Making history

The basket of ancient fabric scraps sat tucked away beside the box of quilt patterns torn decades ago from the pages of a newspaper. I do make quilts, so I politely accepted both from non-quilters who were clearing space. I had no clue what to do with either.

I mentioned the age brittle patterns at a meeting of quilters. “I know what they are: Kansas City Star Quilt Patterns,” one quilter declared.

At home I found the Kansas City Star logo on several of the crumbling pages.

Googling “Kansas City Star quilt patterns” yielded hundreds of pictures, including matches to patterns in the box and their 33 year history.

In 1928 the editors of the Kansas City Star, a newspaper published and sent across the Midwest, tapped into women’s interest in quilting and began publishing a free weekly quilt pattern. Quilters clipped and saved the patterns. Some were traditional. Some readers had designed. Sometimes the name made sense: a couple inches of fabric around tiny blocks represented the Jericho Wall. Sometimes the name made no sense: the Dionne Quintuplets pattern featured quartets of smaller squares. During WWII, the KCS published fewer patterns and increased the patriotic themes. By the time the KCS ceased the feature in 1961, it had published over 1,000 patterns which now are found in books and on the Internet.

With my increased appreciation of the ragged scraps of newspaper, I tidied up the collection and decided to make a few blocks with the old scraps; it was not the easiest project I ever assigned myself. Some scraps were barely large enough to make one block. Also, the KCS patterns have few instructions. Most advise, “allow for a seam” with no designation of the size of the seam. A disproportionate number of blocks have tiny little triangles and squares that challenge my “all thumbs” skill level. Beyond my skill level I found curved blocks which require hand piecing.

The vintage scraps included a stack of pre-cut fabric triangles. I had nearly enough to duplicate the “broken china” pattern of light and dark triangles. I cut a couple more triangles and began machine stitching together dark and light fabrics. My finished block looked like a trash bin of broken crockery, not a precise pattern of light and dark fabrics.

My ice cream cone block had a split scoop of ice cream made from two pre-sewn quarter circles from the scrap basket and stuck on a cone of flowered fabric.

The little doll with a black gingham dress looks quite cheerful in the center of the Missouri Star block. I chose a matching gingham for the border blocks and created a dizzying tilt and whirl of gingham that renewed my dislike of gingham.

Modern fabric makes crisp, square blocks. The thin stuff in the scrap basket stretched and warped. I starched and ironed the assembled fabric flat and declared it “good enough.”

I made about dozen ‘good enough’ blocks; quitting a few blocks shy of a sampler quilt. I wished I had found more of the easy KCS patterns like the “Contrary Wife” block. That was fun to make.

I bought a CD with a 1,000 KCS quilt blocks and scrolled through the patterns. I stopped when I found the Fence Row pattern It looked exactly like a block included with the scraps. I decided that completed my research and assembling of sample blocks to eventually join together into a new “antique” quilt.

I have had enough already with quilting history; now it’s time to meet the future and make a new baby a quilt using fun, modern fabrics.

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Broken dishes


“I’ve never seen so many broken dishes in my life,” my husband said. None thrown at him or at the wall in a fit of angry. No, klutzy me misses the counter top when setting a plate down, whacks a glass when talking with my hands or holds a dish awkwardly while serving food.

It happened again last week. As I prepared a plate for my husband, the bowl tipped, slid out of my hand and crashed to the floor. Thousands of pieces of glass shards exploded across the kitchen, the hall, the dining room and my bare feet.

“I’ll get it. I’ll clean it up,” my husband, the super sweeper, called. He always sweeps up any broken crockery.

I turned, looked at the floor, shook a shard off my foot and tried to carefully move away from the mess. Not careful enough. I put my heel down on an unseen chunk of glass.

It hurt. It drew blood. I pulled it out and managed to leave the arena of broken glass with no further incidents. I hobbled on tiptoes to keep blood off the carpet. I made it into the bathroom for a Band-aid and only left a couple red spots on the carpet and tile.

Meanwhile, my noble knight made three clean sweeps of the hall, the dining room and under the counter and table. “And I found pieces under the table,” he said in disbelief at the path the unbreakable glass took when it exploded.

