Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Working Hard or Hardly Functioning

My kids out mowing the yard. A classic American chore. We purposely got a push-mower because we thought it would build character, instead of one of those fun and exciting riding lawn mowers. Then we realized that we had a ginormous backyard of doom. 
 So, lately, it seems that all of the self-improvement that I've needed to do for years and years is sort of exploding in my face. I feel like I have signed up for "Get your S*%& together Boot Camp 2014" and it is relentless!! Every single thing I try to accomplish is met with so many gut-wrenching obstacles that I'm wondering if Satan's minions all formed a "We hate Michelle" team.  Now, strangely, I'm not complaining. I realized a few pertinent things, and they are pretty well the "wind beneath my wings" right now.
*I stopped asking the Universe "Why Me??"  It was really just making me more pissed off and sorry for myself, neither of which look very good on me.  I changed the dialogue in my brain to "Wow, Universe! You must REALLY want me to prove to MYSELF that I want this. If I set up a goal and it was easy and smooth to attain, I wouldn't be showing how committed I am to the venture. However, with you road-blocking me from the second I wake up at 4 am, you're forcing me to rise above and show how fierce I am! Thank you, Universe! Sincerely, Me!"
*I have had so many times in my life when I set a huge goal, like working out every day, and then immediately, I will get sick, injured, or some kind of physical plague. I honestly feel that it's my body rejecting my higher self, and acting out physically. The awesome thing is that if I can STILL work out even when I feel like junk, then I will be a TOTAL BOSS when I'm working out in a well state of being!
*I listened to a podcast that changed my life.  It was an interview with Thomas C. Corley who wrote a book called "Rich Habits" and he was talking about how he had spent the last 15 years or so studying the habits of rich and poor people alike. The interviewer asked him if he could sum up one major huge difference between wealthy people and poor people, and he said "Yes...it's that negative thinking is poverty thinking".
        Now, granted, this doesn't mean that all rich people are positive and all poor people are negative, BUT I can see where this would be a huge game changer in the lives of people. I don't want to get into any kind of political thing or make a bunch of people go crazy, but I DO want to say that it REALLY helped me, because every time I have a negative and limiting thought, I think, "hmm..that was poverty thinking". It's good to remember that you can be "rich" and "poor" in things besides money. You can be poor in relationships and friends. You can be rich in experiences.  You can be poor in understanding and compassion. You can be rich in talents. There are all sorts of variants, but I honestly do feel that negative thinking makes you poor in every aspect.
         Let me just point out that I have spent my whole life viewing myself as a negative person. I figured that I was sarcastic and pessimistic, and it was sort of funny.   Guess what? I don't want to be that any more. I don't want to limit myself and others by saying things that shut us all down. I am having to work CONSTANTLY in my brain to make these positive changes, and it's actually really exhausting. Even little things, like seeing a costume maker at another show who ripped off a bunch of my designs, make me have to work in my brain to be nice. Instead of thinking, "That dang b-otch" I thought, "It is AWESOME that someone thought I was cool enough that they wanted to be like me.  I'm so grateful that there are so many people out there at this show, and maybe that means that ALL of the vendors will do really well and we can all keep making enough money to vend at these incredible shows!" Now, I would love to say that was a flipped switch, and I was all better....but I had to REPEAT the same dang speech every time I saw her booth. I had to remind myself forcefully that I was happy for her and that there is enough good in this world to go around. Holy face, it was hard.
        Yet, truly, why would I ever complain? I'm so blessed and fortunate to live in this country, have this job, meet the women that my company connects me with.  I could spend days typing all the awesome things I have to be grateful for. Thus, why in the flipping heck would I think negative thoughts that shut me down and make me into less than what I can be?
     *sigh*.  And yet, I'll have to give this whole entire speech to myself again tomorrow. But, the thing is-I can do it. Negative thinking is poverty thinking.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sometimes I forget

 WHAT DO I SOMETIMES FORGET?
      Well, if we're being real, it's a lot of things. However, what I'm talking about here is that sometimes I forget that we have so many people that are new to my company and they just see pretty things, but don't actually know the story of what makes our products special, or why they should buy a corset from us versus any other corset company out there.
      So, I don't believe in ever putting down other companies, although (bless their hearts) I have been put down, copied, slandered, and internet bullied (heck, I'm pretty sure everyone has) by competition.  I'm eternally grateful for my competition, as the majority of them are extraordinary people, and MY GOODNESS, we are all in this together!
       That being said, we do have a few things that I personally feel like are unique to our company, and I haven't seen it in very many others. Let me detail them below. I will try my best to not be too wordy, but any of you who know me at all....well....I'm verbose.
Damsel in this Dress Corsets Are:

