Make It! – Organic Cotton & Wool Mattress Topper

My first, and so far, only attempt. It sleeps sooooo comfy!

My first, and so far, only attempt. It sleeps sooooo comfy!

It cost $211.57 for me to make this eoc-wool and organic cotton topper that sells for $435 – $585. There are many things I would do a little different next time, but this first try was a success. It is reported that sleeping on wool lowers your heart rate and that makes your sleep more restful. That was indeed the case for me last night. I slept for 10 hours non-stop and I wasn’t even aware of when I turned my alarm off. I haven’t slept that well in a long, long time.

Luckily I have a big slidable desk in my loft office, I just put carpet sliders under it and moved it next to my conference table for a great sewing platform. That made working on my topper easy and I have lots of photos so you can see the method I used.

Materials Total: $211.57

Queensize (60″ x 80″ x 2.5″, 9# of wool)

* 3 each- 3# wool batts from Sugar Loaf Wool $35.00 each plus shipping for a total of $141.50.
* 4 yds – organic cotton percale-114″-Nat’l-200TC, from Organic Cotton Plus, $15.72 per yd, plus FREE shipping for a total of $62.88.
* 1 roll – Cebelia Crochet Thread Size No. 10, $7.22 total from Amazon Prime.

The Shell:

As you tuft your mattress topper it will shorten about 3/4″ per tuft if you’re making it 2.5″ thick, tufts in thicker toppers will shorten even more. Plan your shell with added inches in the length and width to accommodate the tufting and the box corners. I made a queen sized topper with an array of 5 X 7 tufts and planned on a 2.5″thickness with 1/2″ seam allowances. The fabric I purchased for the shell was 114″ wide so I needed one lengthwise seam and two seams running the width. Thus I cut my shell fabric 134.25″ by 87-3/4″ by folding the selvages together and aligning the cut edges.

My size calculations:

Cut Width: 2 X ( 60″ + (5 X .75″) + (2 X .5) + 2.5 ) = 2 x 67.25″ = 134.5″
2 X ( width of topper + 5 tufts + 2 seam allowances (only 2 because it’s cut on the fold) + thickness)

Cut Length: 1 X ( 80″ + (7 X .75) + (2 X .5) + 2.5 ) = 88.75″
(length of topper + 7 tufts + 2 seam allowances + thickness )

Cut a 67.25″ by 88.75″ rectangle laid out of the fold as below.
fabric layout

I seamed the two short edges and made the box corners.

Edges and box corners sewn.

Edges and box corners sewn.

Making box corners.

Finished box corner.

Finished box corner.

Sew your corner seams.

Sew your corner seams.

Mark your sewing position.  You can use a quilting triangle squareup ruler or just eyeball it until you have equal sides and the corner the length you want.  In my case I wanted a 2.5" wide corner so I used the Pythagorean Theorem, to find my side lengths.

Mark your sewing position. You can use a quilting triangle squareup ruler or just eyeball it until you have equal sides and the corner the length you want. In my case I wanted a 2.5″ wide corner so I used the Pythagorean Theorem, to find my side lengths (because math is fun!).

Fold seams together and press.

Fold seams together and press.

Mark your seam line.

Mark your seam line.

Sew your corner. This photo is of the seamless side.  The fold is where the seam would be.

Sew your corner. This photo is of the seamless side. The fold is where the seam would be.

Trim excess.

Trim excess.

Turn right side out and press for a beautiful box corner.

Turn right side out and press for a beautiful box corner.

Laying out the wool.

The wool has no smell at all. In fact I rubbed my face in it and didn’t even get an itch. It was clean, soft and downy.

My first try at putting the wool into the shell was unsuccessful so I decided to roll the wool in kraft paper so it would be easier to handle.

Three rolls of wool batting stacked on top of each other.

Three rolls of wool batting stacked on top of each other and trimmed to size. I’m saving the trimmings to make pillows.


This is how the batts were shipped.

This is how the batts were shipped.


Unfurling a batt.

Unfurling a batt.

Stuffing the shell:

All rolled up and ready to put into the shell.