“It looked like a good supper,” the starving man said wistfully.

“It was.” I said pulling leftovers out of the refrigerator for an emergency meal. Happily, he doesn’t have as many broken dish emergencies in recent years.

Thirty years ago, before he made that comment, I had my all time worst day of breakage. On that day, for some reason, I set my second-hand 1940’s style mixer, stand and bowl on a small kitchen stool to finish a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I was almost done when someone urgently needed me.

I tipped the mixer head down, turned to leave, and the top heavy mixer and its bowl of dough flipped onto the floor. The mixer broke, the bowl broke, the cookie dough kissed the floor.

I forget the urgent need. I do remember going back over to the counter (where I should have been in the first place) and again measuring out flour, sugar and butter for a hand mixed batch of cookies. (My Cookie Monster appetite for cookies did not wane just because one batch ended up in the trash with pieces of the mixer and its bowl.)

That batch made it into and out of the oven. I ate more than my share, arranged the rest on a platter for later and shoved it into the cupboard before we left for town.

We returned and I rushed around to prepare dinner. I opened the door that hid the cookies. The platter flew out of the cupboard, sailed to the floor and landed with another crockery shattering crash. The official glass sweeper appeared to do his duty and my favorite cookies went into the trash on top of the broken mixer, bowl and dough. We did not want to eat any tiny pieces of glass dusting the baked cookies.

That was my worst, and most expensive day in the kitchen. Expensive because I bought a new standing mixer and bowl. That mixer spent years making cookies. It never broke. It died from exhaustion from spinning dough and hiding when the crockery went flying.

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The yard sale shopper

Classified ads, Facebook postings and neighborhood signs all announce, “The yard sale season has returned!” The quest to cloth children, find summer reading or replace an appliance yanks the penny pincher, the budget minded and thrifty shopper out of bed
early on Saturday.

The quest may be universal but the shopping styles are not.

The organized yard sale shopper begins the day before. She stops by the bank to get cash in small bills. No $100 or $20 bills for her to challenge the seller. She gasses up her car. At home she tosses in totes to hold small items, newspapers for breakables
and healthy snacks and bottled water to fortify her. Her purse holds a measuring tape, batteries and hand wipes. She takes a large canvas tote to hold purchases.

The night before, the organized shopper plugs her phone into a charger (and makes sure she has a charger in the car as well as a GPS system.) She knows the early bird gets the worm, so she programs her coffee maker to begin brewing before the crack of dawn
with enough coffee to last the day.

The organized shopper studies the newspaper and Facebook postings to map out sales. If the day starts cold, she tosses cooler clothes to don after the temperature soars.

She wakes in the wee hours of the day, dresses and eats a breakfast to sustain her through the morning. Strapping on her hands-free fanny pack, she leaves as the sun peeks over the horizon.

Then there is the Impetuous Shopper. She wakes up Saturday, decides to go yard sale shopping, grabs her purse, realizes she does not have any money and raids the family’s piggy banks and hopes the sales take her by an ATM before she needs more cash.

The impetuous shopper rips open a PopTart, snags leftover pizza, a diet drink and as she dashes out the door to a bright sunny day. She will find her mid-morning snack at a cardboard table where a smiling child offers lemon-aide and cookies. She can’t shop
long, her kids have ball games to play.

And then there is the “Experienced, been there, done, that, now I am retired shopper” who has tried the organized and been the impetuous. She admits, “I no longer boldly go where no woman has dared go before … the sun is up.”

Mid-morning she inserts her dentures, finds a pair of extra strength reading glasses, turns up her hearing aids, straps on a back brace and tucks a portable medicine kit into her handbag. She moseys around the house, checking the couch and chair for loose
change and stops by the grocery store to cash in the coins from her husband’s change jar.

Halfway down the street, she realizes she forgot her phone, the city map and the classified ads from the newspaper. Back in the house to get them her growling stomach says she has not had breakfast, let alone coffee and that she needs a bathroom break already.

Half an hour later she leaves the house with fresh coffee and an egg sandwich only to turn back: she forgot her phone.

