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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wacky Wednesday # 38: Calendar Girl

Ahhhh, a brand new year will be upon us in a matter of hours. Some people have been making resolutions. Others have been making reservations for New Year’s Eve. Me, I’ve been cutting up this year’s calendar. I’m literally wearing out the last moments of 2015.

Besides cutting up my calendar, I’ve also practiced writing “2016” a little bit. (This happened while I was writing my January 2016 To Do list. Also known as "Stuff I didn’t get to in December." The December To Do list was also known as "Stuff I didn’t get to during the first eleven months of the year.")

At one point my brain got a little confused and I wrote “2006.” Clearly my hand and my brain were not in sync and one of them was confused about which decade it is. (Oh well. I’ll figure that out next week. Next year. Whatever.)

Time is such an interesting notion, isn’t it? Like most people older than eighteen, I feel like time races along at breakneck speed and I never have enough of it. In some ways, a year sounds so long, but it passes quickly. Holding my 2015 calendar in my hands, flipping through the pages, month after month, it really strikes me how long a year is, how full it is. I tend to write EVERYTHING on my calendar so that I don’t have to remember anything (except reading my calendar each day to see which surprise are coming in the next week). Some days I have so much scheduled that I have to extend the borders of the squares on my calendar into surrounding boxes. I have three kids. The weeks tend to be full!

For many people the new year brings a symbolic fresh start along with a blank calendar and trying to remember to write the date correctly. Is a fresh start exciting? Or does January bring pressure to make a resolution? Is it a helpful reminder to leave the past in the past and to focus on the future?

Sometimes I examine the past more than I probably should. I lament things from the past that I can’t change, which I know is a waste of time but I’m human and we each have our quirks. Maybe cutting up my calendar (for the first time ever) can give me a clean break from the past. Literally cutting through the past year’s calendar could be the symbolic act I need to keep my focus on now.

How about you, my loyal little group of readers? Do you make resolutions? Are you wearing your calendar as clothing today?! Either way, happy new year.
2016, it’s a pleasure to meet you…

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #37—Poinsettias

Poinsettia flowers are a symbol of the Christmas season and as you can see, I am wearing poinsettias today. You can buy artificial ones but I wanted to make my own, of course. I made five poinsettias: two tiny ones as earrings, one for my head, one for my front and one for my back. Here’s what I used: felt, foam, sparkly foam, hot glue, pipe cleaners, permanent marker, buttons and beads. Throw on red rights, skirt and shirt (which I had already). Total cost: less than $5.

Did you know that what look like pointy red petals are actually leaves? The flowers are the tiny yellow center of the plant. I was surprised. If you happen to play Trivial Pursuit over the long holiday weekend and a question involving poinsettia flowers comes up, you’ll know the answer. I’m always happy to help, of course. If you win the game because of my fact about poinsettias, and you feel a strong need to name a star after me in gratitude, I won’t argue.

These plants were named after Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist who introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1825. I’d been aware of how popular poinsettias are this time of year, but over the last month (as plans for today’s outfit simmered in the back of my mind) I saw poinsettias everywhere. I saw them in stylized renditions online. I saw them in stores. Suddenly, it was a poinsettia-filled world.

Have you realized that my costume coincides with the Poinsettia Bowl football game in San Diego today? Sheer genius, eh? Well, in truth, I had no idea that this bowl game was scheduled for today, in the city where I live, so if you insist on proclaiming my brilliance, I’ll modestly shake my head. But if you really insist, I can’t stop you!

Whichever holiday you’re celebrating this month, may it be happy, safe and filled with laughter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #36: Christmas Tree

This week I am dressed as a Christmas Tree, which I hope is obvious but I’ll declare it nonetheless. Christmas is coming and my outfit is ready, even if my To Do list still stretches from here to the North Pole.

This kind of costume is delightful to create because you can decorate it however you like. Let’s talk ornaments, shall we? Some of the ornaments I’m wearing may look familiar. I’m reusing certain accessories from past Wacky Wednesdays. Can you spot them? Last week’s snowflakes and the previous week’s candy canes are getting a second use this week.