All rolled up and ready to put into the shell.


In the shell.

In the shell.

Distributing the batts inside the shell to make them even was still a chore.  But with some patience and sticking my head inside the shell I managed to get a decent distribution.

Distributing the batts inside the shell to make them even was still a chore. But with some patience and working with my head inside the shell, I managed to get a decent distribution.


Ready to close the shell.

Ready to close the shell.


I used an overhand stitch to close the shell. Sorry, my photo did not come out.

I used an overhand stitch to close the shell. Sorry, my photo did not come out.

Tufting

I used a tape measure and laid out my 5 X 7 grid on the shell, marking each tufting point with a non-permanent quilting pen. Then using a 6″ upholstery needle and #10 crochet cotton I began tufting from the two center lines first. (I apologize for the quality of the tufting photos. The lighting was poor because I decided to do it right before I went to bed.)

Beginning the down stitch.  I wore a protective glove and held my hand under the entry point and pushed the needle though. With practice I no longer needed the glove.

Beginning the down stitch. I wore a protective glove and held my hand under the entry point and pushed the needle though. With practice I no longer needed the glove.


Down stitch through the underside.

Down stitch through the underside.

Beginning the up stitch.

Beginning the up stitch.


Up stitch peeking through the top.

Up stitch peeking through the top.

Ready to tie off.

Ready to tie off.

Tied off with a double surgeon's knot.

Tied off with a double surgeon’s knot. Then I snipped the threads and left half inch tails. After 35 of these babies I was finished.


Finished topper.

Finished topper.

Okay, that’s it in photos. I made a lot of errors but the product still came out great. I am going to make another one soon and change my method a little bit. I will post that in photos as well.

Covering Buttons for Upholstry Tufting

Buttons in place on my shallow tufted headboard.

Buttons in place on my shallow tufted headboard.The cover fabric is thick.

I’m still working on my bedroom. The bed frame was finished months ago and although the dunlop latex layers of my mattress are sitting atop each other and I sleep on them every night, I have yet to encase the mattress in anything but a heavily padded mattress pad.

That will change soon, I have ordered virgin wool batts from Sugar Loaf Wool Mill in Montana to make into the topper for my latex. I will hand quilt the wool between the organic cotton percale that is coming from Organic Cotton Plus based in Ridgefield, Conneticut. These are two small businesses producing clean, non-toxic materials. What a deal!!!! I get safe products with which to make my bed and I’m supporting American small business.

Buttons coming soon somewhere at the bottom of the post with lots of photos!

I’m currently working on my padded headboard over which Fort Riviere, Haiti – 1915 painted by Colonel Donna J. Neary, USMCR will hang. The canvas print arrived yesterday and I dashed it off to the framer where the cost before a 60% discount was prohibitive, and only indecent after the discount.

It is such a fine work of art that it requires a substantive display. The frame won’t be finished until next week, but here’s an iPhone photo of the screen shot from the framer. The outer frame is studded with gold nail heads. Next is a narrow, carved frame in black so the nail heads stand out. The large mat is a khaki-olive color and the two inner mats are, of course, goldenrod and scarlet.

SDB-s

Okay, now on to buttons . . . really.

I finished covering my headboard yesterday and it looks a little plain. The “Manhattan Quilt” pattern from Calico Corner’s needs a little jazzing up so I decided to tuft the headboard. Below is a photo of the headboard with the button placement (sorry about the dapples of sun through the blinds.) The headboard will extend 10″ below the top of the mattress, that’s why the placement is so high and offset. I will post photos of how I tuft the headboard once I get it finished.
Laid Out

Making covered buttons out of thick upholstery fabric can be tricky and is sometimes impossible with the kits purchased at fabric stores, but there’s a alternate method that works well.

The back of an upholstered button is usually pulled tight against padding so it’s never seen, thus it doesn’t need to look crisp like couture buttons do. This allows us to use a shanked button and tie a little “cap” of thick upholstery fabric around it.

