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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Making my own Flip Flops—by Accident



My shoe was breaking.

Naturally, I was all dressed up, at an upscale art gallery when it happened.

I wondered, what would Lady Gaga do? Rip the shoe in two, turn half into an earring and start a performance art piece.

I didn’t do that.

I wasn’t feeling like a badass right then. I felt like an idiot and I wanted to keep the moment a secret.

So how did I find myself with breaking shoes while in a fancy gallery? A reasonable question. Sometimes I think I attract crazy moments, like I collect jacaranda blossoms on the bottoms of my shoes each June.

Hubby and I were headed to the gallery because my artist friend had a piece in a show there. At home that evening I’d pawed through my closet and found a red dress to wear, and I threw it on. Immediately I ripped it off. (Perhaps I should have sensed this as foreshadowing of events to come.) The dress was not fitting as I’d hoped and I vowed I’d wear skunk-sprayed clothes to the gallery before leaving the house in the dress. (I’m pretty sure I was PMSing that weekend.) After more excavation of my closet I found an outfit more to my liking. I dug out some black dress shoes with a two-inch wedge heel and felt (reasonably) ready to head downtown.

This shoe debacle happened over a year ago. So why tell it now? (A) It’s never too late to share a crazy story. And (B) I recently felt the itch to write another funny blog post. I hadn’t blogged regularly in the last five months and while it felt good to take a break, I also missed writing about my kooky adventures. But was I ready to share this moment? At the time it felt too embarrassing--like proof that I never quite have it together. If anything, I wanted to hide my embarassment in a sealed box. At the back of the closet. For several decades. But I’ve decided that there’s catharsis in being real. The pressure to have it all together is too much. So I’m embracing the embarrassing because human moments bond us.

So there I was, in a nearly empty gallery, with no one to hide behind. The gallery was about to close, but they let me in for a few minutes while Hubby circled the block, looking for parking. (Apparently, I was using 1999 as my reference point for the ability to park in downtown San Diego on a Friday night. In 2016 there was zero parking within a one-mile radius of the Gaslamp district. Hence, Hubby was circling the block while I looked at art and tried to keep my shoe on.)

Right before entering the gallery I realized that the sole was separating from my shoe. Earlier, I’d had an inkling that it was slightly loose. I’d glued it, and felt confident that it would hold together. But there, in the empty gallery, under the bright lights, the sole and my shoe were parting ways. The toe and the sole were still attached, but the heel was headed for the border. An empty, brightly-lit gallery is not the ideal setting when you’re having a wardrobe malfunction. I had the undivided attention of the lady at the front desk. And so I did what any half-shoed art lover would do: I ground my heel into the floor and subtly dragged my foot along as I walked so that she wouldn’t notice my sole flapping against the polished floors. Step, slide. Step, slide. Subtlety at its finest. Perhaps she wondered why a 40+ white lady was doing a bad imitation of a gangsta swagger, but this felt like a better alternative than having my shoe flap along under me. (Seriously--sometimes we have to make split-second decisions.) Shoe dragging felt like the equivalent of when a dog pulls its itchy butt along the ground: it temporarily solves a problem--but it’s not cute.

I turned up my charm a notch as I chatted about art with the gallery lady. Anything to distract from my shoe-turned-flip-flop. In truth, she might have been a down-to-earth person who wouldn’t have judged me if I’d confessed that my shoe was breaking. But because the shoe separation caught me off guard, and I was PMSing and not at my most confident, I felt too embarrassed. And why do these moments never happen at home—only in public?

Was it the end of the world? Of course not. But I rarely dress up, and my ego was bruised. It felt especially frustrating to have my cute look undermined by a broken shoe when I’d put in the extra effort to look good.

After leaving the gallery (step, slide, step, slide), I hobbled out of sight and then ripped the offending shoe off my foot. As Hubby returned, I was partly laughing, but mostly cringing, as I showed him the remains of my shoe. He tried to reassure me, but we both know that these moments seem to happen around me. A lot.

The next day, I tried something new to repair the shoe: Shoe Goo. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. It is designed for durability, because shoes flex and need a stronger glue.

