Saturday, November 20, 2010

From home to Home by Rail

By Rail

My second night aboard the California Zephyr, headed from California to Chicago.  On my way to Milwaukee.  I picked up the route guide.  Somewhere between Fort Morgan, Colorado and Mc Cook, Nebraska.  Wherever either of those are.  I scanned the list of cities we’d been through and were headed to.  So many places I’d never heard of. 

I flipped the guide over to the back, to the connection guide.  Denver, Colorado Springs, Vail, Boise, Twin Falls, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas.  All these places I knew nothing about.  All these little connecting buses that meant nothing to me.  I looked out into the deep dark nothingness of the planes, somewhere between Colorado and Nebraska and felt so lost.

I looked back at the route guide and something made me smile.  At the top of the route connections, “Emeryville * San Francisco/Oakland.”  And the connection listings below, “Emeryville Amtrak Station, Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, Market St., Caltrain, Jack London Square.”  These meant something to me; these all meant something to me.  They meant home. 

Wait. What?  could the Bay really be home?

home?  How did this happen?

The thought surprised me, but it didn’t take much more thinking to realize its truth.  In a year and a half, I feel like I know the Bay Area better than I know Milwaukee.  I  grew up in Milwaukee, my entire life .  All of it on the South Side: Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy.  I went off to school the next county over, to Waukesha, and rarely ventured off campus.  Bubbles, little patches of space I know very well, but so little beyond that.  I should say ‘knew’; things change so fast.

I’ve been to Downtown Oakland more times than I’ve been to the Northside in Milwaukee.  I’ve been to Berkeley more times than I’ve been to the Eastside.  I may even have been to San Francisco more times than I’ve been to Downtown Milwaukee, though that one might be close.

I have my church, my fun extra-curriculars: the returned Peace Corps group, the wind ensemble, the bell choir.  My absolutely fabulous job [link].  (I’m pictured in two of those three links. Can you find me?)  And as I recently learned, I have really great friends nearby, friends I can rely on for anything, that get the frustrations with the Bay Area, that challenge me, and most importantly, friends that love me for me.  In short, I have a community.  And no plans to leave anytime soon.


Don’t get me wrong, Milwaukee will always be Home.  I’m excited to be arriving there today, to get to see Mommy and Daddy and my aunts and uncles and my grandma and (fingers crossed) snow, to eat cheese that doesn’t feel like rubber and drink milk from cows that are actually happy, to watch the Packers take down the Vikings after church, to sew with Mommy, to decorate the house for Christmas, and to sit by the fire with Daddy, and to just be Home.

But when my two weeks is up, I’ll also be happy to get back on the train and head home to El Cerrito.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Growing Forgiveness Book Review: Rachel’s Garden

There’s something I really like about books set in Amish country.  Maybe it’s how real the characters’ struggles are, or grace and peace fill the books. 

True, every Amish-set book has the same themes in it: young people working through their Rumspringa and someone choosing to leave and winding up under the ban; a death caused by a car colliding with a buggy; a death caused by a barn collapsing; and people resisting the love God has planned for them.  It does get redundant and a little predictable, but I still enjoy a romp through Dutch Pennsylvania every once in awhile.

rachel's gardenMy most recent romp was via Rachel in Rachel’s Garden by Marta Perry.  Rachel is a widow whose husband died when a barn collapsed.  Her husband’s best friend, a widower whose wife died when a car hit his buggy, is determined to build Rachel the greenhouse her husband had promised her.

From the beginning of the book, it’s apparent to everyone except Rachel and the widower that God intends for the two of them to be together.  And no, I haven’t ruined anything; it’s apparent to the reader, too.   The book is a gentle ramble through Rachel’s life as she and the widower figure this out.  There’s a few other little conflicts along the way that I won’t get into; those are the real surprises.

For those who are wondering about the missing standard theme, Rachel’s twin brother has left the Amish to become an Englisher and is under the ban.  I’m under the impression that happened in the first book of this series.

The best part of this book was a simple piece of wisdom given to Rachel by her pastor (I’m paraphrasing, not quoting):

When you’re struggling to forgive someone, just treat them the way you would if you had already forgiven them; then forgiveness will come.  

So clear, so straightforward.  Not always the easiest thing to do, but once you do, it makes your life easier.  The story itself was sweet and a nice temporary break from life, but in my mind it will always be a great book just because of that piece of wisdom.  Act like you’ve already forgiven.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exciting (Huey Lewis and the) News

The best friends in life are the ones that challenge you to do something new.  Not just for the sake of doing something different, but to join them in something they enjoy that you otherwise might not have tried.  This is one of the reasons Short Fabulous (formerly Short Artichoke) makes such a good friend.  She’s absolutely crazy.  Crazy about Huey Lewis and the News.