  • Made with Steel Boning!  Not the cheap stuff. Just because it says it's "steel boned" doesn't mean it's nice steel. We have had to source ours very carefully, and in all of my years doing this, I think we've only ever had 2 METAL BONES BREAK.  That is 2 out of....lets see...do some math...figure things out......I've made about FORTY THOUSAND CORSETS myself since I started this company, so if you take 40,000 and multiply that by 5-14 pieces per corset...holy crap. I've actually never even done the math. That's pretty freaking good.  Also, if the metal bone did have a manufacturing defect, I paid for shipping both ways and did the repair for free. I try to stick by the product.
  • More of an Hourglass Curve! If I wanted my job to be easy, I would straighten out the sharp curve in the waist. If you look at most lingerie corsets, renaissance bodices, and steel boned corsets made overseas, they actually don't have a very sharp hourglass turn in the sides of the waist. Some of them can be downright barrel shaped. I totally understand why. It's MUCH easier to just stick something on a woman that is simply uniformly TIGHT than something that actually takes the flesh, skin, and...uh..."padding" on our waists and RESHAPES it. Lots of women have this idea in their head that a corset will actually physically make their body smaller.  Friends, if there was a product that could do that in 3 minutes of lacing, I would be a whole lot richer. CORSETs DO NOT MAKE YOUR BODY SMALLER. All they can do is "redistribute" parts of your body and flatten your body, as it is. When you put one one, you will definitely FEEL and SEE a different you, but there is  nothing that can take the molecules of your body and shrink them.  (Scientists..don't hate me for that sentence. I know it is wrong.)   However, I do believe that if you wore them on a regular basis, your posture would improve, your waist would honestly reshape, your portions would get smaller, and your self confidence and sense of well-being would sky-rocket! Clearly, I need to make a post on JUST this subject.
  • 10 years of pattern-making and interior tweaking for superior construction!  Yes, friends, we have been in business for 10 years, since I was 18 years old! I LITERALLY think about corsets all day every day. They are always on my mind. I want to make them better, higher quality, more affordable for my time and materials, better able to fit a variety of sizes....the list goes on and on. No matter how much you, as the customer, think about corsets during your normal day, I think about them MORE. I promise.  With all that thought, the patterns get reworked and re-designed about every six months.  I NEVER say to myself, "Meh, it's been selling great all this time. There's no reason to do anything different."  I know that there will eternally be room for improvement. The only sad thing is that lots of the improvements are things that aren't visible to the eye, because they're on the interior of the corset. I will just let you know, the interior structure is more important than the exterior, and we have grown in leaps and bounds in that area in the last 2 years.    It's also good to note that I SERIOUSLY CONSIDER CUSTOMER FEEDBACK, SUGGESTIONS, AND THE OCCASIONAL COMPLAINT! You guys help fuel me to make these better, and I would completely suck without my amazing fan base. 
  • Fabric is glued together before it is grommeted!  Every time I see a bodice home-made by a seamstress, no matter what her sewing skills are, the grommets are almost always pulling out because of the stress of lacing. I used to have this problem too. When you punch a hole into fabric, made of woven threads, those threads will keep pulling apart over time, especially if you're trying to suck a waist in dramatically. Thus, we take THOUSANDS of hours carefully glueing layers of extra thick upholstery to the front openings of our corsets so that the grommets won't pull out.  Once again, as with the boning, we'll have maybe one in every thousand fabrics we use that won't "adhere" well, and the grommets end up pulling a little, but we always fix things....always! 
  • I care. I care so much that it's stressful and ruins my life sometimes. When a customer makes a suggestion or ESPECIALLY if we ever get a complaint, I take this deep into the roots of my soul, and struggle emotionally for days and weeks....sometimes years. I know it's not good. I know it's not healthy and it causes a lot of depression and self-flagellation. I'm trying to stop. BUT, what it DOES mean is that you do get a better product and better customer service because I beat myself up so much. 
Okay, honestly, I can think of a million other things, but I'll have to save them for later.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stretching My Brain

This is such a BEAUTIFUL image! I want to dress like this every day...maybe I'll make it our mandatory work uniforms..?
      I am going to do better, I am going to do better. MAN ALIVE! When you have a creative brain, it can be very hard to organize, document, regulate, and commit to timelines, goals, numbers, and paper-worky types of things.  I'll be the first to admit, for ALL OF 2013, I felt so overwhelmed, hormonal, and festively pregnant that I couldn't fathom doing anything more than I was already doing. I spent most days yelling, feeling sorry for myself, and thinking about what I was going to eat next, instead of trying to plan for where my company was going and how I was going to tackle my dreams. 

