Patchwork Quilt, Model, Clay Pot … Whatever

It’s been a few years ago now, but there was a time when I was in a hobby store looking for a model for my grandson for his birthday, and while I was there I ran across one of those human anatomy models. You know, the kind where you can see all the internal parts because the body, or shell as it were, is transparent. Those models, like the models of cars and ships that I built as a child, always came with detailed instructions that, when followed, resulted in a detailed and realistic representation of the real thing. I remember having one of those anatomy models that I never could seem to get put together. I had all kinds of trouble making the pieces fit and in the end it went unfinished.

It wasn’t the same with the models of cars and pickup trucks I put together. Up to a point, I followed the instructions carefully, but the end product was always a “custom job” which usually involved leftover or borrowed pieces of other models. In that respect those models were much like the real items, which were most often the result of taking parts of several cars or trucks and making them into one vehicle.

The quilts that Granny used to make have a similar aspect as well. Her quilts were like most quilts. They were assembled from scraps of material leftover from other sewing projects, which by themselves seem to be good for nothing more than rags to wipe the oil off the hands of a mechanic. Those bits and pieces of material became works of art in the arthritic hands of a loving, patient and devoted woman. The beauty of quilting is that the end product is not the result of a set of printed directions; instead, it’s the result of internal direction and vision of the quilter. As it turned out, that was a harbinger of things come.

If I had the human anatomy model now, maybe I could look at it with a little more objectivity. I might discover the reason the pieces didn’t seem to fit was that I wasn’t following the directions carefully enough. I was probably following my own idea of where the various parts were intended to go. It doesn’t mean that I would know any more about what all those pieces represented. It doesn’t mean that I would know any more about what their function in the human body was, or that I would be happier with the end product. It would just mean the end product I had in hand would match the picture on the box. You know, kind of like the end product that finally left my parents home; the one that matched the directions they got with the “Georgie kit.”

Of course when I look at the “model” in the mirror now I realize that a few, shall we say, alterations and modifications have taken place over the years. What’s happened over the years is that I’ve consciously and subconsciously adapted internal and external personality traits of people who’ve come in and out of my life. Those parts and pieces of other “models” have been used in place of the original ones. The result is a combination of patchwork quilting and modified model building.

During the years when “George” was being a salesman and learning the tricks of the trade by way of various sales courses, one of the facets of selling he was schooled in was the practice of mirroring the client. I always thought he wasn’t very good at it at the time, but in retrospect I realize that the habit became so internalized that it was happening automatically in virtually every aspect of our life. It became such an unconscious part of the modeling, and quilting effort which is me, that at times I realize I have unconsciously picked up a mannerism of speech or motion that I found attractive in another person.

I think we all see at least small parts of our parents in ourselves. My nearly flat feet came from Dad. My overall size came from Mom along with the sense of humor, which my best friend Vince honed and sharpened, and which I consciously modeled. My sense of style and poise I made a very conscious effort to model after Marilyn who felt that the original model looked a little too much like a hooker and as a result tended to act a little too much like a hooker. These are the visual parts of who I’ve become. The internal parts, the parts hidden beneath the paint, the odd parts from other models, are covered by the bits and pieces of quilting fabric which make up who I expose to the world. But, it’s the framework beneath is what makes up the essence of who I’ve become under the watchful eye and skill of the Master Model Builder/Quilter.

To add just one more bit of symbolism I would refer to Jeremiah 18:1-6 “The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, ‘go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there. So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making do not turn out as he had hoped so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again.”
“Then the Lord game me this message: ‘O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand so are you in my hand.”

After all my work at modeling and quilting and mirroring, the day I finally surrendered and bowed my head at an intersection on my way to work and in essence said, “I give up. I will be what You intend me to be”; God squashed me into a figurative lump and then began taking me apart and reassembling me the way He wanted me. The amazing thing to me is that He threw very few parts away. He just reassembled and shaped them into a more attractive quilt and functional model … or clay pot if you prefer.

Perceptions and Reality

There was a time in the not too distant past, when I was in the habit of stopping for a snack at a certain convenience store that had, to say the least, some rather unusual people working as clerks. One in particular gave my dishwater blonde brain a real workout. I’m sure that most, if not all of you, remember a character from several years back on Saturday Night Live named Pat, who was supposed to be the essence of androgyny. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this person at the convenience store was the inspiration for Pat. I honestly couldn’t tell what body parts might have been hiding beneath the clothes that would give the answer to my curious question; “Which is it?”

