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Monday, April 29, 2013

Color Therapy

If you’ve read my blog before today, you already know that I am obsessed with color. Bright color. Rich color. Happy color. Today I really needed some color therapy. It’s free and it’s effective. I don’t know whether I’m dealing with some hormonal fluctuation (possibly) or fatigue (probably) or the overwhelmed feeling that comes with being mom to young kids (quite likely), or all three. All I know is that I needed color therapy right away.

Today was a tie-dye day for me. I do it about once a year. I love the saturated pigment: hot magenta, saffron yellow and sapphire. I’d been trying to get to this project for about a week. It all started when I realized that the small hole in a fitted bed sheet had become a very large rip (it may or may not have had something to do with a young child who lives here). Rather than throw it out, I decided to dye it fun colors for a FSP (Future Sewing Project). In truth, my poor home art studio is busting at the seams with a lot of stuff right now, so it hardly needed anything added. My studio is home to lots of TWP (Things With Potential)—bottle caps and other items most people throw away or recycle. It gives me a lot of happiness to turn something into something else. Why not turn a yellow bed sheet into some rockin' tie-dyed fabric? (Some people would rather have scorpions climb all over their body than wear what used to be a bed sheet. That’s fine. I’m not forcing them to wear bedding. If it’s too low-rent for them, so be it. But why are bed sheets any different than fabric bought at a store? Only difference is that my method is free!)

At the craft store I chose colors I don’t usually pick: pale green and turquoise. I’m a pink-and-red lady most of the time but sometimes it’s cool to try different colors than you usually wear. It fits a different side of your personality. At home I did a color test with the pale green. This was good because I soon realized it was not lime green, as the color on the box showed. It was olive green! Say what? Olive green is not going to brighten my mood. It’s too muddy for me. Luckily, with fabric dye we can mix and experiment. I put some of the turquoise into the green dye and made various shades of emerald and teal. Now we’re talking.

As I stirred my dye, I felt calmer. My spirits didn’t skyrocket but the colors of the dye and the fabric did improve my mood. If there’s light therapy, why can’t there be color therapy? Our senses play a big role in how we feel about our environment. Some people feel calmer when they hear ocean waves or smell lavender. I feel better when there is a lot of color boosting my mood.

A few months ago I read something about the value of doing crafts. I have always felt happy when I had time to experiment with craft projects, but it turns out that there is actually scientific proof that this is beneficial. In the Nov. 2013 issue of Martha Steward’s Living Magazine, there was an article (”This is your Brain on Crafts”) about the value of making things. Lisa Borgnes-Giramonti interviewed psychologist Robert Maurer, who studies creativity and compares crafting to meditation. He says, “When the midbrain is engaged by the repetitive movement involved in many crafts, the temporal lobe is unable to focus on worry or stress…The cortex—which controls conscious thought—becomes quiet and peaceful.” Crafting triggers a pleasure center in the brain (the nucleus accumbens). Interestingly, it is not necessary to finish the project in order to gain the happy feelings felt when doing crafts. The process (rather than the completion) of crafting soothes the brain, distracting it from worries. The hours spent on crafts benefit the crafter, so even unfinished projects are not a waste of time but are worthwhile. AMEN to that.
It’s funny that today was my tie-dye day, even though I’d been trying to get to it for a week. Today, it turns out, I really needed the boost of crafts. As I cut the string off my dyed fabric, I felt excited about seeing the results. With tie-dye, there’s always an element of the unexpected, as you don’t know exactly how much dye will reach inside the folds of fabric. That surprise piece makes it extra fun for me. A few minutes into the string removal, I realized that dye had jumped from the fabric to my fingers. I’d forgotten about gloves and was too excited to care at that point. Since everyone knows about my wacky side, I’ll just tell people I was channeling my inner Smurfette—and no one will bat an eye.

I was thrilled with the results of my day of dye. Irregular lines of dye wiggled from section to section, creating asymmetrical shapes. I hung the pieces of wet fabric in the trees in the back yard to dry. Even draping them over branches boosted my mood. The light and shadow from the branches and leaves added visual pattern to the dyed fabric. The creative process was in full swing and I was on board.
One of these days I’ll turn today’s creations into some fabulous, unique outfit. (Future blog post?) But for now, I’m just glad that my crafty time gave me such a lift. My drug of choice? Color!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Plumbing Perplexities

I like to write about things that most people relate to since I think people have a lot more in common than not. Plumbing may not be the most exciting topic on earth, but many of us have a tale or two about Plumbing Gone Wrong so I might as well share our story.

