Musings and Amusings

Archive for 2014

All’s Well That Ends Well

imageMeet Quinn (mannequin), Raqi’s new BFF – at least until next-door buddy Em gets home from visiting her grandparents on the other side of the Continental Divide.

Despite my reservations, our sewing sessions went remarkably smoothly without me cracking open the gin bottle. My wingman, Hub, came through like a champ using his superior eyesight and abstract thinking to figure out the bobbin-loading diagrams, maneuver his fingers in the very tiny space to thread the machine needle, and leaving both of us looking like savvy sewers in Raqi’s eyes.

image

Coincidentally, I found this paragraph in a book shortly after our sewing project was completed:

Until fairly recently, needle skills were considered an important part of a girl’s education. Girls learned a variety of stitches and embellishments that they would need later as the seamstresses of their families.”

Map Art Lab by Jill K. Berry & Linden McNeilly

No wonder our Mothers and Home Ec teachers put so much pressure on us to become qualified seamstresses. It was considered a life skill for females. And no wonder it created lingering anxiety for those of us who couldn’t measure up!

Thankfully, I had no expectations of Raqi’s mastery nor did she. She didn’t even want to open a pattern; she simply wanted to maneuver pieces of fabric around the mannequin in a semblance of a top and skirt; click the machine dial to sew a variety of fancy stitches for about 15 minutes; glue on some Velcro fasteners and call it a fashion success. One she can’t wait to show Em.

On that high note, I reflect on other unanticipated, pleasurable surprises of 2014:

Number 1 on that list – YOU. A year of you, me and us – gleaning words of wisdom, snippets of inspiration, and validation of our shared humanity through your writings, photos and illustrations. Chuckling, commiserating, comforting each other along the way.

Blogging relationships are every bit as complex, delicate and rewarding as in-person interactions. They are at once uniquely public and intensely personal.

When I assess my 2014, I find it has been one of my happiest, most contented years, and I attribute much of that positive feeling to how my daily world has changed because of blogging. My own writing gives me challenging satisfaction, but it is the warmth and sense of belonging with all of you that is the greater reward.

Other small joys of 2014…

527Golfing with Dad. Only in Michigan would a round of golf with cart cost $20, and include a historic-brick-home clubhouse, a red barn cart storage, a course cultivated from cow pastures and hayfields, and baby turtles newly hatched in the sand trap marching their way to the nearby pond.

 

Every Praise sung by Hezekiah Walker. Of the multitude of crap that flows through my Facebook page, this one stuck. I want to sing it, dance it, pray for some progress in healing our racial divides.

My traditionally favorite Christmas movie – Love Actually. Many of my alltime Brit favorites – Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson – just pure ‘love, actually’ with a whole bunch of laughs and dance wiggles thrown in.

Two other excellent movies: Chef and 100-Foot Journey

imageBooks I read and 5-starred – a sampling; by no means a complete list:

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
Loved It!! It reads like a stream-of-consciousness blog taking me back through several iterations of Neil’s musical career and my own life chapters influenced by his music. At the same time, it’s very much a ‘future vision’ outlook on environmental and music projects Neil is determined to bring to fruition.

Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
Chris is one of my top five all-time novelists (with his Idyll Banter essay book an equally compelling read). I am constantly amazed to scan his list of works and note the variety of locales, topics and characters he imagines into being.

Set in Tuscany during and a decade after WWII, this novel is a lush family saga with historic significance and intrigue, complete with Chris’s uncanny ability to fully develop his female characters. Having toured Tuscany with a guide who was steeped in WWII history of that region, I felt I was transported right back to those verdant hills and ancient villas.

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.
I am loved and cherished. I have nothing to fear.
I don’t know about ‘proof’, but I liked finding a book that mirrors my long-held beliefs.

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
Flummoxed as ever by centuries of unresolved Middle East conflicts, I chose this one based on several reviews by noted Middle East experts. I started reading this a couple days ago.

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein
I met Elizabeth, who blogs at http://www.elizabethhein.com during the 2014 A to Z Challenge, and her novel was published this year. Click the link to read a synopsis of the book. Based on the quality and organizational skills Elizabeth exhibits on her blog, I expected a well-written novel, and it is. Elizabeth maintains a good pace; has created realistic, complex characters, and she excels at writing dialogue. I especially enjoyed her rounding out Lara’s character by including substantial work-related scenes and relationships, which added context to the other parts of Lara’s life.