Plain, slightly domed shank buttons are hard to find. An alternative is to use a covered button kit and create a plain shanked button by using a muslin or thin fabric as the cover. That creates a nice base to wrap your upholstery fabric around.

Here’s the whole process.

1. Collect what you need for your shanked button. The mold, pusher, back, shell and pattern are included in most covered button kits you get at fabric stores. I used scrap muslin for my base cover. If you don’t cover the button, the back part will not stay in the shell. You can see that I folded the muslin in half and traced the pattern with a pencil and then cut the circles out.CB001

2. Get the mold.CB002 Mold

3. Center a circle of fabric over the mold.CB003 Muslin Circle on Mold

4. Center the button shell over the fabric and mold.CB004 Button Shell on Muslin

5. Push the button shell down into the mold, notice the fabric curves in over the edges but is still sticking up out of the shell.CB0046 Pushed In

6. Tamp the fabric into the shell. I ran my fingernail around the edge of the shell making a crease that helped tame the fabric into the well.CB0050 Muslin Tamped Down

7. Center the back over the mold opening.CB0060 Back Laid On

8. Place the pusher over the back and push. After one or two tries you’ll learn how to distribute your force evenly over the small area and it will snap easily into place.CB0070 Pusher on Button Back

9. The back snugged down into place.CB0080 Clicked In

10. My muslin covered buttons ready for their upholstery fabric cap.CB0090 Finished Muslin Covered Buttons

11. Assemble what you need. A circle of upholstery fabric cut from the same pattern as the muslin, Needle and thread and your muslin covered or plain domed shanked button. I marked a centerline on the inside of my fabric so I could align the shank with it. It’s not necessary though, once the button is used for a tuft, it can be easily turned so the pattern runs the direction you desire. CB0100 Upholstery Fabric Circle

12. Baste around the edge of the fabric circle, leaving a long tail at the beginning and the threaded needle at then end of stitching.CB0110 Basting Around the Rdge

13. Pull the tail and needle thread to gather the edges of the circle into a little cap. CB0120 Cup of Upholstry Fabric

14. Place the button in the cap.CB0130 Surrounded by Upholstry Fabric

15. Pull the thread to enclose the button in the fabric. Work around the edges to get the fabric pulled down tightly and then tie the threads in a knot. I also tacked my needle thread a couple of times. That is, inserting your needle into a bit of fabric close to your original thread and pull through tightly. Dot a bit of Fray Check or glue on the threads and knots and snip the tails.CB0140 Upholstry Fabric Pulled Tight

16. The finished button front and back.CB0150 Front & Back

Now to do eight more!

The Next Commandant

Of the Marine Corps, of course. What other CMC would I be talking about – duh?

After my wonderful weekly massage from my Brazilian masseuse, no I won’t say massage therapist, I’m not in therapy and she’s far more adept at her professional than the title “therapist” would bestow upon her. More sidetrack, her husband is, you guessed it, a Marine who left active duty in the early 90′s. Now to the CMC.

111028-M-AR635-011edit1So I came home to several more emails asking me what I think about Tom Ricks’ opinion that General James N. Mattis, USMC (ret), should be reactivated and made Commandant of the Marine Corps. Okay, so I’ll bite.

Of course Mattis would make a fabulous CMC. He’d make a fabulous president, secretary of state, or whatever job you threw at him.

But why on earth should we go outside the active service for a commandant? What about all the other great Marine general officers still on active duty?

Are we to infer that Ricks believes all active Marine General officers are incompetent? Ricks’ premise is insulting to the other Marines capable of running the Corps, and why is Ricks the authority on this?

Oh, he’s not, he’s just stirring up some poo get readers, as usual. (I have a long memory, betraying one of my intel Marines for book sales in late 2006 puts one on my creep list for ever, and I’ll never fail to bring it up when it’s appropriate.)

So, I’ll mention two (of many) Marine general officers that have qualities I’d like to see in the CMC. Perhaps neither of them are senior enough yet, but stars can happen overnight.

MajGen Vincent R. Stewart – As a BGen he was Director of Marine Corps Intelligence. That’s really a two or three star job, but if you filled it with a higher ranking Marine you would likely not have one experienced in intelligence. So, the Marine in that position has to conduct business among the higher ranks and not let them push him around. That’s an excellent trait for a Commandant.

