Monday, August 30, 2010

Blue toward blue

My morning glory seeds took their sweet time germinating, and finally, close to summer's end, one Heavenly Blue bloom. The vine was happy to twine around a rickety branch pruned from the nearby tree. 

I feel protective of it. It seems to do just fine when the wind kicks up. It just clings tighter. The soil isn't fertile or watered often, but that's how morning glories thrive.

It's keeping an eye on the sky. It doesn't know the word "impossible." It might be thinking it's a tree. By fall I hope it will at least have clambered over the fence and gotten a glimpse of what's on the other side.

It's hard to resist the urge to make it a metaphor. Late bloomers, ugly ducklings and fledgling small business owners. Check, check, check. Here's to all of us!  Let's keep our eye on the sky, and cling fast to what keeps us grounded. 

Morning glories turn their trumpets to the sky, and nothing in nature mocks them for it. They do not aspire to be blue, they embody blue.

A glimpse of what's possible

When the puppy next door isn't pushing her nose through the hole, begging for a petting, I can pretend that the pixies who flit through my flower garden perch in this space mid-flight and are silhouetted against the light.
Clearly imagined

A dose (nose) of reality

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Moss and magenta, a pleasing pair

Sometimes taking a quick detour yields pleasant results. I was intent on finishing each sewing project before starting a new one. There's only so much room on our dining table for the piles and piles of fabric, thread and trim that get edited down to the ones I actually use.

The current project had been a lime and lemon-colored slipdress, but that got preempted yesterday. I needed something to wear to the waltz workshop I was co-teaching this afternoon. I pulled out a long chiffon dress that had been hanging in my closet for more than a year. Then I remembered why I hadn't worn it recently: the chiffon overlay had shrunk in the washing machine, but the polyester lining stayed the same. So now the lining was showing. I had to shorten it.

I lucked upon the right shade of magenta lace in my stash to lengthen the chiffon hemline. But I noticed how much the magenta just popped while lying next to a moss shrug and a chartreuse blouse, from which I had harvested strips to add to the hemline of the lime slipdress.

The gears started turning, and I added more to the dress than just a lacy hem. You can see its evolution at my flickr site.

View more photos here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lemon Lime slipdress — 3rd in a series of, gasp, 24

I'm working on a green and yellow upcycled slipdress now.  I seem to be obsessed with slipdress alterations, even though I know summer is quickly petering out and I should be devoting time to fall and winter accessories. 

I think part of the story of my etsy shop will be "One torn chemise; 24 spruced up slipdresses." For context, I'll direct viewers to the story in my profile about how much has changed in 24 years, from a rude comment about my torn chemise to my quest to bring out the beauty in something discarded.

Here's the story:
Twenty-four years ago as a fresh immigrant and impoverished newlywed, I relied on thrift stores to clothe myself, my two preschool stepdaughters and infant daughter. My husband had asked me to give up my job and stay home while the children were young, and, wanting only the best for them, I did.

One day, my husband remarked unkindly on the large rip in my chemise. 

It wasn't until a decade later that I developed enough assertiveness to remind him of that remark and retort, "It never occurred to you to buy your wife a new chemise." Another decade would pass before I realized, "Hey, why didn't I just darn the darned thing?"

Fast forward to today. The last child has left the nest, and her bedroom is now my haven for creating and crafting. I've filled a closet with vintage gowns, lingerie, scarves, aprons and gloves, all queued for metamorphosis into daywear extraordinaire. I study junkmail catalogs for trends and "aha!"s the way I used to digest academic journals in grad school. In the process, I've honed my eye for handwrought embellishments and quirky touches. I love these timeless beauties almost as much as my rescued Maine Coon — but never the twain shall meet.

And the husband? After an extensive five-year renovation (separation, counseling, everything short of a lobotomy), he earned the privilege of remaining my mate. We grew to appreciate and respect each other, and have entered a blissful state with a giggling grandson to enjoy!

Honored by a visit

I went out to look for Charlie and bring him in yesterday when it hit 105 degrees. I looked over the porch railing and saw this white kitty with one funky eye lounging amid the periwinkle like she had come to a spa. 

The other day I saw her on the swing when I peered through the blinds. I thought for sure Charlie would chase her off when he saw her. (I'm only assuming it's a she.) But when I opened the door, there was Charlie, hanging out on the porch, not minding at all. But white kitty decided it was a good time to go home. Maybe she'll get used to me and not slink off next time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How much is that kitty in a stroller?

One fall I had to spend a weekend working at a conference in Berkeley, CA. It's two hours from home but only an hour from hubby's worksite, so we booked ourselves and our 18-pound cat, Charlie, into the pet-friendly hotel where the conference was slated.

First night: Charlie stayed under the bed, except for a brief time next to me in the middle of the night. Second day, he used the plastic shoe box I had filled with litter and set on the bathroom floor. I awoke at 3 a.m. smelling poo, and discovered that he had peed in the box but pooed on the floor next to it. I had brought a small broom and dust pan for such contingencies, and mouthwash to disinfect. No problem.