Well there you have it – 2014 in a nutshell. Throw in a slew of good bike rides, a few rounds of decent golf and repeated handfuls of chocolate – even using New Math, that adds up to a well-rounded, highly satisfying year.

I’d be remiss not to mention how much I love my constant companion and dearest friend, Hub. He makes every day special just because he’s part of it.

imageSee y’all in 2015 !

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Santa, Pack a Seamstress. PLEASE!

In the ‘What Was I Thinking’ category, I bought Raqi this child-size mannequin

image

and these It’s So Easy (even an idiot can do it) Simplicity patterns

image image

and filled a sewing basket with shiny pins, assorted needles, pink pin cushion, measuring tape, colorful ribbon, spools of colorful thread, my button collection, black snaps and Velcro strips.

Raqi has been designing and hand sewing rudimentary clothes for her dolls, and she asked for fabric and a mannequin for Christmas to make herself some clothes. Her Mom told me she bought Raqi a ‘beginner’ sewing machine, so I jumped on Ebay to look for a mannequin.

As I was dressing up the mannequin in a scarf and skirt to put under the Christmas tree, lightning struck.

I CAN’T SEW.

I HATE SEWING!

Who is going to help Raqi thread the sewing machine, translate those mind-numbing pattern illustrations, measure and cut the fabric, sew in a straight line?

All my childhood trauma of my complete and utter failure as a seamstress came flooding over me. Mom made all our clothes and fully expected my sister and me to follow in her footsteps. She tried to teach me, cajole me. She even threatened to disown me from the realms of Home Ec majors who’d paved the way in my family.

I can’t make head, fingers nor foot-pedal sense of bobbins, nap, salvage, pinking shears. I can’t even fold the patterns up once they’ve been unfolded, not even with those permanent fold lines seared in that tissue-like paper.

Panicked, I emailed Parker: “Can YOU sew?”

Her response: “No, I thought you could.”

Running through my non-existent list of Plan B’s, I thought of Charisse, Raqi’s next-door-neighbor-Super-Mom who French-braids hair; makes daily meals for six from scratch; paints Halloween faces with the skill of a makeup artist.

I emailed Parker: “What about Charisse? Does she sew? If not, can she learn overnight?”

Parker’s response: “Charisse is out of town. You better bring gin.”

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends, readers, fellow bloggers and your families. May your Christmas celebration be as blessed and loving as I know mine will.

O Holy Night.

Words Don’t Flow But Spirit Shines

Ten lords a leaping; six geese a laying…

One Sammy tangling…

Christmas Tangle

 

If you’re tired of tangles, I understand!  That seems to be where my Santa spirit resides these days, and I enjoy the calming effect more than trying to harness words that elude my grasp. Plenty of time to crack the writing whip in the new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dashing through the … No, just a Mad Dash

Jack's Snowman

 

If there was any doubt (and we’re going to pretend my home is routinely clutter-free), a cluttered home makes for a cluttered mind. Or, as Louisa May Alcott once said, “Too many books hath turned her head.”

Or something like that.

I can’t find her quote right now in all the clutter.

I buy books as Christmas gifts. Then I feel compelled to READ each book AND make a bookmark for each book before I get to the wrapping stage. And, of course, madly jotting notes and quotes from each book, not to mention the ‘contemplating hours’ that come during or after reading a book (all the while not being able to discuss the book with its intended recipient).

Russian Doll

Occasionally slipping in a book for myself while purchasing gifts only adds to my December reading frenzy.

You do that, too, right?

Do you also continue your weekly library habit only to discover three ‘writing’ magazines you’ve never read and bring home four back issues of each ‘just because’?

On top of that, I got a yen to make books for Sparks and Raqi this year. I used http://www.mypublisher.com to produce 8 1/2 x 11″ books. Their software is easy to use; the time-consuming part is the hours Hub and I spent culling, cropping, laughing and crying over all our photos as we tried to whittle our collection of family memories to a reasonable 50 pages for each of their books.

Lift off is … tomorrow! Spark’s birthday weekend. Two books and a snowman bookmark. Check, check, and check.

Which books? Both 5-star; both perfect for 5th or 6th grade boys (or clueless parents/grandparents)!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – This is one of the most touching and funny books I’ve read. Even if you don’t have a 5th grader in your socio-circle, there are lessons here for all of us. The protagonist, Auggie,  is a plucky boy who has craniofacial deformities and is entering 5th grade at a prep school after being home-schooled through many surgeries and therapy. The family, students and teachers – their personalities and relationships unfolding through multiple voices  – are believable with realistic reactions to Auggie’s presence at the school. Auggie’s combination of bravery and vulnerability is staggering. I don’t remember having books like this when I was a preteen.

