Category Archives: current events

Dec 4 was International Rug Hooking Day

Part 4 of 4: Have the urge to learn more and stay in touch with creatives? Cyberspace is another tool to add to the hook, needle, and fibers in our supply box. We just need to learn how to use it. Meet some admins of social media groups; trusted personalities with podcasts, internet camps, and blogs; and artist pages to learn their stories. Hope this will broaden your journey, see you along the way or here next year on IRHD-Dec 4, 2020.

Steps for our journey

Social media can be a time suck, emotional roller coaster or introduce you to new friends and a big library. When Lucy Richard in New Brunswick decided to set up The Wooly Mason Jar Rughooking group on Facebook she thought “I chose to put myself in the shoes of a new hooker when I began it. I wanted a safe place to come for advice and words of encouragement and a sense of community.” This group talks about the colourful wools that come out of their dyepots using the Wooly Mason Jar recipes. Martina Lesar saw a need for a group free of advertising, and focusing on Contemporary Rug Hooking. The description begins “This group was formed to encourage and inspire contemporary styles even traditional patterns that have been reworked with a contemporary twist or colour plan.” Her studio in Ontario is open for patterns, wool and supplies in person and on-line. Lori Brechlin of Notforgotten Farm in Virginia administers a private group called The Out of Hand Rug Hookers “our mission here is to share, educate and encourage…please post often about your projects-in-progress and your love for rug hooking & rug punching.” Loretta Scena in New York created a great service with Rug Hooking Camps, Shows, Workshops and Classes. Visit this to find exhibits, and learning opportunities. These are four of the dozens groups you can search out and join.

Hooking on a pin loom

Working with our hands leaves less time to type on keyboards, or read a book but podcasts and videos are good company in our studios. Gene Shepherd from California knows how to teach with videos. His beginning loop pulling video has given people in Australia, England and North America the confidence to build a stash of fabric and make rugs. The website GeneShepherd.com shows his store of patterns and supplies, workshops, and a subscription Internet Rug Camp where over 75 videos and daily blog posts are archived for members. Deanne Fitzpatrick from her Amherst, Nova Scotia studio has encouraged us to “Create Beauty Everyday”. Subscribe to the podcast of the same name, there will be conversations with interesting fiber artists. She has a way of chatting on videos on YouTube as Deanne Fitzpatrick and blogs as if you are right there pulling loops together. Groups make travel plans to Canada for themed workshops, or some tea, scones and conversation while shopping and online at HookingRugs.com And there is a FB group too – Wild with Wool. Rug Hooking Magazine shares several live stream sessions from their FB page including a series by Lisanne Miller of W. Cushing & Co in Maine. Global Textile Hub in Australia is creating videos, webinars and virtual on-line fiber art exhibits. These productions can be found on Kira Mead’s YouTube channel.

McDonald sisters historical display @ Sauder Village

Finally, meet some of my fiber friends. Check their calendars to see work in person. The21Collective is seven artists sharing experiences with each other in retreats and speaking louder together. We are currently on FB and Instagram as The21Collective with a website to be launched in early 2020. The page gives links to each website and our artist statements. Liz Alpert Fay lives in Connecticut exhibiting mixed media work worldwide and sending a newsletter quarterly on LizAlpertFay.com . Michelle Sirois Silver‘s studio is in Vancouver, BC, Canada where she consciously works with recycled materials in consideration of the environment. Her gallery on the website MichelleSiroisSilver.com is filled with energy and variety. You might be lucky to get into a workshop or lecture sometime.

It is almost Dec 5 and I could go on and on suggesting connections for you but let me leave saying if you have been inspired to pull a loop and slow down to repeat, repeat until magic appears I have achieved my goal : TO GET YOU HOOKED ! Stay in touch through ArtWools.com/contact and say hello when we meet in person at a show.

Getting together for International Rug Hooking Day

Dec. 4 , part 3 – Connecting in person and on-line defines three words of our celebration – INTERNATIONAL, and RUG Hooking, prodding, punching, braiding tomorrow and everyday.