What few words this person uttered were in a voice tone that was absolutely indistinguishable as either male or female. The basic body motions were male but there was no sign of a beard. If it was a man he certainly had a number of very feminine characteristics and if it was a woman she definitely had quite a few very masculine attributes.

In the process of processing this data I began to wonder how this person appeared at their initial job interview. Did he/she dress in a manner that more readily identified her/him as either male or female? But then on further consideration I realized that it really didn’t matter what this person appeared like at that interview. If it was actually a woman attempting to pass as a man, why in heaven’s name was that my gut level assumption?

The answer to that question was very simple to arrive at. Our society finds it quite easy to accept a genetic female dressing or living as a man but not a genetic male dressing or living as a woman; and that goes far beyond women wearing pants. It is, and has been for a long time in our society, perfectly acceptable for women to wear pants. For the most part those styles that are intended for women to wear are noticeably for women. No normal male would be caught dead in a woman’s pants suit for instance, because they are definitely feminine. Most women’s fashions that involve pants are definitely feminine. However, the issue here in the convenience store is not a pair of women’s Wranglers. The clerk in question definitely had on men’s pants and wore them like a man including the wallet on a chain. This person also wore a man’s western shirt with snaps instead of buttons and the short sleeves were rolled up a couple of rolls like The Fonz of Happy Days used to wear his sleeves.

At this point my mind wandered back to a place I’d worked in the past where there were two women who dressed extremely male and acted extremely male. Why, I ask, it acceptable in our society for a woman to dress as a man and it is not acceptable for a man to dress as a woman?

This is certainly not a new question and I am certainly not blonde enough to think that I have stumbled upon a new thought. However it seems to me at this point in time, that we have rounded a bend in the river, and what I’m about to say is strictly my opinion, based on observation.
Gay men are virtually indistinguishable from straight men on the basis of their appearance and clothing and for the most part their demeanor is indistinguishable from straight men. Lesbians however appear to me to fall into three basic categories.

There are those who, like gay men, are pretty much indistinguishable from straight women. They dress the same as straight women. They wear jewelry and makeup. Their demeanor and actions are the same as their straight counterparts.

The second group I’ve observed, are somewhat non-descript. They’re seldom, if ever, seen in a skirt or dress. They wear women’s slacks, extremely sensible shoes and blouses or tops that are not in any way considered frilly. Makeup is practically non-existent and if their hair is short it’s not too short. If it’s longer it’s generally in a ponytail.

In the last group are those who, aside from the sexual preferences in their bed partners, are in every other way female-to-male-gendered. They wear men’s clothing. Most of them have men’s haircuts and will quite often have the body attributes of an ordinary overweight construction worker. And that, at least to me, is where the rub comes.

In this world, as it is, having come as far as it has, men are still considered the top drawer by society in general, so it’s assumed that a woman dressing as a man is acceptable, because after all she is reaching upward to a higher status. She may not be appealing in her appearance and she won’t be held in lustful reverence like a normal appearing woman but that’s all right. In society’s eyes, at least she is trying to improve her station in life.

A man dressing as a woman is obviously moving the opposite direction. I wonder how much of most women’s disdain for a man in women’s clothes is natural, the way God intended it. How much of it is the result of society’s emphasis on the superiority of being male or how much of it could be the lack of desire for a woman to attach herself to a man on the way down. In other words, if there was no history of male dominance and no societal edge to being male would it make any difference what you wore; what gender identity you expressed?

I look forward to the day when the freedom to be who you are, is truly limited only by whom you feel you are. Can you, just for a moment, imagine what it would be like if dual- or trans-gendered men were as acceptable as Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Janet Napolitano, former Congressman Barney Franks or Rhu Paul. It’s almost impossible to wrap your mind around it isn’t it?

Inegrity? What’s That Got To Do With Anything?

I cannot even begin to comprehend the number of essays, articles and books written on the subject of integrity. The number must be in the millions at least. The question I have is; how many people actually make an effort to apply the principle of integrity to the process of living their everyday lives? Better yet, how many even comprehend the value of applying the principle of integrity to the process of getting from the point of opening their eyes in the morning to the point of closing them again in the evening.