As always, I wanted my costume to be a lot of fun without spending much. Here’s what it cost to grow this tree:

Felt, green fabric, thread, tights (already had)                   $ 0

Earrings, buttons, rickrack, snowflakes (already had)      $ 0

Tinsel and ornaments (99 cent store)                                  $ 2

Zipper and felt                                                                          $ 4

String of lights (99 cent store)                                               $ 1

Total spent                                                                                $ 7

My lights actually light up (as the photos below show). I love that extra touch!

Everywhere I went today people liked seeing the walking, talking Christmas tree. I think people enjoy the surprise of seeing a festive costume when they’re not expecting it. But sometimes I’m also surprised. Today this costume led to a comment and a chain of thoughts that I hadn’t expected. As I was leaving my gym, an older man on a treadmill stopped me (and yes, of course I work out in my crazy costumes!). I’d seen him before but we’d never talked. He said, “Every week I see you in these costumes. And I always think this: here is a woman who is really comfortable in her own skin.”

I looked him in the eye, smiled and thanked him. I told him how much that meant to me, and that being comfortable in my own skin is one of my biggest goals. I want my kids to see that I’m confident not because I think I’m perfect, but because I focus on the parts that I like and on things that make me happy. I want my kids to see that confidence isn’t about perfection, and I want them to like themselves. Kids take in unspoken cues from their parents and I hope they follow my lead in self-acceptance. Sometimes I make mistakes as a parent but I think I do a good job at modeling for my kids (and hopefully others) that we are loveable just as we are. We are unique and we should embrace our individual talents and gifts. Being proud of who you are, and being comfortable with yourself, is essential.

The man in the gym doesn’t know that in the past I spent huge amounts of energy and worry over what I saw as my shortcomings. He doesn’t know that my comfort in my own skin is a hard-won achievement and an ongoing journey. I see people who are braver than I am, and their courage inspires me to keep challenging my limits (self-imposed or otherwise). I’m not bulletproof. I have a lot of moments of self-doubt. But I keep going.

What do I think it means to be comfortable in my own skin?

It means that I focus on my good more than I obsess over parts I wish were different.

It means I try not to compare myself to other people, wishing I had their talent/looks/job/whatever.

It means that I don’t let others push me around anymore. This sense of self-worth shines out from inside.

It means I walk with my head up because I like who I am, imperfections and all. I know that what I have to offer the world can’t be summed up by my dress size, the price of my purse, my zip code or any other false measure of worth.
This started as a Christmas tree blog post. It started with a lighthearted costume, a delight for me to wear and fun for others to see. Along the way the costume turned into a symbol of doing your own thing and not worrying about whether it is flawless or understood by others. This costume and the compliment from an almost-stranger became a reminder to me (and I hope an encouragement to others) to keep shining, in whichever way you shine. Believe in yourself and that confidence will shine out. What started as a playful costume took on deeper meaning. I love those moments.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #35: Snowflakes

Today I am a winter wonderland, covered in snowflakes. If you must call me a flake, be sure to use my full name: Snow Flake. It softens the blow.      

This costume has been particularly fun to make. Snowflakes are beautiful, so they are a pleasure to design. And there are seemingly endless possibilities as far as their configuration.

Did you ever make paper snowflakes as a kid? In elementary school we did them, and I remember it clearly. You had to cut part of your letter-sized paper off so that you started with a square. Then you fold, fold, fold and start cutting, cutting, cutting. Part of the magic was not knowing exactly how those cuts would look once you opened up your snowflakes. This remains true for me now: not knowing exactly what the cuts would turn into makes it a surprise for me, too. For some of my paper snowflakes I used coffee filters and different sized cupcake liners. This worked great: filters and baking cups come as circles, so I didn’t have to cut circles before starting. They are also a little more flexible than regular paper so they’re easier to fold. Last week my friend Ang gave me the coffee filters. She knows I like to turn regular items into wearable art, but she didn’t know that the filters would work beautifully for this week’s theme—after all, I don’t tell anyone my themes beforehand (even those who live with me!). Excellent timing, Ang. Thank you!

