Quilting

The following is my tribute to my sister, Denise, two years younger. She passed on Feb. 6 after living five years with metastatic breast cancer. Her services were held Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, at Peace Church, Duluth, MN.

I sat the other day and gathered pictures of Denise.

So many photos. Stacked up prints … skinny kids with knobby knees dating back to our childhoods in the ‘50s and ‘60s taken in careful pose in twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes and finally sevens by our father, aware of the cost of developing but not, clearly, of child rearing.

Each photo is a piece of her life and our lives and I had too few pieces of her to hold.

I looked at one of the photos and thought what was she doing smoking a cigar? Without wine?

Denise with cigar
Denise Marie (Shipley) Hamsher

My stacks of photos reminded me of her stacking and organizing fabric for her quilts. She would stitch together carefully arranged pieces to become a greater, warmer whole.

She would make the quilting run in elegant, geometric loops and sweeps, or orderly lines, or organically, like spreading branches, connecting each piece and binding them tightly, even if stitched imperfectly, where only she could see and would point out.

Our lives in memory are like that: episodes and people stitched together. For Denise, it was always careful, determined, practical work. Denise warmly embraced life with Dennis, Chris, Becky and Lara, and each grandchild, Zalia, Tinley, Brooklyn, Owen, Leila and Matteo, this gifted time had graced to her.

Life doesn’t always run along the stitching laid out in plan. It doesn’t for any of us. Cancer certainly wasn’t in the pattern. Denise chose to live with cancer, not letting it break her off her design, simply folding it into her life.

This past December she made sure she was with family over the holiday as in pattern. Family is a bit far-flung but it was she who made the journeys. Her visit to us was joyfully welcomed.

She took respite in Costa Rica in early January this year, as she had since resting there after a mission trip a few years earlier. Earlier trips now seem so long ago. Then, we had forgotten cancer as she had walked with us; bicycled to beaches and into town and back; and, laughed about grandchildren at restaurants over fresh fish, rice and beans, and gin and tonic from grapefruits picked off the trees at the house we all shared.

But this year, when she rode the bike to Playa Carillo, she rode back on Dennis’ motorcycle. We walked more slowly to sunset on the Pacific beach together, she holding Dennis’ hand. We took the bus into town and not a bike on the beach. She was stoic, but weakened, as we knew since she had relinquished the kitchen she had always commanded previously there and elsewhere.

Denise and Dennis were planning trips to Alabama and on a Mediterranean cruise. One evening she sat in our chat circle and arranged travel insurance. It was a “just in case” arrangement, she said, turning the focus to what they would do in Barcelona.

She lived with cancer, but it wasn’t going to dominate her days.

Our time for our visit had ended and she and I hugged goodbye, her grip around me stronger and longer lasting, it seemed.

My heart feared.

Memories occupied the trip home for Roseanna and I. Regret crept back for childish teenage fights Denise and I had. Who was in charge while mom and dad played bridge? (She was!) Who got the car this night? (I did.) Roseanna reminded me that Denise had introduced us one winter evening some 50 years ago.

Denise clearly wasn’t well and wanted to see her doctor here in Duluth. She returned early. Dennis took her home where she passed peacefully in her bed, her family beside her. This is so precisely how she intended … having lived with cancer.

It was the last piece she had determinedly stitched into the pattern of her life.

In my tomorrows, I will wrap myself warmly in her quilt, running my hands over the stitching while tracing the better memories of our lives, episodes we can laugh about or cry over even regret but must always embrace.

Denise lived with cancer while planning quilts, gathering the pieces, artfully laying out the design, stitching the pieces, then the quilting to bind everything together only to, once finished, give quilts to family, her children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews and their children and beyond to friends. This was her pattern.

It is how she addressed life.

It would be good to live as generously determined, as purposefully stitched to life, living with as did my sister, Denise.

Cold Canard

It’s been pretty darn cold and on cue, out comes the canard that such cold weather puts an end to debate on climate change as global warming,

The scientists should just set aside all their data and call an infamous person who touts this and ask if he’s comfortable.

“Hello, this is the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. How are you today?”

“Why thanks for calling, I’m just fine, comfortable as can be.”

“Well, sir, that’s just hunky-dory. I guess we can ignore the decaying ice sheets, rising oceans, droughts and wildfires, violent hurricanes and other crazy weather until we call again next week. Have a great day!”

The science is overwhelming that rising global average temperatures are our most serious threat.

Right now change is driven at an unprecedented sharp rate by human activity – primarily through burning of coal and oil that releases carbon into the atmosphere. Our industrial age has tripped the balance of nature in the absorption and release of carbon into Earth’s remarkable but thin atmosphere.

While, the global climate has changed over eons but that’s no cause for complacency. The past decade has been the hottest on record for Mother Earth.

The Upper Midwest of the US has been facing shuddering low temperatures this week due to disruption of the polar vortex (Jetstream). Climate change science predicts such disruptions will be more common as Earth further warms.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the globe, Australia, faces abnormally high, even deadly, temperatures. Remember when you studied averages in grade school?  

Time to act is now. Call your Representatives and Senators at 202-224-3121 to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), reintroduced in the 2019 Congress. This bill signals bipartisan recognition of the need for robust climate policy. Putting a price on carbon where practiced has been shown to effect sharp reductions in carbon emissions. We need this on a national and global scale.