MajGen Lawrence D. Nicholson – When Mills took command in Afghanistan from Nicholson I was writing to a SgtMaj under Mills. I told the SgtMaj that I’d like to put his photo on my desk in place of Nicholson’s. I like to keep my current Marines in Afghanistan on my desk so I remember to pray for them each day. The SgtMaj informed me his photo could go up along side Nicholson’s but not in place of it because Nicholson was one of the greatest Marines he’d ever served with. The SgtMaj isn’t the only one I’ve heard that from, hence I believe Nicholson is respected by the enlisted Marines. Oh, and having lived through being bombed in Iraq, we know he’s extra sturdy too!

That fellow Eisenhower thought he could push around, David Monroe Shoup, once wrote in his field notebook sometime during Tarawa, “that if you are qualified, fate has a way of getting you to the right place at the right time”… 1. I never get tired of citing that passage from Utmost Savagery. Now then, that’s what happened the last time Mattis was mentioned for CMC, his qualifications were more urgently needed at CENTCOM. Now I’m quite sure that the ghosts of Shoup, Daly, Puller, Diamond, et al, will ensure that fate does it’s job.

So I say to all the Marine O-7s and above, there are plenty of you to choose a good Commandant from, and I mean that without slight to General James N. Mattis, USMC (ret).

—-
1Col Joseph H. Alexander USMC(ret), Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa (New York Ivy Books), 51.

Rational Thinking Regarding the Middle East

I watched retired Marine General James N. Mattis’ speech given in November 2013 during an awards ceremony at the Foreign Policy Research Institute last night and of course I find that his rational approach to everything engenders my trust and true hope for a better world. Even as the selfish behavior of our politicians and aggressive acts by our foreign enemies try to destroy us, people like General Mattis and members of our military too numerous to list, provide the steadying hands that guide our country and the world toward civility and justice.

The whole speech is enlightening, you should watch the video too. Here’s my two paragraph take away.

Regardless of how our economy and energy infrastructure continue to develop, we must remain engaged in the Middle East. We have steadfast allies in the region that deserve our reciprocity, economies around the world will always be impacted by the pricing of Middle East oil, and there are plenty of terrorists and bad guys in the region that will attack us. Even if we should become energy independent, we cannot isolate ourselves against terrorists and acts of war initiated abroad.

We have a serious problem here at home. Our politicians are doing a poor job of running our country. Events like the shutdown of the government for two weeks sends the signals to everyone in the world that we are in turmoil. Our allies believe we cannot support them and our enemies see us as weakened.

Summary of his points:

♦ We must look at the Arab Spring for what it is.

We should not lose confidence that good things will evolve from it. This uprising is not necessarily a rush to democracy in the way we think of it. It is a response to the breakdown of the social contract between the governments and the people.

Many Arabs are fed up with unresponsive and unjust governments and in dealing with this “they do not have the tradition of democracy, and they do not have many of the things you and I associate with the rule of law.”1 They are building new foundations in an uncertain environment, thus there will be setbacks and problems along what is sure to be a tough road.

We must be patient and not blow things out of proportion. “Each country will manifest it’s future along the way.”2 General Mattis cited the events in Yemen over the last three years as proof that progress toward a fair and just government can be made in the face of the worst conditions.

♦ Our enduring interests in the Middle East3.

Even if we become primarily energy independent, as it appears will happen by 2017 or 2020, we will remain tied to the global economy. Oil prices set in the Middle East will effect the price we pay to do business in the world, even if it doesn’t set our internal prices for energy.

Our allies who have stood by us, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and others can only be committed to supporting us if we firmly stand by them as a friend, and we must do this during the bad times as well as the good.

Violent extremists can hit us from any place in the world, they managed to make spectacular hits on New York City and Washington D.C. from a half a world away. We cannot isolate ourselves and not be vigilant for such strikes against us.

♦ Our policy regarding the Middle East.