Plumbing is something I rarely think about, and I like it that way! I’m grateful to live in a time and place in which plumbing is available to me. I’m glad it’s there—but I don’t spend much time contemplating it.
Until there’s a problem.

You, too? I thought so.

The story really starts more than half a century ago, since that is when our plumbing pipes were installed. Our darling little house was born in 1956, along with a set of gleaming new pipes, tucked cozily below a warm layer of earth. America was booming. San Diego was thriving, and new houses were being built to accommodate growing families. The sun shone down on our happy city. Kids played hopscotch and jacks, Mom pulled perfect pot roasts out of a shiny new oven, and Dad planted trees with the help of friendly neighbors. The trees grew, the kids grew, and the city grew too.

The trees grew a lot, apparently. So much so that giant roots formed under the streets. As birds chirped and bees buzzed in the warm air, below ground the roots silently grew into the plumbing pipes under the street. But no one knew…

Many decades later, a man living in this cozy 1956 house (we’ll call him Hubby) heard a strange noise coming from one of the bathrooms. (Strange noises from bathrooms are never, ever good.)  Bewildered, he entered the bathroom just in time to see a tidal wave of water shooting out of the toilet and onto the tile floor and the bedroom carpet a few feet away. He quickly grabbed every towel within reach, and then more towels from the hall closet. Hubby is a very handy guy and has remedied plumbing surprises before. But he knows when the surprises are too mysterious for him to tackle on his own, and when that’s the case he knows which plumbing company to call. They came, made a lot of noise, and things seemed to be better.

But a few days later they returned to check something out in the front yard. (This is where my lack of plumbing knowledge will become very apparent but bear with me and you’ll get the general vibe of this tale.) An important pipe was somewhere in the front yard, deep, deep underground. So the plumbers dug a hole. It became wider and deeper and still the hidden pipe was nowhere to be found. The hole became so deep that they had to put yellow Caution tape around it, to prevent someone from falling in. As the sun set they promised to return the next day to do more work. Luckily, we still had use of the toilets, and we now had an exciting exhibit in our front yard—something that looked like a paleontology dig. The hole was certainly big enough to fit an intact skeleton of a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex! Anyway, the plumbers vowed to return the next day to finish up. They laid a big piece of plywood across the cavernous hole before I reached for my camera. I take photos of my life and this scene deserved a photo. Who knew? Maybe there was a blog piece in this. Although my photo does not show the bathtub-sized hole they dug, you can see how much dirt was displaced.

Seeing some potential humor in the photo, I decided to make a sign to attach to the Caution tape.

The next day the plumbers returned and started work again. Later, they told me that my sign made them laugh. Poor guys, sweating in the sun, digging a hole to China—they deserved a laugh. But Hubby wasn’t exactly laughing because plumbing situations are not cheap to repair. Unfortunately there seems to be an inverse relationship between the fun of a home expense and the cost of it. Plumbing: high in cost, low in fun. After several hours, the plumbers had installed and capped off a new intake pipe and an outtake pipe. (I thought outtakes were at the end of movies, when actors say the wrong line and laugh. Shows what I know about plumbing. Zero.)

The plumbers are due back next week to put some kind of magic liner in the pipes to prevent this problem from happening again. They use a spray that becomes a liner, and hopefully this is the end of our plumbing perplexities. It could have been worse, actually. Our neighbors across the street had to have their kitchen tile removed so that the plumbers could access pipes under the kitchen floor for this same reason.

Plumbing: the appendix of home-ownership. You don’t even think about it until it starts giving you excruciating pain. You can have your appendix removed with a pile of money and some abdominal pain, and you’ll never miss it. Plumbing, on the other hand, requires a pile of money, pain to your wallet, and if you live without it, you will miss it. Ahhh, home ownership. What an adventure…

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Besotted by Bewitched

Television shows I watched as a kid had more of an impact on me than I realized at the time. I knew I loved certain shows but who knew that thirty years later I’d dress up as a character from one of those shows? I’m talking Bewitched, people, and if you aren’t familiar with Bewitched:

1)      This is unacceptable!

2)      You’re missing out. It was adorable!

3)      Go to Youtube right away and watch a few minutes.

