• Save The Planet. Live Like Your Grandparents.

    Earlier this year I was watching a video of Jordan Peterson speaking at an event where the audience was able to ask questions afterwards. One woman stood up and asked him a very interesting question, which went something like this: "If you (Peterson) believe that we should be focusing on our individual responsibility, rather than focusing on social movements or the government to enforce change in society, how do you solve big issues like climate change? Sure, it's all good and well to tell someone to clean their room and get their life in order before trying to tell others how to live, but how will this narrow line of thinking stop glaciers from melting, or plastics from polluting our oceans, or stave off the depletion of our natural resources?

    When I heard these questions I immediately thought of my grandparents. Here were two people who had grown up during The Depression and knew nothing about environmentalism. They probably never thought, let alone talked, about "saving the planet". No one told them how to live, and they never bragged about their way of life. And yet, if you were to measure their environmental footprint, I'd be willing to bet they were in the negative. They never received recognition for it. The government didn't give them any tax breaks for being energy efficient. They were motivated by nothing other than personal responsibility and the desire to take care of themselves and their family.

    My grandparents liked their things and were even a bit materialistic; but they took care of everything they owned as if it could never be replaced. They never bought new things. My grandmother washed and re-used every kind of plastic bag or container over and over for years before throwing it away. Glass jars were re-purposed for canning the vegetables she grew in the garden.  She would also patch and repair all their clothes until they were unwearable. Nonetheless both of them always looked presentable and put-together. Old threadbare clothes were cut apart and sewn into quilts. I received one of these quilts for my seventh birthday. It was made out of old jeans and contrasting red fabrics. What a wonderfully heavy and cozy quilt that was! I used it for nearly two decades before it wore out. 

    I remember thinking it was so strange that their trash can in the kitchen was just a small bucket with a grocery bag lining it. My grandmother would inspect the trash whenever we came over. Many a time I got chastised for throwing something away that could either be re-used or composted. A week's worth of my grandparent's garbage probably filled only one small plastic grocery bag. Now, my husband and I fill up an entire big trash bin every week for the garbage man to pick up and throw in the landfill. My grandparent's didn't like to waste anything that could be re-used, but they also liked to save money wherever they could. I don't know this for a fact, but I bet they arranged with the waste department to pick up their trash every other week, rather than every week, therefore cutting their bill in half. This wasn't about saving the planet or living a zero-waste lifestyle; this was about saving money so they could take care of themselves and their family. 

    They recycled, picked up trash alongside the road, grew, canned and preserved every sort of food they could. They walked instead of drove, never flew on airplanes, composted, and wore second-hand or home made clothing. And they NEVER turned on lights during the day (even in the dark bathroom, which only had a small window). My grandfather also planted and maintained all the trees on their city block. As far as environmental virtue points go, they were saints.

    But you see, they didn't do any of these things to save the planet or collect virtue points. Their reasons were more "self-centered". They wanted to save money and take care of themselves. And in the case of picking up trash alongside the road and planting trees, this also had a more "selfish" reason behind it. They didn't pick up trash and plant trees along just any old road, but on the roads they frequented, and in their own neighborhood. Not only did this make everything look more beautiful and clean, but it also increased the monetary value of their home by creating an area that was desirable to live in. And for an extra bonus any cans they happened to pick up could also be collected and brought to the recycling facility for a few dollars. 

    Somewhere out there is an old car that is still running because they took care of it, walked almost everywhere they could, and didn't buy a new shiny one every few years. Factories didn't need to use energy to keep up with their consumerism.

    Somewhere out there is an old quilt or two made from fabrics from fifty-year-old clothes that could no longer be worn. Factories didn't need to use energy to produce new fabrics for them.

    Somewhere out there in a backyard in Montana is a pile of rich and fertile soil, made from years of their compost which didn't go to waste and rot in a landfill. 

    Somewhere out there is a little stack of old and worn out ziploc bags. Enough for their entire lifetime; and the same amount most of us go through in a week or a month. 

    I don't think the earth is going to burn up in fifteen years. But humans do have an impact and perhaps if everyone minded their own business rather than striving to collect virtue points we might be in a better place. The government can enforce laws, and society can judge us for our actions, but is that how we want to live? Constantly being told how to live our lives? Living in guilt? It's difficult for most of us to have any emotional connection to something like the planet. We might say the words, but deep down most of us only really care about ourselves, our families, and where we live. Perhaps if we were encouraged to take care of these things first, the impact would be greater than any law the government could ever pass. 



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  • Telling My Story: Part Three - How The Rumors Do Spread!

    Screenshot above is from someone's Instagram stories, telling people to report my video on YouTube back in January.

    You know, after writing my last two posts I almost feel like I don't need to write any more about this. The bitterness and's slipping away. I didn't know how writing and releasing my story into the world would have such a massive effect on me. 