Many countries in the Middle East are undergoing political reform and our policy is to support it at their own pace without imposing our will upon them.

We also support economic reform in these countries so that the average citizen can feel as if they have a stake in their future.

We support our allies against bellicosity and terrorism. The Big Bad Wolf on the block is Iran and even though we must continue pursuing a diplomatic solution, we must also be prepared in the event of it’s failure. Even though yesterday it was reported that “the size of Iran’s most contested uranium stockpile has declined significantly for the first time in four years,” they are deceitful and we cannot allow them to obtain a nuclear weapon for they will certainly use it. If you nuke one part of the world you nuke the whole world. (Can we say “On the Beach” by Nevile Shute?)

However, our military can be used to further the diplomatic solutions by buying time. For example when Iran declared it’s intent to mine the Persian Gulf thus threatening to halt petroleum shipments to the world, CENTCOM, under Mattis’ command, initiated a mine sweeping exercise in the area that was joined by 29 countries across the globe the first year and 35 the second year. The exercise stopped Iran’s threats and diplomacy continued.

One major challenge for the U.S. is that our allies in the Middle East doubt our reliability. This is based in part by the fact that we have an unsustainable economy that’s getting worse, and our government has been unwilling to to deal with this. Without a strong economy we cannot support a strong military to protect us, let alone help our allies. Our global position is in decline.

Opinion:

Our government, for nearly a decade now, has done nothing to help our economy and has proactively done things to damage it. How can America be strong when our own politicians refuse to come to the table and negotiate with each other? They have spent the decade aggressively dividing the American people – both parties, and they have damaged our credibility with our allies and weakened our stance against our enemies.

Aside:

I had the opportunity to attend another Mattis event this afternoon at Rudder on the campus of my goddaughter’s alma mater, unfortunately business got in the way. For me, one of the best parts of his presentations at educational institutions is watching how he engages the students and spreads his rational character.

- – -
1 FPRIVideo, (2013, Nov 18). Reflections of a Combatant Commander in a Turbulent World – Keynote Address by General James Mattis, 11 minutes 28 seconds in.
2 Ibid, 12 minutes 46 seconds in.
3 Ibid, 14 minutes 50 seconds in.

Looking for a place for my cottage, chickens, and of course big red Irish pups.

Idea for a country cottage.

Idea for a country cottage.

I spent the weekend looking for acreage north of DFW for my off-the-grid country cottage. Once I locate the right piece of land I will build my small home and fill the land with pups and do my best to attract deer and other wonderful wildlife.

Since I plan to raise chickens for their eggs, I need room for my 8 paddock design for grazing them on seed grasses that will produce fabulously nutritious eggs from happy birds. It’s over 100 feet long and 52 feet wide.

My design has 8 paddocks, each 40 feet long and 6 feet wide. They will be full of clovers, alfalfa, rye grass, oats, barley, wheat, rape, cow peas and other chicken friendly greens. In between the paddocks I will grow herbs and veggies. The birds will be turned into each paddock for a week and then rotated to the next one. Once they finish in paddock #8 they will start again at paddock #1. Theoretically they will need only fresh water in addition to grazing.

I plan on grazing a dozen chickens, and if they produce 5-7 eggs a week I’ll have plenty for me and the pups and leftovers for friends. Now all I have to do is design a fencing system that keeps the predators out.

Kitchen idea.

Kitchen idea.


Laundry room idea.

Laundry room idea.


Ideas for chicken paddocks.

Ideas for chicken paddocks.

Quail Eggs Reykjavik

Quail EggsBurgundy Pasture Beef in Grandview, Texas had quail eggs this week so I ordered 3 dozen and prepared them Reykjavik style – steamed in butter. Since I don’t have a hot springs or lava field nearby to produce geothermal venting like they do on Iceland, I used a steamer to cook my eggs.