Size determines her purchases. If she can’t lift it, she won’t take it. But she will test drive all the furniture at the yard sales. Besides it is always best to take the mid-morning medicines while sitting and chatting with new friends. At the end of her
shopping day, she returns home, looks at her bundle of goods, sighs and decides she can unload the car tomorrow. Right now, she just needs a nap.

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Gift giving ideas

As I entered the little shop, I could not help but hear the two women discussing giving gifts. “When they were little I always gave them something, a toy or a game. As they got older I began giving them money. But I wanted to do something else.”

She looked for ideas of different ways to give checks, cash or gift cards.

Every year, she filled two dishes with snacks for guests to enjoy. One held peppermints, the other held nuts that she had shelled and picked out the meat. Everyone enjoyed the tradition of nuts and peppermints.

One year, she put the peppermints in little jars and placed them around the tree rather than putting the peppermints in a snack dish. No one pointed out the change, but finally, one grandson sighed, “I want a peppermint.” eyeing the pretty jars under the tree.

“Well help yourself to a jar under the tree,” she said.

He walked over to the tree, picked a jar, opened it and shook out some peppermints and some money. He looked up and smiled. “That’s your gift,” she grinned at him.

The others soon caught on and each chose a jar.

She could not repeat the same gift giving idea the next year, so the white-haired woman kept looking for fun ways to present them with their cash.

“Then I read this idea where you open a walnut, take out the inside and then put the cash or check into the walnut and seal it shut again.”

She looked at the other woman in the shop, “You do not know how many walnuts I cracked trying to get a perfect shell to reseal.” She said dryly and shook her head at the memory.

But crack the walnuts she did, until she had perfect half shells for each member of the family. She carefully folded the cash, tucked it into the shells and sealed each one shut. Then she set up a row of little bags, one for each member of the family, She put in the cash walnut, then filled each bag with other nuts .

The family came. Gathered, ate peppermints and wondered what happened to her usual stash of shelled nuts. “I didn’t feel like shelling all those nuts, but I do have a sack of nuts for you to shell,” she handed each a sack of unshelled nuts.

“I don’t want nuts in the shell. I won’t crack them,” some muttered.

She shrugged, if they didn’t want them, that was their problem she had offered them a gift.

As a few began to gather coats to go home and leave the nuts with her, she insisted, “before you go, since you do not want to crack and shell the nuts, I want you to crack the nuts. Then I can take off the shells and get the meat. Here are hammers for you to use.”

They looked at her in disbelief. She wanted them to crack the nuts?! She always cracked and shelled the nuts. Reluctantly, a couple of the guys each picked up a hammer and began cracking nuts for grandma. No one joined them until one cracked open a resealed nut and discovered cash. Suddenly everyone wanted a hammer to shell the nuts in their bag.

She still smiles at the fun she had giving them their monetary gift that year. “That was the best idea ever,” she said as I brought my purchases to the counter.

And it is. I may try it myself. I like to give cash. My husband likes to crack nuts. Yep, it’s a perfect idea.

