BB CW #13 and Email from Afghanistan

Sigh. I'm not being a very good Civil War Purist with these blocks. Realized too late that the shirting background isn't CW era. Also this is supposed to be a Confederate block but I wanted to use the red "Union" motifs. Renegade Quilter. Runaway Leg Quilter. Timmy used to do this routine when he was little where one leg would run off with him with the rest of his body following. We both found this hilarious. He may not be doing Runaway Leg in Afghanistan, but I did get this email a few weeks ago:

Hey Momma,

I assure you, I did indeed send my letter home. From the timestamp on the letters I've been sending/recieving it looks like it takes about a month for a letter to make the trek one way or another. You should get it sometime soon. I finally got a fat stack of letters from you about a week ago, so I was glad to finally get them and hear about the homefront. It sounds like you might be worse off in ATL than I am in AFG.

Despite all the personal setbacks, I'm glad to hear that the quilting spectrum of your life is going well. Sorry to hear that I wasn't home to wield the shovel to bury Stray Cat. It might have been for the best; I'm sure you gave him a more sanctimonious funeral than I would have. For some reason or another I thought about that time we went fishing and we accidentally bought the live shrimp for bait and had to use the spatula to properly hook them on the line. Neither one of us were too enthused.
[editor's note: we flattened and immobilized the shrimp with the spatula, then hooked them amid much angst. Shrimp jump, you know.]

AFG is going fine. We've spent the last couple days escorting my new man-crush "John" around the countryside. John works in the awesomely named Human Exploitation Team, which is some branch of Marine Corps intelligence that focuses on human intelligence networks. As far as I can tell, John's whole job is to go around interrogating Afghanis and being awesome. Part James Bond, part grizzled CIA shadow warrior, John epitomizes my dream job. The kind of man you expect to walk around with a suitcase handcuffed to his wrist.

John did indeed manage to capture a confirmed Taliban member. This guy was acting suspicious as we were searching his compound (mud hut), so John started looking through the guy's cellphone.

The background on the phone was an Al-Qaeda banner that had two crossed AK-47's in front of a flaming Quaran.


In the Recent Calls list, he had a contact named "Commander." He kept his Taliban commander's phone number saved as "Commander."


That's essentially the same as a cocaine dealer having Pablo Escobar's phone number saved as "Cocaine Cartel Boss." Suspicious.

So our new friend was flexcuffed and blindfolded. Baker and I ended up drawing the unfortunate post of Detainee Guards. Halfway through our shift on Detainee Watch 2011, our buddy started yelling something in Pashtu and gesturing with his bound hands. We couldn't figure out what he wanted, so we pulled out our pocket Pashtu/English translation book. I asked "Are you hungry?" He responds with a negative sounding grunt. "Are you thirsty?" Another negative sounding grunt. So I find a phrase that asks "Is it time for prayer?" I figure maybe this guy needs to pray, so I decide to ask him. Unfortunately I missread the phrasebook and accidentally said, in a loud frustrated tone, "You are a prisoner of the United States!" He started crying. It was basically Abu Ghraib all over again.

Love you Mama,



BB CW #12 and Twin Beds are Narrow

Yes, I've used a twin bed forever since that leaves more room for other furniture. Can you say "hoard-er"? However, lately the cats have been leaving me no room at all on my nice twin bed. They have been delightfully comfortable and I have been an insomniac pretzel:
I also wanted to have a larger bed to put quilts on. Then a few people blogged about how much they loved their new metal bed from IKEA. Ooh. I've never had a metal bed. I was hooked and somehow hauled one home in my Honda Fit last Sunday. A brand-new mattress set from Original Mattress Factory and now I am sleeping as comfortably as the cats are:

This quilt is a wonderfully rough star quilt backed in homespun and quilted with very thick thread that I purchased at an isolated country auction in southern Indiana just north of Louisville many years ago. Don't you love that Depression Era green?

Latest BB CW; a busy one but I like it:


Pom Pom de Paris Reversible Quilt

First, Barbara Brackman's CW #11:

A few months ago, I won French General's Pom Pom de Paris Jelly Roll Giveaway!
You know I was thrilled. The fabrics are just adorable.
What should I do with a jelly roll? I decided to go for a very humble Country French look and to divide the strips into two color groups and do a reversible chevron pattern on front and back sides of a quilt. The dark background is Marcus Aged Muslin. Here it is pre-borders:

Here it is all quilted by Cheri Gilleland:
I love this quilt. I wanted it to look like some ancient homespun quilt from an ancient French manse of some sort (you know, ancient :-) .

and the reverse is lighter and delicate for a nice change. I just can't wait to get the binding on:

I picked up two other quilts from Cheri yesterday and am going to go trim them now. Cheri's longarm work is wonderful; I highly recommend her to you!