Huey, Huey, Huey

Almost since the time I first met her, Short Fabulous has been trying to get me to go see Huey Lewis in concert, listen to Huey Lewis on the radio, watch Huey Lewis on tv.  If it’s Huey, you name it, she’s tried to get me to do it.

Ok, ok, she hasn’t tried to get me to wear Huey Lewis underwear.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, though.

Well, she finally succeeded, taking me a few months ago to a Huey Lewis and the News concert out in Saratoga.  It was a good show, but it was nothing compared to what Short Fabulous got me and another of our friends to do last weekend.

Handshakes, Pictures and Friends

It’s 7pm on a Saturday night and were standing around inside a book store stuck staring at the cd rack next to us, the fake jazz section, oh joy.  The line is growing, we can see the tables arranged near the front.  That’s where they’ll be soon, Huey Lewis and some of the News, to sign autographs and take pictures.

It’s me and Meg&Jack, no Short Fabulous in sight.  Where is that girl?!  She asked us to meet her here at 6.  She’s been going on about this event for weeks.  She can’t wait to introduce her friends to the band, all of whom she knows well.  Huey, Johnny and Bill come out, the line cheers.  Still no Short Fabulous.  The line starts to move, slowly winding around the corners.  Still no Short Fabulous.  Then I feel something down by my elbow.  I turn.  It’s her!  Short Fabulous has finally arrived.

We get up to the front of the line and Huey greets Short Fabulous by name.  A wide smile spreads from ear to ear, “I brought some friends,”  she says.  “You have friends?” Huey jests.  She introduces us all around, Johnny Colla, the sax player, Billy Gibson, the singing drummer, and of course Huey, the Huey.  Then it’s time for a picture:

Huey silly picture

Meg&Jack, Johnny, Short Fabulous, Huey, me, Bill

We hung out until the end, Short Fabulous and a few others chatting it up with the band for awhile.  The entire band, especially Huey, was in a kooky mood, so it was a lot of fun.  We rounded out our adventurous evening with a trip to the local Puerto Rican restaurant, plantains all around.


P.S.  That green jacket on Short Fabulous was one of the finds from the 10 hour fashion day.  Cute, isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Southerners Stick Together

I couldn’t read their name tags, but I didn’t have to.  The bright orange polo shirts with paw prints over the chest told me where they were from.  Clemson.  Ed and Frank, the bright orange casual shirts in such contrast to the deep brown leather sofa on which they rested as we talked about new computer memory developments.  Incredibly nice gentlemen.  But then, everyone there was nice, it was the Southern School Mixer.

Clemson, Vanderbilt, Duke, Georgia Tech, USC, Virginia, the list goes on.  Alumni from nearly every southern university gathered together to enjoy some wine (or water, as it were) and friendly chats.  Apparently, these mixers happen two or three times a year.  This was the first one I had attended.

High above the City in the University Club.  Only the fourth floor, but the hill atop which the University Club stands is so large that looking out the windows down toward the financial district, you imagine you’re on a 27th floor.  Decked out in dark woods, deep carpets and intricately patterned wallpaper, the University Club transports you to another time and place.  A piano in the corner of one room.  In another, a billiard table and backgammon set.  The library walls stretch high towards the paneled ceilings, shelves upon shelves holding neat rows of leather bound books in antique autumn hues.  A large mirror hung over the fireplace, adorned by crystal lamps.  I felt I’d walked into the library at Pemberly.

I wandered around the rooms, taking it all in, stopping here and there to chat.  Sharing with a group of USC alum glad that for a moment they didn’t have to explain “South Carolina, not Southern California”.  Reconnecting with other Vanderbilt alum I’d met at Vandy events.  Totally connecting with a Vanderbilt alum I had not met before, who wants to become a patent lawyer and work with innovation in Africa, who was at the same conference as me a year ago out in Stanford, and who, most graciously saved me from a rather overzealous MIT graduate who had crashed the party and was repeatedly offering me a ride to the BART station, not to mention invitations to every event he could think of.  I hope I run into her again at another event, that amazing Vandy alum,  at the very least to give her my thanks.

As fancy as the surroundings were, and as nice as the new people I was meeting were, the best part of the entire evening was seeing one of my old friends from law school.  We’ve been in and out of touch out here, even though she lives just over the hills.  It’s always nice to see her, but this night was particularly special.  She had the most exciting news: a new job, a new job doing exactly what she wanted to do, doing what she went to law school to do.  Those are the best kinds of jobs, those dream jobs.   The way her face lit up as she talked of her future, of this new path, she just glowed with joy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Adjustments Take Time, Even in the Closet

“The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”  So said Mark Twain, supposedly.  You know what? Summer isn’t the only time it’s cold here.

