Thursday, January 11, 2018

Turning down the dream

A couple of months ago, I had a dream that I was approached by a top-secret spy agency who were recruiting. They thought I might be amazing as a spy, and they gave me some very cursory training and then I took an aptitude test. By doing what was right, being honest, answering with my gut instead of second-guessing myself, I aced their test and was immediately offered a job. Promptly the office was attacked by bad guys and the boss was killed, and I escaped with some of the staff. They were so impressed with my skills that they offered me an undercover position in England for a two-week mission. High pay. Only two weeks. Tim was facing immense stress at the time in his life, and if I left I would be abandoning him to face that stress alone, not to mention raising all 8 kids alone and working more than full time. I looked at the pay and the excitement and the fact that they loved me and thought I was amazing for talents that I valued (and that my kids do not), and I abandoned my family and took the job. Just for two weeks, and then I'd be home, I told myself, and it would make a lot of money for my family and take the pressure off Tim. So I set off and the training included doing things that I am morally opposed to, but it was part of the job....

I woke up with the distinct feeling that I had chosen WRONG. That my family is my mission right now, and leaving them for glory, excitement, praise, and to use neglected talents that I value would be a terribly bad mistake that could cost me my soul.

So a few days later, my dream job came up (a real-life kind of dream job--nobody would ever really hire me to work in a spy agency, even though intelligence analysis really is one of my dream jobs) in a museum working with artifacts and writing up info about them for displays and newsletters. The job was down in Denver area, doing local history work at a history museum. It's the job I've wanted since I was in high school. Writing. Physical history. Artifact preservation. Teaching. It's like all my talents rolled into one lovely position that someone would actually pay me real money to do--a good wage, too.

But I remembered the dream and its warning, and I didn't apply.

And then I forgot about that dream.

But I remembered today, after a week of being invited to head up or join the leadership teams for various committees, online groups, real-life groups--all fighting for causes I believe in and care about. All asking to use talents that I value and that often go unrecognized and unused. All accompanied by praise for things I want very much to be praised for (especially since most of the things mothers get praised for I'm a completely failure at!). It all sounds very exciting--a chance to use my brain to do cool things that sound important, to get praise from people for being smart, to analyze information and use my writing to lead people to better things and better ideas.

All this came because of opportunities I had last fall to help in a political campaign. And I suppose it would be the start of a path that could lead far and wide, to interesting ways to use my brain to do interesting things.

But my mission right now is not to save the world from political chaos or help run a myriad of interesting organizations fighting for important things, as much as I want to do those things. My mission is to restore order to my home, to put together foam puzzles that are going to last three days, and bake birthday cakes, blow bubbles, and help kids sculpt things using graham crackers and frosting. My job is to read stupid stories over and over and over. And to kiss imagined owies that don't really exist. To teach math and try in vain to keep house. And to love and love and love and love. And saying it out loud sounds like I'm choosing the stupid over the intelligent, the mundane over the exciting, the mediocre over the excellent. And by many measuring sticks, I am.

But every job has mundane and boring and stupid parts. I suspect that every job is actually mostly dumb stuff, but we do it to accomplish the goal or vision or mission the job includes. It's possible to see where these mundane steps are leading, so they're possible to tolerate. The trouble with mothering is we often forget the mission in the tidal wave of tedium, but that doesn't mean there isn't a mission or that we aren't actually doing it. A former army sniper told me once that he would sit in a tree for five days to get in one good shot at his target. Sounds exciting, except for the 4.999 days stuck in a tree just waiting and waiting and not even allowed to get down to sleep or go to the bathroom.

Really, someone else actually can do the intelligence analysis--and better than I, since politics and policy don't light a fire in my belly, although thinking and research do.

But the day before I die, I will not regret having turned all the fancy chances down, even if someone else becomes president some day because they took them instead of me. But I will regret doing the things that nobody else can do--mothering my children, being a wife to Tim, writing my novels, being a sister and daughter to my siblings and parents, making my quilts, writing curricula in the way that only I can, teaching and playing and building my home into a sanctuary from the world. I will never get famous doing those things. I will not change the world. Nobody will likely remember me who doesn't carry my blood in their veins.