Since snowflakes have lots of detail, you can go a little crazy with embellishments like rhinestones and beads, which I already had in my art studio. It adds to the sparkly effect.

I started with a man’s blue dress shirt from the thrift store, because I thought the flakes would stand out nicely against the sky-blue background. The rest of the costume almost made itself, because I had buttons and felt that I could assemble into differently-shaped flakes. I found a bead at home that looked like a snowflakes, and I turned a few ornaments into earrings.

blue shirt (thrifted)                                                        $ 6

felt, doily, ornaments                                                    $ 3

embroidery floss, sparkly foam                                   $ 2

beads, sequins, buttons (already had)                       $ 0
coffee filters (from Ang)                                               $ 0

Total                                                                                 $11

When it’s sunny and shorts weather here in San Diego, the only way you’re going to get snowflakes is if you cut them yourself. It’s easy, festive and fun. Go ahead. NOW!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas Egg

Sometimes I like doing things my own way. Sometimes I have a unique approach—without even intending to. Today, for instance.

This morning I glanced at our front tree. I see it multiple times a day. How many hundreds—thousands--of times have I looked at it, this year alone? But today I did a double take. There was something different about the tree. Why was there a plastic Easter egg hanging near the Christmas lights?


Hubby hung the lights a week ago, so I could ask him. But he decorates for Christmas and I decorated the tree for Easter. Which means that there has been one rebellious Easter egg hanging in the tree for the last eight months. I’ll admit I’ve been a little distracted. Three kids. Tons happening. And the egg is light blue, which somewhat camouflages into the green leaves. But still. Eight months? This is a new one on me. I love to make others laugh, but today the joke was on me…

I’m considering several courses of action.

1)      Remove the egg and return it to the box of other eggs, where it will get an enthusiastic welcome home from its colorful friends.

2)      Decorate the egg in Christmas colors so that it is the most versatile Easter egg in history.

3)      Leave it there, as it is, for another four months, until next Easter and pat myself on the back for being an early planner.

Which option gets your vote?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Meet Lovers

For some people the swap meet is part of their weekly routine, but for others it’s as foreign as a trip to the moon. Some people recoil from used clothing and knickknacks, repulsed by potential germs. They’d rather roll around at the dump in ant-covered rotting banana peels than go to a thrift store or garage sale. And then there are those of us who love the treasure hunt of thrifting. Which type are you?

If you’re horrified by the idea of buying (or even touching) other people’s things, you may feel that the topic doesn’t appeal to you and that you should stop reading this post before you feel queasy. That’s okay. But I encourage you to keep reading—just another paragraph or two—just to see if there’s something intriguing about the meet that you don’t know about yet. I’m biased, of course, because I like thrifting, and I say to those who haven’t tried it: you’re missing out.

Thrift stores and garage sales and swap meets have something in common, of course, but they are also different from each other and each deserves its own blog post. So for now, I’ll focus on the swap meet, and if you’ll remind me sometime soon, I’ll share thoughts on its cousins: thrift stores and garage sales.
Today I wandered through my local swap meet--quite by accident. I had an errand to do across the street from the meet and because I finished early, I decided to head over. It had been over a year since my last swap meet visit. The last time I’d been was a day I was selling things with a friend. It was the first time either of us had sold at the swap meet and it was a mixed experience. I sold very little and was disappointed, but my friend made some money. She’d been back since to sell but I hadn’t. But today was a good opportunity to pop into the meet to see if I could find some unusual, mismatched buttons for an upcoming art project. No dice on the buttons but I found some other small items for FAPs (Future Art Projects) so it was time well spent.

For someone like me, who loves a good back story and has tons of questions about people, places and events, the swap meet is a gold mine. It’s completely different from shopping at a chain store. You’ll find me in chain stores each week, so I’m not condemning them, but today’s topic is the magic of the meet, so right now I’m focused on its charms.