Thanks to the five years we have been promoting this day, Rug Hooking Magazine’s facebook event will be filled with photos from the celebrations held all week.

Traveling chronologically, Australia will bring in the day with end of year celebrations in New South Wales and Queensland, three time zones later in Western Australia. Follow these groups in 2020 by signing up on the Australian Rugmakers Guild’s blog. Then Japan and on to Abu Dhabi where Ti Seymour and the UAE Rugmakers are demonstrating punch and hooking at Costa Coffee Al Muneera Island. Håkon Grøn Hensvold, is in Skreia, Norway. His work is included in Rug Hooking Magazine and several books. The UK groups gather in London, the Yorkshires, Penzance and many villages in Great Britain, Scotland and Wales.

Friends getting together

Crossing the “pond” all of the Canadian provinces will have events. As we noted in a previous post, Newfoundland and Labrador have a long history of mat making. This is also the host region for TIGHR through 2021. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the many rug hooking businesses will be open for drop-ins. Lucy Richard told me she is going to visit Della Ackles Rug Hooking in Amherst for the first time. And looks forward to the colourful creativity at Deanne Fitzpatrick’s Studio on Church Street in Amherst. Richard has created a dyeing system with extensive formulas after a simple set-up called The Wooly Mason Jar. (I will mention another service of Lucy in part 4.) Carol Harvey-Clark, a founding member of TIGHR, has a shop listed as an EcoMuseum in Mahone Bay called Spruce Top Rug Hooking Studio. Christine Little’s Encompassing Designs is also in Mahone Bay, filled with rug patterns, beautiful dyed wools, and supplies. I am going to mention one more shop but you would be best planning a week or more exploring these provinces for rug making beauty. Jan Steele operates River House Rug Hooking Studio in Petite Rivière Bridge (just have to visit to see the village). A community project to experience is in the Eglise Historique de Barachois, New Brunswick where 200 hooked cushions were contributed from across Canada and abroad.

Quebec and Ontario chapters are part of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild. On the 4th, Beaconsfield Hooking Crafters Guild and Marlintown Wild & Woolly Rug Hookers join together for their annual celebration in Williamstown, ON. Martina Lesar hosts a hook-in for the public in Brampton, ON. And with dozens of chapters around the province of Ontario I am sure there are other meetings. Crossing west through Canada there are many groups, with a concentration in British Columbia around Vancouver and Victoria.

Ruckman Mill Farm, now @ Green Mountain Hooked Rugs

Historically New England is the oldest rug hooking region of the United States. A trip to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for rughooking enthusiasts means meeting 5th generation pattern makers, (Green Mountain Hooked Rugs) second generation wool manufacturers,(Dorr Mill Store) and over a century old institution filled with patterns, wools and supplies (W. Cushing & Co).

Check out the events and advertisers at RugHookingMagazine.com if you are traveling. Or better yet subscribe to the only magazine dedicated to the range of techniques, styles and regions of the craft/art in 2019.

Tomorrow – December 4 will be the final post of this overview. Introducing readers to some of the networkers and the artists using these techniques in their unique styles.

International Rug Hooking Day means community

Part 2: Dec. 4 is celebrated globally to share the friendship, and publicize how contemporary rug makers use traditional tools and methods.

Antique Grenfell, owned by Kathy Wright

Over decades the economics of communities has benefited from rughooking. In the first half of the 20th Century Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established a cottage industry in Newfoundland and Labrador producing hooked mats using silk stockings donated by socialites along the East Coast of the US. He was a doctor providing health services by boat to the provincial communities and saw the technique of mat making – encouraging designs of polar bears, fishing and local living. Today the mats are treasured, valuable and documented by author Paula Laverty in Silk Stocking Mats. In Cape Breton, during the same time frame, American, Lillian Burke is credited with refining the Cheticamp rug tradition and showcasing it to the world, when she began designing rugs made with wool rather than rags and commissioning Cheticamp women to produce them in the 1920s. Burke, who had first come to Cape Breton while working as a tutor for the grandchildren of Alexander Graham Bell, then sold the rugs to an eager American market. (excerpt from post about contemporary rug maker Yvette Muise)  There is a book about Burke and this community: The Story of Lillian Burke, Dr. Edward Langille. Throughout the US cottage industries also supported regions during the depression years.

