Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Look Away, Anna. Look Away.

After sifting through the contents of my closet the other day, a thought struck me like a pointy-toed stiletto. I hoard useless fashion. I am an ugly-clothing sentimentalist. It's a sickness, I know, but in my fashion time capsule, I have dresses sewn before the invention of microwave ovens, personal computers, and VHS video players.

Obviously, if you’ve chosen to store away your wedding gown or your child's heirloom blessing ensemble, it’s understandable. I have those, of course, and that sort of memento is normal. Saving the peach suit I wore before my wedding is okay, too. Keeping the formal gowns from my vocal recitals in college pushes the boundaries a bit. But why, oh why, have I retained the Victorian drop-waist pinstripe number with matching bowler hat from my high school days? Steampunk may be in style again, but my daughters wouldn’t even consider wearing it.

Remember Ralph Lauren stirrup pants? Circa 1991? Check! Got 'em.

The shameful list goes on and on. Sweatshirts with the neck cut out, shoulder-padded—and I mean padded—power suits, acid-wash peg-leg jeans, lace Madonna gloves. Beaded and bedazzled sweaters, broom handle skirts, business ties for women, and gypsy patchwork sundresses. Opaque leggings, Donna Karan onesie blouses, Barbara Bush pearls. And I’m skipping over the whole Durran Durran, Miami Vice, and paisley-everything era.

This post is just one embarrassing confession after another. I'm sure I'll erase it tomorrow. But the question begs to be asked. Why do I waste valuable shelf-space on these terrible things?

I think I’ve figured that out. I was happy when I wore those clothes. I liked who I was back then, and I take out my textile scrapbook, and say to myself, “See? This is who you used to be.” Before adulthood, before mortgage payments, children, and wrinkles, when the future was scary and uncertain and full of possibilities and promise.

I love my life now. I’m living what that girl from long ago dreamed of doing. Even so, I don’t want to forget her entirely. I may release my hold on the past and donate my relics to charity one day. But not yet.

Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine, would have an aneurism, a cardiac infarction, a grand mal seizure, hives, and a nervous tic simultaneously if she laid eyes on this collection.

Look away, Anna. Look away.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why I Write . . .

Today is my birthday, and I'm pretty stoked about it. I plan on making the most of the next 24 hours. Partay, people! Three years ago, it looked doubtful that I would have another birthday, but I'm still here. Definite cause for celebration, if you ask me.

Backstory on my near-miss with the grim reaper:

After being sick for several months, I went to the emergency room at a local hospital, and a skilled, Harvard-educated surgeon admitted me. He arranged for a few tests and then, with the help of two other doctors, performed an eight hour surgery which saved my life. At one point, these gifted men held some of my organs in their hands, cleaning them of infection. (Ewww, I know.) My doctor said that he had never performed a more difficult procedure and had no idea why I was still alive.

Thankfully, I woke up from the anesthesia and Nurse Hatchett-- or rather, her meaner, more cantankerous older sister-- made me get out of my bed and walk. And so I did, with great effort. But I wasn't alone, I had my trusty, stylish IV pole with me and at least five or six bags of mysterious fluids. I walked all around the hospital floor like this every few hours, day and night. When it was light outside, I'd watch people through the large windows as they went about their lives and wish I was them. Fervently. I wanted to be anyone else right then.

There was a water-stain on the ceiling tile above me (yes, just like Madeline), and one night, I thought of how nice it would be if I could just climb up into that black space and disappear. The pity party eventually grew old. I grabbed my unwieldy IV-pole dance partner and began my journey around the dimly lit halls. It was here that I learned something. Other patients had it far worse than I did. As I walked by those rooms, I had a brief glimpse into another's suffering, and for a moment, I put myself into their situation.

Of course I wrote before I got sick, but I believe I'm a better writer now. I'd like to think I have more resources to offer the fictitious characters I create. Writing makes use of my experiences-- the good, the bad, and the medical. It helps life make sense somehow.