This week, I choose the mundane. I choose to hold a puking toddler and a bucket and hope they connect. I choose playdough and candy houses and verbal horseplay with teenagers and failing at bedtimes (despite my best efforts) and messy floors and full bellies and music and laughter and forgetting to take the garbage out.

It's not fancy and nobody will notice me. I won't change everyone's world. Someone else is going to fight for truth and justice. Someone else is going to shut down tribalism and push for compromise. Someone else is going to work their way through the channels to an eventual political appointment or office. Someone else is going to get paid to think and write.

Not me this time. Who knows if I will get another flood of opportunities like this.

 But it feels like the right choice.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Making a paracord whip, the "recipe"

So now I want to make another paracord whip but sorting through the last "as I go" post is a pain. I accidentally used the heavier weight paracord last time, so the measurements are for that weight of cord. I don't know if that matters or not.

So here's the "recipe"

75" paracord, gutted (or whip length plus 3-6 inches)
Thin piece of metal for the handle, around 5-6" long
metal BBs
electrical tape

Short form instructions as a reminder: Gut the paracord, melt both ends, but melt one end wide like a funnel. Insert handle in one end and melt it in. Fill the rest with BBs down to about 2 1/2 inches from the end. Wrap in electrical tape tight and smooth to just past the BBs, making it tight enough below them that they can't move or fall out.

8' cord (or 1 times the length of the core plus 2 feet)
12' cord (2 times the length of the core)
two 17-18' cords (3 times the length of the core), alternately, one 18' and one 19'
Electrical tape
gut string from cord for lashing

Gut and seal cords. Weave a loop. Insert core. Weave around the core, dropping either at 1/3 or 1/2, then 2/3, then weave to end and past a little bit. Cut ends to stagger and wrap the end with electrical tape to keep it from unweaving. Or tie. Either way, leave one strand at least 6" longer than the others for the fall tie. Roll the belly against something hard (like concrete) with a book or board. Lash the transition tightly and then tape the handle three times in alternating directions (2" past the handle, 4" past the handle, and 6" past the handle) to strengthen the transition.

7' or 9' cord (gradual or steeper taper) (1.5 times core)
10' cord (1x core plus 4')
14' cord (2x core plus 2')
18' cord (3x core)
two 22'-24' cords (4x core or 3x core plus 4')
2' cord
6' gut from a cord (for the cracker)

Weave around core. Drop strands every 1/5 of the whip. Weave past end but leave 6" of both core and the last four overlay strands (5 strands together, each at least 6" long). Attach fall and tie it all off with a fall tie. Make and attach cracker. Trim and melt all ends. Crack the whip.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Must we inadvertently belittle women in trying to "fix" princesses?

2 yo was watching movies with Daddy this evening, and they watched a great movie where the princess rejected everyone's advice to stay home and sew and she reframed the problem using a more female approach to life and solved it without resorting to having to do things the vast majority women really can't do (physical fighting with greater strength than men, for example).

But then three details killed the story for me: 1. the dragon ended up being a baby who just needed a hug (because women can't face -real- danger and come out on top using women's innate skills and approaches to things?!).

2. The princess actually says, "Girls are as good as boys!" Just no. That reinforces the idea that boys are inherently superior and girls have to run to keep up. It's establishing more firmly the measuring stick being men. That drives me nuts! One of the biggest flaws of most media-reported feminism is that they've bought into the lie that for women to be successful, they have to out-men men. That's just wrong. We don't need to teach women to lean in or to raise their hands and speak up--we need to teach society to listen to them as they are.

and 3. All the men were idiots. if the only way for women to be wonderful is if men are all idiots, then we lose. We lose as women because men are not all idiots, so this is just reinforcing the idea that women are inferior to all but stupid men. We lose as society because we teach that men are all idiots. This is not real life and it's not a healthy way to look at humans.

We need more stories where competent women and competent men work together, and more stories where women face real danger and save the world using methods and approaches that are realistic for women and highlight valuable things about them (instead of just trying to make them stronger and braver and more violent than men).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Making a paracord bullwhip

Referring to the instructions on three different instructables, I'm making a paracord bullwhip.

Since there are multiple conflicting instructions, I'm taking notes here of what I actually did so if it works, I can remember, and if it doesn't, I know what not to do next time.