The items found at a swap meet are as varied and individual as the vendors themselves. I love the unpredictability of what you’ll find at the meet, even within one stall. The selection is incongruous: shoes might be cuddled up to plastic toys, vintage bake ware, fishing gear, 1970s neck ties, potted plants and cologne. If you need VHS tapes of every Friends episode made, I suggest you race down to the Sports Arena before someone else grabs them. It’s chotchke and gewgaw heaven.

Today I bought items at two stalls and spoke to several vendors. I asked whether today was busier than usual with Christmas drawing nearer. I was curious about whether the vendors sell here weekly, this being part of their regular gig. One man said he wasn’t a regular seller, but that he needed to sell stuff before moving out of the area. Another vendor had things organized by price, and I got the impression that he does this regularly and has a detailed system. The wannabe Lois Lane in me had too many questions to ask casually while sifting through old jewelry. I didn’t think I should fire question after question at the vendors, but with each answer more questions were born. I wondered how time-consuming it was to collect the items they planned to sell. Did they go to garage sales and thrift stores six days a week in order to have enough inventory for one day of selling? Was selling their main gig, something that covered their bills? Or was selling on weekends a supplement to the jobs they held during the week? Was it a pain in the neck to haul a van full of stuff at six a.m., unload it, spend all day hoping people would buy things, deal with lowball offers, watch for thieves, and then pack it all up that afternoon, drive it home, and flop down, exhausted, hoping the wad of cash earned would cover the gas it took to drive to the meet? Or at least cover food this week? It takes so much effort to transform an empty parking lot into a temporary mall for a few hours. I wondered if the vendors hated the repetitious nature of set up and break down. Or did they feel that this beats a tedious desk job, any day? Did they like working outdoors, watching the variety of people who come to the meet? Did they befriend other regular vendors or was there fierce competition for business? Do they resent that people often haggle about price at a swap meet, or do they figure it’s all still worth it, because the vendors are their own bosses and they name the price? Which personality types are drawn to selling? How long have they been selling here?

One vendor (the guy about to move) looked weathered, his face proof that he’d worked outdoors for decades. But he smiled and seemed glad that someone was talking to him beyond grunting, “How much?” The guy with the impeccably organized stall looked bored. The sweet grandma-type who claimed she was just cleaning out her house played hardball with prices. The vendors fascinated me. How about a reality show about the colorful characters who are swap meet vendors?

If you haven’t dipped your toe into swap meet shopping, let me give you a small sample of what you might find there: mugs, electronics, 1980s telephones, Christmas decorations, detergent, socks, smart phone cases, potted trees, fresh produce, dream catchers, a nearly life sized Barbie head for hair styling (which I remember as a hot toy in the 1980s), size 15 rubber boots, vinyl records, brass belt buckles, old tee shirts, new pants, a sequined party dress, vintage sewing machines, a needlepoint pig (part of a larger collection of pigs of various materials and sizes), skate boards, shoe laces, new shoes and old jewelry. Such an eclectic mix. If anthropologists of the future study the people of 2015 they will conclude that we like stuff, we have a lot of stuff, and the moment we drop a bag of stuff we don’t need at Goodwill, we immediately go to swap meets to get even less essential new old stuff. Future anthropologists will conclude this: humans in the twenty-first century exhibited classic hunter-gatherer tendencies. They may have a point. Sociologists may want to station themselves at swap meets to analyze social behaviors and interactions. You like people-watching? Go to a swap meet.   

Is there really any harm in bringing home a couple of things? Exhibit A: my house is full of things I use and don’t use, and even as I resolve to donate a lot of it to my local thrift store, I still bring home more stuff on a daily basis. Is it the gatherer in me? Do I want to be prepared? Is it the mom in me, who wants to have on hand whatever the kids might need? Is it the artist in me, who likes assembling strange combinations of things and turning it into art? (D) All of the above?

Today’s unplanned visit to the meet planted lots of questions in my mind. Perhaps I’ll formally interview some vendors at some point, in exchange for lunch. I’m fascinated by the vendors, and I want answers!