      Well, now I'm endeavoring to get on track, and be like an aggressive 80's business guy in a power suit, with a slick hair-cut and lots of "buzz" words like "synergy" and "prime objectives!" and...um....honestly, I've never worked in an office....maybe I'm not going to be that guy...It's just that....have you guys ever seen that episode of Futurama where Fry teams up with the 1980's Business Guy? I LOVED how he kept asking everyone if they were "sharks" or "sheep".  I suppose I want to be a shark? 
Anyhow,  If you're wondering what these pictures are about, they are my sketches and inspiration for one of the many projects I have going on in my head. At ALL TIMES, I have these glorious visions and patterns and fabrics in my brain, and they're just waiting to bust out! Sometimes I draw them out, sometimes, I look for the particular fabrics I need, and SOMETIMES I EVEN *gasp* MAKE THEM!!! 

    Which brings me to Soldsie. I read about this company in an Entrepreneur Magazine (I sit and read these while I eat my steel cut oatmeal at 5 am every morning) and I was very excited, because they seemed to have the answers to all of my current problems....well...almost all of them. So, this company allows you to sell directly to your customers RIGHT on facebook, through a safe channel. All they have to do to purchase something from you in the size and color they want is to comment "SOLD" below the item, and then type in the options they prefer from what you have available.  They really encourage you to make a specific time each week that your customers KNOW they can come to you and see new items and get good prices and freebies.   I don't know why I never thought of this, but it's SOOOO awesome! I get emails all the time from upset customers who wanted an item that I listed, but I listed the piece at a completely random time, and they missed it. This helps focus all of us in, and have a time when we expect something awesome, and we can all be excited about it! 
      So, I named our weekly events "Hourglass Events" because I felt like it hearkened back to the fact that we sell hourglass shaped corsets, AND these are a limited time release, so the "sand" will be slipping through the hourglass quickly!   As you can tell from the pictures, I'm actually PLANNING and looking for inspiration! I'm very proud of myself, because this is not normally  how my brain works.  Anyhow, I'm hoping to get the final patterns for the "Gretel" collection done in the next couple of weeks, and *VOILE!* I have the theme for one of my events.
     I realize that this blog is ALL over the place, which is ironic, because it talks about how I'm going to focus and be better.  Bless my heart.   Anyhow, I've got a crapload of work to do, but I just wanted to give you guys an insight to what's going on in my life, and I hope you're as excited as I am!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wild West Steampunk Convention

Wow, you guys get a rare treat, where I actually post more pictures than words. I know this whole page looks super ego-tistical. I promise,  it's really UN-tistical!! (holy night, that word is awkward.) I would like to thank each and every one of you who came into my booth for the last for weekends of shows, whether you bought something, talked to me, told me awesome jokes, brought me goodies, or just looked so beautiful that I was inspired by your magnificence!




Me and my babies. Notice Brynn's super awesome white faux leather motorcycle vest. I went to H&M the night previous to find some tights, and instead found the coolest kids clothing I had ever seen, whereupon, I had a nervous breakdown freaking out about how fervently I wanted my own daughter to have the cool clothing that I never felt like I had, while at the same time being nervous that she would end up "too cool"....it's a many layered brain problem, trust me. When you grow up poor, lots of times you want to make up for what you DIDN'T have, and you try to make it up through your kids. It's problematic. 

Holy face, this woman next to me is one of those ones that is so gorgeous that she almost made me nervous when she came into the booth. I  almost feel like, "Wow...these people are so cool...cool people like  my stuff...can that REALLY be REAL???"  Very intimidated. I promise.  (Erin, it's freaking true.)

what the crap, this pose looks a little more..uh...suggestive than I wanted it to look. I don't EVER take selfies, but I was trying to get a good shot of the epic Boba Fett Fez that I had just purchased to go along with my Star Wars tights. My hand on my chest is really just me trying to hold the dang camera cord out of the way. 

Ariat boots, purchased in Texas. I knew I would hate myself if I didn't get a pair of cowgirl boots in that great state!!!

Okay, SERIOUSLY, look at all of the accessories here! This splendid couple made everything they're wearing! I was absolutely enamored! And they couldn't have been more sweet. 

what the WHAT?!!!!  A Gentleman Dalek? Yup. 

Better picture where you can see my Boba Fett Fez to go with my tights. 

Leif, the little baby that came out of me 3 months ago. He is the reason that I'm absent from the booth so much, because I have to run and feed him every two hours. He didn't like taking breastmilk from the bottle, bless his little heart. 

My favorite ribbon I've ever seen at a convention. 

Jasmine(did I spell it right) is so freaking adorable! She had a shrunken head in a jar as part of her costume, and explained that it was her ex-boyfriend....also she fills all of the other interesting shaped bottles with crazy junk and hung them off of her belt! One of them was filled with hair gel. It looked marvelous. Also, her dad was one of the coolest men I've ever met. 

If you pay attention at our booth, you'll notice that we always try to hang our corsets in a Roy G. Biv pattern. 