Making the core:
First, I cut a 75" length of paracord. I pulled out the guts and wrapped them up to use later. Two of the three instructables mentioned that 6 feet is a good length for a whip, and one mentioned that a filled paracord shrinks, so I cut a few inches extra.

Two of the three instructables suggested using something hard and metal for a handle, so I found something metal to shove into the paracord for a handle. I straightened a thin metal rod I found on the floor (the kids told me later it was a stray tent stake) so I had a thin 8 inch rod that fit into the paracord for a handle. I slid it in and melted the end around the top of the rod to seal the end and keep it in.

Then I stuck the other end around a pencil and melted it into a sort of "funnel" shape. This fit around the end of a baby bottle device intended to eliminate bubbles that looks like a funnel. So I taped it on and used that and another tent stake (like a ram rod) to shove copper-coated steel BBs into the paracord. The tent stake's bent top was also very useful for pulling the BBs down the length of cord. This took kind of a long time, but I filled the paracord with BBs to about 2 1/2 inches from the end and tied a knot. Two of the three instructables said to fill the paracord all the way, so that's what I went with.

Then I wrapped the entire whip core in a tight wrapping of black electrical tape. Two of the three suggested wrapping it with tape, so I did.

I like the look of a whip with a loop at the end, so we're going with that. Two of the three instructables used an 8-strand first belly weave, so we're going with that--especially since that's how you get the loop.

I also made the cracker, following the instructions on the "upcycled belts" link above.

That's how far I've gotten so far. Now I have to figure out how long to cut the strands for the first belly....


So, I measured the core and it's 60 inches on the spot now. I lost a lot of length stuffing the core. I knew it was going to shrink, but didn't realize I needed to cut it that much longer. My extra three inches was wholly inadequate. It needed a foot more. If I add a fall and cracker, it might end up 6 feet total still, though.

But looking at the calculations on the "upcycled belts" link above, this is just right for the core length, so I guess we're good?

Now to figure how long of cords I need to cut.  One site lists 2 cords at 16 ft, 1 at 14 and 1 at 10. The upcycled belts calculations gives me 1 at 15 ft, 1 at 10, 1 at 5 feet, but says this is a minimum starting point, and longer is better for controlling the taper later. The third link does a four-strand instead of an 8-strand belly weave, and I want the loop at the end, which requires an 8-strand weave, so the instructions for 4 are not helpful (although they might be more useful if the 8s prove to be too big for my tight core).  That link cuts two ten foot sections, folded in half to weave the belly. That instructable also doesn't have the first belly reach the length of the core, to aid in tapering with the second belly. Curious about the strength of that, ultimately.

Given how much length I lost in filling the paracord, I'd rather err on the side of too long rather than too short.


I cut two 16', one 14', and one 10' lengths of paracord, which I will fold in half to do an 8-strand weave.

But I'm not sure I have enough paracord to finish the overlay. I bought 150', but I maybe needed more than that.  Trying to figure the overlay lengths....

2 cords at 18 feet, 1 at 16'10", 1 at 15.5', 1 at 14.5', 1 at 13'3". Fold those in half and I have the 12-strand overlay. I have approximately 80 feet left. That's just about 80 feet. We'll see if what I have (in two colors) splits right.

Now to pause to get kids to bed and to find a YouTube tutorial on a four-strand round braiding.


I used this video to learn how to do a four-strand round braid.  It was a good choice because it was short, to the point, and actually taught me the basics of the whip-making braid. 

Then I went to the "upcycling belts" instructable to learn how to start the whip with the loop. Once I got to the end of the pictures (where it says, "Follow these pictures carefully," I switched to the "paracord bullwhip" tutorial to learn how to braid the thing.

It was hard to get the handle to stay in the loop at first, but once I got about half-way down, it was fine. I'm not used to weaving lately, so my hands are stiff! I've found from other weaving projects that it's nice to keep binder clips (this is the brand I had on hand: around to clip the strands in place when I need to take a break. It keeps things from getting tangled. Some fingerweavers use clothes pins--I only use them for holding individual strands from getting tangled instead of holding the strands in order. The binder clips are nice because you have a half- to a full inch of flat space to clamp strands in place.  Very useful if you have kids and have to pick up and put down your project a thousand times.

I have read that it's helpful to clamp the end of the whip to a table to hold the tension. I'll probably use a c-clamp for that once I get enough length on this.