Now I ask those of you who consider yourselves swap meet avoiders, has today’s post about the swap meet changed your mind in any way? Or has it confirmed your suspicions that going to a swap meet is even worse than going to the DMV? I still think you should try it at least once, just to see. If you do go, bring one dollar bills and take your multi vitamins first. You’ll need energy because there may be some intense haggling over price. And if it comes down to it, I might have to arm wrestle you for those Friends VHS tapes…

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Laughing all the way…

Next month I will start my eighth year of writing this blog, where I share my thoughts, show my photos, and tell my tales of the wacky life I lead. Revealing the crazy anecdotes about parenting, and my life in general, is a form of therapy for me. It’s a way to show the world that I’m okay with people seeing my human side. I want to be honest about how human I am. I don't want to paint a picture of a flawless family. Keeping it real is important to me now, because I used to think I should only show the sides of me that were picture-perfect. At the time I was horrified by the idea of exposing my flaws, mistakes, embarrassments. But over time I have realized that we might as well laugh about and bond around our human experiences. If we pretend our lives look like a polished Martha Stewart magazine feature we’ll never truly know each other. We’ll all be too busy making sure that the image is right. And you can’t know someone if they’ll only show their camera-ready moments.

I’ve grown a lot since the days when I thought I had to present a flawless fa├žade. I now believe that it’s important to share the human stuff, to admit the challenges, to laugh about the crazy parts. Sharing my life through a blog is my way of refusing to be pressured to show only the picture perfect moments. I am not interested in presenting my life as a Norman Rockwell/Tollhouse cookie/Hallmark commercial. My life is nothing like that, and I’m okay with this! Actually, there are commercials out there that embrace the human side—showing parenthood as it often is: an imperfect, trial and error, sometimes exhausting marathon peppered with amazing moments and hilarious outtakes. I love those commercials because they’re keeping it real. We’re embracing our imperfections. Parenthood in 2015 isn’t about being June and Ward Cleaver. It’s about being human, and letting your kids know that they can be human, too. Those commercials where the kitchen is clean, the clutter is nonexistent, no one has a stain on their sweatshirt—those weren’t filmed in my house! I guess those commercials are selling us a fantasy but I’d rather stay here in my reality. There’s mess. I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. I’m human and I’m willing to share that with others. Let’s laugh about it.

I laughed with a friend a few nights ago after my youngest child’s school music performance. My friend was taking photos with her three kids. I told her I was very impressed that her twin sons had matching outfits. “I couldn’t even find my daughter’s shoes tonight, and you found not one but two clean, matching outfits!” We laughed about the missing shoe. This moment fits with the point I’m making today: we’re human—why hide it? Let’s laugh about the unexpected, frenzied moments. Showing the real stuff makes life relatable.

These crazy moments seem inevitable on busy school nights that involve a performance and party clothes. The tone was set when I realized what a short window of time there was between school pick up and 5:30, when the students would meet to prepare for the 6pm show. There was a lot to do. The mayhem started when a few unrelated mishaps landed in that short window of time. Someone knocked on the door to discuss solar panels. I had to make phone calls about a missing homework assignment. I hadn’t ironed our daughter’s dress or found her shoes. Things got crazier when one of the kids put on tights with a hole in one shin. “What’s up with that hole?” I asked her. “Oh, no one will notice it,” she replied. I stared at her and said, “Your skin is light. The tights are black. The hole is completely obvious! Everyone will notice. It will look like we got your outfit out of a dumpster! I’ll sew it shut.” Of course, I couldn’t find a needle. I looked with all my sewing stuff. No dice. And the clock was ticking. I looked in the kitchen, where I sometimes keep craft items. No needle. Could I tape the hole? Get real. Tape would hold about two seconds. “And where are your shoes?” I called to our youngest. I only see one of them. “What time is it? Is everyone else dressed? We have to go in eight minutes! Someone find the shoe! I’m looking for a sewing needle! How did I manage to put my dress on backwards? No wonder it looks strange! Did you finish your homework? Did you start your homework?”   