Letters from Afghanistan and Les Fleurs Finish at Last

You know you love your cat when you let her sit on an applique quilt you've been working on for a year:

Slowly ever so slowly, she did the final steps to complete the Les Fleurs quilt:

Not believing that the dratted, er wonderful, quilt was almost complete, she added the borders. And it was done (to flimsy stage, that is):

Timmy wrote a letter in Afghanistan on February 3rd that I received today, on March 3rd. It is long, but I thought several of you might enjoy reading it:


Dear Mamaceta,

I can finally cross “invade a foreign country” off my Life’s To-Do List. We landed here in Afghanistan a few days ago on a military-funded C-7 flight from Kyrgyzstan. The flight wasn’t bad at all, except for the distinct lack of complimentary in-flight snacks. We had to execute what’s called a “combat landing” at the end of the flight. That’s where the plane rapidly descends from around 20,000 feet to the ground in about five minutes. It did not feel good.

After we landed, I had this mental image of my platoon and I gallantly striding off the airplane, the sun glinting off our weapons and our white American teeth, as we looked out over the panoramic Afghan mountains. Instead, we stumbled off the plane, heads spinning from the rapid descent, with the sun blinding our eyes. As soon as I’d blinked the tears out of my vision, I was greeted by my first view of Afghanistan: a flaming 20-foot-tall mountain of burning garbage. My team leader, CPL S--, clapped me on the back and assured me that “it only gets worse”.

We spent a couple of days at the main base doing classes on IEDs, truck maintenance, push to primers, and that sort of stuff. One major source of funding for the Taliban is drug money from the opium trade (Afghanistan pumps out 90% of the world’s supply of opium). The Corps has seen fit to bring in several counter-drug experts from the DEA, FBI, INTERPOL, and every other government agency with an acronym. Our counter-drug expert is a regular beat cop from Atlanta. Apparently working the night shift in downtown Atlanta is excellent prior experience to qualify you to serve as a military liaison officer fighting fundamentalist narcoterrorists in an active war zone.

From the main base, we convoyed out to our smaller FOB. It is more rustic than the main base. No running water, no infrastructure, and no internets (ed.note: ”internets” is a private joke: I was amused on a job many years ago where a co-worker, dim as they come [but who, mind you, makes twice as much money as I do without doing a minute of work, so who is really the dim one], earnestly explained to me, a very competent computer user, that a particular desktop icon, when clicked, would take me to the “internets”; Timmy and I forever after speak of the internet as a plural land) anywhere in sight. Mamaceta, if you tried living like this, you might have second thoughts about your idealistic “primitive Amish lifestyle” death wish.

Hey, it isn’t all bad. I have a cot. We have one power outlet that we fight over to charge our iPods, and hopefully a working mail system that will bring this letter to you (ed.note: shall we say a not-very-speedy one).

We are partnered with a large contingent of Afghan soldiers (Afghan National Army or ANA) here on the base. They tear around the base in Ford Rangers with machine guns mounted on top, blaring music on their radios, no helmets or body armor anywhere on their bodies. Basically, they’re living my dream.

They speak broken English and my Pashto vocabulary is limited to such violent phrases as “stop or I’ll shoot”, “get down or I’ll shoot”, and “put your hands up or I’ll shoot”. It makes healthy interaction difficult.

We pantomime to one another and somehow communicate. They seem like good guys and have a great sense of humor. Our guys trade cigarettes with them and they show one another their tattoos. Cigarettes are the currency here. For a carton of Marlboro Reds, I could get a goat at the Haji shop here on base.

The ANA aren’t nearly the bearded fundamentalists I thought they would be. Our interpreter (codename: “Chuck”) told us that his fondest dream is to go to America, presumably for the liberty and freedom and such. No, it is because he says American women are sexy.

Mostly, they seem to just want to do their jobs, get paid, have families, worship Allah, and get stoned. Not unlike a lot of my friends back home.

Love you Mama. Timmy