Paige and Katy, the only reason I survived these last crazy weeks of constant travel. I LOVE my team!!  (OH, also, note that Paige's eye makeup is done in a hand-painted leopard print. Hecks yes!)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Big Frowny Face

I have put off publishing this for long enough. I have been fretting over it for a LONG dang time, and I just need to get it out there! Phew. Okay.....here.......goes.

*Cancelled Shows for 2014 (Ones that we Normally Do, but Can't This Year)


*Sonora Celtic Faire
I LOVE THIS SHOW, I LOVE the people running it, and I LOVE the town of Sonora!! The only reason we can't do it this year is because I had scheduled a show in Texas the previous weekend, and so my options for these dates (March 7th-9th) were to either drive to Sonora (A 30 hour trip, ONLY if Donner's Pass isn't closed, which would make it a 40 hour trip...with no stops. *shudder*)  OR I could do the Wild West Steampunk Convention in Arizona....which is not quite as far from my Texas show.

I am truly sad that I'll miss so many of you at this show, because I've been doing it for a long time! Hopefully, this is the only year I'll be unable to attend, and next year, I'll figure things out and do anything I can to be there!!!  I'm just trying to minimize my time driving with a little 3 month old baby screaming in the back (he hates cars soooo much.)

(oh, this hurts)
*Oklahoma Renaissance Festival at the Castle of Muskogee
This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make for my business. I dearly love this show, the cast, the vendors, the people who run it....it's a great family.  I've been doing the show for 8 years now, 4-5 weekends out of every single year.  When I really started looking carefully at numbers, which I try not to do (which is idiotic for someone who runs a business), I was horrified. Truly, it was just not enough profit for the time spent.  I had to be away from my sewing shop for over a month, not producing any inventory, which meant I didn't sell a thing online for the whole month, plus, all of that time off made it so all of my shows in the first part of summer suffered. I hate the whole "It's not personal, it's just business" thing, but...well...it's a thing. 

Every single time I make a post on facebook or a blog or anything about actual events I go to, I ALWAYS, without fail, have tons of people pleading with me to come to their shows, whether they're in Florida, New York, Maryland, Alaska, Hawaii....anywhere!  Since I'm an emotional woman, I always take it personally, imagining that they are looking at me running my company and saying, "Hell, that woman is so stupid! Doesn't she know she would SELL OUT if she came to our show? Doesn't she know how HUGE the festival next to us is? Why doesn't she just DOOOO it?"   I stupidly take suggestions as criticisms, and I flinch when a sentence starts out with "why don't you JUST??".   Here's a few things to keep in mind-

-There is this jump that a lot of vendors have to make where they decide to let other people manage their booths for 8 weekends at a time, and they have to farm out their production to other countries like Mexico and India to have enough inventory to do these gigantic shows and actually make a profit.   That is completely their own decision, and as HUMANS, they are just doing what they think is best. It's not my personal wish to send production of my products to other countries. When you come to a festival and handle our wares, I have put stitches and personally touched EVERY SINGLE PIECE. I try to be the best quality inspector that I possibly can.  I'm truly very passionate about the actual integrity of the piece. I'm not ready to send that thousands of miles away. I don't know if I'll ever be ready. 

-Gas is expensive. We're lucky if we can get 10 miles to the gallon. The trailer we pull is about 8,000 pounds, fully loaded. I have looked into having things shipped (hideous) freighted (eek) or even sent on a train, and there is just so much logistical horror to all of it that it makes me panic and I don't want to run this company any more. Maybe one day I'll grow up and figure out how to fly me, my employees, my children and our 8000 pounds across country in an efficient, cost effective manner..until then, I've got to stick to shows that are slightly nearer to us.  If you're wary of buying something online when you've never tried it on in person, don't be. I've sent out hundreds of thousands of corsets to women I've never met all around the world. All they did was measure and follow directions. I try my very best! 

-When someone tells me to do a show because I "will sell out" I always have a quick rush of pure rage.  You don't ever "sell out" in a business where you have such a range of sizes and colors. Just because your booth is being rushed doesn't mean you'll have something for every last person that wants to buy (wouldn't it be beautiful, though??)  I know it's immature to get frustrated when I hear these comments, and I know that the people truly mean to offer advice in the kindest possible manner.  I suppose the issue is that all of these things are my most stressful parts of the actual job, thus I'm needlessly sensitive. I love sewing and creating, but terrified of traveling and all  of the chaos around setting up for a show. 