    When I was little my mom taught me to write by having me write letters to my grandparents and other relatives (I was homeschooled). As I grew older I continued the practice of letter-writing. It was how I expressed my feelings when I didn't have the courage to speak out loud. A few letters I wrote marked pivotal turning points in my life. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. I suppose this telling of my story has been a letter of sorts. Thank you for reading it. 

    I have one more thing I wish to write about regarding the knitting episode, and then I think I will be done for now. The story isn't over, but it's starting to fade in my mind and become less and less a central part of my everyday thoughts. The mind has a wonderful way of forgetting the bad after some time and remembering only the good.

    A week or so after the knitting community cast me out I remember making a trip into town to get some groceries. It felt surreal. For days I had been receiving hundreds of negative emails and comments. I had been accused of so many terrible things, and my mind and emotions were completely wrapped up in all the words hurled at me. I felt like the most hated person in the world. But at my local grocery store, I was a nobody. Gosh, did it feel good! In the sea of people I was just another person walking around collecting food for my dinner. I picked the shortest line at checkout and stood there looking down the rows of cashiers and customers. They were all of different colors, different backgrounds. My cashier was Vietnamese. I had seen her many different times. She didn't know that the knitters thought I was a racist. It didn't matter. All that mattered in that moment is that we smiled at each other and talked a bit about the weather as she rang up my items. I walked out through the doors, passing all sorts of people. I didn't know their stories, how much money they had or didn't have, where they were from, or their political or religious beliefs. None of that mattered. Everyone comes to the grocery store. We all need food.

     Here are a couple examples of the sort of emails I had been receiving:

     Dear White Supremicist, 

    I have never in my life been so appalled by a business owner in the knitting community! 
    You are an awful human being and I hope your business fails. May you wake up and become a better human. 
    I’ve unfollowed you and blocked you on social media. Take time to reflect on the consequences of spewing hate. You’ve outed yourself as a neo-nazi sympathizer, which makes you a neo-nazi in my book. 
    Do better, if not...let your world continue to fall and fail all around you. 
    And remember, you are a racist piece of shit! Good luck with your failing business and awful heart. 
    I truly hope I never see your racist face again online or in person. 


    And this one:

    "...If you  cannot see that you are not a part of the solution, you are the problem.  You have chosen to veil your words under the guise of a meek and wounded woman.  When you run from this conversation, you are leaving space for those who use threats and violence to combat this conversation.  When you walk out, they walk in.  Can you live with that? Can you live with the idea that a hood wearing, cross burning, noose hanging, violent racist may take your place? Can you live with your apathy that could get someone seriously hurt or even killed? I couldn't.
    Look, I understand coming from a very white and small town.  I grew up with N-word using people.  Racism is learned.  I suggest you go on an adventure far from your little bubble.  There are plenty of amazing resources out there to educate yourself on these issues.  It's hard to self reflect in a way that changes your pathways of thinking.  You also have to want to change.  I get the impression that you believe the vile and subtle white supremacy you preached on your YouTube video.  Then to use a Joe Rogen video to spread bullshit science? I can't even with that.  
    I see right through your weak and pathetic skin you wear.  You hide behind a poor little old me persona that is just vomit inducing.  Even if you participated in this conversation, you wouldn't last very long surround by extremely strong, powerful, and wonderful women that I stand with.  Also, nice job deleting negative comments on your youtube video.  I see you.  I know you have received emails from folks like me.  You can try and ignore us all you want.  You will fall on the wrong side of history.
    There were hundreds of these. I deleted most of them. After a few days of this my husband suggested I just delete them the moment I saw they were negative. There was no way I could respond at the time, even to the more thoughtful and less vitriolic ones. These people had assumed so much about me, created lies that they were projecting onto me, hoping I would believe them and beg for mercy for being such a terrible person.
    In my last post I talked about how I was accused of being a Confederate sympathizer and therefore a "proven" racist for attending a Civil War Reenactment Ball. Well, I was also accused of being a Nazi-sympathizer. Surprise, surprise. 
    Here was their "proof" for this accusation....
    During the time that Karen Templer was being "called out" for her India blog post, I saw a quote from a woman on Instagram that really inspired me. I started following her and shared some of her beautiful words in my stories before I left Instagram. A day or two later a friend sends me a text message, saying one of her customers told her I am friends with a Nazi on Instagram. Apparently the rumor was that someone I followed explicitly showed themselves with a swastika. I told her I was unaware of this.
    I checked my email and a follower had sent me a screenshot that accused me of being a Nazi for following the woman with the inspiring quotes (I am not sharing these screenshots for her privacy). For, you see, this woman is Hindu. And in her culture, the swastika is a powerful symbol with a beautiful meaning. The best translation of this meaning is "all is well". The Nazis took this symbol and literally twisted it so that it is facing the other direction and has a completely different meaning. She explained this in her post. This woman was trying to reclaim her culture's symbol and use it for good. She made this clear. 
    Due to the fact that this rumor and screenshot was being shared around, I was not the only victim. She was targeted as well. A woman with brown skin from a foreign country. A mother. A woman sharing inspiring quotes and beautiful, colorful photos of her life. These hate-mongers had accused her of being a neo-Nazi. I contacted her immediately to ask if she was alright. She was angry and afraid.
    The other piece of evidence they had against me was regarding my video and a comment I left. Someone had asked: "How do you stay hydrated while crying all those white woman tears?". I responded, "I like to drink a pint of Guinness". Of course, this was one of the only comments I had replied to, so they jumped on it and tried to get as much juice out of it as they could. 