Today Guatemalans interpret their regional motifs into hooked rug designs sold as the Multicolores Collective, through Cultural Cloth, the Wisconsin coordinator. With Cultural Cloth, fiber artists can take a tour to work alongside the Mayans in their villages designing, sourcing materials and making their own rug. The book Rug Money by Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway-Daly describes the development of the program and rewarding self-esteem benefits. On the African continent in Gambia, since 2007, Rug Aid empowers visually impaired students to make hooked mats which are sold to fund the project organized by Heather Ritchie from the UK.

Yarrabilba Community Centre in 2017. Australia

Many rug hooking groups meet regularly in public spaces inviting people to watch, and join in the work. In Western Australia the Wannaroo Rug Makers meet in the city library every Saturday morning over the past 10 years. There is a community rug on a frame each year. These have been donated to the children’s section of the library, and installed in other government buildings. Rug hooking has been recognized as a category in craft fairs and exhibited in other states. Groups in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and even Tasmania share the rugmaking traditions brought to Australia by immigrants from Canada, the US and UK. Wool is not easily available or any of the materials treasured by those countries so the innovative Australians source materials and tools to make unique work.

Gathered around the screen “talking” to Australia

International Rug Hooking Day exposes us all to the wide range of textures we create pulling, prodding, punching and braiding. Check out the facebook event Rug Hooking Magazine has created and look at the posts under discussion.

Of course there is an International Rug Hooking Day – Dec. 4

Part 1 leading up to Dec 4: the organizations

2019 has been a year of anniversaries in the world of rug making – hooking, punching, prodding, braiding, even felting, the techniques practiced for centuries in homes to warm floors, beds, walls and tabletops. Simple tools, treasured fibers, and time was all that was needed to produce the protection. Yet based on the skills of the makers it became decorative art. As the 20th century aged “store bought” goods replaced ‘home made” and the traditions faded.

hooking with wool strips,
Weeping Willow, Ruckman Mill Farm

Thankfully regions continued making and began to meet sharing the skills, educating young and exhibiting. Celebrating 40 years in 2019 is ATHA, the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists with membership at-large or in chapters, a general meeting bi-annually hosted by a region in North America, and regular newsletters. The youngest group is the Australian Rugmakers Guild, celebrating their 10th anniversary . Out of necessity they have used the internet since the beginning to network groups, exhibits and conferences across the South Pacific. . The Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia also formed 40 years ago in 1979 to educate and preserve the craft and has branches in all parts of the Maritimes. 25 years ago the Rug Hooking Guild of Newfoundland and Labrador officially formed. The organization has funded and conducted an on-going rug registry totaling more than 1000 mats and their stories.

On December 4, 1994 eighteen people from several countries formed The International Guild of Handhooking Rugmakers -TIGHR, at the end of their conference in Ruislip, UK. Their mission was declared to spread friendships sharing the variety of rugmaking techniques enjoyed around the world, connecting members via hand typed newsletters and holding a general meeting every three years. Fast forward 25 years, TIGHR has met in 8 different countries and broadcasts news, videos and exhibits via the internet to millions – Happy Anniversaries to these groups and thank you to the many volunteers over the decades promoting the skills and social benefits.

Sauder Village Celebrations 27

Besides landmark anniversaries other long term groups include the annual conference of Ontario Hook Crafters Guild in different locations around the province for 53 years. The National Guild of Pearl K. McGown Hookrafters continues the teaching program begun in 1951. In Japan several teachers exhibit student work in department store galleries. Sauder Village in Archbold, OH is the mecca annually for a week of workshops, shopping, exhibits and networking during mid August at Rug Hooking Week, the 24th will be August 10-15, 2020.

