Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tourist in my own town: At the cemetery on Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2011: Vets scramble to take down the flags as rain begins to pour
Surely there's a smidgen of meaning left to Memorial Day other than barbecues and beer with the buddies. My husband and I didn't set out to find it this morning, but when we drove past the local cemetery and saw the flags lining the walks, we stopped to pay our respects.

The stillness was a better backdrop for the rows and rows of flags than any John Philip Sousa marching band song could have provided. Just when I raised the camera to capture the sight, cold rain began to pelt my glasses. I ducked under a tree, blinded and stranded temporarily.

A handful of older men moved quickly down the walk, observing flag protocol by protecting them from rain. There was something moving about how determined and dignified they were.

Acacia Cemetery is across the street from the city's Senior Center, a trivial oddity that my twisted brain noted when I first started teaching ballroom dance there. You can waltz into eternity without skipping a beat. How does it feel to be older, say in your 80s, and facing inevitable mortality? If I live to know the answer, I will be both lucky and unenviable.

I see the way an older couple can walk into a room and be practically invisible. It's the young, vibrant ones that catch everyone's attention. That supple skin, the flexible limbs, the taut core muscles, the full set of teeth. Are we afraid to be reminded of our own aging process? Is that why we seem dismissive of the old?

When the rain eased up I made a run for the car. The flag keepers and their tractor-size truck were lumbering toward us. It didn't seem like there'd be enough room on the pavement for both our vehicles.

"Back up, give them room," I frantically urged my husband as they got closer and closer.

He just sat there, deathly calm, saying nothing. My Filipino upbringing came bubbling to the surface—the compulsion to be accommodating, to not be an inconvenience, to put the good of the group before the good of the individual, to not disrespect my elders.

His Midwestern upbringing rooted him to the spot: to stand his ground, to claim his place, to expect equal if not deferential treatment.

The tractor began angling its nose off to the side to avoid us. Its driver looked my husband in the eye and gave him a nod as he drove past, one veteran to another. The men on foot grinned and walked around us.

Sigh. Hubby chided, "See, you were too self-conscious."
My protests went invalidated. But, I noted, if I'd been with another Asian fellow, those same men might've muttered to themselves, "Dang, can't count on these strangers to get out of the way."

How can you put yourself in another's shoes if you've never been anything but what you are? This country is his home turf; he has never been treated differently based on his appearance.

I, on the other hand, have been grappling this past week with the concept of respect—when to give it, expect it, demand it, being that I am not quite old, not quite American, and not yet dead.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I've been featured on a designer's blog!

Pina colada slipdress by Swoosh by Scrollwork
"Swoosh by Scrollwork is a line of upcycled, thrifty, intriguing, complex, and absolutely stunning pieces of wearable art. Based in Riverbank, CA, these designs, although originally designed for dancers, will inspire you, seduce you, and captivate you with their wonderfully bright colors, funky, bold patterns, and intricate designs."
New York jewelry designer Chelsea Defino shows some generous support for a fellow indie designer by featuring my etsy shop on her blog's Friday Feature, A World of Color. If you're interested in fashion design too, you may want to look into
classes via online accredited colleges.

It's the first time I've ever had the spotlight on me as a designer. Let's meet up over there and celebrate with champagne, confetti and creme brulée. Don't forget to "sign her guestbook" in the comments section!

Monday, May 23, 2011

When "Just be yourself" is hogwash

"Everybody wants to be somebody they're not," he said, reeking disapproval through his cigar smoke. I had come to work in costume. It was my first job after four sanity-sapping years of being a stay-at-home mommy. I reported on schools, crime, municipal court and local business for a twice-weekly newspaper in a California town still small enough to get by with two high schools. The police chief and I were on a nickname basis. It was that kind of tiny.

Hank, the city reporter, was biding his time until retirement. The rest of us were in our 20s, with big heads, lofty dreams and fragile egos. Hank was the lone staffer who came as himself for Halloween. I felt sorry for his lack of imagination...