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It’s great being Katie

It’s great being Katie. At 17 months, she receives the the royal treatment. Her personal lady in waiting (aka “Mamma”) personally dresses her every day. Katie does not have to do anything about putting on shoes, socks, shirts or shorts. Her personal hair dresser pulls her hair up to the top of her head and secures it with a tiny rubber band, creating an exclamation point of straight hair with no curl.
The great part about being Katie happens when hunger hits and she sees a banana. Even if it’s in Mamma’s hand, she wants a bite of “la-la.” (La-la because her picture book shows bananas on the yellow page.) The little princess expects everyone to share. She always smiles, except when her daddy insisted she use her own plate of fries with ketchup and leave his alone. She cried. She protested. She scolded. She wanted Daddy’s ketchup. Slowly her wailing died out. She sniffed, picked up a fry, dipped it in he ketchup and began nibbling. She looked up and smiled. All was forgiven.
It’s great being Katie. All she has to do is copy the big folks, like the day Mamma gave everyone, including Katie, a cookie to decorate. The big kids swapped tubes of frosting paint and excessively decorated cookies. Katie nibbled her cookie and watched. When they left, Mamma handed Katie a tube of frosting. Katie leaned over her cookie, squeezed the tube onto her cookie and made a dot. Before supper, when big folks stepped around her as they prepared food; she looked across the room and smiled at Grandma. Grandma nodded to say, “I notice you.” Katie copied the nod. Grandma shrugged and raised her hand. Katie shrugged and raised her hand. For a few minutes, the two performed a silent ballet in the busy room.
It’s great being Katie – the baby with no chores. Her brother and sisters have chores every day after school: put away dishes, sort laundry, run the vacuum cleaner or play with Katie for 30 minutes. “No fair! Katie doesn’t have to do anything,” her 10, 8, and 6 year old siblings protest.
“Katie is only 17 months-old. She can’t do chores yet, she is just learning to bring me a toy when I point to it.” Mamma explains.
The best part about being Katie is that nobody expects her to put things away, and anyone who wants their stuff left alone must move them away from Katie’s reach. Otherwise, she blithely pulls out all the diapers in Mamma’s handy basket, reaches in the open drawer for another tasty marker to bite, empties any low lying drawer, basket, bag or box … as if making a mess is her chore.
It’s great being Katie. She holds her hands up with grabbing fingers. Everyone knows that means, “Pick me up. Carry me.”
It’s great being Katie, if she gets tired, she whines and someone declares, “Time for a nap.” They take her to the bedroom, read to her, pat her back and pull up her blanket to help her go to sleep. And being sweet Katie, she does just that with the shortest of whimpers.
It’s great being Katie. Every day she is learning, developing fine motor skills and becoming the big girl that her siblings already expect her to be so she can help with chores and color with markers instead of biting off the tips. It’s great being Katie, the baby of a family who will soon grow to be a helpful big girl who hopefully doesn’t always insist on the royal treatment.

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Postcards from the past

At the end of a long table at an estate sale sat a cardboard flat of 100s of picture postcards. Most came from the 1950s and 60s and had been stamped, addressed, and sent, leaving clues to the activities of one family’s life and friends. The cards carry brief reports on trips in the United States and internationally.
The original postcard owner joined a ham radio club while in college in Pennsylvania. He collected 70 QSL postcards acknowledging he had reached ham radio operators in nearby states on the Eastern Coast, Canada, California, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Maine, Arizona, Utah and the U.S. Naval Armory Reserve in Winston-Salem, Virginia. Those two years felt significant enough to the ham radio operator to keep his response cards for six decades. The collection of QSL postcards morphed into a postcard collection with the help of others. At the top of a foldout postcard a friend wrote, “you can add this to your collection.”
Postcards preceded today’s short Twitter messages. At least one messages seemed too short. What did the writer mean as they wrote from Paris, “Your telegram was received with great jubilation.” Jubilation over what? A new family member? A new job? House? The collection never reveals the secret. Readers can only speculate, as they do again with the sad note on a card from Helsinki describing another woman as “able to talk and can walk with much help. She is hoping for an operation to relive the pressure on the brain. She is not too good.” The post card reflects a time when those with serious problems, and enough funds, went to Europe for treatment by the best surgeons on that continent.
Most, however, went to Europe as tourists: From Scandinavia the writer says, it is “full of American tourists all trying to see as much as possible in a short time. We’re doing well in that game.” The tourists reported on their collection of souvenirs and memories, “We had two stops in Turkey then one more in Greece. I bought a mink coat in Rhodes, Greece.”
Then as now, international food provides memorable meals. From Brazil a friend wrote, “My pronunciation must be bad. I order steak and get cheese.” From Paris: “Wish you were here to ‘do’ the restaurants with me. I am getting fat!” And in 1956: “We had two weeks in Chili, Uruguay and Argentina. I’m in Buenos Aries: You should taste the steaks down here! For eight days I’ve had steak for every meal except breakfast. And they have cost only 40 to 90 cents each.”
Not every card reflects the traditional “having a wonderful time, wish you were here.” From Egypt a traveler wrote: “Egypt: King Tut! I’ve been to his tomb … too much disease and poverty and heat. Too many flies and mosquitoes in Egypt for my taste.” And on another card, “We rode camels and bought souvenirs from the pushy natives. They like small American dollars.”
A 1950 assortment of unused black and white picture cards of bullfights in Spain includes a card stating, “Mom keeps threatening to leave Spain, but I love this country!”
A 1984 card sent from London reflects a grandmother’s sense of humor. Two young men grin above a “Greetings from London.”The firsguy defies gravity with a towering Mohawk, the othes defies nature with tussled, tinted hair. “This reminds me of you last summer,” Grandma wrote to her grandson.
After the amusement of peeking at the past, the postcards returned to the box until a new owner comes along seeking amusement or to expand his vintage, postcard collection.