Rug Hooking Magazine

And a big thank you to Ampry Publishing who continues the legacy of Joan Moshimer’s News and Views from 1972 now, since 1989 Rug Hooking Magazine, celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. The only magazine dedicated to all forms of rug hooking – traditional, folk art, realistic, contemporary for the floors to the walls.

Social Activists Use Yarns and Needles

There have been Marches for ….. media coverage under the banner BREAKING NEWS … and social media memes for and against every step leaders make these days. The constant onslaught on established programs is exhausting and many, myself included, have emotional burn out. Yet we can not stand by watching others march, protest, advocate, use their skills to speak out. Instead many have used traditional handcrafts to create visual messages. My reason is by threading a needle and making stitches, or pulling a loop of fabric repetitively I am channeling my thoughts and concerns, slowing down from the angst created by the first alarm and making a lasting visual to be shared in exhibits and online. This action is followed by many and even has a term “craftivism” – Interpretive activism using slow hand crafts. This is not new, think Betsy Ross stitching a flag, Colonial women weaving their cloth in place of purchasing from England, quilts made with symbolic motifs and fashions worn by the Suffragettes. The massive AIDS quilt project is 30 years old and recently the pink hats made and worn on the Women’s March in 2017.

Here are three fiber artists who have chosen issues to spend time with. Polly Webber, retired immigration judge from California created a series of hooked rugs portraying immigrant’s struggles. “Refugee Dilemma,” uses multiple rugs to tell a story about people fleeing from persecution to a safe haven. Indeed, it is a tribute to the thousands of people who seek refuge from their places of origin annually all over the world.


“Fleeing from Persecution:” The first rug pays homage to now extinct but iconic San Diego traffic signs and the fleeing refugees they sought to protect. The plea “Help us!” appears in Spanish, Mayan, Haitian, Arabic, Pashto, Somali, Sudanese, Russian, and English.

“Caught in the Covfefe:”
The second rug depicts a border patrol officer taking a young girl from her undocumented mother, who is pleading in Spanish, “Don’t take my daughter!” Covfefe is a made-up word tweeted by Donald Trump. I use it to describe the confusing, nonsensical, inhumane hell that Trump and Homeland Security’s Border Patrol put families, and especially children, through as they attempted to assert asylum eligibility at the border and secure a safe haven.

“Safe Haven:”
The third rug depicts two Central American women and their children, in a place of relative safety. For some, this is still aspirational, while others have succeeded. Their smiles are tired smiles, but full of hope. The pattern for this rug was developed from a rug that my aunt, Emma Webber (1917-2015), hooked decades ago from a 1950s UNICEF card. Knowing how much my aunt would have appreciated this group of rugs, I wanted to honor her as well.
Polly has created wearable art from these rugs providing the profits to a variety of immigrant rights groups.

Polly’s website is PollyWebber.com and the scarf, tie along with male and female styled t-shirts are described and available for purchase.

India Tresselt lives in Vermont working with needle and thread on issues of mindfulness, thoughtfulness and peace. Her website is YarnDanceVt.com and she has an active presence online in a variety of social outlets. Parallel to an ongoing resistance project since the US inauguration daily stitching “THIS IS NOT NORMAL” , she purposefully set out to make art weekly about PEACE.

Practice Empathy And Compassion Every day, India Tresselt 2019

Hold Your Peace, India Tresselt 2019
Give Peace a Chance, India Tresselt 2019

India says she wanted to structure her pieces around a governing theme, and so she decided to stitch 52 small meditations on peace. Peace can be global, local, and personal. She is exploring each of these kinds of peace in the 52 meditations.

I too have found the need to speak out on equality, human impact on the environment and the plight of refugees worldwide. A gallery of my work in this category can be found at ArtWools.com/gallery in Currrent Events and Human Impact.