By 10:30 Saturday morning, I was free of all work obligations. Steve was working the entire Saturday, so I changed into jeans and took Charlie out in his stroller. A couple of women gasped, giggled, and then went, "Oh, how cute." A boy playing ball on the hotel lawn had the last say: "It's a lion."

Charlie and I enjoyed a two-hour hike along the Marina and the bay. Along the shore was a man arranging rocks in stacks that defied gravity. "Wow," I said as I passed. "Just something to do," he shrugged. "I'm all for it!" I called out, which brought a smile to his face.

We passed a couple of big dogs, but they were on leashes, so there was no trouble. Charlie retreated under the canopy of his stroller whenever he was feeling insecure. The rest of the time, his huge green eyes peered through the mesh, noting the ducks, the boats, the kids, the sources of different noises. He had ample room in the stroller to stretch out his two-foot furry blond frame and 16-inch bushy tail.

During our stroll, I met another hotel guest, an older woman who owns two Maine Coon cats she'd named Bart and Lisa (after the Simpsons).  Maine Coons are cousins to Norwegian Forest cats, so she had a soft spot for big cats like Charlie.

By the time we got back to our room he was much more relaxed. No more hiding under the bed. He patrolled the room like he owned it. I went to lunch at the hotel restaurant with a good book, then took a two-hour nap. When I woke up, I had a crick in my neck from the hotel pillows. I should've brought my memory foam pillow.

On Sunday morning, the three of us strolled along the shops on Fourth Street in Berkeley. So many people came up to point out, "That's a big cat." (Uh, thanks, we would never have guessed.) Either they owned regular cats or their kids wanted to look at the giant cat. A woman said to her friend, "He has a little pink nose, awww..." One woman glanced into the stroller, perhaps expecting a human baby, and exclaimed, "Oh my God."

Steve walked a few paces behind, catching comments I probably wasn't meant to hear, like, "That poor cat." That one got under his skin. He brooded about it. I left Charlie with Steve for a few minutes to browse in a stained glass shop. A woman came in and announced to no one in particular, "That cat is not happy." "What's the matter with it?" I asked her. "There's a cat oustide, in a stroller." "I know, it's my cat. What's wrong with it?" "His ears are pointed straight up." "Oh, he's overstimulated, that's all. Too many strange noises, " I said.

Later, Steve came up with what he would've said had he heard her: "Oh, he perks up when he's around intelligent people."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To wiggle or not to wiggle

I was at the dance studio one night learning the rather raunchy dance called bachata for a performance. Those of you who have been dancing a while will understand where I'm coming from.

I think you'll agree that the healthy perspective to take on sensuous dances is that since we've committed to dancing it, we may as well give it the sensuality it deserves. Otherwise, why bother? why go half-baked? why not just dance the waltz, for heaven's sake.

The reason I bring this up is that another dancer, a woman in her early 20s, shrieked her disapproval when she saw that I was showing one of the male students how the hips move in the bachata. We were both facing the mirror, no body contact, and I had offered the analogy of the Tahitian dancer with the sharp hip up-bump.

I never feel like I have to defend myself and my teaching, but it does annoy me to have such infantile reactions. Later, the same woman objected when she was dipped "too low" by her partner because she didn't think it was refined (what with one leg curled around the guy's leg, a low dip would expose your undies unless you planned ahead and wore bloomers or booty shorts).

For someone who flits from beau to beau in the lifespan of a fly, she struck me as someone who "doth object too much."

If I want to let my inner sexy girl out via dance I will, because my lifestyle is blameless and I have no need for putting on virginal airs. Unfortunately, I will also have to put up with people with saintly pretensions as they barf their hang-ups in my face.

Keep the change

Strolling along Union Square in San Francisco one weekend, we passed a beggar. Steve dropped a couple of coins in his hat. Next thing we know, he was right behind us, hollering, "You can keep your nickel." I take it he was insulted. Steve told him to give it to someone else if he didn't want it. I was relieved when he eventually quit trailing after us.

"I can't believe you gave him a nickel," I told Steve. "I gave him a nickel AND a quarter," Steve clarified, but he'd been too flustered to point it out to the man.

Who the heck gives a beggar such a paltry sum? But what nerve for the recipient to reject it. Doesn't he know it's not a beggar's market?

The church of St. Peter and Paul was a few blocks away. We entered and took in the grandeur of the interiors. Stained glass, balusters, columns, carved wood confessional booths, the works.
"There's something comforting about old churches built in the grand style," I whispered.
"Yes, this one reminds of me  Las Vegas," Steve  said.

By golly, he may be right. Doesn't one of the hotels recreate a baroque outdoor scene indoors, with convincing clouds on the ceiling and a thunderstorm?

"The clink of change dropping into the candle box sounds like the slot machines," he added.

