Monday, February 16, 2015

Project Run and Play Goes to The Beach... in February!

A new month brings a new Project Run and Play Challenge. February's challenge was to take the Mademoiselle Muscle Tee from Living with Punks and give it our own makeover. I wasn't convinced that I was going to participate in these challenges each month but this one seemed like a good opportunity to work with knits. I can't say that it is my favorite fabric but I muddled through. And I also had to grade this pattern down a bit to fit my 3-year-old, another activity that is not my favorite but a good skill to continue to develop. So, I present my Mademoiselle Muscle Tee, Beach Edition, shot on location in beautiful Carmel!

I found some very old knit fabric at the bottom of my stash. Not sure where it came from and I'm certain I didn't buy it, because again, I don't work with knits. It immediately made me think of the beach so I decided to make a beach cover-up. The fabric was so old that it tore in several places along the seam as I was sewing so I had to be very careful.

I lengthened the original design to fall below the knee and I added a wide bottom edge that I cut on the bias for the trim. I also made hidden pockets on each side.

I guess I have been infected by the San Francisco mindset (thankfully just a mindset, not the measles folks) and I made this a hoodie. If you haven't roamed the streets - or gone to work, or gone to dinner, or gone to a show, or worked out - in a hoodie and leggings, well you just haven't been living, have you? My daughter's hair is a little fluffy for the hoodie, but you get the idea!!

A happy accident led to the little bow in front. The fabric tore as I was pinning the neckline trim so I decided to hide that boo boo rather than start all over. I thought it dressed it up a bit and my little girl is much more likely to wear something with a bow. She still did not love this creation - she said I forgot to make it pink. Good grief, some people are never satisfied. 

This cover-up is great for the beach but I can also see it layered with a long-sleeve and leggings for a park play date, or adding sandals and heading off to a fabulous toddler to-do. And now, more pics of Rae frolicking at the beach. I complain a heck of a lot about California but I have to admit that I couldn't stop smiling as we played at the beach while friends back home in DC prepared for snow. What a February!! 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Weathering the Storm

We've only been in California for 4 months yet we have experienced not one, but TWO "storms of the century" with record rainfall and high winds. As much rain as the area has seen in a whole year dropping down over the span of a weekend. Apparently, a "storm" in California is a lot of rain. Everywhere else, we would just call it....a lot of rain. But such is life in a place with not enough rain, too many hills and likely the worst urban planning imaginable. Who builds a city, by a bay, on so many hills? They aren't hills. They are mountains. Ask anyone with a 5-speed who attempts a drive through San Francisco - they are mountains. People in Boston, upstate NY and the like must laugh themselves silly when they hear about our "storms", as they shovel out of 8 feet of snow, with more to come. At least I don't have to shovel rain. It is a fairly low-maintenance storm. I heed the forecasts and batten down the hatches, bringing lawn cushions inside, securing garden items and pool toys, tucking away patio toys to make sure they do not blow into the windows. I even made sure the lemon tree was stripped of any ripe fruit so that flying lemons would not be an issue. No flying lemon issue, but now I have a "what do I do with 50 lemons" issue. We can only drink so much lemonade. All of that to say that when I hear about a storm, I listen, I prepare, I survive. I need a similar strategy for the rest of my life it would seem.

The last few weeks have been - simply horrible. All of the big things that would normally be causing me such trouble - like the kids acting crazy or the house being a disaster, or the husband traveling again - that was all absolutely fine. My kids actually couldn't be sweeter. They are playing so nicely together and behaving so well. We have had lots of fun spending extra time reading together in the big bed and playing board games after school. They've been helping with dinner prep and actually eating what I serve.....crazy talk, I know. The husband has been working a lot and traveling a bit, but - not more than usual and when he has been home, he has taken special care to give me the time I need to not be on-duty, to not cook dinner, to not have to wrangle the kids out of the bath. But that has somehow not helped me feel any better about being here. It is like a big wave of homesickness washed up to my doorstep and it won't recede. I have been reading a book I found about homesickness that explores how it was viewed and handled in Colonial America. I'm not very far through it - it is a thick, textbook with very small print - but it has been rather interesting. The term homesickness was coined much more recently. Previously, such feelings of longing for home were called nostalgia, from the Greek Nosto, for return home, and Algia, for pain. As is the case now, some people are severely afflicted with it, and others not. Back then, those that suffered were considered to be weaker than those that did not. Even now, many see it as something that primarily afflicts children. But I am a grown woman and I am not weak and I can tell you that it affects adults, too. I am suffering from nostalgia. And it just won't budge.

I am trying to find new doctors that accept our insurance and have availability. I am trying to get our license plates returned to Virginia for a refund and get a status update on our home in Virginia that others are occupying right now. I am attempting to sort out our travel plans for the next few months as family prepares to visit and summer vacation is technically right around the corner (if we want to not go bankrupt with the airfare that rises in price as the date approaches). I'm trying to find a change counter so my son can empty his piggy bank, which is a ritual at our house for New Year's. Yes, we are a little behind. I'm just trying to live. And it hurts. And I have started to think that if I treated my nostalgia like a storm, one that needs attention and preparation to handle, then maybe I could survive a little better.