Iconic ERA hooked, braided, embroidery, quilting, applique’ Girl Scout badges earned by Susan L Feller 1963-1973
Mountains of Energy, hooked, applique, paint with plastic straws Susan L Feller 2018 The piles of pipes appeared in a field along the highway in spring, by that fall the field was empty, ready to become hay for the cows the next year. The pipes were buried in straight lines scarring the forests and open fields of West Virginia.
Merging Paths, hand stitched depicting the “yellow brick road” to safety, freedom, peace which over 25,000,000 people are traveling around the world-refugees from their homes to new lands. There are an estimated 28,548 stitches. This piece will be part of the thousands of panels stitched by people thinking about these people. The collection is coordinated through the website 25millionstitches.com with first full installation at the
Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S Street, Sacramento
June 5, 2020-August 15 Opening Reception: Friday June 5, 2020, 5-7pm

Working with a needle and thread or hook and strips of fabric hour after hour my mind reflects on the subject, at the end I have a “voice”. The featured artists are only a handful of makers around the world currently creating statements with our fiber arts. Suggested sites to investigate are 25millionStitches.com, Craftist-Collective.com, CulturalCloth.com and the book Rug Money describing the economic empowerment rughooking has made in Guatemala.

Reflecting and Planning

It has been 5 years since I began the Year Study.  My goals were to explore, evaluate and exhibit the results of daily sketching and creating. I did EXPLORE with materials, techniques and composition lessons resulting in a renewed interest in hand stitching, experimenting with brushes and paints, and seeing more simply.

EVALUATING my use of time is an important element as an artist. How to continue networking in one circle while expanding into others; keeping an ear open and helping in different ways needs to be communicated by actions and in conversations. Scheduling studio time and developing themes for the upcoming exhibits rather than creating inventory has been a process. One that with the distractions of nature here in West Virginia is more enjoyable than a commercial speed on the East Coast as I age. Transferring the Ruckman Mill Farm patterns and products to a new generation at Green Mountains Hooked Rugs opened my schedule to more studio time. Now teaching is focused on design and encouragement, others provide the materials.

The EXHIBIT goal was met at Sauder Village Rug Hooking Week in 2015 when all twelve months and a collection of work were featured. Juried into and invited to show in several fine art exhibits validated the direction and I respect my peers recognition. My resume’ lists these venues with the ultimate, an Award of Excellence and purchase by the State Museum from the 20th Bi-Ennial Juried Exhibition in 2017 for Progress in the Mountains. The opportunity to curate the collection Glimpses Inside Appalachia this fall, shown at Raleigh Playhouse, Beckley, WV brought my work before a new audience and opened other exhibit venues.

My five year goal includes developing the themes I identified from the study and exhibiting each in different markets. A new decade will be on the horizon by then and more goals.

Speaking out about current events , Nature’s Beauty and Human Impact, and a Travel Series  where I am developing each sketch several times. 

Hope to meet you on our journey. Happy creating.

Glimpses Into Appalachia

There’s a better way to explore West Virginia’s mountainous beauty and hear about the people living in Appalachia than you have been presented with recently. We are telling our story with art exhibits, serial podcasts and several books.

Fine art and Spoken word collections coordinated by Women of Appalachia Project have opened in Morgantown, WV. (Check the WOAP blue link for schedule of other venues).

As a textile artist I was happy to see several works incorporating fiber were selected along with photography, printmaking, oils, watercolors, ceramics and jewelry. Up through October 29 at the Monongalia Art Center, 107 High Street, Morgantown the project is celebrating 10 years. All women living in or with strong ties to any of the the 420 counties in Appalachia can enter. Their motto reads “ We believe that all women are capable, courageous, creative and inspired. We tell our stories through our art.”

Two of the artists I met told me a bit of their stories. Nancy L Abrams documents life through photographs. Her journalism career lead to The Climb from Salt Lick, a memoir of Appalachia, published this past spring by WVU Press.

Cheryl Ryan Harshman works in clay monoprints, fabric collage, and is an author. An award winning artist she is listed in Tamarack Foundation’s Creative Network. . Our discussion included the process of making clay prints, a medium with wonderful unexpected results.