So that’s the story of my broken sole and my damaged ego. A year later, the shoes are gone. I upgraded to a pair that probably will last a century. My ego has recovered. And there’s something healing about sharing an embarrassing moment (after waiting at least a year). We all have embarrassing moments. Sometimes the instinct is to hide them. But sharing them reminds me that it really is okay to be human. Shoes will break but the spirit is actually quite resilient…

 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Progress Report

Riiiiing….Riiiiinnng….RIIIINNNGGG!!!
I am shaking my hand bell in a vigorous attempt to get the attention of thirty-eight wiggly kids. The bell is shrill—and I’m glad it is—because while I am naturally loud, my voice can’t compete with thirty-eight chatty kiddos. The first five weeks of teaching I simply raised my voice a lot to be heard (and became hoarse). Not today. My three dollar thrift store bell was a wise investment, if I may say so.
It’s been over a month since I last blogged, but I anticipated that gap. It’s been super busy. As of today I’ve taught art for seven Wednesdays and I felt it was time to update my readers about how it’s going.
First, let me begin by giving a shout-out to every teacher on the planet. I knew teaching would be challenging—and it’s even more challenging than I’d expected. I’ve always appreciated teachers for all they do—but even more so now that I’m the one trying to communicate with kids each week.
If you read my last blog post you know that I am teaching art to kids at an elementary school. It’s one day a week, but for a newbie like me, that’s enough for now. It takes a lot of energy. The kids range from Kindergarten through eighth grade, so there’s a big span in terms of ages, personalities, fine motor control and art experience. I see each grade every other week. There are 310 students. Some kids like art. Some don’t. Some kids listen. Some don’t. Does it get to me--the ones who don’t listen? Of course! I’m human, and I’m busting my butt to teach them. But I won’t dwell on that right now. I’d rather share a few stories about the kids who are glad to be in my art class—or funny anecdotes from my first seven weeks of teaching. Here are a few recent conversations in the art room:
Fourth grader: Mrs. Sarah, Alex says I don’t have a leg muscle. (Boy flexes his calf and I do see a smallish muscle contract.) Is he right?
Me: Of course you have muscle! I can see it right there. But this isn’t a body-building competition so let’s take a seat and flex our creative muscles instead.
Kindergartener: (Crying as he shows me his box of watercolor paints.) My yellow paint is ruined forever.
Me: Don’t worry kiddo, your green just got confused and mixed itself with the yellow a little. After all, they are neighbors in the box. We’ll just clean it off with a paper towel. See? Good as new.
Fourth Grader: Why are we doing scribble-scrabble with crayons? Are we back in preschool again?
Me: No, not at all. But we’re working in the style of the artist Eric Carle, who layered color and had a very loose style, so you’re making a lot of free-flowing lines on your paper. It’ll look awesome!
First grader: Mrs. Sarah, I missed you SOOOOOOOO much!
Me: (heart feeling happy) Thanks, kiddo! How sweet. Good to see you, too.
Seventh grader:  Can we make slime this year in art?
Me: It sounds fun, but I don’t think I’d get approval from the office for that. But we’re going to use air dry clay, and we’ll paint and draw and do lots of different projects. You’ll have to make slime at home.
For the older students our current projects are still life drawings. The younger kids are making animals in the style of Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and many other books.




 








By Wednesday night I’m exhausted but slowly I am increasing my teaching stamina. Many of the kids are having fun and learning new techniques, and that means a lot to me. Every week I learn a little more about teaching, and while it’s hard for me to stumble, at least I’m learning. Yep, it’s official: I’m a teacher and definitely a student, too…

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Art Store


Things are about to get extra busy for me because Wacky Wednesday is turning into Working Woman Wednesday.

For a couple of years now on Wednesdays I’ve worn costumes that I made from everyday objects. But today I began teaching art to kids on Wednesdays. My feet hurt (despite wearing practical clogs) and my voice is strained, but it went pretty well today.


It’s funny how things come about. This past spring I was feeling like the Wacky Wednesday tradition might be nearing its end. I’ve done it 93 times and I am proud of finding a fun, new idea each week and turning it into wearable art. I want to reach 100 WWs, but I also I wanted to take the summer off to recharge.  

Early this summer, a friend who teaches art told me about an opportunity to teach elementary school kids. And here I am, a few months later, jumping into this new adventure. It would take a lot of energy to create a weekly costume as well as teach so for now my costume Wednesdays are becoming classroom Wednesdays.

Want to see some art from the five classes I taught today? We painted fall trees in all of the classes, and it was amazing for me to see the huge variety in how the kids interpreted the assignment.











Yes, I’ve started taking my multivitamins again. I may need an intravenous drip of Red Bull each week. But I’m excited for the challenge—and because this is new and I want to do an awesome job—I’m nervous, too. To my teacher friends out there, what is your top piece of advice for me?

With this change to my schedule I won’t be blogging weekly right now, but I’ll still post updates on my blog about my adventures in art. And just so we’re clear, I will get to 100 WWs. Wacky Wednesdays won’t be weekly anymore, so it will take a while to reach 100, but I’ll get there. And if anyone wants to take the baton and create the next one hundred wacky costumes, let me know. I still have a giant stash of found objects you can use to create one-of-a-kind costumes! Clear some space in the garage, will you? I’ll bring it over immediately.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #93—Got Film?