Anyway, the other day Bewitched popped into my head, just like Samantha the witch magically pops into rooms on the show. Actually, Samantha uses her witch powers reluctantly. She is married to a mortal, Darren, who is as straight-laced as they come and wants a normal life with a normal wife. (But that wouldn’t make for good television, now would it?) Each episode includes the conflict of Darren’s mortal world and Sam’s witch powers. Inevitably, something happens and Sam opts to use her powers for good, and with the twitch of her nose, she remedies the situation. Sam’s cousin Serena often pops into the episode, bringing with her the promise of trouble. Unlike Samantha, Serena is happy to use her witchcraft to her own advantage, and in questionable ways. To add to the fun, the actress playing Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) also plays Serena.

Remembering Bewitched, I had a vivid memory of the character Serena, who is the fun-loving foil to her cousin Samantha. Sam is dependable, moral and down-to-earth. Serena is scheming, mischievous and devious. I liked Sam but I think Serena made a lasting impression on me because of her spunk. I was a tween when I first saw reruns of the show, and I must have taken mental notes about what kind of grown-up I’d like to be someday.  Serena had a lot more fun than most adults. With her teased hair, dramatic makeup, funky and feathered clothes, and heart-shaped beauty mark near her left eye, she was cool. Daring! Fascinating! I love that the writers or producers gave the show’s wildest character a name that means tranquil. Good use of irony.

Fast forward thirty years. I realize that with my short haircut, I look (and feel) more like spunky Serena than I used to. I decide a photo session in tribute to this playful character is in order. I channel Serena and the results are quite fun!

Bewitched ran from 1964 until 1972, making it one of the longest-running sitcoms in ABC history. Its popularity with audiences led to the airing of many reruns after the show wrapped. It was during the 1980s that I discovered the reruns and fell under the spell of this charming show. Apparently I’m not the only one who remembers the show fondly. There are websites dedicated to the show and its characters. The series’ appeal also led to a Bewitched movie in 2005, starring Nicole Kidman (whose physical resemblance to Montgomery was spot-on).

It’s been nearly twenty years since Elizabeth Montgomery passed away. But Bewitched remains a favorite television memory for its fans, and its charm lives on. Good tv stays with you that way.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Having a Ball

It’s Spring Break this week, and it’s been so good to have a reprieve from the rush, rush, RUSH of the school week. I’ve woken up when my body was ready, not when the evil alarm clock began its pre-dawn cock-a-doodle-doo. We’ve floated through the days, not confined by the school schedule or homework volume. It’s been awesome!
A highlight this week was taking the kids bowling. I hadn’t been bowling in many years, although I like it and I’ve always had fun when I go. I suppose the kids’ schedules and needs have put bowling on back burner. But we made plans to go and everyone was excited.
Although I’m not great at bowling, I find it fun. I like the noise of the ball smacking pins. I like the smell of fried things wafting over from the old-school snack bar. I like the rows of shiny, brightly-colored bowling balls and the glossiness of oiled wooden lanes.

I like the unpretentious vibe of bowling. It doesn’t have the snooty country-club air of polo matches (not that I speak from experience). Anyone is welcome. You don’t have to be rich, white, fit, fast, tall, or Ivy League to do it. You can do it alone or with a group. Just show up. Tell them your shoe size and find a ball you like. (I chose bright red!) Then hurl the ball down the lane and see what happens.
I associate bowling with 1950s teenagers having fun before heading to the drive-in restaurant where they order malts from a carhop on roller skates. For years, I’ve collected photos of neon signs outside bowling alleys, a throwback to eye-catching roadside architecture of the ‘40s and’50s.

But I’m way off. Bowling is much older than that. Apparently an early form of bowling dates to Ancient Egypt. It is also thought that Roman soldiers developed a game in which they tossed stone objects close to other stone objects. This evolved into Italian Bocce ball, a form of outdoor bowling. But back to the present (relatively-speaking.) In 1895, the first standardized rules for bowling were created in New York City. It’s refreshing that the nature of this activity hasn’t changed much over time. Yes, they now have a computerized score-keeping system so the paper score cards and mini pencils retired to Florida. But the basic game has not changed. The computer age has not altered the essential goal of knocking pins down with a ball.

Since it had been over a decade since I last played, I held no expectations of setting records. The only goal was to have a good time. To my astonishment, my first time up I got a strike! Of course, soon my beginner’s luck had morphed into beginner’s blunders and I returned to my spotty scores. I loved seeing the kids have fun, sometimes watching a ball creep down the lane slower than I thought possible, other times zooming down to get a strike. Hubby even got two strikes while taking a business call (cell phone in one hand, ball in the other)! He believes in multi-tasking.

I need to make a point to bowl more often. Regardless of the score, it feels good to play. When time was up we returned the shoes and made our way home. Everyone agreed it was a great way to spend an afternoon during spring break. We had a ball…