Suddenly a short Chinese woman thrust a $5 bill at me. "Do you have change?" she asked softly. Turns out she wanted to light a candle, and the sign asked for $3. I thought, goodness, if you want a prayer granted that badly, just drop your $5 in and say, "Keep the change." Same thing Steve kept trying to persuade the beggar. Out loud, I apologized for not having change.

Buying our return ticket on the train, Steve was approached by an older man accompanied by his daughter.  They were from Baltimore -- "Baltimore, Maryland" he specified, as if I might not know where it was. "Welcome to California!" I said, and they ignored me. We showed them how to make sense of the route map and the fare chart. Steve kept telling him he could just drop $20 and get two tickets, and the change would remain on the tickets for their next time on BART.  But I could tell he didn't want to spend more than he had to, so I asked, "You'll likely be getting on BART again, won't you?" "Never," he said. Poor things. They didn't seem like they had a good time in California thus far. They just wanted to keep the change.

My life as Goldilocks

In this installment of As Scrollwork's World Turns, I bring you a snapshot of the ol' hubby.

Steve is just getting so forgetful. I awoke the other morning to his mystified observation, "Someone's been using my toothpaste." He had found it next to my toothbrush cup rather than at his own sink. So I roused myself enough to remind him that when mine had run out, I had asked him to get a brand that we both would like — no cinnamon-flavored toothpaste this time, please. He'd presented me with a tooth-whitening, breath-freshening purchase, and I'd given it my Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

But we are so used to having separate toothpaste tubes, separate milk cartons (I drink soy, not cow's), and separate paychecks that this whole conjugal property concept has thrown him.

Someone's been eating my porridge. My life as Goldilocks, if she'd married one of the three bears.

Another morning he asked me where the umbrellas were, so rather than explain how to find one, I got up and hung one from the front doorknob while he got ready. After much hugging goodbye, he left...the umbrella. He called me at noon and I fussed. "You'll catch your death of cold," I said. Nothing like granny-generation isms to bridge the age gap between us. To humor me, he said, "Yes, I might die."

The good thing is, he hasn't given up on supposedly learning Mandarin from a set of CDs borrowed from the library. He listens during his commute, then comes home muttering monosyllabic, guttural sounds, assigning meaning to each: "meme means daughter, wa means I..." I suggested he email my Mom in Mandarin and his eyes widened. "Will I have to use Chinese characters?" he said.

Mother henning to the max

Is there a statute of limitations on motherly smothering? My mother, soon to be 83, is driving me insane with her hand wringing. I teach ballroom dance, which she calls my "dance thing." She bemoans that I am not applying what I learned in college. How many literature majors (who don't end up teaching) apply what they learned in college?

When I shared with her my progress toward opening a handmade clothing and photography shop on later this year, she cautioned that no one in the family ever succeeded in business. Well, I pointed out, no one else in the family ever became a journalist or speechwriter. Or married an American and made a life here, for that matter. Except for me. Perhaps I should've been a flight attendant like my sister, or a fighter pilot like my brother, or an Air Force colonel like my father, since those are the roads well taken.

Does your mother ever cluck-cluck you to distraction?

Rage against the boredom

I recently discovered copyblogger via Today's pithy quote, from

"I’ve never heard of anyone who worked a boring job, came home to a boring family, watched three hours of boring television, and then proceeded to write something of spellbinding greatness. It just doesn’t happen. Here’s why: your writing is an extension of who you are.

If your life is a soul-sucking heap of mediocrity, then your writing will be a soul-sucking heap of mediocrity. Similarly, if your life is an adventure that brings you such joy you want to weep, then that joy will seep into your words, and anyone who reads them will begin to smile."

Save the worst for Mommy

Our 1 1/2-year-old grandson, William, spent the afternoon with us Saturday while his Mom went to a wedding at the Doubletree and his Dad helped a friend with a roof. What a delight and a pleasure little William was to have all to ourselves for the first time! He was so mellow and fascinated by everything. The TV remote, an empty plastic juice jug, a cereal box from the recycling bin, the light from my mouse shining on his bellybutton.

I actually got so relaxed that I conked on the couch for about a half hour when Steve awoke from his nap, and he seamlessly took over babysitting. Next thing I know, he was telling Sharon on the phone, "Yup, Oma (that's me, Dutch for Grandma) got worn out. I gave William some tea in his sippy cup." Oh, ooops! I bolted up and checked the cup. Sure enough, bottled tea instead of the water I'd put in there earlier. I guess Steve was having some tea and William had gotten curious. Grandpa doesn't have much experience with babies, not even his own, can you tell?

The spell broke the minute Sharon came back: a screaming, kicking William objected to being "abandoned" by her when she went to the bathroom. He got himself all worked up until he threw up on her. Steve expressed so much dismay over the Jekyll-and-Hide performance that Sharon felt embarrassed and tense. I kept reassuring both that it's normal for a wee one to save up his vehement best for the mommy, to punish her for leaving him. And that he had, after all, skipped a nap and was due for his dinner. He settled down quickly once we sat down to eat. After dinner, we went out on the shady deck and unleashed a bubble barrage on him. We so look forward to another chance to have him with us.