When I was growing up in Nichols Air Base (in the Philippines), Halloween wasn't the huge deal it is here in the U.S. Nobody I knew celebrated it, as it was eclipsed by All Soul's Day.
Bells the Dancing Sprite by darklingwoods

Imagine my delight as an expat to be given an entire 24 hours that sanctioned weird get-up. It felt like yet another reprieve from the repressive martial law regime/strict Catholic upbringing/prying eyes and wagging tongues. Best of all, you were guaranteed to have such a day every year! My fellow Americans are all right by me in this respect ; )

But why am I talking about Halloween in May? Simply this: I carry the devil-may-care spirit of Halloween in my heart all year round. (And I want to be a bad influence on you.)

If the spirit of giving should be extended beyond Christmas, and if we're proud to be Americans on 364 days other than the Fourth of July, why not this?

Why not decide, from here on out, that when we weary of being who the world supposes we are, we bail? We molt our skins and slip on something that fits better for right then.

We outstare the swirling abyss and stave off the swallowing up of our selves by proclaiming, "I am more than this."

This is being the mom of anyone (two, three, four...) under five. You fiercely love those rugrats but they've been running you ragged by passing the flu bug back and forth.

This is being the mom of anyone over 25. You raised your brood to be respectable and now they're trying to keep you in line. God help you if you so much as hint at (still) being a sexual being or allude to a viewpoint counter to theirs.

This is being the spouse of anyone who defines your domestic  status as "my slave." It's being the adult child whose parents tell you that you can never do anything right. It's being the employee of anyone who thinks of you as "my drone." It's being the business owner/wait staff/retail worker, et al whose customers may as well address you as "my doormat."

I write for those of us pestered by the taunting voice in our heads that never misses an opportunity to remind us that we were never good at (fill in the blank)—and therefore should never expect to be.

But it's also for those of us who have been lulled by a convenient but colorless life. A lucrative but uninspiring career. A comfortable groove. A vague discontent. A rut.
Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold. ~ Joseph Chilton 
The need to escape the confines of the mundane suckles deep in the human heart and feeds on whatever kibbles it can find in film, music, ads and other synthetic experience. Audrey Hepburn discovered the woman behind the princess on Roman Holiday. Norah Jones had a hit with her siren song, "Come Away with Me." Everywoman pleaded to her bath bubbles, “Calgon, take me away!” At peak attendance, the Minnesota Renaissance Festival drew 320,000 people craving pixie dust to sprinkle on their average joe and jane existence.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but desperation to escape births ingenuity. A 2008 episode of “This American Life” features two jailbirds who sprung themselves with a rope fashioned from 18,975 feet—that's 3.5 miles—of dental floss. I’d have given them the Making Do medal if they’d been smart enough to pull off the caper. Alas, they got caught. Reality doth bite.
Nothing splendid was ever achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance. ~ Bruce Barton 

If the circumstances around us don't add up to the sum total of who we are, stepping back from them is only half the challenge. The trickier half is choosing what defines us. Then protecting it from the onslaught of doubters, hecklers, and condescenders.

That's why "Just be yourself" is a cruel oversimplification. Anything that starts with "just" usually isn't simple. Just do it. Just say no. Justice for all.

Plus, why just be ourselves if we don't like who we've let ourselves become?
In that little town where we had just moved, in a rented house, in a dark room just after dusk hit and before I turned on the lights, I faced a pile of laundry to fold. Something made me glance up from the monotony and ask, "Is this all there is?" And then I shuddered at the soap opera scriptiness of that moment.
It took 20 years from my soap opera moment to my aha! moment. Technically the latter isn't a moment but a torturously slow unfolding. In that span I've seen my rugrats through graduation, weddings, spats, and the royal spawn (who is about to be followed by the royal spare). My career ambitions have spiked and flatlined. My marriage's coffee cup ran dry, but we got a refill.