Marc Harshman is West Virginia’s  poet laureate and married to Cheryl. I have heard his voice on WVPublic Radio reading work and now enjoyed his warm smile and artistic interests in person.

For those of you who can not visit the state soon, tune in and read reports from 100 Days in Appalachia which was born the day after the 2016 election. “Weary of the influx of bus tours and parachuting journalists seeking insights into rural America, we launched 100 Days to push back on the national narratives that had reduced our region to a handful of narrow stories.”

I have promoted the podcast series Inside Appalachia to studio artists in Alaska and Maine because the interviews by host Jessica Lilly bring the neighbors right into your home. On October 20 there will be a live taping of Inside Appalachia at the Raleigh Playhouse and Tavern, Beckley, WV. Two videos featuring broom maker James Shaffer and millman Larry Mustain will be shown and the gentlemen interviewed. I was invited to open an exhibit at the Raleigh through November 12, I have themed “Glimpses Inside Appalachia“. Two dozen of my pieces ranging from views around our home to environmental and social issues will be hung. Looking forward to meeting Jessica and the team and talking about art.

WVPublic Broadcasting has a lineup of podcasts from decades of Mountain Stage to the new Us and Them. Check them out and subscribe.

To finish out our stories here are some more books. Real page turners that you sit with and meet people while exploring the mountains.  Hippie Homesteaders, Carter Taylor Seaton introduces us to the influx of youth in the 60’s and 70’s who came to drop out and learned hand-crafts and life skills. “Forget what you know about West Virginia. Hippie Homesteaders isn’t about coal or hillbillies or moonshine or poverty. It is the story of why West Virginia was—and still is—a kind of heaven to so many.”

The Mountain Artisans Quilting Book, Alfred Allan Lewis is out of print but worth searching for the stories of how a cooperative of marketing women and traditional sewers created contemporary fashion.

The soothing voice of All Things Considered’s, Noah Adams traces the New River from its origins to joining with the Gauley as the Kanawha River heading to Ohio in Far Appalachia. Legends and locals fill the pages as he travels slowly along and often on the river.


I expect you will think of the people and places of West Virginia, and Appalachia with a deeper appreciation after listening and reading. Remember we are “Almost Heaven”. Check out WVTourism.

 

 

 

 

Shapes in Life-Rolls and Pipes

Time to work large, the subject warrants attention and big draws people to look. 

I cut off a piece of linen 60″ x 80″ which leaves a maximum finished size of 54″ x 74″ or two runners 26″ x 74″ (after excess to put on the frame). The size choice will be the first of many design decisions.

The innocent circle shape can be seen along our country roads during haying season as farmers make huge rolls to feed their animals in the winter. The wide open fields are green then turn tan as the grass dries. Rolled, the new grasses grow back and the cycle continues year after year with care from the caretaker of the land-the farmer. I have been inspired by this cycle since youth when the shape was a smaller rectangle but the colors and care the same.

Now there are different objects along many through ways stacked by the thousands waiting to go underground after the trees have been felled, stripped, and piled ready to be sorted for their end use-barbecue brickettes, lumber, paper pulp, firewood. Or they will be connected under the fields scarred by digging, or under the hundreds of waterways that are home to golden trout, endangered hellbenders and many other species besides our nourishment. This manmade project will transport gas extracted from the land more aggressively than in the past. The pipelines going through West Virginia and many other states are not benefiting the residents.  The corporations intimidate our legislature to hold off taxing them so we will be left with roads to repair, lost income to tourism and natural guides yet a wound across our mountains. I have depicted the straight lines for power in Progress into the Mountains. Now comes specifically the pipes and resulting lines.

Coloring comes next, what do I want the viewer to see? Green rings with dark rust centers, tan circles and green background. Will I use the rows alternating the subject? Or twelve inch squares of each pieced like a traditional quilt pattern?

There is a smaller design coming along too using the green plastic straws I save, mixed media is still my favorite studio time.

Do you see shapes, lines or colors daily that could become your visual statement on life?

 

 

 

 

A town hall with a Senator

On a different topic than artmaking, but relevant to my work since government attention to issues is refocusing and I am reacting to those actions by being informed.