If one pays any attention to the news it would be difficult, especially for the uneducated, to even think that integrity has anything to do with our lives at all. The people we have placed in positions of authority in our governments, be it national, state or local, to a man/woman appear to apply little, if any integrity to the process of carrying out the duties of the offices to which they were elected. But, they aren’t the ones on my mind at the moment. The people on my mind are the ones I deal with on a daily basis in my own life. My question is: why is integrity such an unimportant part in people’s lives today?

Integrity doesn’t appear to be considered a virtue anymore, in spite of the fact that in reality, it’s an umbrella term which covers a number of other virtues, like honesty, faithfulness, accountability, responsibility, loyalty, reliability and trustworthy. The term integrity as applied to structure means to be whole; not broken or divided. To my way of thinking, that definition could be applied to the whole of the seven virtues above. In other words, a person of integrity would be all of the above, whole, not broken or divided.

As a part of the world of business, integrity as a principle is pretty much enforced by rule of law. If I purchase a product or service and agree to pay over time, my integrity as it applies to making those payments is supported by a written contract. If I fail to live up to the terms of the contract my credit rating will indicate that I am a person with little to no integrity. If I entered into that contract with little more than a hope for continued financial stability in the future and no backup plan for honoring my contract then I would be a person lacking whole integrity and that would be the same as no integrity. It’s sort of like being a little bit pregnant. You either are, or are not, pregnant.

But all of the above are issues supported by law. What about integrity in our personal lives where law civil or otherwise does not apply? For example; I might ask someone to do something for me; something that while unimportant to them is something very important to me. The response to the request is: “Yes, I will, but not today. I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s okay with me, because I don’t expect someone to drop whatever they may be doing that instant to do something for me. It would even be okay if the person said, “No, I’m sorry, but I really just don’t have time to honor the request.” I might be disappointed but at least they could be considered a person of integrity because they told me immediately that they didn’t have time.
But what if their response was the “yes” response and then they failed to do what they said they would do? And not only did they fail to do what they said they would do, when asked if they had done it, failed to apologize, and instead made excuses about how busy they were. The gospel of Matthew addresses the issue to a degree in Chapter 21:28-31,

“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.”

When I was neck deep in my alcoholism I had not one shred of integrity; not a whit’s worth. I was not whole, I was broken, I was divided. I was void of integrity in every sense of the word as defined above. I was honest only when it served me better than being dishonest and those moments were rare. I was like the man in the scripture above who said “yes” but failed to honor his commitment. I was faithful to only one person. The rest of the world was not worth faithfulness as far as I was concerned. The term faithfulness is in reality interchangeable with being trustworthy as well as responsible and reliable.

There was one of those virtues I think I could lay claim to. That would be loyalty. I was then and still am today, loyal to people I deem worthy of that loyalty. I’m even loyal to people whom I can’t depend on to do what they say they will do.
Three of the most difficult tasks I’ve faced in life were taking, or doing as they say in AA, step 4, taking that moral inventory of myself; step 5, admitting the nature my wrongs to God, myself, and someone else; and step 9, making the required amends, some of which have required a lifetime of amending.

I’ve remained sober for nearly 22 years, for 2 reasons. Abba has always been there for me and the absolute fear of ever having to go through those 3 steps ever again. Do I think for a moment that I’m perfect? Of course not! But, I have learned that to stay sober I must adhere to the best of my ability to those 7 virtues. It pains me a great deal to think what is being lost to the world, if it serves me, a recovering alcoholic well, why do the majority of its inhabitants fail to live by those virtues. If we fail in one … we have failed in all.

So in answer to the question at the end of the second paragraph above, People just don’t realize that integrity is critical in our daily lives because if we cannot be counted on for the integrity to do what we say we will do, the people we count as important in our lives will eventually lose faith in us. We may still love them but we will not trust them.

Egg and Cheese Waffles?

I never cease to be amazed at the thoughts which tend to dart across my mind on a rather regular basis. In this case I happened to be inhaling the remaining few bites of a grilled cheese sandwich when my mind served up this thought; “egg and cheese waffles.” Where did that come from? I never cease to be startled when something like that pops up. Maybe it’s because I spend too much time on Facebook and my friends and their friends have a habit of “sharing” whatever happens to be on their minds at the moment just pops up whether you’re thinking about them and their interests or not. Over the years I have come to realize that the intricate workings of my mind are generally beyond my grasp, but I have adapted a basic theory and definitions which assist me in getting on with life successfully.