After bumbling around on auto-pilot, miserable yet unable to put a finger on why, I've learned to keep all my senses on full alert. One of the unexpected pleasures of not having a boss and having an empty nest is deciding for myself at the start of each day how to answer the following:
  • What do I want to dwell on?
  • What deserves to be called a priority?
  • What will I get done and how significant is it to me?
I know when to clap the horse blinders on and pop the earplugs in, too. Like when the mean inner voice reminds me that I am a speck in the sand dune of bloggers and invisible pollen in the global garden of etsy artisans.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life’s about creating yourself.

~ George Bernard Shaw
This summer the dance studio where I teach is hosting the annual showcase. Students and professionals from other dance studios in the Northern California region will join in about six hours of pretense that we are dapper, graceful, saucy and riveting every second of our lives.

We'll come equipped with our smoke and mirrors—soundtracks, costumes, big smiles, sparkly jewelry. Many of us will have enticed our friends and loved ones to witness our fleeting transformation. (I, on the other hand, will resign myself to the inalienable truth that the absent hubby is averse to dance. But at least he's OK with my partnering with other men.)

My partner, X, and I will perform a tango doble. I wasn't content to do either a tango or a paso doble; I had to smoosh them together. Our arsenal consists of leather and feathers, metal and dragon scales. With some techno body lighting thrown in, if we can pull it off.

Some people create scrapbooks of their past and vision boards of their future. I created a treasury as a springboard for my costume. (We'll keep X's costume under wraps for now.)

When holding it together gets to be a drag, come in drag!

The clickable version of this curation of identity shifters, handmade by etsy visionaries, lives in my etsy shop over here. Do you think I should get the braided hair headband or the leather flower one? The flower or leaf earrings? Should I make my bondage corset circle my chest or waist (the ribcage-looking one)? C'mon, you've read this far down, might as well chime in.

In real life I've been described as calm, centered and quiet. So Why Not step out of my skin and put on this alternate persona? As I told a friend recently, "Strange is the new normal."

You know that costume I wore to work at the teeny tiny newspaper 20 years ago? It was right out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Yep. I went to the parent-teacher conference in it, too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My guest hunk dishes on kissing styles...slurp

Photos by Kymm on
[Mystery guest blogger 'X' debuts on Scrollwork today with a weighty dialectic on an intriguing aspect of human behavior.]

Kissing is a beautiful thing. It is a connection of two individuals in an intimate way. It indicates trust, affection, and passion at the same time. It can be as casual as a passing greeting, or it can be a precursor to so much more.

I’ve dedicated my own time to extensive research and concluded there are three types of kisses: Peaches, Prunes, and Alfalfa.
Peaches are casual kisses. Think of what your mouth does during the first syllable of the word. I know you’re doing it right now and I hope you checked to make sure that no one is watching. Peaches are the type of kisses given to a long-term friend, a family member, or by one Latin person to another. Within many families, this quick, tight-lipped, low-sounding peck has just a little bit more to it than a quick hug. 