For tender eggs cook them at low temperatures. Here’s the science behind that statement. As an egg heats up the proteins unwind and then link together to form a solid. However, there are over 40 kinds of protein in eggs and they set at different temperatures. The first to solidify is Ovotransferrin at around 142°F, and Ovalbumin, the most abundant egg-white protein, sets at 184°F. The first yolk proteins begin to set at 158°F. So if you like your yolks runny like I do, keep your cooking temperature below 158°F. If you prefer firmer yolks then go for 165°F. Rubbery eggs begin to appear around 176°F.

Yikes! What about salmonella and other bacteria? Well salmonella dies off to undetectable levels when you hold the food at 150°F for 12 minutes, hold it for 9 minutes at 140°F to kill 90% of the salmonella and 82 minutes to eradicate it.1 Plus the incidence of salmonella in pastured eggs is quite low. The nasty, stressful conditions that produce bacterial infected factory eggs (cheap grocery store types) are mitigated with the sunshine and grass rich environments of pastured animals. Sun is a natural disinfectant.

temperature 156Whether it be hen, duck, or quail eggs this method will work. Small watch glasses make perfect lids for ramekins placed inside a steamer basket. I measure the temperature with a thermometer secured between the lid and lip of the pan with a tea towel.



Butter in ramekinEquipment:
• Double boiler with steamer insert.
• Ramekins
• Watch glasses
• Tongs



Q3Ingredients:
• Filtered water
• 4 quail or 1 hen/duck egg per ramekin
• 1t butter per ramekin
• Salt to taste



eggs with watch glassesMethod:
• Setup your steamer using filtered water and thermometer as pictured above.
• Bring the water to a boil and then turn the burner down to low.
• Watch the thermometer and see where it settles. Adjust the burner to achieve the temperature you desire.

steamed eggs
• Place 1 tsp of butter in each ramekin.
• Cover the ramekins with a watch glass.
• Place the covered ramekins in the steamer, and put the lid on.
• Let the butter melt in the steam bath for 5-8 minutes. This will also heat the ramekins to the temperature of the steam.
• Use the tongs to remove the watch glasses. I tilt the watch glass a little to let the water that has collected on them to drip into the pot. Watch the steam and don’t burn your hand, that’s why I use tongs.
• Crack your eggs into the ramekins. In the case of quail eggs I cut them open with a serrated knife and place them in a small bowl first because they have a tough membrane beneath the shell.
• Salt and pepper to your desire.
• Place the watch glasses on the ramekins and the lid on the pot with the thermometer in place.
• At 156°F I cook my eggs 8 minutes. Sometimes the white looks a little runny so I’ll cook them additional time. The beauty is that I can hold eggs at 156°F all day long and the yolk won’t get hard and the whites will remain tender.

Enjoy your tender, delicious eggs cooked in butter.


Notes on equipment and ingredients:



aplico ramekinFrench porcelain is superior to that produced in China. The most important part is that they cook more evenly than their cheap Sino counterparts. I like Apilco Ramekins from Williams-Sonoma. I do have some Cordon Bleu ramekins from China, but they do not measure up to the French products.


watch glassWatch glasses are available at Amazon. I use them all the time in the kitchen. They are non-reactive, heat proof, dishwasher safe, and microwavable. Corning 9985-90 Plain Watch Glass/Beaker Cover, 90mm Diameter (Pack of 12)


butterKerrygold butter – Buy their regular butter, it’s from pastured cows and contains more omega-3s than the usual grocery store brands. Don’t buy their “soft” or “reduced fat” butters, nature’s design has to be “tampered” with to produce them. That’s rarely good for you. These modifications are made to satisfy consumer requests, just don’t be the kind of consumer who sells out their health for “easy” or “fast”.


Black Berkey You want use filtered water for your steamer because tap water gives off VOCs and other nasty gasses when heated. That stuff shouldn’t enter your body in any form. It’s also a good idea to use a filter that removes fluoride. Fluoride does far more harm than good and why would you want to risk cancer, bone loss, brain damage, liver damage, kidney damage, male infertility, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, skeletal fluorosis, endocrine disruption and thyroid disease just so you can eat sugar and not get cavities? Berkey Water Filters are the best and offer cartridges that filter out fluoride.


himalayan salt Sea salt and Himalayan salt are complete foods. The ultra refined stuff you get at the grocery stores are incomplete and chocked full of anti-caking agents that are not good for you. They tell you these agents won’t harm you in small amounts. However, consider putting that stuff in your body over a lifetime. Now consider what other things that won’t hurt you in small amounts are allowed by the FDA and that you consume over a lifetime. It all adds up to a toxic body that is prone to illness. Every thing you eat is important.

