Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Sweetheart

When I purchase a pair of jeans, I'm almost as pleased with the tags as I am the clothing. Such is the case with Old Navy Sweetheart brand jeans. They come with this darling sloppily sewn tag. I've been wearing the new jeans for months, and those tags have been hanging out in my junk drawer. When I got this China doll head as part of my design team package from Lisa Kettell, I knew I'd found a use for the tag. This paper clay doll head is an absolute sweetheart. Obviously, you could paint the head and be all sorts of artistic, but I like the delicate sensibility that the raw form brings. It seems fragile and old, but the material Lisa uses for these pieces is actually lightweight and tough--perfect for all sorts of applications. I envision them in magnets, jewelry, and here, I've featured one in a scrapbook page that I plan to scan and use in my art journal.

My base is a piece of Lisa Kettell scrapbook paper. It's a darling heavyweight 12 x 12 paper with fun bright stripes and a red crown. I took my color scheme from the paper. I stripped the wings off a butterfly I bought at Jo-Ann fabrics, and I glued them down with E6000. I then free-handed a dress out of silver paper. Over the top of the dress, I glued a remnant from my grandmother's sewing drawer. I also added the bit of measuring tape.

Next, I created a base for the China doll head, as it was too small on its own. I used a rub-on to create a halo behind the head. I then colored that halo in with Faber Castell Pitt Pen.

Next, I adhered the Sweetheart tag and a fun game spinner. In the upper left-hand corner, I adhered a triangle of homemade painted paper and a vintage image of a heart. As finishing touches, I glued a metal heart to the figure, and I added a rub-on "S" below the crown.

Finally, because my eye was not satisfied with the limited use of yellow, I added sewing machine stitching around the perimeter with yellow thread, and I painted through punchinella with yellow acrylic paint.

For more great ideas using Lisa Kettel products, visit her blog HERE and look for other fun projects by the design team.

Look for Lisa's China doll heads and other must-have supplies HERE.

Monday, April 16, 2012

When Money Is God

Among the folds in my wallet:
36 cents, expired
license, plastic card receipts.

I was indebted
i.e American
Broke but in dinero I trust.

The money spent in situ.
was all part of the illusion.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and money
Are owned.

I don't know which to prefer,
The beauty of poverty
Or the beauty of the low interest loan.
The money spending
Or just after.

The purse is filled with nonsense
With lip print tissue.
The whisper of the money
Tickled her ear.
Self worth
Tangled in the bottom,
A linty lozenge.

Oh educated, post grad sin,
Why do you imagine paying off loans?
Do you not see how the debt
Settles in your gut
And becomes you?

I know tracks you
And the lure of debt versus net worth;
But I know, too,
The bottom line is, you are more
Than what you owe.

When the money leaves your hand,
It smells like blood
Of copper pennies pinched.

At the sight of dollar signs,
Green light buying,
Even the filthy rich
Would suggest saving.

She drove over pot-holed streets
In wing-prayer mode.
Once, a fear held her,
In that she mistook
The bald tires for penance
For dues paid before the payoff.

The world is turning.
The money must be spending.

It was lottery eve.
She was almost winning
And she always was on the verge of winning.
The money waited
In silver cages and numbered balls.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sensitivity Training

The English language is such a complicated thing. Every time I have to explain an idiomatic expression to a non-native speaker, I realize this. The language is a maze of rules that don't make sense and, of course, exceptions to the rules.

Add to that, nuance. Even when we master all the rules, there is still the fact that we are expected to use the appropriate language in the correct situations and to alter our vocabulary and its tone, depending on which company we keep.

Finally, the English language also carries with it the responsibility of being sensitive. We learn early that words hurt. This reality has resulted in all sorts of additions to the language. When we are young, many of us are taught The Golden Rule. We learn to acknowledge verbal barbs with the ditty, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

And that, of course, is utter bullshit. Most of us would rather endure those sticks and stones and a full-out beat down than words, which leave us with bruises that aren't as quick to heal and often with psychic scars.

The responsibility to be sensitive has also led us to create little sensitivity pockets in the language, which are also uncomfortable. There is political correctness, which requires that we keep up on the "right" term for any given condition. The political correctness is meant to help us avoid embarrassment and to help everyone negotiate in the world without causing more than their fair share of ire. Thus, we learn over the decades that "retard," for example, is not a good word, and we are given better words with which to replace that word. In writing, we learn to avoid sexist language, and thus women are meant to feel better because we do not use the "he" pronoun or assume that someone who works on an airplane is a stewardess. Indeed, both genders may work on an airplane, so we now have the word flight attendant.