CottonTimes on
Sometimes the lips don’t actually touch the cheek, but instead float just above the face. It’s important that this kiss have a slight kissing sound so the recipient knows that there was the intention of affection. These kisses are often done with the eyes open so as to not indicate too much intimacy. Most commonly these are given to friends (with no benefits) and family.
You didn't really expect a prune pic, did you?
Prunes are slightly more sensual and intimate. For those of you keeping track, they are called prunes because of the way your mouth puckers when you say the word (go ahead and try it, I’ll wait). Now these types of kisses are reserved for times when you want to linger a bit on the cheek or lips of the recipient. They might be categorized as a little juicier than the peaches, and it always works better when the other person reciprocates with a prune of their own. Prunes are very enjoyable and often occur as a precursor to more intimate kissing.
Prunes are great to give when you are testing the water and trying to determine if there is more on the way. Prunes are often accompanied by an embrace before and after the kiss. Warmth is the key. The kiss should be natural and not forced, which will avoid giving a creepy feeling if you move in for a prune too soon. These kisses are most often given to people with whom you want to share a brief intimate moment and to those with whom you might share an attraction. Creepy example — Richard Dawson on the ‘70s Family Feud, and also the weird older uncle who is just a little too affectionate.
My personal favorite kiss is Alfalfa. By now I’m sure you’ve figured out the pattern. Alfalfa (named after how your tongue moves when you say it) is more commonly referred to as French kissing (Merci, my French friends). Alfalfa is the type of kissing reserved for only those times when you feel such passion that you can’t help but open your mouth and touch tongues. Okay, I know that said this way, it loses a little of the romance, but alfalfa isn’t really all that romantic. Think of that movie scene where two characters are intimately sharing prunes. The moment you see the tongue of either character, I’m reminded of the iguana that is slowly preparing to strike the praying mantis, which is eight inches away. Not cute, people. Especially in the movie when they slowly part and there’s a thread of saliva connected from lip to lip. 

Alfalfa is not for public viewing (Do you hear me, movie daters? Save it for the car ride home). Passion must be controlled with any of the kissing types. And each person might do well to test the waters a bit; otherwise strange things can happen. If you go in too fast, you risk clicking teeth. If you decide you want to add a little nibble and pull, you might want to check with the other person to see if they are open to having their lips tested for elasticity. Too much tongue is up to you two (re: the "happy puppy"), and too little tongue is just not fun (in my opinion).

I look forward to my next Peaches, Prunes, and especially Alfalfas. So if it happens to be one of you, dear readers, please, spit out your gum, regulate your suction, and get ready for me (we saxophone players are supposed to be great kissers).
Emily Peacock Tapestry on
"It's Over, Barbara" by The Frantic Meerkat on


My name is X and I have a problem. I think of weird stuff. It comes to me at all hours. I think of the weirdest things at the most random times. Scrollwork told me that my musings on the absurd would be interesting fodder for a blog. I never thought about sharing the weirdness that is ME with the world, but I decided that would be a great way to let others know the real me. Think about it: Your close friends are better understood when you find out what makes them unique and different. I hope you learned a thing or two about me (anonymous as I am).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Do chickens deserve diapers? and other deep thoughts

I've had feathered friends on the brain lately. Last week, the raven; this week, the chicken. (Perhaps a peacock post next week to round out the series?)

Three things have occurred to me about chickens, specifically:
  1. Their bum rap, or how I had pegged them wrong all these years;
  2. Chicken nuggets—of wisdom and serene philanthropy, that is;
  3. Chicken couture, encompassing accessories and—praise be rapscallion ingenuity!—chicken diapers. A bum wrap of a different sort.
I am gratified you know me well enough to know I have not been thinking of chickens as an app most common to humankind: drumsticks. I've said it before, I'll say it again. I do not blog about food.
    Back when my dwelling was in a 7,000-island republic in the Far East, animal rights was an alien concept. If humans lived in cardboard boxes along the freeway and galvanized tin ramshackle huts by a stagnant river, how could anyone expect animal shelters? Dogs were underfed gadabouts, expertly dodging traffic. Cockfights were an afternoon pastime. (I speak in the past tense, although these conditions still exist.)

    My childhood impression of chickens, consequently, is heavily shaded by scenes of violence and survival strategy. My childhood friend John B sent me this picture of a rooster bred to fight to the death. (It was not Born to be Alive.) It illustrates a series of verses—let's not insult poets by calling it poetry—scribbled on a vexing afternoon when I was 16.

    Chicken's Lament 
    by Scrollwork

    Something set me off, careening
    And I didn't know when to stop
    Screeching, scratching and insisting
    My opinion was on top.
    Oh! good grief, Mother Hen
    It's my neck upon the block
    For I've done it once again—
    dared defy the dreaded flock.
    I'll be cubed into a bouillon
    Chopped and locked into a freezer
    Challenging the crowd's opinion
    Only made me lose my temper.