 

Let’s talk about film—that plastic stuff (celluloid) rolled into a tiny tube that we used to load into cameras, hoping we were loading it right—how many times was I supposed to turn it around that crank? Is it advancing? Did I just mess up the whole roll? (Or was that just me…)
 
 
Anyway, film. I’ve taken a lot of fun photos using film, but in the last ten years I’ve been all about digital photos. So much easier, and don’t forget the instant gratification of digital pictures. (I feel no shame in my addiction to instant gratification, in case you were wondering.)
 

Now, how did this post come about? The way all good posts come about: quite randomly. I happened upon a roll of film in a box, and thought it would be fun to use the film in a costume. I realized I had other plastic film negatives, just waiting for a second use. The curving strips of film had potential as an awesome sculptural element. And so the project began.
 

I know that you film purists will be horrified that I am cutting and splicing film negatives, and while I don’t want to upset you, you must understand that for me, using these negatives helps with my clutter issue—decreasing it only a teeny, tiny bit—but it does cut down on the clutter I have saved in boxes. So really, I must do this.
 

On a related note, did you ever watch movies on film projectors? I remember this from when I was a kid and the local libraries played movies during the summer—with actual reel to reel film projectors like this:
 



There’s something so charming about light shining through a long roll of film. These days, some films are made using digital video, but many feature films still are shot with actual film.

In case you’re wondering about my dress, it’s a refashion. Several years ago I made an Eiffel Tower Halloween costume and I made a gray dress to go under it to tie in with the gray/silver tower and all its geometry. I added more geometric shapes onto the dress, as a nod to the rectangular pattern on rolls of film. The dark strips of film pop against a lighter background.





Necklace, earrings, hat and sunglasses—all created with film and hot glue. Cost: approximately one dollar for hot glue sticks.




Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my closeup…



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Discoveries


I discovered a delightful surprise a few days ago and decided it would be a great topic for my first blog of the summer.

To my surprise, June passed without my blogging even once. In the last seven years I never skipped a month of blogging and skipping June feels like the equivalent of ditching a final exam— uncomfortable! But there are times when your brain is too tired to do extra stuff. The school year exhausts me as a parent, and by June 14, I was going on fumes. So I read and rested and did stuff with my kiddos. Now, suddenly it’s almost mid-July. But the funny thing about blogging is that it’s there when you’re ready to return. If you do it just for fun, as I do, you don’t have an impatient editor breathing down your neck, so you can return to it when you feel inspired. And a few days ago I became inspired.

 


On Saturday morning I was out walking and I discovered something amazing. I was in the Bay Area for the wedding of Ian and Maia, one of my closest friends. That morning I took a walk, looking for Robson-Harrington Park, which I’d found on my phone. When I walked into the park, I was very surprised to see irregular brick walls undulating up a hillside. What was this? It looked abandoned, and I was intrigued. Immediately I thought of a book my daughter is reading this summer, The Secret Garden. It’s one of my favorites, a book I’ve read at least twenty times. In the book, a sad little girl finds the key to a garden that has been locked for a decade. She spends months working in the garden and this strengthens her body and her soul. Although the brick walls of the garden I found were not behind a locked gate, the garden still felt like a secret discovery because I hadn’t expected it.

The bricks were old and they had ceramic decoration laid into the walls. A few things were growing, like artichoke plants, each topped with colorful purple spikes. It was a surprising sign of life in a spot that looked like it hadn’t been touched in years.





I had to know more. I kept wandering through the labyrinth of brick walls, and soon discovered that there were garden plots full of living things. It was a community garden. There were sunflowers, leeks, succulents, fruit trees, tomatoes, roses, grapes, squash and flowers of every color. I saw daisies as small as a fingernail and dahlias as large as melons. Beyond the garden, redwood trees soared into the sky. Simultaneously I felt a sense of peace and excitement. This isn’t breaking news, but being in nature is tremendously healing. Surrounded by things that grow, I felt soothed and renewed.

Soon I saw two people working in one of the gardens. I asked about the walled areas that looked abandoned and one gardener said that these areas had been orchards at one point. In many ways, this garden seemed like something created in another time. It didn’t feel like a new project, plotted with square corners and precision. It felt like it grew right out of the hillside with its curved walls, irregular twisting paths and natural flow.









 

Discovering the garden recharged me. The day before I’d been a mess of nerves, stewing about the past and anxious about the future. So finding the garden that morning was wonderful timing. The plants were just doing what plants do, but being around growing things gave me a sense of hope. It made me feel stronger about things that had been troubling me. Gardens begin from tiny seeds—things that only need a little bit of water and sun to grow strong—and finding the secret garden made me feel stronger, too. (Thank you, garden.)