Jack Shipley

Planting flowers

“Why so optimistic about 2019? Everything is so messed up?

“I think it will bring flowers.”

“Yes? Flowers? Why?”

“Because I’m planting flowers.”

Cartoon on the Facebook page, Limping to Jerusalem

While a generation of environmental progress followed the first Earth Day in 1970, bringing cleaner air and water did we Boomers succeed with the environmental movement?

No, not yet. Today’s deregulatory zeal – rolling back regulations on mercury pollution – makes it seem that cleaning our environment is too inconvenient. Is addressing the reality of human caused climate change just likewise too much bother, despite the dire warnings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment?

Oh, here a lot of people will pitch in with denial since they’re smarter than the scientists or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Institute, NASA, the Pentagon and even the Vatican. They should read why former climate skeptic Richard Muller, professor of physics at UC-Berkeley, changed his tune to full-voiced support of the climate movement. They should read why the Heritage Foundation’s lead denialist changed sides and now leads the Niskanen Foundation’s efforts to address climate change.

They should but I doubt they will do anything but pen a few smug comments.

As for me, I’m calling political leaders and, as our recent election showed, such efforts by hundreds of thousands of Americans are creating the political will to save a livable planet. The House is moving forward.

You can read about Muller here:
https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html

The conservative Niskanen Center’s climate section is here: https://niskanencenter.org/blog/policies/climate/

Jack Shipley

To Rep.-Elect Lauren Underwood

Dear Rep. Lauren Underwood,

We urge your careful attention in the new session of Congress to the Energy Innovation and Dividend Act introduced with bipartisan signatories during the lame duck session passing. The act is expected to be introduced after you begin office, mid-Q1.

As the quadrennial climate assessment argued forcefully, the time for strong action to curb emissions of carbon and other heat-trapping gases is immediately at hand. Earth faces crisis and the Trump administration sits firmly in denial.

Your election provides hope. Northeastern Illinois is now uniformly represented by people dedicated to science and, most importantly, to listening receptively to the concerns of their constituents.

Introduction of the bill is a positive step, but the battle is just beginning. We know that the bill, its co-signers, our group, the Citizens Climate Lobby, and climate science in whole will be under vicious attack by those whose financial interests are rigidly calcified in protecting carbon intensive coal mining, oil and gas exploration. They have billions of dollars in sunk assets on the line.

These forces stand in the way of creating the political will for a livable world. They stand in the way of a majority of US citizens, including those in your district who proudly elected you to represent them. More information about carbon fee and dividend is available on the CCLwebsite: cclusa.org/bill.

In closing, the Green New Deal is a terrific, bold and energizing idea, but certainly of tenuous likelihood until Democrats flip the Senate and White House in 2020. Just so, we need affirmative action on climate more quickly to force the deniers’ and delayers’ hands ahead of the election.

With best regards,

Jack Shipley

Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters

Constituent and Ardent Phone Banker

Member, McHenry County Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Seething

How can you remember in detail something that happened 30 years ago?

How can you not remember something that is so extraordinary to your life?

I was attacked by four boys my junior year in high school, more than 50 years ago. I remember the incident with absolute clarity. I believe Professor Ford can remember being assaulted 30 years ago with the same clarity.

It leaves me seething that Professor Ford must face systemic doubt, questions about her character, and, now, threats for coming forward.

While I faced no social stigma for prosecuting punishment to the boys, our cultural history is clear that girls and women would have then as now. So, for many wrong, culturally imposed reasons, Professor Ford kept her silence then.

Times change. It’s time to listen up to Professor Ford in this instance as we have begun with women in other cases.

Just handed a $12,000 bill …

It’s not on our credit report but as of Wednesday, a $12,000 bill was added to our obligations. That’s roughly what every household in America will owe under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act’s added weight to the U.S. National debt.

That’s $12,000 on top of the estimates of maybe $67,000 we’re already burdened to owe. Did you ask to borrow this much money? No, of course not. You didn’t get to use it or even have much say in it.

We’re just the lucky winners of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (The Act). We’re told we’re winners anyway.

Both of us will be retired soon and this proud moment in Congress and the White House is going to give folks like us a tax cut of a $270, based on the Tax Foundation  analysis. (Think of us as Couple Number 8 in the Tax Foundation analysis.)

But, $12,000 divided by $270 leaves us just, um, 44.44 years to break even on the additional debt load of the act — assuming no interest compounds this national obligation. Of course, no one is really paying towards reducing the national debt. It just keeps getting bigger as it has since the Reagan Administration.

 

What does our additional $12,000 debt buy us?

Does The Act buy health care security? Trump bragged afterwards that The Act “secretly” achieved his goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the insurance mandate, something the GOP couldn’t do straight up. They lied to Sen. Collins, R-Maine, and bribed Sen. Murkowski, R-Alaska, to get their votes.

Does The Act address poverty: The root of crime?

Does The Act help teach the children well?

Does The Act feed the poor and hungry?

Does The Act move us towards a sustainable world for our grandchildren?

Does The Act release those grandchildren from our obligations?

Does The Act lead us to peace and away from being the world leader in war?

*This assumes a 10-year, $1.5 trillion onto the national debt divided among American households. This is a consensus figure and one the Tax Foundation takes issue with.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a prosperous New Year to you all. We’re going to need it.

 

 

 

Added

A near certainty exists that sorting photos, especially of children, results in double the time spent being added on the end.