     These are screenshots collected by someone who sent them to me in case I ever needed them.

    Yes, this is where they took it. I did some research and learned that in 1936 Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics. Guinness was a sponsor. They created pro-Nazi posters to use during the games, but they never actually made it to print. Perhaps they learned some things about the Nazis and decided against it. I'm sure they weren't the only ones. Now we have history to show us how evil Nazism was. In 1936 no one could see into the future. When WWII started, Guinness was a supporter of the Allied Forces, supplying thirsty troops with free and delicious beer. 

    Also, they are trying to put words in my mouth. I never said that “opposition to systemic racism is not a conversation but a one-sided belief”. I did talk about a "one-sided belief" (I meant to say "ideology", but couldn't think of the word at the time), but never said anything about racism in my video. I didn't even say the social justice issue they claimed to be fighting for  was a bad issue to fight. Racism is of course a good thing to condemn. However, I do think it is wrong to start going after small businesses, in the name of anti-racism, for innocent things like writing about one's excitement to travel to India. But their far-fetched and laughable interpretation of my Guinness comment and their intentional misrepresentation of a woman reclaiming a  Hindu symbol just shows how low they are willing to go to find supposed racism. It also shows, in the case of the Hindu woman, that they will even use a brown-skinned woman’s desire to reclaim a culturally appropriated symbol against her if it serves their purpose. 

    You cannot reason with these bullies and trolls. 


  • Telling My Story: Part Two - The Civil War Ball

    When I was eighteen I learned how to sew, and quickly became passionate about making historical clothing. I started a blog to record my sewing adventures, and called it "Hester's Needle", after Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps the choice of this name foretold that I too would be cast out of a community in the future. 

    During my late teens and early twenties I used to attend a Civil War Ball every summer in an old historic town in Montana. People from all over would come together, do a little parade around the old town, and then dance the night away to a live band. It was the highlight of our year and my friend and I would spend all winter making our dresses. I have lots of pictures of us at various dances still up on the blog

    Almost ten years later I hear rumors that I am being accused of being a Confederate sympathizer. I see a couple Instagram posts and dig in and find some comments on a Reddit thread regarding this issue. A user called "elocut" says the only proof she can find is "...a photo of Maria at a Civil War era ball With a confederate flag in the background". She goes on to say that she thinks this is "distasteful' and "bad judgement" on my part and that if she were an employer looking to hire me she probably wouldn't "...especially if I thought there was any chance she would be interacting with people of color. She obviously has no training in diversity, and made some very poor choices in speaking out in that video, and not taking it down when other people commented". Entire Reddit Thread Here. 

    When I first saw this Reddit thread back in February this person had also included a link to my blog for people to follow and see for themselves how terrible of a person I was in my youth. I see now that there are deleted posts, one of which must've been the one containing this link. For, she probably realized that if people followed the link they would see my nerdy blog with all my historical sewing, and probably realize that there wasn't much there at all to condemn me. In fact, it could inspire people to sew and get into historical costuming themselves!

    As you can see in the picture at the top, dated September 3, 2009 (I was twenty), there is indeed a Confederate flag along with American flags (I'm in the red dress on the left). By the way some people were talking online it was as if I had spent my youth marching around waving a Confederate flag at Civil War events. One person on IG said "It doesn't surprise me". Another said "wow, Civil War Ball? Ugh Where did you find that? So awful. I hope people figure out who she really is and she has consequences".

    I don't know the entire history of Virginia City, but even though Montana territory supported the North, Virginia City did send money to the South. So, there were most likely people from both sides residing in the city during the Civil War. At the ball I attended some men would even come dressed in uniforms from opposing sides. I guess it was a Civil War after all. Friend against friend. Neighbor against neighbor. 

    Also, if you really want get into the minute details, I'm standing on the other side in this picture, closer to an American flag...and next to a person of color (and without any diversity did I manage it?). 

    Of course I'm glad the North won. As were my ancestors who lived during this time.

    I am so thankful for everyone involved in putting on The Grand Ball For Peace each year. I hope I can attend again in the future.


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