After I left the garden, I walked through the winding roads of San Anselmo. It was a quiet, hot July morning. I sweated and walked, sweated and walked. Wisteria vines tumbled over fences and there was a tree house nestled into tall redwood trees. Eventually I found my way back to the Air BnB we rented and before all my observations left me, I wrote notes about the garden on a paper plate, as I hadn’t brought writing paper with me when I packed. (If you bring paper on a trip, you may not feel inspired. If you don’t bring paper on your trip, you’ll have a blog post write itself in your head while you walk, and you’ll find a paper plate at the rental studio and you’ll lay on the comfy rental bed, sweating, with the fan on, and you’ll write, write, write because the ideas are flowing.)

My time in the garden helped me summon the courage later that day to get up in front of 120 wedding guests and give a tearful toast to one of my closest friends for the last 32 years. I didn’t wait until I felt 100% ready—that will never happen!—but I decided that if I walked toward the microphone, I’d do it. Getting to the microphone was harder than the talking part. I got choked up but I kept going, because close friends are gifts, and honoring a close friend on her wedding day is worth pushing myself.

What a meaningful weekend it was, being with Maia on her wedding day. And finding a community garden by chance—and finding strength in that surprise garden. Funny, I suppose you could find strength anyplace. Maybe you could find courage in a 7-11, or in a junk yard. In a dirty public bathroom. Anywhere! Maybe it just takes something kind of random to give you the extra push you need.

I’m so glad that my wandering walk took me to a place that inspired me, surprised me, and strengthened me. We all need that, and discovering it by accident makes the gift even more meaningful because it’s almost like the solution finds you. Maybe a lot of answers to problems can be found in gardens (or maybe it’s that my brain stops squawking at me in gardens and allows the answer to come to the surface). Funny, isn’t it? You fret and worry and plan and scheme and come up empty-handed. And when you’re least expecting it, the answers find you



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #92—Watermelon



Watermelon means summer is almost here. Last week I wore a sandcastle hat—which also had a summery vibe. Are you seeing a theme, here? Summer: I’m literally counting the days ‘til you begin.

The idea of a watermelon outfit has been simmering in the back of my mind for ages, but I wanted to become a watermelon in the season I associate with it: summer.


To make my dress, I cut some white fabric I already had into an A-line dress so that the shape would be somewhat triangular, like a piece of watermelon. I bought some red dye for $3, and dyed the dress overnight. (It turned out closer to pink than red, but as you know, some watermelons are pink so I’m not sweating it.) I used green fabric from my stash for the rind. The earrings are made from paper, and the hat is made from cardboard, hot glue and paint. This outfit did not cost much cash but it delivers a big dose of fun for me. I hope you think so, too.





 
Red and pink are my favorite colors—so this watermelon-colored dress makes me happy. Wearing something playful brings a lot of fun, too, and I’m a firm believer that grownups need just as much silly, laughing, happy fun time as kids do. How can you not be in a good mood when you are dressed like a watermelon?
 
Of course, watermelon is available in the seedless variety, and I prefer it. But the polka dot-like seed pattern is such a recognizable feature of watermelons, so my dress has seeds.
 

 
 
This will be my last WW post until fall, as I’m taking the summer to hang with my kiddos and do other kinds of art projects. But I may blog about other things. Who knows? Either way, I’m ready for a break from schedules this summer.


Whatever this season means to you—watermelon, sandcastles, beaches, kites, picnics—whatever is good for your soul--enjoy the summer…



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wacky Wednesday #91—Sandcastle


Sandcastles…Creative fun. Breezy days at the beach. Yep, it’s almost summer, folks.



A few months ago I found some materials that instantly reminded me of sandcastle shapes. They were cardboard packing materials, and their light brown color and bumpy texture looked exactly like sand to me. So I saved them until this week, and I made them into a sandcastle hat.


 
 





I’m wearing my sandcastle today, and mentally, I’m ready for summer. As a parent, I find the school year quite intense. My kids are still at the age when they need help with homework and projects so the school year feels like a nine month marathon. Summer, I need you. I know the kids will fight, and I know the heat will get to me, but I’m still ready for a break from school. My sandcastle and I are welcoming summer today.

Parts of this outfit were taken from last summer’s ocean costume, but I believe that if you create a hat you’ve never made before, this qualifies as a brand new Wacky Wednesday theme. I altered and reused the shell necklace I made last summer, and used some of the leftover shells for my hat. The hat is made from the cardboard shapes, hot glue, origami paper and a little bit of felt—things I already had.



My earrings are intended to look like starfish, and they are made from a piece of sandpaper I had. (The sandpaper wasn’t new, but I think that the slightly worn areas give the starfish more interest…)
 

Have a happy, rejuvenating summer…