Several frenzied minutes later we’re finally out of the house and on our way. We’re running late, but I knew from last year that many kids did not arrive a full thirty minutes before the show—and guess what? It was fine. In the truck, Hubby drives and I’m in the passenger seat, twisted around backwards, trying to sew the hole in my daughter’s tights—the truck’s dome light is on so I can see—but I’m in such a strange position that I get a cramp. “Owww,” I groan. And then the allergy attack starts. We arrive at the school but the gates that were open for last year’s performance are shut so we have to do a u turn and circle back. I keep glancing at the time. How do we get in? At last we figure it out and get where we need to be. The performance is adorable. And then it’s pandemonium again as parents and kids mill around the auditorium, trying to find one another. We swim against the tide and eventually meet up and walk toward the exit. This is when I see my friend and her three kids, two with matching outfits, and laughingly tell her about the missing shoe and the chaos of our afternoon. People around us laugh, and I say, “I can’t make this stuff up. It really happened!”

And so I’m sharing another funny episode in this endurance sport I call parenthood. I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to pretend to be. Let’s laugh about the mishaps. Stay tuned because the one thing I can guarantee about this unpredictable journey of motherhood is that there will be more hectic, wild moments of scrambling, freaking out, making do, and laughing about it. After all, that’s life.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #34: Candy Cane

Have we met? My name is Ms. Candy Cane. My name and my costume match. Would you like to know how my outfit came to be? A few months back I decided that my December costumes would be wintery/Christmasy. I realize that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but I hope that the festive feel of my costumes will appeal to one and all (or most). My preparations for this week’s costume started at the thrift store, where I scored a red and white striped shirt. Next stop: fabric store, where I bought half a yard of striped fabric for my skirt.

First curve ball: at home, a young artist cut a sizeable piece out of my half yard of fabric. She had a great art idea, and who am I to stop a creative snowball as it grows in size and momentum?

I could have insisted on having the piece back but instead, I assured myself that I could still use the remaining fabric and it all would work out. Even if I had to make the skirt a little different from how I’d envisioned it, all would be okay. Lots of times I piece together something from several different fabrics and often times it turns out more interesting than if I’d had a larger amount of just one fabric.

Second curve ball: I discovered that another creative youngster who lives here in our artists’ colony drew on my skirt fabric. Solution? A well-placed pocket covering the drawing.

(Both little artists here at home are very talented, and I often frame their art rather than covering it in pockets. But sometimes I like to stick to one theme, in this case candy canes, rather than mix and match candy canes with hieroglyphics. Although that could be a fun twist.)

I’m sharing these two curve ball stories because I want to encourage others to find a way to keep going with a project even if something unexpected has popped up along the way. See if you can find a way to work with the unexpected rather than become derailed by it. Of course, I’m not sure if I should dispense advice on this matter as I have many, many unfinished projects here. I’m human. Very.

Back to Ms. Candy Cane and her stripes-on-stripes costume. Running with a theme like candy canes is so much fun. Candy canes need no translation. They are recognizable to people of many different walks of life, diverse backgrounds and various ages. I love the idea of a costume that most people would recognize and enjoy. Because candy canes are available only this time of year, they instantly set a Christmasy tone. Their look hasn’t changed throughout the years, so they are a familiar symbol whether you’re celebrating your first Christmas or your 100th Christmas.    


I think my hat’s shadow is really fun. My shadow looked like a walking, talking weather vane.
Sometimes I share what I spent to bring a costume to life. I always try to get a lot of bang for my buck and to create something memorable without breaking the bank.
Shirt (thrifted)                                                          $2

Fabric for skirt                                                          $3

Zipper (on sale)                                                        $1

Felt, red and white                                                  $2

Candy cane ornaments on hat                              $1

Beads for necklace (gift from neighbor)              $0

Buttons for necklace (already had)                      $0


Total spent                                                                $9

Thanks for tuning in, folks. See you next week with more seasonal costumes!