The theory isn’t actually mine; it was first proposed by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his amazing book Psycho-cybernetics, published in 1960. The basic premise was that the human brain functions much like a computer guidance system. A computer is useless without “input”. But, once it has input it can do astounding things provided you let it work and to do that you have to hit the “enter” key and let the computer do its thing. I was told that if you don’t stop inputting information and let it work it will never provide the answer or guide you to the target. Of course there is the added caveat that the input actually be usable information.
There was also a comparison of the way our brain works, to a guided missile system in that a guided missile does not travel in a straight line, and it does not necessarily respond to positive feedback. It primarily responds to negative feedback. In other words the system only functions when the missile has wandered off course. Now there was a time when I wasn’t too sure that my “guidance system” had worked very well in that respect because of the frequency of circumstances in my life when I have wandered way off the path to my target. After some study on the subject, I finally realized that it wasn’t the servo mechanism which was faulty, it was the servo mechanism operator … the person at the keyboard of my computer-like brain along with incompatible software that was causing the problem. The operator, that’s me, was entering all the wrong information and expecting the right responses.
It took me years to figure out that that I was, to all intents and purposes, both the programmer and the end product user of my servo mechanism. As the end product user of the electronic mechanism between my ears I had to have the correct software and a compatible virus protection system installed. It was as if I was trying to make my PC Hard Drive and Windows brain work with Apple software. I found a “technician” who identified the problem but really didn’t have a workable knowledge of how to fix it.
Eventually I resorted to the unthinkable solution of contacting the “manufacturer.” I told the “manufacturer” that I was tired of trying to fix the mechanism myself and needed a good “technician” to help me fix it. A new “technician” was recommended and so I sought him out. After explaining my dilemma the “technician” consulted the “manufacturer” and together they began the process of rebuilding my servo mechanism, a.k.a “hard drive”.
I was instructed to delete all the old files, and believe me there were a lot of them, after saving the good ones to a flash drive,. Next I was told to reload my “hard drive” operating system and start all over with new programming software designed for my operating system; software that would allow me to access the full capacity of my newly installed operating system. The “manufacturer” and the “technician” also advised me that if I wanted to keep my re-built servo mechanism running properly I really needed to locate my copy of the “original manufacturer’s operator’s manual” and study it carefully and consistently.
Among the things I found in the “operators manual” was a history of the “company,” it’s early “stockholders” and the numerous “stockholder” revolts, which went on until the “Chief Executive Officer” left his plush office, put on his work clothes and showed up at the jobsite one day. He eventually spent 3 years on site showing the “laborers” what the “Manufacturer” wanted them to do and what was expected of them if they wanted the full benefits of a truly generous retirement plan.
Sadly the “stockholders” didn’t appreciate the value of the retirement plan and everything the “Manufacturer” was offering through the “CEO”. After numerous tries they eventually succeeded in convincing the “governor” to crucify the ”CEO”. The happy ending to the company history was that the “CEO” was a hard man to keep down and he was soon back in the executive suite, but not before appointing a new “board of directors” who went right to work on a new edition of the “operator’s manual.”
I have both editions, the old and the new. I keep the old one for occasional reference, but use the new one daily. I still have to stop and re-boot my system on a regular basis, but I found, in the new edition of the “operator’s manual,” a free “virus protection” which I run continuously.
For future reference if the reader should need some clarification I’m including some personnel and terminology details below so you will know who to contact if your system crashes like mine did or if your software suddenly flashes “egg and cheese waffles” on your monitor.

“Manufacturer” – That would be God, Abba, The Lord, The Almighty. He’s not particular.
“Chief Executive Officer, CEO” – That would be Jesus, Christ, Savior, Son of Abba.
“Technician” – That would be your pastor
“Company” – That would be God’s people, Abrahams descendants, us.
“Shareholders” – That would be the Pharisees, scribes, Hebrews, Israelites, etc.
“Board of Directors” – That would be the apostles.
“Laborers” – That would be us.
“Hard Drive” – That would be your brain.
“Operating System” – That would be your heart and the emotions within it.
“Software” – That would be your desires and goals and purpose and the knowledge required.
“Guidance System” – That would be your moral values.
“Operators Manual” – That would be the Bible, The Good Book.
“Virus Protection” – That would be prayer.