Either way, I do apologize profusely to all of you who are going to be disappointed. Like I said, these might not be permanent decisions, but for this year, I'm just trying to do my best. As always I appreciate your support more than I can possibly say, and I'm so grateful for all of the women who have enriched my life. 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Texas Trip, Part 2

        *Quick Disclaimer here....sort of the same horrid brand as "Um....Not to be rude or anything....but, >insert offensive, unsolicited advice here<". I do enjoy saying things but telling people not to react to the things I say right before I say them. Brilliant, BRILLIANT, I say!!!   OH, crap. Back to my disclaimer.   I just want to note that this story of going to Dallas Texas on a band trip when I was a goofy teenager is told by my perspective as it was then. It was, in a lot of ways, sort of a turning point in my life, and helped get me to the place I am today, for better or for worse. I understand that self-deprecation can come off very badly, and it appears as though I'm putting myself down for cheap laughs.  But, seriously, friends...do you remember being a teenager? If you don't, I can copy and paste some of my 16-year-old sister's facebook posts here, and you'll remember in a hurry! (Why the crap not? She's posting them for the whole world to see anyway. Love you, Natalie!!   And..um...not to be "rude or anything"...but um....you might not want to share every SINGLE thought and feeling with everyone. ;)   Anyway, I think it's a marvelous blessing to have perspective, find humor in situations that were gut-wrenching and tear-jerking at the time, and look back at where you were to be ever grateful for where you have come!   And now, part 2. As promised.

        I'm sorry about the picture. Usually I would take some time to give it a little bit more character, but I'm frantically trying to clean my house to maybe possibly put it up on the market so it will maybe possibly sell and maybe possibly we'll move.  This is my way of escaping my duty, impending and crushing as it may be.

       I believe it was the day after going to Medieval Times that are band group was scheduled to go to Six Flags Amusement Park.  OH, junk. Let me back up here for a minute. REWIND  *GLING* Previous afternoon!
    "Michelle, we're going down to the hot tub! Some of the cuter guys said they were going to be down there!"
         I believe this was said by Cortney...... Cortney Starbuck. (Oh, crap, sorry, Cortney, I spelled your name wrong up there.)  I would just like to point out that  you can't NOT be cute, itty-bitty, blonde and a boy magnet when you're name is Cortney-Freaking-Starbuck. Her mom guaranteed that she would be a popular cheerleader the second the filled out the birth certificate. It worked!!   (Remember what I said up there about perspective? Remember, this is teenage me. Or, for better words: jealous, insecure, and selfish.)
    "Um..I didn't bring my swimsuit." I squeak, feeling instantly defensive and mortified.
    "That's okay. Your bra is really cute and has rainbows on it. Just wear your underwear. No one will know!"
         At this point, my blood turns to ice as I realize 3 things simultaneously: 1.)The pure white button up shirts that we were all wearing for performing while we played our instruments were apparently not leaving much up the the imagination where my bosoms were concerned. My mother would kill me. 2.)I would be in a hot tub, with all of my...me...exposed, and I've never been able to wear skirts or shorts that went up past my lower knees OR tank tops or things that were very low cut. My mother would KILL ME! 3.) She probably would never find out. Until I accidentally told her in a blog 13 years later....My MOTHER WOULD REALLY KILL ME!!!
        Nope, not happening. Not for cute boys. Not for the thrill of it. Not for the possible humiliation of it.  I declined. Over and over and over again. Finally, Brenda, Cortney Starbuck, and my friend Mary all left the room in their fabulous swimsuits and hotel towels worn as strapless dresses, whilst I made myself comfortable on the hideous abstract print 1990's era hotel comforter and flipped on the TV, delighted to find the Red Green Show was on!  Yes, Duct tape CAN fix anything! Even a forlorn emotional teenager's delicate self esteem.
       This is how I started to withdraw into myself and purposely make myself into an outsider. When you're an addict for the glorious thrill of non-conformity, you get caught up in your emo-teenage poetry narration track in your brain, and you WANT to be the one that "no one understands".  I mean, if those girls understood me, we would ALL be sitting and watching middle-aged Canadian men with beards on tv, instead of sitting in a hot tub right now, giggling at bad jokes.  Thus, all at once, I decided to be sulky and sullen for pretty much the rest of the trip, refusing to romp around in the hormonal bliss of my friends. This is how my teenage brain worked.  I'm still not sure why. This DOES explain why my older brother would have come up with the "Michelle has no settings between 0 and 10" theory around this time in my life.

     Ahem, back to Six Flags.
   