_ _ _

1Time-Temperature Effects on Salmonellae and Staphylococci in Foods, Robert Angelotti, Milton J. Foter, Keith H. Lewis Appl Microbiol. 1961 July; 9(4): 308–315.

Coca Cola’s Mistake

cokeWithout a common language, Americas will continue to be divided and easily pitted against each other.

Think about how you feel when you are in the situation of not being able to understand what the people around you are talking about. The most common response is to think they are talking about you. It doesn’t matter if you’re Sudanese and immersed in a group of English speaking people or an American immersed in a group of Spanish speaking people, the odd one will feel some sort of anxiety. It’s a normal reaction that is usually wrong and almost always causes problems, mostly very minor, but none-the-less, it creates division when we should be united.

This is not to say one’s “parent” culture should be forgotten, I say indeed not! I’d miss the uniqueness of my American friends who allow their ancestry to influence their lives. The many cultures that make up our country must not be marginalized, but we should all speak English in public, as our common language. What is spoken in our homes is our personal, private, business. What rituals and customs we observe are also our personal, private, business unless they violate the law, and as with past generations, the rituals of new cultures will begin to permeate all of America. Our society will change, as it constantly does. But at heart we should embrace being American, and that means having a common language.

Coca Cola managed to create more division within our country, and certainly they knew that would happen with their Super Bowl commercial. Don’t they pay advisers to research these things?

I’d stop buying their products in protest of their stupidity, but I stopped buying their soda and junk food years ago because it damages our bodies, not because I have a grudge against them. In fact, nothing tastes better than an icy coca cola with Tex-Mex, but the well being of my liver, kidneys and Islets of Langerhans trump my desire for a coke with cheese enchiladas, chips and guacamole on the occasion when I do indulge in one of God’s delicious gifts to humanity.

Of course you could threaten me with instant death and I’d never give up Tex-Mex, kimchi, Xi Pham’s egg rolls (she taught me how to make them thank God!), Khampong’s mok gai, Moui Ha’s hunbao, (I have a lot of friends from Southeast Asia), Aleppo chili, garam masala, and a whole lotta other wholesome, nourishing foods and ingredients around the world.

Uh, someone pass me a Shiroikoibito cookie please!

Exploiting the Disconnect Between America’s Military and Her Civilians

Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif (Photo By: Staff Sgt. Steve Cushman)

Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif. Photo By: Staff Sgt. Steve Cushman. Full caption after the footnotes.


Thursday I watched Tom Tarantino the Chief Policy Officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America speak about the cuts to veterans benefits passed by Congress last year. These cuts were engineered in secret by Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

This disrespectful action, will save only a pittance in tax dollars, and will cost us dearly in the long run. Could it be that these politicians decided to leverage the military-civilian disconnect to strengthen their political careers? I think so.

Why are veterans due enormous respect?

Our veterans, without ever personally knowing you or me, pledge to risk serious impairment or death, to protect all Americans and our right to get up every morning and live free. They spend their careers being prepared to die for us at any time.

If a veteran never goes to war to defend us, their lives and families still incur more stress and hardships than other American families. They train constantly and their training is realistic so that when they do engage in combat they will be superior. That realism is seriously hard on bodies, not at all like working out in a gym or mowing the lawn.

Frequent moves are also incumbent to life in the military. Children often change schools and friends every few years causing disruptions to life that civilians usually do not incur. Veterans and their families pay a high price for our protection in many ways, thus we owe them a huge debt.

The veteran does not impose upon me how I should live my life. He or she only pledges to give everything they have so that I live unfettered by thugs, terrorists and those who would end my freedom.