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A gift of sorts

For want of a credit card, the gift never arrived.
Hearing great raves about an Italian restaurant a couple hours away, hubby wanted to eat there ­ until he looked at the prices on the menu. “This will be your birthday, anniversary and Christmas gift,” he told wifey before ordering
They ordered, ate and asked for a to-go box with the bill. The waiter returned with both. Hubby reached for his wallet and his face fell.
“I forgot my wallet,” he gasped.
“I have mine,” wifey pulled out her credit card and paid for his birthday, anniversary and Christmas gift.
Usually during their infrequent outings to restaurants, hubby carried his credit card to pay for the meal. So wifey did not ask if he had it a couple months ago when he wanted to take her out for a belated Valentine’s Day meal at a seafood restaurant.
Hubby had mentioned the restaurant several times before and after Valentine’s Day. Life kept them too busy to be together until late one evening when they pulled up outside the restaurant and ordered a much bigger meal than either could eat. They asked for the check and take out boxes.
Hubby reached in his pocket, pulled out his wallet, looked inside and moaned, “I left my credit card on the desk after I ordered that tool online.”
“Don’t worry, I have my card.” Wifey opened her purse and gave him her card so he would look like he paid for the meal she now was giving him for Valentine’s Day.
The scene repeated again last week. Hubby decided to splurge on ice cream cones after a meeting. He drove home the long way so he could stop at the dip and serve shop.
He parked. She asked, “Do you have your wallet and credit card?”
He reached in his pocket and moaned, “No, I don’t.”
They couldn’t go home without the ice cream.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I have mine,” his true love declared. “You do like to take me to eat at my expense.”
Inside the ice cream shop, they watched the clerk scoop and roll up a baseball sized ball of ice cream, plop it in a waffle cone and walk to the next tub for another flavor. Their eyes widened in wonder at the amount of ice cream in one cone, enough take some home to eat another day.
Early the next morning the couple arose early to take her car to the mechanic. Wifey said, “I want to run over to the neighbor’s yard sale. It won’t take a minute.”
“I’ll go ahead and buy the parts your car needs. That will pay you back for the ice cream,” hubby said.
A half hour later wifey walked into the garage in time to hear hubby finish telling the owner about buying the car parts in exchange for the ice cream she had purchased the night before. He also mentioned the restaurants and his forgotten wallet.
The owner listened politely, made out a work order and said. “The car will be ready in a few hours.”
They returned after lunch in hubby’s car and entered the shop to do the paper work: wifey to get the keys, hubby to discuss the repairs with the mechanic.
Reaching for the keys the owner held, she asked, “Who will be paying for this?”
“You will,” the garage owner said, “He doesn’t have his wallet.”
She laughed, pulled out her credit card and paid as Hubby discretely slid his wallet and card back in his pocket.