The Boys Body Book by Kelly Dunham – A respectful, reassuring approach to physical and emotional transitions for preteen boys. The title is somewhat misleading because the book also includes chapters about relationships with parents;  friendships and middle school;  nutrition and sleep habits. Just enough info to facilitate understanding and coping tips, but not so much that it turns into lectures or way too much information.

Kim's Bookmark

Navajo Twisted Tangles

I’ve been practicing lots of tangle patterns and designs – a whole sketchbook’s worth. I keep reminding myself all craft is a work in progress, taking years to become ‘polished’.

The following two, begun earlier this fall, remind me of an old Navajo blanket (rug?) my parents had when I was a child. I remember it lying on a shelf in a closet in our upstairs bathroom. The closet was big enough to walk into with rudimentary, dark wood shelves and a tiny dust-covered upper window that let in filtered light.

The closet was a place of great intrigue – sheltering artifacts I wanted to explore but knew I probably shouldn’t.

Or so I imagined.

You know – the way places loom larger than life or things promise a secret delight for a curious child.

I don’t know where the blanket came from, what we used it for, or if anyone else in my family remembers it. I think it had a diamond and rectangle pattern with earth tones – muted reds, yellows, tan and black.

It was scratchy to the touch.

Was it a real Navajo blanket?

Did we store it in the closet as I remember or did it lie on the floor in the back entry?

Do we even want to learn the truth behind every childhood ‘awe’?

 

Navajo Tangle 1

 

Navajo Tangle

The Beauty of Female Comedians

“I’ve always loved independent women, outspoken women, eccentric women, funny women, flawed women.”

So begins Diane Keaton in her book of essays Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty

Diane fits effortlessly into the eccentric and outspoken categories, and I place myself dead center as a flawed woman. Hub says he married me for my quirky sense of funny and my independent spirit.

Diane and I – we’ve got it covered.

Diane writes of her admiration for women in the entertainment arts who thrive without becoming slaves to our beauty and youth-obsessed culture. She celebrates groundbreaking female comedians Totie Fields, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. Each made her mark using satire to deride her own physical flaws or multiple cosmetic surgeries.

I thought about which female comedians influenced me as they had Diane – women not deemed beautiful by societal norms who exaggerated their own physical features, using their comedic timing to create caricatures we could simultaneously laugh at and love.

In the late ‘60s, Carol Burnett and Ruth Buzzy set the gold standard for Caricature Comedic Beauty.

Carol Burnett’s comedy-variety show ran from 1967-1978. She and sidekicks Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner and Vickie Lawrence entertained us with side-splitting skits of sass, silliness and unexpected improvisation. I don’t know who laughed harder – them or us!

CBurnett1

Carol & sidekick Harvey Korman; Source: Google Images

Carol’s face was born to comedy – her wide, round, slightly protruding eyes; her too-large mouth with horsey teeth and generous lips, and her booming voice with her signature Tarzan yell. She used those assets, along with her wit and unabashed showmanship to create characters who became real in the eyes of her adoring audience.

CBurnett

Charwoman character; Source: Google Images

Ruth Buzzy is best known for her 1968-1973 stint on Rowen & Martin’s Laugh-In. Like Carol, Ruth was a master at manipulating her facial features – doleful brown eyes, prominent nose and overly wide grin with big, white teeth – literally twisting herself into the physical embodiment of her character’s personality.

Gladys Ormsby character; Google Images

Gladys Ormsby character; Source: Google Images

Who can forget Gladys Ormsby – the downtrodden park benchwarmer with the perpetually sour expression? Dressed in a dull brown sweater; sleek hair swept into a bun and covered with a black hairnet knotted in the middle of her forehead like a scary spider’s web. Her thick nylon stockings were rolled up to her kneecaps above her clunky, black tightly tied shoes.

Harmless and docile until a passing pervert incurred her wrath by daring to sit or speak, she’d grasp her purse in both fists, bringing the full force of her lethal weapon down upon that lecherous sap.

RBuzzi

Source: Google Images

Two other female comedians made lasting impressions on me.