     Since I was being a  jealous, insecure, poo-face, obviously no one wanted to hang out with me, so I spent the better part of the morning alone, or vaguely trailing along behind Brenda (Wearing a tight, one-shoulder tank top borrowed from Cortney), Cortney Starbuck (wearing a tight, one shoulder tank top borrowed from Brenda), and a pile of eager, drooling band geeks (remember, this is an affectionate term. We knew what we were...and dang proud!). One of the droolers was a very tall, very......socially off-putting, young man named Mike. I can't explain him. He was just odd. He was very quiet, stood a little too close, and always looked like he would rather be somewhere else....as long as that was right there with you. On this trip, he formed an attachment to Brenda, and followed her around like a sick puppy dog...I mean, literally....sick.
       The crowd hopped onto a roller coaster that takes you upside down, spins you around, and emits shrieking from the most steadfast theme park patron. It looked like the one from the beginning credits of "Step by Step" (Oh, holy face. Now, I've got that song in my head again. This happened the other day at work, and then I got it into everyone else's head, and then we were ALL singing, "We'll make it better the second time around!!").  Anyhow, I politely declined, seeing as I take about as much joy from roller coasters as I do from chewing tinfoil.
       About 20 minutes later, I saw Brenda, running from the entrance/exit of the ride, irate and disgusted.  I ran over and asked her what was wrong and she declared that Mike had PUKED ALL OVER HER! He had gotten into the cars behind her, and when they were at the bottom of one loop, Mike's car was at the top of the loop, and when he threw up, it went straight down, onto her too-sexy-for-minors tank top! The outrage!   (By the way, Brenda, I know you're going to read this. Remember, I was always perpetually jealous of you, and in a strange, extremely uncomfortable way, I EVEN wanted to be the kind of girl that could scream at a boy for throwing up on her because he loved her so much. *sigh*  I'm so glad we're both married to very cool husbands and have 3 kids each now. Isn't life so much better this way?)  Brenda ran into the nearest tourist-trap souvenir shop and bought a much LESS alluring, baggy "Six Flags, Dallas!" tshirt. I felt a small, guilty, "I'm a horrible person" victory when I saw that she, too, had to have sleeves on her shirt...just like me!
       Needless to say, Mike was very uncomfortable and embarassed about the whole situation, and decided to switch his allegiance to my friend, Mary.  Mary, Mike, and Me (does this sound like a tv sitcom??) broke off from the rest of the crowd, and wandered around trying to win awkwardly big prizes.
       I will need to take another whole entire blog to describe the power that  my friend, Mary had, and STILL has to this day. She just....gets. free. stuff. She has such a magnetic personality, and is so disarming and frightfully honest when she talks to you, and you almost just hand over whatever you have and ask if you can possibly give her anything else?  One time when we were out shopping, all in a single night, we got all of our meals at Burger King for free (no joke, she pulled up the drive-in window, the guy said, "Welcome to Burger King, can I take your order?" and she said, "Yes, I would like 3 # 5 meals, super size, for free...for some really hot girls."  Pause. "Please pull forward to the second window."  Out came the food...tons of it....plus their crappy little desserts in the cardboard packaging. What the WHAT?) we got our movie tickets for matinee/child price, we got some sneakers for the employee price, PLUS, coupon, PLUS some other illegal cash register magic that the guy worked, resulting in us paying about $6 for $60 sneakers.
       We came up to a booth where there was stuffed animals to win that seemed absolutely shamefully large, and I fell in love with the gorilla with two baby gorillas on its shoulders! Mike suggested that maybe he could throw the ball at the pyramid of cans and knock them all off the table to win them for me. Mary suggested to the guy running the game that we could take a bunch of "practice" throws before we did the "actual" throw that we paid the money to win. When Mike did knock the cans over, after about 30 tries, Mary hurried and handed the guy $4 and explained that she had just paid for that last throw. The guy actually let it pass. I got the gorilla. You can see me grasping its bosoms below. ;)  If my memory serves me right, Mary just got the giant dog for free.
     That afternoon, when I got back on the bus, precariously shuffling back through the seats and beating everyone in the head with the gorilla as I walked past them, Brenda looked up and saw me in all of my glory. "Where did you get that???"  she exclaimed!  "Um....Mike won it for me?......"  And there was this awkward moment where we realized that the same boy who had thrown up on Brenda had won me a gorilla, all in the same day.