The enormity of my statement is lost on a large percentage of our society, and I fear that won’t change any time soon without a catastrophic event, something cataclysmic with immediate effect on a majority of Americans.

Now then, why are Americans so disconnected to the importance of our military, and why will it take a vicious wake-up call to change that? Well, the disconnect between American civilians and the military has always been there. It seems more apparent now because never before in human history, thanks to the internet and cellular phones, have so many people been globally connected by a system that allows anyone to have high visibility. This gives ideological extremists a larger grasp on public opinion.

Part of the problem is that in the last sixty years, primarily through advertising and media support of ideological extremists, we have encouraged people to react and not respond. Response requires one to think before they act, and that is the enemy of those who want to easily control people. In today’s world, control over people’s minds is as easy as a well crafted emotional tweet.

Over the last half century we have supplanted true education with experimentation measured by false metrics, entrusted the teaching of morality to staged reality shows, and replaced traditional dinners, where families sat down together and bonded over nourishing meals prepared from real food by our mothers, wives and sometimes dads and brothers, with easy, nutritionally poor, fast food eaten in noisy restaurants or in front of the television. We’ve allowed our culture to be eroded and the underlying message is that our children are not important enough to invest our time and effort on. Is it any wonder they spend most of their their time with their heads in their phones and tablets?

Of course not all Americas are this way, and some only practice a few of the things that damage our culture. But the net effect is a society where the percentage of people raised without positive traditions and culture has increased to a level where they have significant power and the ability to not only influence American public awareness and opinion, but to make it in accordance with their current whim.

So if a member of the military commits a crime it get’s blown out of proportion. For example, the incidence of rape in the military is lower than that of society at large, yet Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) went ballistic on a four star general last March during a congressional hearing on military funding. She hijacked the hearing and with highly irrational ranting and made it seem as if rape was endemic to the military.

Senator McCaskill was on camera and her outrage was being broadcast for all the world to see. Methinks she was trying to persuade her female constituents that she was being a good steward of their interests by beating up any military man she could find. It was her TV show and she was going to get good ratings no matter who she harmed in doing so. The hysteria in the media over a perceived military rape fest continues today, even though the numbers show a woman is less likely to be raped if she’s in the military.

How do we insulate ourselves from this sort of behavior? Short of a national catastrophe, the only way to return our nation to a society of rational people, and diminish the gulf between American civilians and our military is through education.

Over the last six decades we have failed in educating our children. We must return to true teaching that includes helping children become self-reliant, our traditions have to be more than a fast food meal, and rather than simply paying lip service to the many cultures that make up America, we have to respectfully include them.

The starting point is making our public schools a safe place where discipline and study rule the day. But our public schools are a joke. We must change that and we should take a heed of Dr. Condoleezza Rice’s grandfather’s dedication in furthering the education of poor black children. He sought funds from any source he could, he insisted on new, up-to-date materials for his students, he went door-to-door in poor neighborhoods and spoke with parents about the importance of sending their children to colleges, and he went to the colleges and secured places for his students.1 We must find the kind of zeal and love he had for black children, and apply it to all the children of America.

Without the kind of hands-on dedication that Dr. Rice’s grandfather had, we will, as a nation, become more and more irrational, governed by only our emotions, be prey for every tyrant and bully who wants to control us and make us slaves, and we will continue to fail to appreciate those who give us our freedom because we’re not thinking about anything but the incident of the moment. It would be sad if we only come to our senses after we are viciously bloodied by some despot bent on destroying freedom.

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1 Condoleezza Rice, Extraordinary, Ordinary People, (Delacorte Press 2010), Kindle e- book, locations 238-255.

Photo Credits:
Jan 25, 2014 – Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif. – – Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif. – A Marine with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, waits to ascend the first of many hills during a grueling hike, with 90 pound packs, at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif. To gain an expeditionary mindset the Marines and Sailors of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines and Ragnarok Co., 2nd Marine Logistics Company, conducted a 10-day field exercise, which consisted of long range day and night foot movement through extremely rugged terrain with drastic elevation changes and tested the Marines’ endurance. – Photo By: Staff Sgt. Steve Cushman