Once you get the hang of it, the weave is not difficult.

Later, after sleeping...

Weaving, weaving, weaving.... Using the loop on the top, I hung the whip from a nail so I could more easily control the tension and the project.

Now to figure out how and when to drop strands.  A quick google search got me to this, which is incredibly helpful.‘active-weight’-of-a-whip/


I dropped the first two strands at half way, and the second two half way down the remainder, following the instructions on "Paracord Bullwhip."  I'm going to follow the instructions on "upcycled belts" next to keep braiding until just past the end of the core and then stagger the cut-offs.

In dropping the strands, I found that I had to cut off 2 feet (one foot from each end) of the shortest strand, and 2 feet (one foot from each end) of the second-shortest strand. So I should have cut them 8' and 12' (instead of 10 and 14). That would probably have saved me from possibly having to buy more cord for the overlay.

I'm also planning to roll the belly as two of the links suggest.


Eh, I'm too lazy to sew anything right now. And since one other instructable suggested taping the whole thing and the other said tape the end, I tapered the cuts offs the way the "upcycling" instructions suggested, and taped them all together as tightly as I could. I cut off the melted ends first to make the whole thing tighter, but that meant I had to tape over the ends, so I did.

While I wished I had cut the shorter strands shorter, I wish I had cut the longer ones a foot longer on each end--so 2 feet longer each--to give me some wiggle room to weave beyond the end of the core. I reached just to the end of the core, but didn't really get to go beyond it but with tape.

Of course, we had to go outside and flick the thing to test it. Very satisfactory, if a little stiff. The link where the handle transitions to the thong is very weak, as the instructions all said it would be, so I am going to reinforce that next. Tape or lashing? Both? Probably tape because I'm lazy and I have tape on hand, but the filler strings from the paracord would lash nicely, too. 


So I ended up taking a single string from the core of the 10-foot paracord and using it to make a tight lashing, about 2 inches long, around the transition from handle to thong, as in one of the instructables, and then I used electrical tape to tape the handle and transition three times, as in another of the instructables. With the handle and the transition reinforced, I'm ready to cut the overlay.

Oh, and I had decided not to roll it until the end, but I ended up rolling it with my hands against a wall, and it did, indeed, make a difference. Smoothed out the whole thing as promised. If I did a proper job, it would probably be even better.

I also was working in the bathroom while Emmy bathed for part of the evening and discovered that a towel hook is a fabulous place to work. It holds the whip for me. And having a second towel hook just a foot from the first was perfect for hanging the scissors and tape on. So I made a few sketches of my ideal weaving wall, with places to measure, hooks for whip making and shelves for my hanging wall loom, and a measuring board. Some day, I'll have a craft/sewing room with a weaving wall in it, a sewing machine wall, and a quilting wall. I would be in seventh heaven. That would be an art studio for me, since fabric arts are my thing.

Anyway, I digress. Next step: cutting the cords for the overlay (and finding out if I need to buy more paracord....)

As a side note, when I straightened the tent stake, I didn't make it perfectly straight, and the warp in it has been emphasized rather than hidden by the weaving and taping process. So perhaps next time I'll cut the bend off the tent stake, or use a very long nail, or just be super careful about straightening the thing properly.


Doing some math about cutting. I made a chart of the recommendations from all three instructables.  For the belly I needed longer than the long recommendation but half way between the other two (if I had chosen the short ones, though, the taper would have been better, so there is that.) I like the approach of the "upcycled belts" author more, but he's doing a 16-strand weave, and I want to do 12. So I looked at how much paracord I should have left, and I should have about 63-64 feet of black and 40 feet of red. Since I don't want to buy more, I'm aiming to cut the overlay layers 22' (one red and one black), 17' (red), 15' (black), 14' (black), and 11' (black). That should leave me 2 feet for a fall, which is about a foot short, but will have to do. I suspect what will happen in real life is I will cut the 22' lengths, and then will use whatever is left of the red (probably will be 18 feet) for the second length. Then I will cut a 3' fall from black, and cut whatever is left of the black into about 15, about 13-14, and about 10-12' sections and use the whole thing up that way of the 150' I bought (100' black, 50' red).

Tomorrow, that is.

The next night...