               
I would like to point out that I sewed the orange camouflage shirts that Brenda and I are wearing. Remember how I sewed tons of the clothing that we both wore to school? Here is proof. 
      And to end it all, I think the very best part of the trip was when Mary later told me that, when the girls had gone down to the hot tub, Cody (one of the few genuinely attractive boys in band....also, a bit of a rebel with a bad reputation) had bothered to ask "where Michelle was".  My friends said I was too self-conscious to show up in a swimming suit. He apparently grunted in dismay and said, "Too bad, she has a bodacious bod."  Yes. I heard it right. BO-DA-CIOUS!    That was the first time in my life where I had stopped to consider that boys might like different shapes. I know it seems obvious, human beings are all vastly different and have wide varieties of opinions, but I think that girls, in their teenage brains, decide that there is one body type that is acceptable and attractive, and it's NOT their own.   This is an obvious fallacy, and of course, we know that it is pushed on us by every media source constantly. I figure that girls might be like flavors of ice cream (hopefully this is not disrespectful...I mean it in the best, purest way possible.) where there is chocolate and vanilla, and the vast majority of people DO like those flavors.....but then, there is so many variations, different textures, types, and brands.  The varieties make it exciting and wonderful.  I think women think that all of us should just be vanilla (or rather, flat tummy, huge chest, flawless skin, long legs, firm bum) but what about all of the OTHER ones out there? It would be so freaking boring if we were all the same. I think we forget that.
       I know, I spend  most of my life forgetting that. In my angsty teenage brain, I would be so jealous and frustrated, and just want to be something else that I forgot how good it was to be myself. After all, I am the one who knows BEST how to be me....in my body, with all of its unique characteristics. I may not be vanilla, but I COULD be something really awesome and strange, like the garlic ice cream that they serve at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
     I got WAY off topic here, but I do want to exclaim that I am grateful for all of the painful teenage experiences that helped kick my bum into adulthood. It's much better here....sorry, but it just is. However, you obviously can't MAKE it to adulthood without paying the price with your teenage emotion profusion.   Just take joy in who you are, and remember that  for as nervous, jealous, insecure, unsure, selfish, and immature as you can sometimes be, the people around you are probably feeling and acting the exact same dang way.   Hopefully, in the end, you can get a huge stuffed gorilla, and that will make it all better.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dallas, Texas

      When I am at festivals, one of the most common questions that I receive is from incredulous individuals who are shaking their heads and slightly bugging their eyes, asking "How did you even get into this?"  My prompt and frank answer never deviates from the truth. "I started out as a dork in high school, and I never stopped." The response usually elicits a polite laugh.  Friends, it's all true. When I talk about wearing renaissance bodices to school with vigor and pride, I'm not embellishing the past to make it more rosy.   Below, I have shared some  person pages, RIGHT out of my own scrap-book, done by me when I was 17 years old. Now, for some good hearty "origin stories". 

         I made friends with Brenda in third grade, after she ran up to me, screamed, and licked me on the cheek. She had previously clung only to playing soccer with the boys at recess, but at some point in time, decided that she could, in fact, be friends with other females. We stuck together like glue from pretty much that point on, with the occasional pre-pubescent bouts of senseless, yet classic girl "cattiness".   By the time we got to high school, we were inseparable. Brenda was magnificently tall, slender, and exotic looking as she has a fair bit of Native American blood in her. Therefore, she was eternally tan. Had she NOT been friends with me, (which brought her coolness level down several notches), she definitely would have been one of the popular girls.  I made us both matching clothing, all of it having some sort of awkward medieval theme. We usually wore matching shirts on matching days of the week.....sadly, NOT ON PURPOSE.

         When we went on band trips or really ANY kind of trip that took us away from our high school and to places where there were high school boys that DIDN'T know how the social map of our school was laid out, it always went the same. We would try desperately to flirt with boys and make them fall so madly in love with us that they would be forced to ask for our email addresses and/or phone numbers. (good night! You kids in the golden age of facebook have it SOOO easy! You just need a name, and then you can spy on this person, figure out all of their deepest personal thoughts and feelings, find every girl they ever dated ever, and also how they feel about every single thing that happens including their burrito at lunch having not enough hot sauce. ) Anyhow, generally, we would stumble upon two lonely boys, one of them being the better looking-more-talking and more attracted to Brenda. I always got the less desirable sidekick. And by "got" I mean that I extracted perhaps 1.79 furtive glances from him until he gave up and switched to just looking at Brenda and the Cool Boy.   By the way, if you ask Brenda about all of this, she will deny all of it. She is lying.


Below, you can see the page from  my scrapbook! Our sophomore year of high school, the band got to take a trip to Dallas, Texas. When I found out that we were going to get to attend a Medieval Times dinner, where we would watch jousting, eat turkey legs with our hands, and yell "Huzzah", my excitement was nearly all-consuming. I knew immediately that I had to sew the most beautiful gowns ever for me and Brenda, and here we are, in our 16-year-old glory. 