Another sensitivity tool is the euphemism. We use certain words to protect us from harsh reality. We say that we have to go to the bathroom in order to protect those around us from the idea that we are really taking a shit. We say someone "passed away," when the reality is that someone died and is never coming back.

No matter how many tools we build into the language, it still manages to be a raw language in which we cannot hide truths and in which we, despite trying not to, hurt people we care about.
This is due to user error. I'm guilty of it. We are all guilty of it. And I'm not sure there is a cure for it. No amount of sensitivity training can fix it.

In my 37 years, the last two weeks seem to be heavy with instances of this unintentional insensitivity. To make a long story short, I learned that I was pregnant. It was not a planned pregnancy. This caused much anxiety, many tears, was the impetus of many long and complicated talks with my boyfriend. The pros and cons were carefully weighed. Yet ultimately we both concluded that we could do it. It would be tough, but we could do it. We could be good parents.

Thus, when the day for the scheduled ultrasound came, I was excited to see that image on the monitor. I knew that would solidify it for me that I was going to be a mother.

It was not meant to be. The screen showed nothing. The numbers said I was very pregnant, yet the uterus was empty. This meant that the baby was likely growing in my fallopian tube--an ectopic pregnancy. The tube is not a viable host for a baby. It isn't spacious enough and doesn't contain the proper hook-ups--the blood network, the connections that would allow a baby to begin to grow. It's dangerous. As the child outgrows the space, the eventual result is that the tube ruptures, and the woman bleeds out and can die if not near medical help.

So much for the beautiful moment of being introduced to my child. That moment soon was a whirlwind of being checked into the ER. From this moment on, the language failed those around me on a constant basis.

First there was the nurse who checked me in. She informed me that there were two means of medical treatment for this condition. She said that I would either need surgery, or they could give me a drug typically used in chemotherapy for cancer treatment. She said, "You would take the drug, and it would get rid of it for you."

Get rid of it. There's one of those euphemisms I was talking about. I cringed. I got teary. The English teacher in me deconstructed the sentence. The verb seemed harsh. In Spring, I get rid of clothing that no longer fits or that no longer suits my style. I put it in a garbage bag and take it to Goodwill. We get rid of things we no longer want. But I WANTED this. And then there was the matter of the pronoun. It? Stephen King writes books about It. It's true I didn't ultimately get to know the sex of my child, but mentally I had already begun to think of it as HE, and I had it in my head that HE would be tall and have brown eyes and dimples like my man.

To fast forward a bit, due to the fact that I was fairly far along and because I was already experiencing bleeding, the doctor decided to perform surgery. I went home with a hole in my belly button, two incision on my bikini line, and with no baby.

Here I admit that it was already a stressful time. My mother had just had eye surgery, and her recovery was an especially stressful one, as she had to remain face down for a week, and I needed to care for her. There was also the stress of my moving. My boyfriend and I had found a house, wherein I'd be allowed to have my dog. The weekend of the surgery, he was moving. I already felt terrible that I couldn't help because I had to care for my mother. Likewise, I felt horrible that his friends had to help out. They had to help even more when he had to leave the moving process and drive down to see me in the hospital. I admit all these things because I need to acknowledge that my sensitivity was at an all-time high. My body had been gearing up for motherhood, and the hormones were still coursing through my body, despite motherhood ending.

Despite my sensitivity, I encountered my fair share of insensitivity on the part of hospital workers and friends. Three days after surgery, a woman who worked in the billing section of the hospital called. I don't have medical insurance. She was trying to get me help with paying the bill. She suggested I apply for Medicaid. The application for Medicaid is 8 pages long. I asked for a bit of clarification. Beyond weeding out the sections that were applying for other types of help (food stamps, etc.), I was confused by the first box. The woman at the hospital clarified, "Check the box for pregnancy. Then write 'ended' and the date."

I began to cry. I knew this was business, but I wasn't ready for that one little word: ended.

Finally, one week after the surgery, my boyfriend scheduled a combination housewarming and birthday party for me. At 6 p.m. the house filled with our favorite people. There was plenty of food, and the spirits were flowing. The house was simply abuzz with laughter and conversation, as is typical at parties.

