execution, next to it’s model.Compass Tile WIP #3

You can see that I made the project a little more colorful than the original, but stayed true to it’s earth tones. At that point I had outlined and partially filled in nearly all of the first row of tiles except for the four gray tiles of the primary compass directions (north, south, east, west).

One of the reasons I stitched the primary direction tiles last is that, as I did in the center circle, I wanted to use the double stitch in that area. As I discovered through this project, double stitch works great on a square area; however, in an irregular shape, it can turn into quite a challenge. To conquer that challenge, I created a helpful tutorial on how to tackle the double stitch.compass needlepoint compass rose close up 1 double stitch

Above, you can see the two colors I used in the double stitch. The long cross stitches are in dark grey, while the short cross stitches are in a dark grey-blue. When I was choosing colors for this project, I thought the blue would make a nice visual compliment to all the earth tones without contrasting too much.

compass needlepoint compass rose close up 2Above you can see that with the all of the brown flosses, I slightly blended the colors, mixing 5 strands of one color with one strand of a contrasting color. I did this to better represent the speckled color and texture of the original tiles and to add a little visual interest.

You can also see the Tent stitch used in the radiating tiles of the center square, the Hungarian stitch used in the background of the center square, and three of the stitches used in the border blocks. In total, I used 20 different needlepoint stitches. The reference book I used for the stitches is an old favorite of mine, 101 Needlepoint Stitches and How to Use Them by Hope Hanley.

To read more about the execution of this compass needlepoint, here are my posts over time: Getting Started, Update 1, Update 2, and Update 3.

The pattern for this project is now available in my Etsy shop, and it could also be made into a custom needlepoint kit as well. While I love the earth tones in the stitched example, I think this project would look great in lots of color combinations. Please contact me if you would be interested in seeing some other color options with this project.

My husband and I may not be able to spend all our time at Cuq-en-Terrasses, but now we have this compass needlepoint project as a beautiful reminder of our wonderful stays there. There are also a few more of their patio tile patterns that would make great needlepoint projects… stay tuned!

MST3K Turn Down Your Lights Cross Stitch Pattern

This MST3K Turn down your lights cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!mst3k turn down your lights cross stitch pattern

This image unfurled at the beginning of Mystery Science Theater 3000 from Episodes 201 – Rocketship XM to 404 – Teenagers from Outer Space. This span includes three of my personal favorite episodes: Cave Dwellers, Pod People, and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. “Turn down your lights (Where applicable)” is a welcome and happy sight to fans of the show.

If you’re not familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000, it is a classic comedy show that originally ran from 1988 to 1999. It cleverly skewered terrible movies with it’s characters making funny comments during the movies and performing sketches during the intermissions.

It won a Peabody Award in 1993 and was nominated for several Emmy Awards. To this day it remains popular and maintains a large cult-like following. It is so popular, in fact, a MST3K revival recently became the biggest Film and Video category Kickstarter project of all time, raising $6.3 Million for 14 new episodes in 2016. The casting for the new episodes includes Jonah Ray as the host, with Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day as the new “mads.” I just can’t wait to see how the series continues!

mst3k cross stitch pattern the answer my friend is blow it out your assThis is my second MST3K themed project, the first being this funny quote from Episode 614 – San Francisco International.  It’s a terrible movie, cleverly skewered by Mike and the ‘bots. It was written as the pilot episode of a series that lasted six episodes. The TV movie appeared in 1970 and featured Clu Gallagher, Tab Hunter, Van Johnson, and David Hartman. When it went to series, Lloyd Bridges played the airport security chief, a role he spoofed later in the movie Airplane!

This MST3K Turn Down Your Lights cross stitch pattern is perfect for all MSTies (fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000) present, past, and future (and for everyone who has a lot of dimmer switches).

Keep circulating the tapes!

React with Love Cross Stitch Pattern

This React with love cross stitch pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!react with love cross stitch pattern

This project is my reaction to the enmity, conflict, and ignorance in the world. If we react to certain situations in a positive way, toward kindness, trust, and understanding, the world might be a happier, more constructive place. [Of course, there are situations where love is not the immediate answer. For example, I don’t advocate welcoming physical threats to ourselves, our families, or our friends. That’s not what I’m addressing here.]

It can be overwhelming as there is so much conflict out there: between religions, between nations, between political parties, between neighbors, between co-workers, and even within our families. I find that concentrating on individuals rather than groups helps alleviate some of that overwhelmed feeling. Every two people have something in common, if only the fact that we exist. Even from a meager beginning we can develop our commonalities into a better understanding. This project can serve as a gentle reminder to work toward this goal.
handshake

[Handshake by Sakina-san via Flickr]

In an interesting coincidence, a conflict has come up between me and a good friend while I’ve been writing this post. This friend said that putting all Muslims on American soil into internment camps, much like the US did to people of Japanese ancestry during World War II, is a good idea. I was flabbergasted and deeply disappointed; how could someone I consider a friend espouse such a ugly, fearful idea?

My reaction? To be perfectly honest, my first reaction was not “with love.” It was disgust and exasperation as my husband and I argued fruitlessly against his idea. The next day, my reminder to “react with love not fear” kicked in as I started really thinking about what to do next.

My main thought was: EDUCATE MYSELF. Because I didn’t have the best information on hand at the time, I didn’t know how to respond intelligently or even coherently when my friend first brought up his awful idea.

I feel there are two big points to address: the first is about Islam and Muslims vs. radicalized Muslims, and the second is about the about the idea of internment camps. I happen to be friends with a really lovely Muslim couple, and I will ask if they can lead me to information that will address the first point. As for the second point, I happen to know that Japanese-American actor George Takei (he played Sulu on Star Trek) was in an internment camp as a child during WWII. He is an internet powerhouse and a champion of fighting the idea of internment camps, so I will search the internet for his most persuasive arguments on the subject.

DSC_0287

[Manzanar by Jason Neville via Flickr]

Will I then share these pieces of information with my friend? You bet. How will I do it? I’ll present the clearest, most succinct and rational ideas I can find and ask him to read them. Will he read them? Maybe not, but this is a person who generally respects my ideas, so I have hope that he will. Will this information change his mind? I don’t know, and that has to be okay.

Even if he doesn’t change his mind, my understanding of two big topics will expand. In the future, if I am confronted by anyone else with similar prejudices, I will be better able to react with love and in a more constructive way.

Self & Conflict

[Self & Conflict by Soul Patcher via Flickr]

My story above is just a tiny instance of conflict between a handful of people. Think globally and look at a situation as complex as the unrest in the Middle East. There are thousands of years of root causes of the violence there, from religious differences to political upheaval, from oil to opium, and countless more. It would take a multitude of scholars’ lifetimes to unravel the web of conflicts and truly understand all of the major points of view. How does one react with love toward something this overwhelming?

Obviously, there are no simple answers (how I wish there were). But this is a good example where focusing on individuals rather than groups helps me. I find myself often thinking about war refugees and their situations. If we act toward a refugee family with fear, with ignorance, distrust, and isolation, then they may have good reason to become our enemies. However, if we greet the family with love, with a desire to understand them better, with kindness and compassion and with opportunities for work and education, then they may have have good reason to become our friends.

Like I said above, every two people have something in common, if only the fact that we exist. The most simple acts of kindness can open up channels of understanding between people. I hope that this react with love cross stitch pattern may help remind us of that idea.