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Responding to scam phone calls

Don’t call us, we’ll wait for you to write. We don’t do phone solicitations.
Sure we need some house repairs, and we might talk with the siding salesman if he sends us information so we can compare fees. Until then, “Good-bye.”
Sure the IRS has audited us in the past, but the IRS NEVER calls to say a lawsuit is pending. “We will wait for their letter. Good-bye.”
Sure our computer could have a serious problem, “Thank you for calling. We will talk with our local computer tech about it. Good-bye.”
Sure money helps sick kids, troubled children, college students, “Send us information and we will consider your cause. Good-bye.”
It all began when non-profits with similar names contacted us inside a couple weeks and we wondered why they had called again, so soon. Even their donation envelope took a second look to realize it was a different organization.
As a new retiree who is home during the day, I experience all the scam calls targeted at retirees that my husband used to tell me he received each day. I recently received a call he has never taken.
“Hi, Grandma. How are you?”
I began chatting about our recent trip. The caller segued, “Did you hear that my friend and I are going to …”
I forget the details except he began talking about the money needed to drive his friend to some crisis. I interrupted him, “What is your name?”
“John.”
“We don’t have a grandson with that name, good-bye.” I put the phone down without further discussion. There is no sense wasting polite conversation with a friendly con artist who wants my money more than my side of the conversation.
I do try to be polite to the non-profits. Still, a recent call underscored my decision to only take solicitations through the mail.
“We would like your money to support our non-profit,”
“Send some information in the mail and we will consider it.”
“Oh, but it costs so much money to send information through the mail. If we are going to do that, we need you to say you will make a donation. So will you commit to at least $25?”
“No, a few years ago, we decided to no longer make financial commitments over the phone. Send me information and I will consider it.”
“So I will put you down for $25 … “
“You may put that down, but I am not saying I will send it. I said ‘send me the information to consider.’”
“Would you be willing to add just another $5?”
“No, I said ‘send me information’.”
I have yet to receive their letter. I guess it did cost too much to mail.
My ‘grandson’ called again, “Hi, Grandma.”
It sounded so much like our teenage grandson, that I answered, “Hi” and added his name.
The friendly chap started to talk. I remembered that voice. I interrupted him, “What is your name?”
“Michael.” Obviously he had not listened to my greeting.
“We don’t have anyone named Michael,” I hung up the phone and sent a text asking my grandson to call, so I could hear his voice. He called. Our conversation lacked the easy flow of ‘John Michael’ who does not know that even grandchildren hear, “Send us a letter of explanation and we will consider it.”
It took us years to save for retirement. We can afford to take time before we give it away to callers of any ilk. So, don’t call, we only accept snail mail requests.

Note: after this was published in the paper, a man stopped me and said, “We answer those calls and say, ‘what are you calling to scam me about today? And they always hang up.”

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The art of crochet and more

Artistic creativity accented our weekend with family; it first caught my attention driving through Eureka Springs with a splash of color breaking through the forest of leafless trees. “Look! At that,” I commanded granddaughters Daisy and Caroline who were making pinwheels in the back seat.
“Stop. Let’s go see it.”
The van turned into the small parking lot of the pocket park. I grabbed a camera. The girls followed me to the half dozen trees wearing afghans. A thick trunk wore a colorful arrangement of yarn hexagons and the crocheted words, “Art of Crochet.” The brilliant pink, red, green, purple and blues contrasted sharply with the barren branches. Each of the half dozen trees wore distinctly different sheaths. The pair of trees fused at the base like Siamese twins shared a half pink, half green tree sweater stitched together at their shared trunk. I took and posted pictures on Facebook of the granddaughters and the trees. A friend highly skilled in all sorts of needlework commented, “It is called Crochet Bombing.”
Although I had seen a video of a person crocheting up the poles in a subway car, this was my first personal experience with crochet bombing which is also called yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting or graffiti knitting where knitted or crocheted yarn cover statues, trees, park benches, cars, bikes, just about anything. For those obsessed with yarn work, the park provided an outlet.
That’s what happens when a person’s artistic bent needs to be shared – even if the person is a grandchild simply drawing a picture. They always want to give their creation to another person.
In preparation for time with grandchildren, I had packed a box of crafts. No yarn, but plenty of markers, paper and idea books. Eli claimed the paper and pens and began a detailed drawing. Olivia found lock blocks and created a Dr. Seuss tower. Titus chose the printed paper airplanes and folded one. It needed the tape I had forgotten.
I had, however, tossed in an obscure plastic bag filled with a collection of smaller bags of colored sand and small containers. Even with half a dozen kids pawing through the craft basket, no one noticed it until So and I had a quiet afternoon.
“Can I do this?” she held up the bag.
“Sure. Take it out to the table on the porch.”
She read the instructions, figured out how to use the sand, the funnel, the tiny shovel and the plastic jars to make a necklace for herself, a twisty jar for her brother, Sam and a flat circular container for little brother, Henry. When Henry showed up with his mother after nap time, he declared, “I want to do it. Let me do it.”
I found a clear Christmas bulb for him to fill with the leftover sand. Henry liked the half full status of his ornament. Forget the artistic layers of colored sand, with the little shovel he had a sandbox in a ball.
He played in the sand. Sam found the pile of printed paper airplanes, and with Grandpa’s help, they folded several engineering feats of paper art secured with the tape someone had bought for us.
By the end of our visit, we had airplanes, pin wheels, bottles of sand, pages and pages of drawings and had seen a variety of block buildings. My basket of craft bombing materials was depleted and taken home to refrigerators in the grandchildren’s home. Not exactly yarn art wrapping a tree in the park, but the perfect gallery for our budding artists.