Goldie Hawn, another Laugh-In regular, represented Intellectual Parody Comedic Beauty. Sure she garnered attention for giggling and gyrating to funky music in her striking bikini cameos revealing her full body, psychedelic tattoos (risqué for ‘60’s tv). But beyond that titillation, what struck me was Goldie’s willingness to be the quintessential airhead blonde.

Courtesy Google Images

Source: Google Images

The late 60’s were dead-serious years for women when feminism and the sexual revolution gave rise to female voices clamoring not only to be heard, but to be accorded the same rights, opportunities and rewards as males. Goldie’s ditzy act taught 18-year-old me that even in the midst of taking ourselves seriously, humor is a healthy human counterbalance.

g hawn 1

Source: Google Images

Lastly, two decades later, Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Elaine Benes in Seinfeld – taught me Obnoxious Comedic Beauty.

Growing up, and even into my adult professional life, I got the message that women could be a lot of things, but obnoxious wasn’t one of them. Females put the reins on ourselves. Whether it was my workplace where men outnumbered and outranked women – often jockeying with each other for badass boasting rights – or in a group of women where there was subtle pressure to fit in, I often came home thinking, “God, I hope I didn’t come across as an asshole when I …”.

Elaine, my Asshole Female Hero, behaved just as obnoxiously as Jerry, George and Kramer. And best of all, she didn’t give a shit.

Google Images

Source: Google Images

I can’t say I ever intentionally behave as badly as Elaine, but I’d like to. Just once in awhile let that Asshole Comedic Beauty rip loose. Without consequences other than a laughing audience!

JLDreyfus

Source: Google Images

This Doesn’t Add Up!

Hub and I sat down last night to help Sparks (5th grade) with his homework.

You know where I’m going with this, right?

Sparks gave us an hour lesson in New Math, during which my thinking cap was knocked so askew I had to lie down for an hour. In New Math, that adds up to 1½ hours of no one learning any New Math.

We recovered by having some pie.

einstein

Apparently 98% of our population in any given year doesn’t grasp how to add, subtract or multiply numbers by columns. Neither do we know how to divide numbers using this cool Boomer doodle pattern:

division1

That’s the only reason I like long division – that rockin’ doodle pattern!

Don’t worry, there are doodle patterns in New Math; just not that obsolete Boomer pattern.

In New Math, the doodle pattern is 100% addition.

That’s right. Subtraction, multiplication and division are each distilled down to addition. Specifically addition of tens. See how this problem starts out as subtraction but quickly morphs into addition?

subtraction1

In addition, Plus Also, horizontal processing has replaced vertical calculations.

For instance this kind of problem:

 addition2

Now looks like …

new math

The gist is 72 and 39 are broken down into tens and reconfigured into completely new numbers spread out across that doodle-y horizontal line. The new numbers are then … … ok, I have no idea how to proceed, but I’m 97% certain there’s a subsequent calculation requiring an additional doodle.

new math doodle

Is anyone seeing a pattern here?

Call me doodle-brained, but New Math looks like it’s taking us down a slippery slope to a nation of … well … doodlers, not mathematicians!

Nevertheless, I’m encouraging Sparks to stick with New Math. I’m counting on him to calculate answers to some mathematical problems that have long plagued my musing mind:

  1. How is it that my nieces and nephews are approaching age 40 when I’m barely one face-wrinkle past 39 myself?
  2. How is it that my youngest brother, who I invariably describe as age 22, is actually – when I doodle it out – 57?
  3. Why can audiologists fine tune Hub’s hearing aids with eight different programs so he can HEAR, but not a single calibration will entice him to LISTEN?
  4. How can we successfully land a space explorer on a comet after traveling a cumulative four billion miles, but my cable provider cannot accurately sync my ‘automatic recording option’ with the actual start time of my shows?
  5. How can we bask in 70 degree sunshine at 10am; shiver in 29 degree snow flurries at 10:30am; and shovel two feet of snow in single digit temperatures 24 hours later? What is a Polar Vortex anyway? It sounds like something out of the Hunger Games (which I pray is not New World repercussions from the New Math Doodling curriculum).

When I was an auditor, I had a client who developed his own catch-all math response to my intrusive audit inquisition – probing for the truth about sales, inventory, expenses and profit.

Me: “Hey Sam, I’m looking at your inventory records stating the number of new and used cars you have on the lot, but my actual count is … well, it’s just not adding up.”

Sam (grabbing inventory sheet and his eraser): “What number would you like it to be?”

Sam didn’t need New Math OR a doodle to calculate that!

 

Source of graphics and photos: Google Images

 

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