So how do I prepare for my storm? I need to keep taking care of myself. I attend a fantastic boot camp 4 mornings a week and even though it is at 5:30 in the morning, I love going and I feel great. When my husband travels, I can't go and I end up hating my day. So I need to make no excuses about working out and even when he is gone, get up and Tae Bo in the living room. I recently got a pedicure and it felt decadent. I don't care the cost - I should treat myself to one of those on a regular basis. I need to stop the food sabotage and eat right, even when I don't feel like it. I've decided that as much as I like wine, I am probably using it far too much these days and it is losing its value for me. I'll refrain from drinking until I go out. I need to accept social engagements with freedom and uncertainty, which I had previously been doing but then I just got so tired of trying and going and doing. Thankfully, I continue to meet really great people and I have a few people that I adore who keep me semi-grounded these days.

I need to sew. And sew and sew. And create and enjoy the process. It is one of the few things I feel that I brought with me that has not changed much at all. I am finding great comfort is doing something by myself, for myself, without regard for what else I might be doing with my time. I don't have a very busy social calendar these days so sewing fills in the gaps nicely. I am not suggesting that I become a sewing hermit, only that when I'm feeling a little blue, I can use it to settle down, channel some of those stormy thoughts and get my mind back in order.

The recent rain storm we had did no damage. Lots of wind and rain but nothing tragic. I returned things to their rightful place in the yard and took a deep breath. And I decided that if our little yard and all of our little things and the people in the city and people where real storms happen can all make it through the turbulent bouts that come their way, then so can I. With a little preparation and attention to my own needs, maybe once the water recedes, I will not only return to my rightful place in the yard, but I'll find a way to enjoy being there after all.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Being Nobody

Each day that passes brings new awareness of the differences that surround me here in California versus Virginia. The weather is obviously and consistently WAY better than back home in Alexandria. Sunny days, even if they are chilly and worthy of a layer or two, are a fantastic winter surprise. I think my back is still aching from shoveling snow off of our steep driveway in Virginia last winter. There is an absence of the impatient horn honking on a daily basis. If you sit innocently at a green light you get a gentle tap - a reminder that it is time to go as opposed to a blaring horn that shouts "MOVE IT you Moron!" I guess folks are a bit more relaxed here. There is a demographic shift here that I am distinctly aware of now that I am likely the 4th Black American woman in history. There just are not many people of my color, like there were in the DC area. There is tons of very welcome diversity here, just not many folks like me. I'm used to it, but I am reminded of it when I search for hair products or drive a distance to get my hair done. California has higher sales tax, higher property costs, higher EVERYTHING. I will never get accustomed to the high cost of living here. The jury is still out on whether it is worth it or not. Sadly, despite all of the expenses, the school system is bankrupt, compared to Alexandria at least. Here, there is a constant appeal for volunteers and fundraising help and donations. There is a whole organization dedicated to fundraising, above and beyond the PTA for each school. Because of the tight budget, there are no school buses, facilities are old, classrooms are overflowing and there is a lack of helping professionals in the building that I came to expect back in Virginia. Where are the school counselors, the nurses, the social workers? I'm not disappointed in the schools, but disappointed that all of the money California is collecting is not able to be distributed such that schools are top-notch, without question.

But I digress. It is with that general feeling of acknowledging the differences in each place that my latest reality check occurred. I was speaking with a fellow parent about the upcoming school auction, yet another fundraiser for the system. As she explained the many ways I could help I thought that for an auction, maybe there was something I could give - decorator pillows of the winner's choice, sewing lessons, custom drapery panels, a one-of-a-kind dress of their choice - there are endless possibilities. I have given to local auctions and sales in the past with great pride and success. She quickly and immediately said "But you are nobody....we can't use any of that from you." Oh. Well. Ok. I couldn't argue with that. But it sure feels like I should have. She wasn't particularly mean about it, but I don't think she thought about how it might sound. She called me "nobody".

I am profoundly aware of what a "nobody" I am out here - no one knows me and know one cares. I wish I had a better defense for myself but I just don't. What does it really mean to be "somebody"? A designer name? An athlete that garners cheers from the crowd? A recognizable musician or actress with more cash than talent? If that is the definition of "somebody" - being famous, or a perceived awesome entity - then I'll take being nobody any day. I don't need to be any of those things to feel good....but I certainly don't want to be so happily disregarded because I'm not one of those things that warrant the label "somebody".

There really isn't any such thing as a "nobody" is there? We hear it as an insult, hurled at the stranger who begs, or the person who happens to fail, but it is probably the most untrue statement we could mutter. Even the homeless person is somebody's son, or father, or brother or friend, even if his only friend is the dog by his side. The person who falters at the Olympics to earn 112th place in the race might not be a medal winner, but he or she is somebody - an athlete, a patriot, a fighter, a survivor, an Olympian just like the gold medal winner. That label "somebody" sure does reflect the worst of who we are and what we value. Butt your head into another human being and you are rewarded handsomely with a Super Bowl trophy and cash. Spend 3 weeks on a deserted island in front of a national television audience and you are regarded as a "Survivor". Pack your kids' lunches with a note and sticker on a daily basis and no one blinks an eye. Stay up all night with a sick child, clean your house, take care of the grocery shopping, take care of business that no one else wants to make time for and we are just - nobody. I don't think anyone deserves the nobody label (especially not parents). Everybody has a place, a stake, a value, a reason to be regarded as "somebody". Even little old me out here in big old anonymous California. I absolutely realize that when she called me a "nobody", it was strictly meant in relation to my sewing status. But be it sewing or my life otherwise, I should try my best to defy the nobody label....and just keep being the somebody that I have always been.