I have not been in Civics class or Social Studies since 1973 but I attended a session today. Senator Joe Manchin was invited by the Hampshire High School DECA and Social Studies department to a town hall format presentation at the school. Since I am not involved with a family member in the school system, I would have missed this opportunity if we did not subscribe to the Senator’s October 24, 2017 newsletter which listed the event as a public affair. After verifying with the news staff at Hampshire Review (our local weekly media outlet) I decided to attend. He was coming barely 20 miles from my home after all.

Pulling onto the grounds of the school there were several students at the “check-in” station, I asked if I needed to verify purpose and was directed to the main office to sign-in. Come to find out the event was in the Auditorium accessed from the back parking area and no sign-in was necessary. The space filled with chatting students (some with breakfast in bags although a sign said no food or drink and I had not brought my coffee in recalling such restrictions in my youth). Some received a listing of the questions the class had agreed would be asked, to act as presenters during the session. The press was represented, Board of Education members, Commissioners, Economic Development Director, state official and school staff along with many fellow public citizens.

audience Hampshire High town hall with Senator Manchin

Just a few minutes after the 9:00 am scheduled start, the US and WV state flags were processed by FFA members, the Pledge of Allegiance said by the audience and the Senator was introduced by a Hampshire High Senior who holds office in a local and state organization.

I am going to say my reasons for attending were to confront the Senator with an issue about rescinding the clean power plan guidelines and listen for comments which I could interpret as not representing the progressive, open United States I picture for 2017 (a defensive attitude). I realized at the end of the hour and half that there is a place in our lives for encouragement, support, acceptance, and assistance not divided by party affiliation, economic or social status and certainly not divided by religious beliefs or media bias. The social internet rabbit hole that sucks so many down with emotional buttons and quick captions is not LIFE. Conversation and compromising to achieve change is better than bickering.

Senator Manchin knew the profile of his audience and spoke with encouragement, challenges and lessons for the juniors and seniors just starting out in the world and hit home to even this “senior”. He related stories from high school days as a football player and visiting Romney four years staying with two families who he continues to keep in touch with. How an injury in college changed the path of a football career and having to knuckle down and study for his degree.

The student’s questions ranged from asking how and why he entered politics…he wanted to help beyond his own community. What does he like and dislike about being a Senator? The responsibility to be part of helping WV, the US and realizing those actions reverberate around the world is an honor; negative – the politics of saying the other side is wrong because they are the “other side”.
What can be done about poverty? Federal government has fought “the war on poverty” since President Johnson, but are we giving money out or training/educating people for the skills needed in jobs today? In the 1930’s President Roosevelt instituted the Rural Electrification Act and everyone got electricity. Now in 2017 Manchin has discussed with the President the need for Rural Connectivity….updating the internet access in our state and many others to equalize the opportunity for broader education, business, communication while staying in our communities.
The opioid epidemic needs to be funded and addressed as an illness, not a felony. More treatment centers, education of medical personnel to not prescribe as easily, and a minimal tax on each pill made paid by pharmaceuticals to fund these avenues should be parts of the program the President has recently announced.

The wall, the 2nd Amendment, health care, medicare, arts funding, environment, LGBTQ acceptance were all topics explained, or at least addressed in a courteous question and answer format.

Senator Manchin’s overall message was a pep talk to the students: You live in a country that allows you to do whatever you want. You just need to decide what that is, figure out how to achieve it with finances, education, opportunity and act. Nothing should be a barrier, inviting students to contact his office for guidance. The students must be educated, clean (of drugs), and prepared to enter the next phase of life. Every child should expect five elements: a person to trust, a support system, a safe place, to develop skills, and then to give back to others. We all can think of how to fill these needs for children/people in our community.

photo session with Senator Manchin

I left energized, actually emotional as I recalled the exciting challenging debates in my Social Studies class those many years ago, and optimistic that the next generation of Hampshire High students will contribute to their community near and far. I hope you meet some of them along the way.

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