Holycrapholycrapholycrap. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, up to that point! There we were, at a castle *Squeeeeee* dressed up in fabulous dresses (my band teacher was, I believe, simultaneously slightly embarrassed, impressed, amused.) and, not to be a jerk or anything, but we were dressed WAY better than the wenches, who  were in very sad royal blue peasant blouses, black cotton broadcloth skirts, and little flower hair wreaths. Seriously, ladies? I still think they should have all gone on strike until they got to wear some decent corsets. You're flipping BAR WENCHES! It's one of the rites of passage!!!! 
          The show was AMAZING, and there was even one point where the handsome knight that "won" the tournament circled the edge of the arena to find a lucky lady to whom he could gallantly bestow a red rose! In a very rare moment of sweet justice (take THAT Brenda, who always gets the hot guys AND their awkward sidekicks!)the knight raised his head, peering into the crowd of restless peasants, scanning them keenly until his eyes found ME *gasp* at which point he smiled salaciously, raised his gauntlet-clad hand, and sent the pure red rose sailing in an arc (at which point, time stood still, the music stopped, the crowds faded away, and there was only me, my head tilted at an elegant angle, my burgundy home-made bodice tight around my gasping bosom, and my eyelashes fluttering) at which point the rose landed into my eager  hands, and the crowd erupted into frantic cheering, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. There I stood, triumphant and breathtaking, a warm pillar of light ascending down on me and my metal plate of greasy turkey leg bones.  These perfect moments in time are so rare that you have to cherish them  for the rest of eternity, especially when you're having a particularly bad day, working as a lowly waitress at a Ruby Tuesday in Joplin, Missouri, bent over on your hands and knees, scraping up the chicken nugget crumbs from the previous table of 2 adults, 5 kids, and a $1.75 tip. At those points, you can reflect back upon that one shining moment, when you were the princess....the belle of the ball....the lady of the hour. 

             To be fair, it might not have been quite that dramatic. I'll tell you what WAS dramatic-the event that occurred shortly thereafter. My camera had run out of batteries and film (yeah, that's right, FOOLs! I didn't have a magical camera on my phone where I could take never ending piles of pictures of myself and my plate at dinner! This is back in the STONE ages!) and we were left only with Brenda's little disposable camera. We knew we only had one picture left, and we were absolutely, giddily desperate to get a picture of us and the beautiful queen from the dinner! She had on a marvelous dress, and was CLEARLY the celebrity of the evening  with her flowing gown, heaving renaissance bosom, and period head-dress!(I know, I know. In reality, she was probably some 27-year old under-grad student working at Applebees and playing the queen on the weekends, after which she would yank off the dress and go and get hammered at a karaoke bar, wailing out a painful rendition of " Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.)  

       The rest of the kids had shuffled away to the bus, but we pleaded with our band teacher to let us just take a few more minutes and try to find the queen! Seeing us with our big eyes and flowing lace-up gowns, he probably had a momentary lapse of judgement and just urged us to hurry up!  We turned and ran, looking frantically and desperately around the whole castle, only to see every single cast member EXCEPT for the regal queen!  We realized that were were pushing our luck, and hung our heads in defeat as me made our way back to the yellow bus of failure parked behind the castle. At that point in time, the clouds parted, and a shaft of golden sunlight shown from the heavens, directing itself ever toward the center of a courtyard, surrounded by an iron gate with bars through which the onlooker could glimpse a momentary view of what it must be like to be ROYAL! (in all reality, this was most likely just the area behind the castle where the knights would escape to for a quick smoke in between jousts.). 
 There, framed by the vertical prison of black iron railing, was the queen!!!  She was standing regally next to a man with a sizeable mustache, a Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts. She was laughing a beautiful bell-tone tinkling laugh and paused as she beheld something that, no doubt, was slightly alarming.


       To our surprise, the queen and the random mustache guy actually smiled and came over and opened the gate. They must have heard our uttered cries of "picture" and "queen" and "pretty" in the jumble of all of our other garbled teenage jargon. I finally extruded a sentence that made sense. "Can we PLEASE get a picture?"  At that point in time, something strange happened that I didn't even think about until much later. The random guy smiled smugly, bowing his head slightly, and the queen stepped AWAY. Um....Okay. We frantically thrust Brenda's little $9.97 windup Kodak disposable camera at the mustache guy. He hesitantly took it, a look of confusion and embarassment under his mustache, and Brenda and I thrust ourselves over to each side of the queen, where we grinned triumphantly. The mustache guy mustered just enough concern to hold the camera to his eye, snap a shot, and then hastily thrust it back into Brenda's hands, at which point in time we fled from the courtyard, bursting with joy and practically skipping with elation. 
        We reached the bus, climbed the stairs, made our way through the narrow, cramped aisle, avoiding all of the lethal glares being beamed at us from the 30 fellow impatient band-mates, and collapsed into our stiff little cramped seat. All of the sudden, Brenda froze, as if made of the same unyielding vinyl rocks as those dang bus seats are. Her eyes went wide and she said, "Oh my HELL, my mom is going to KILL ME!"  I sat there, puzzled, unable to figure out anything that was going on.  She said, "Michelle! That was Geraldo Rivera!!!  The man in the mustache! My mom watches his show all the time!  We handed the camera to HIM to take a picture of US and the QUEEN!" 
        Stay tuned for Part 2 of My Beginnings as a Renaissance Nerd in Dallas, Texas. Part 2 will have vomit, rainbow colored bras, and large gorillas. No Joke.