Yet one conversation was louder than any other. In the corner, one friend talked to two other female friends about trying to make a baby. This is nothing new. We've heard this conversation before. We know that the friend has to time it precisely, as she spends time overseas in the summers, and she wouldn't want to be pregnant while over there.

I tried to ignore the conversation. Suddenly my food felt heavy in my lap. That familiar lump in my throat was there. I jumped up and announced that my friend, Brenda, needed to see our new backyard RIGHT NOW.

I burst out into the yard, and the fresh air hit my hot face, and I was able to avoid crying.

"Why," I asked Brenda, "did she need to have a conversation about getting pregnant at our party when she knows we just lost a baby?"

This brings me to one of the newest lessons I've learned about the English language: so much depends on timing. How we react to something can be completely dependent on WHEN it is said. Had the friend had a conversation about pregnancy efforts a month ago, I wouldn't have blinked an eye. I would have been a good girlfriend and asked questions and added my two cents.

But the conversation came at a time when I'm still to raw. I wanted a moratorium on that subject matter. Just as I wanted a moratorium on TV commercials about babies, kids, motherhood, or families.

Yes. I know that's unrealistic.

And how do we let those around us know that we aren't in a position to handle a particular conversation?Should there be a safe word? If I say "baby balooga," and that's the international safe word for ex-nay on the baby talk, could we avoid this discomfort?

Ultimately, we walk the earth together, and though we are not necessarily responsible for the happiness or unhappiness of others, I feel we have to do our best to avoid unnecessarily hurting others.

I can't even begin to prescribe particular behaviors. Some would ask, "Well, exactly how long should we wait to talk about those things?" I have no answer. For me, I know one week is too soon for a conversation about trying to get pregnant. Conversely, I know some people are stronger and better able to negotiate in the world after trauma. My boyfriend only last weekend was curled in our bed and crying, saying, "I thought I'd have a fishing partner." Yet he did not seem to be socked in the gut the same way I was by the party conversation.

So maybe it is I who need to toughen up. That, however, is easier said than done. The surgery documents they sent me home with tell me I'm nearly healed after a week. They say I can have sex. I can lift heavy objects. They say I'll likely no longer need the hydrocodone.

But NOWHERE do those instructions say anything about the vulnerable invisible wound so prone to re-injury at the mere utterance of seemingly innocent words.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baby Bailey Baby Buggy Bumpers

Do you remember your first doll? Your favorite doll? Well, designer Lisa Kettell liked her childhood doll so much that it served as a model for the handmade, foam clay dollhead pieces she sells under the name Baby Bailey. I received one in my first design team kit, and I knew I had to make something with it.

If you know me, you know I like vintage ephemera. You probably also know that I'm somewhat intuitive. That is, one item suggests another, and another item suggests the next, and so on. So when I laid my hands on Baby Bailey, he told a story of a boy's childhood. I imagined a boy coming home from school, ditching his school work, and spending his time playing in his room or outside. Maybe he played cowboys and indians. Maybe rode an imaginary horse around the living room or yard.

I decided to make a wall hanging that such a boy might like. For my surface, I used the back cover of a vintage photo album. I then adhered a piece of Lisa Kittell's scrapbook paper. The paper has a worn leather look to it, and the script alphabet conjures practicing cursive. This led me to add a small square of brown lined paper, a wooden ruler, a piece of old book cover and its inside binding.

I looked through my stash to see what other sorts of doo-dads might suggest a boy's playthings, and I found an old broken metal horse. I adhered the horse with E6000. The horse suggested a western theme, so I looked through my old sheet music collection until I found "Night Herding Song," a cowboy's lull-a-bye. Keeping with the western theme, I added a chipboard star, to which I added a little bit of thread for the sake of authenticity.

While I knew that I wanted to work with Baby Bailey, it took me awhile to figure out how to make him stand out on my surface, which is a little more than a foot long. I painted an oval cardboard frame with Ranger crackle paint in copper. Behind the frame, I laid down a bit of tan scrapbook paper. Finally, I mounted Baby Bailey inside the frame and topped the frame with a watch face.

As finishing touches, I added big black snaps to the bottom of the wall hanging with E6000. Finally, I added the stencil B and the number 5, just to play on the primary school theme.

For more great ideas using Lisa Kettel products, visit her blog HERE and look for other fun projects by the design team.

Look for Baby Bailey Doll and other must-have supplies HERE.