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Build a wall

“Build a wall against invaders.” They said. So, for hundreds of years Chinese laborers built the Great Wall of China. Still, invaders entered China by marching around the end of the wall. Today the Great Wall of China attracts many tourists.
“Build a wall so no one can leave,” they said. So, they built the Berlin Wall after World War II and isolated the Eastern Berliners from the West Berliners. Still thousands of East Berliners found ways to escape. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan demanded, “take down this wall.” In 1989 the wall came down and the world rejoiced. Today, you can buy pieces of the wall to remember that bygone era.
“Build a wall to discourage another great war.” So, France built the Maginot Line of bunkers against another German invasion. It cost millions. The German blitzkriegs negated the purpose of the Maginot Line. The Germans invaded France and stayed until the D-Day invasion turned the tide of the war.
Walls of defense does not work when warfare takes to the air. Still, across the world in the last couple decades, about a third of all nations have built walls for one reason or another. Some walls were built in response to conflict, others to keep out migrants, terrorists or illegal drugs and weapons.
The fall of the Berlin Wall did not end the building of walls. “When the Berlin Wall was torn down a quarter-century ago, there were 16 border fences around the world. Today, there are 65 walls either completed or under construction,” according to Quebec University expert Elisabeth Vallet.
The list of walls built in modern times, found in Wikipedia.com, includes the following:
In 1953 the Korean conflict ended with both sides building walls.
In 1960’s a barrier went up between China and Hong Kong to discourage illegal immigration.
In the 1970s walls to discourage illegal immigration and terrorism went up in Egypt and South Africa.
In the 1990s conflict zones and immigration concerns resulted in walls in Kuwait, Spain and Uzbekistan.
Walls reflect the world’s politically troubled climate. Barriers against terrorism and illegal immigrants rose up in Spain, Uzbekistan, Saudi-Arabia, Yemen, India and the South East Pacific island country of Brunei.
In the last three years, 19 more walls have been proposed or begun – primarily in the mid-east and southern Asia plus the proposed addition to the wall between the United States and Mexico.
Walls work. They keep out the poorest and weakest. Wall create a real and symbolic barrier against terrorism and the surge of illegal immigrants. They create a firm line between opposing factions.
Walls fail. Consider how many thousands bridged the fiercely protected Berlin Wall. Rich drug cartels and terrorists repeatedly find ways around physical walls such as using other ports of entry.
Walls create a psychological barrier as observed by Marcello Di Cintio, author of ‘Walls: Travels Along the Barricades’, “’You can’t dismiss that illusion, it’s important to people, but they provide the sense of security, not real security.'” Di Cintio reported that within months of India erecting a barbed-wire fence, the former neighbors, the cut-off Bangladeshi, reported distrust and dislike of folks on the other side of the fence.
Many Americans clamor for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. We have been there and done that in the 1990s in the San Diego area in response to illegal immigration. The Congressional Research Service found that the wall made negligible difference. The best solution followed an increase of border personnel.
We can learn from history, or we can build a wall and see history repeat itself all over again.

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