So, I thought I bought 150 feet of paracord, 50 red and 100 black. So I did all the calculations for how much I needed based on that, and either I calculate badly, or I measure really badly, or I forgot something I used paracord for, or the measurements were wrong on the package, or something else went awry. Because when I went to cut it, I had 16 feet less black paracord than I should have. Seems like I'd remember cutting off and using 16 feet extra for something, and also that I couldn't be that off in my measurements, so I'm not sure what went wrong. 

When I got to WalMart to buy more tonight, I found there are two weights of paracord, and I might have accidentally bought heavyweight black and lightweight red, 50 yards of each. Except that would leave me far more than 16 feet short! clue what went wrong, but I bought 50 feet more of black paracord so I could cut the last 13.5 foot strand for the overlay and the 2.5 foot fall I need. 

So now the lengths are all cut and ready to start weaving the overlay. I have two 22' strands (1 red, 1 black), one 18' (red), one 15' (black), one 13.5' (black) and one 12' (black). That should allow me to weave a 12-strand weave with a more gradual taper than I did on the core. I have no idea if the core tapering different from the overlay will be a bad thing. I hope not. We shall see. I have to drop a lot more strands this time. I better go figure out how that is done, and also which instructables I want to use for starting, for weaving, and for dropping strands in this layer.

The next day...

I started the overlay weaving last night following the "paracord bullwhip" link instructions, and then put it away to sleep some after essentially one pass.

Weaving 12 strands is basically the same as 4 and 8, but it took my fingers a little while to get the hang of holding them all (years of experience braiding hair has been super helpful for finger muscle training, and also getting a grasp on plaiting in general). It's also a little trickier to tighten the weave properly, but once I figured it out, it was okay.

So it turned out that I did buy two different weights of paracord. It's not terrible weaving two weights, but a little odd for sure.

I was ready to start the taper long before the cords ended. The shortest cord was 36 inches too long.  It should have been a 9' cord for the steep-taper, loud-cracker whip mentioned in the tapering link. But probably a 7' cord (or even 6') for a more gradual taper.

My right hand falls asleep if I weave too long. That's lousy. So now that it's awake (from typing instead), back to weaving.


Now that I wove to the spot where I wanted to drop the second-shorted cord, I had to trim off 40 inches. So it should have been 10' even instead of 13.5'.  I really was trying to follow the advice to weave loose and then tighten, but I found if you weave quite loose and then shove it up and tighten, it makes a nicer, tighter weave. Also, weaving 10 strands looks nicest with an under 2, over 3 weave (I tried several options mentioned in the instructables, and that looks best).

Now to figure out what happens next. Do I weave past the bottom, or not? Next steps, next steps.

Oh, and the next shortest cord I only had to cut a foot off, so it could have been 14'.


The three longest cords were just the right length. When I got to the near end of the core, I dropped the next two shortest strands (one from each side) and made them the new core. I did a 4-stranded weave until I had 6 inches left of all the strands, and then I trimmed the core, but I should have left it long because you need it long for the fall knot. Oops!

I followed the instructions for the "paracord bullwhip" for finishing because I was finishing with paracord and not leather.

I skipped the decorative knots parts because I didn't want to do them. I attached the fall and the cracker, and now it's time to go crack the thing. And maybe get pictures. It looks like a whip, at any rate. I hope it works like a whip.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Did I just read that?

"'Girls can do unimaginable things:' Conference inspires Utah girls to pursue STEM careers" (

Sounds like someone needs to learn a little bit about connotation....


In more context: "Clara said if a boy told her math and science and engineering was just for boys, she would "get really mad." "Girls can do unimaginable things," she said, smiling."  

So girls doing math and science and engineering is so rare that it's never even been imagined? It's unimaginable?

Sad state girls are in these days if that's true.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Did I just read that?

KSL must have a new headline writer. They've had good headlines for a long time, and now they're good in an entirely different way.  (from home page and

"Hunter dies after tree falls on him while sleeping"

This is what you get when trees sleep. Sleepwalking (sleep falling?) trees can be dangerous. Stay away.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Did I just read that?

From home page today: "Fact check: Trump admin on opioids, international relief"

So the entire administration is on drugs and getting foreign aid to keep themselves afloat? (Like, maybe, from Russia?)

I wouldn't be surprised if they were all on opioids, actually....