I write because I have to, because my brain is so filled with ideas and feelings, it won't let me not write. I love the freedom to be and create anything I like. I love to tell a good story, and let's face it, few things compare with sudden inspiration flowing from you to the page. These are some of the reasons I keep trying to learn the craft.

Now, more importantly, what makes you write?

Enjoy this beautiful Spring day, blogging buddies. It's good to be alive.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ray Bradbury Appreciation Day

Like a benevolent mentor, Ray Bradbury instills confidence into our often-shaky, artistic souls by telling us we are not crazy for assuming we can tell a good story, that we are right, and the rest of the world is wrong.

You gotta love this man. He loves you. Without ever meeting you. All because you're a writer. If you haven't read Zen In The Art Of Writing, put it on your to-read list. It is short and effusive and unabashedly sentimental.

This is one of my favorite sections. To set the scene, in 1925 Illinois, a young Ray Bradbury is on the cusp of adolescence. It's the 4th of July, and he is setting off fire balloons.These sparkly, floating incendiaries sound beautiful but dangerous, and Ray is entranced by their glowing light. Surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and parents, he releases them reluctantly into the air. He looks at the dear faces around him as the balloons lift toward the sky and the moment is poignantly imprinted on his memory.

Mr. Bradbury shares this story to illustrate how writers are like time machines. We can preserve life by recording it. Though age alters us, and the people we love, we are captured forever through the written word. To quote from Zen:

"I see my grandfather there looking up at that strange shifting light, thinking his own thoughts. I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done, I knew there would never be another night like this. No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky. . .

"My beloved family still sits on the porch in the dark. The fire balloon still drifts and burns in the night sky of an as yet unburied summer."

See? Our experiences remain unburied if we write them down. And I feel like one of Ray's family when I read that account. As though I, too, am sitting on that porch, gazing at a fiery light rising into the inky darkness. Tomorrow is my 18th wedding anniversary. Can you believe it? I can't. That early spring morning is etched so clearly in my mind, and when I dip into my cistern of memories, time reverses upon itself and I'm there once more. Like one of Mr. Bradbury's heaven-bound fire balloons, I'm still a new bride, taking a leap of faith.

Life is often good, friends. Amid challenges and disappointments, there are still lights in the sky.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

About the Hats . . .

I love a good hat. In my 20's, I was known to wear a white wool beret in winter, a navy fedora with my pinstripe suit on Sundays and a tweed newsboy cap for outings in the city. I worked in a clothing store, or as I like to call it, the fashion exchange system. I spent my days selling things for Nordstrom, they paid me, and I gave my paycheck back at the end of the month to cover my in-store credit card bill. I didn't make a lot of money, but I do have a fabulous former wardrobe tucked away in my closet.

These days, I've scaled down a bit. In fact, I rarely wear hats now at all. Sasquatch sightings are probably more common than seeing me with my head covered. There might be a simple baseball cap brought out on summer days when the weather is especially hot, but even that is rare. Not exactly fashionable or edgy. That's a shame, in my opinion. I love stylish clothing, and wearing something beautiful just for the heck of it.

A woman who can pull off a lovely chapeau has my admiration. She must have confidence, grace, and flare. These are some of my favorite hats from the royal wedding.

This is Charlene Wittstock, Prince Albert of Monaco's fiancee, looking elegant.

I love Lady Helen Taylor's hat. It is classic 1940's and so understated. I would wear this myself, should a glamorous, formal occasion arise. (Who am I kidding? I'd never get an invitation to something glamorous or formal.)
A trio of youthful beauties . . . They can pull off the avant-garde.
Both the father and mother of the bride wore hats. How distinguished!
Prime Minister Nick Clegg's wife, Miriam Durantez shines in this exotic creation. It's perfect with her striking looks and dark hair.
My favorite, Princess Letizia of Spain. What a gorgeous lady! The delicate feathers and netting are just right. A five-star hat!

Friends, I promise to move on from the royal wedding love fest, but first, I must ask. Do you like hats?