    Poultry squabbles make me weary
    Wish I had my eggshell back
    Now my feeling's kinda eerie
    Am I sure I'm not a duck?

    (John B also sent this picture.)

    I lived a somewhat tormented life between 16 and 46. Being opinionated and outspoken earns big honking demerits when you're a) young  b) the youngest, and c) a woman in male-dominated domestic and corporate cockpits.

    At 47 I crossed the road (with a swift kick to my booty), began building my own roost, and finally made peace with my quirkiness. I went from "Am I sure I'm not a duck?" to "I am my own chicken. Peck on that."

    Not surprisingly, my view of chickens is now comfy-cozy-warm-and-fuzzy. I apologize to the chicken collective for my earlier wrongheaded stereotyping (which all stereotyping is). Mine is now a mindset that leans toward goodwill toward global cohabitants.

    In perfect serendipity, artist Kristin Love's Namaste Yoga Birdie Dish positioned itself in my line of sight.
    "This "Namaste" dish is one of the pieces I have established for Charity Donations in conjunction with The Etsy Mud Team. We are working together to raise support and donations for our fellow potters in Japan, specifically in the historic pottery village of Mashiko, which was hard hit by the recent earthquake..."
    In addition to my expanded vision, I have developed a capacity for appreciating details beneath the surface made apparent only from the scratch and peck that chickens engage in. And sometimes I find solutions right under my nose.

    I'd been frustrated in my search for the right-sized S-hooks to rig a thread spool holder from an expandable garden trellis. I'd bought and returned S-hooks that were too thick for spools to perch on. A few minutes ago, I clicked on a post titled Chicken Socks on Scratch and Peck, illustrator Lauren Scheuer's blog. The title caught my eye because I was researching chicken couture, the third bullet for this post.

    Lauren wrote about fashioning S-hooks from the tops of wire hangers to hang up treats for her girls. How many times had I stood in my laundry room and looked right through those wire hangers? My spools are gonna love their new roost.

    BTW, I love how in chicken sub-culture they call them "the girls." They also have creative individual names. Blogger Josh Elliot of The Occasional Chicken calls his girls Noodle Soup, Salad Sandwich, and Pot Pie. What would you call yours if you had one?

    One can never take oneself too seriously around chickens. A misstep? The key is to recover gracefully. An excellent example of mishap makeover is this  Sunny Side (or Which Came First) brooch from etsy seller An Embellished Life. She made it from a damaged vintage egg cover. I am charmed beyond measure. People from the Vintage Ages liked to have covers for everything, and they were quaint as well as elegant. A far cry from the broomstick handle and toilet paper roll covers of my childhood.

    On the subject of mishaps, I must quit pussyfooting around the chicken diaper issue. It is of course only an issue if you keep indoor chickens.

    The best exposition on the concept is the following excerpt from "We Aint' Chicken with our Chicken Any More" on The Chicken Whisperer:
    A nappie that a chicken wears when outside of its coop.
    A proper little catch-all to collect the chicken's poop
    We got this rooster that we've raised from an egg.
    It's hard fer us to shut him out when that rooster starts to beg.

    He likes to be inside with us, but we've found it' ain't no joke
    We ain't got him trained yet.  He ain't reliably housebroke.
    So we bought this chicken diaper with instructions how to use
    The little garment on our bird to cover its caboose. 

    I really just wanted an excuse to post my verses, Chicken's Lament. But look what lovely finds emerged! From the sublime to the absurd, as they say. In bloggy world, they also say that content curation is the new black. How I resisted! My blog looks good in black.

    Now I'm hoping my favorite author, Samantha Sotto, pops in and posts in the comment section that soon-to-be-famous chicken-related quote from the hero in her upcoming novel, Before Ever After.

    Happy clucks to you.