The Chill – first bad, then good

When I first moved here, the fairly constant chill – October is a reprieve – meant one thing: a lot of complaining.  (Poor Mr. Trizzle!)  But a year and a half later, it means something new: sweaters! and lots of them.

Zambia, Nashville, not exactly your permanently cold places.  Even Wisconsin, so very different: hot summers, warm autumns and heat in the buildings during the very cold winters and slightly-less cold springs.

Closet Fail

My wardrobe was not ready for the Bay.  Short-sleeved cotton dresses, tank tops, loose flowy skirts, light blouses and shorts.  On the other end, heavy jersey knit and long-sleeved stretch velvet dresses, thick down jackets, thermal shirts and cozy socks.  My closet was built to handle two extremes and nothing in the middle. 

In all the places I’d previously lived, temperatures in the 50s and 60s were fleeting sprites marking the border between seasons.  They were the days you threw on a light jacket over your warm-weather clothes, or they days you removed your jacket from over your cold-weather clothes.  Those were not real temperatures in their own right, they were slight modifications of whatever the usual temperature had been the weeks before.

In the Bay, it’s different.  Especially in San Francisco.  Temperatures in the 50s and 60s are the norm.  Too cool for short sleeves, too warm for a heavy jacket.  Add to that the de minims use of indoor temperature control and the requirement of spending time outside getting to and from public transportation and I had a pretty frustrating situation.  Until I discovered the beauty of sweaters, and the even more delightful sweater dress.

Making Improvements

Now that you understand how badly my wardrobe needed adjusting upon my moving here, you will totally understand that I did indeed need to buy a new dress.  - Yes, all that background was to justify my spending money on clothing. 

I will also add that I set a budget for myself before starting my search for new sweaters and dresses and I stuck to it.  There.  Do you feel better about it now?  I do.  (Well, a little bit better. A teensy bit better.)

Smashing New Dress

The dress seemed to call out to me from the catalog.  There was something retro about its styling yet unique and new.  I debated for awhile.  The strange styling on the top looked like it could go either way.  When the box arrived and I opened the dress, I was even more apprehensive.  The U-shaped neck line hung funny on the hanger and the dolman sleeves appeared overwhelming.  There was only one thing to do.  Try it on.

So on it went.  And I loved it!  It’s so warm and comfy, like being wrapped in a thick cloud.  Yet it’s flattering, not at all bulky or pulled down by its own weight.  Best of all, it won’t need to be ironed.

11 09 2010 (6)

P.S. I know it would have looked better with my beige on beige seamed stockings and some brown pumps, but it’s just too cold here at this time of year for that much bare leg.  The boots are pretty cute anyway.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Bit ahead of Myself

Sometimes, there’s nothing to say.

Sometimes, there’s a hundred things to talk about.

Lately, my life has been much more the second than the first.  I have had so much going on, so many fun adventures, that I’ve had blog posts coming out my ears.  Ok, coming out my fingers if you really want to be precise.

So much to share, yet I only post one story per day.  This creates a bit of a backlog (frontlog?).  Posts scheduled for the next free day, sometimes three or four days out from when they’re actually written.  For example, the post about The Story of My Life, was actually written on Friday shortly after I returned from the show.  But, it was not posted until Monday.  There were others in line first.

For those few readers who actually see me and talk to me on a daily basis, this might cause a little bit of a disconnect.  Don’t worry; that should be minimal if it happens at all.  For everyone else, you probably won’t notice.  I did want to give people a heads up though, just in case anything seemed out of wack.

“Well, that’s great.  Now you’ve gone and wasted an entire day to tell us there aren’t enough days,” you might be thinking.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  *sly smile*  I suggest scrolling down to the Toy Box at the bottom of the page and picking out a toy to play with for a bit.  Maybe one of the more popular ones, like “Katrina” or “Wendy.”  Maybe one of the tiniest ones, like “drug search.”  Or something else that tickles your fancy.  Choose a toy, and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fashionita for a Day

I was 10 minutes early.  I’d factored getting lost into my commute time estimate and had somehow managed to get there without getting lost.  That was a first.  9:20am on Saturday morning, and I’m standing on Short Artichoke’s… heck, I don’t even know what to call it.  Porch?  Ramp?  Plank?  Standing outside the door of her houseboat trying to figure out why she’s not answering the door.  Why?  Because I’m ten minutes early.

Short Artichoke invited me over to help her sort through her wardrobe and maybe identify some missing pieces.  I figured it would take the morning, and maybe part of the early afternoon.  Boy, did I underestimate the extent of her wardrobe!  And I thought I had a lot of clothes.  10 hours.  10 hours of clothes.  On, off, store after store, shop, shop, drop.  It was after 7pm, when I finally slumped into my car, exhausted, but happy.  The day was worth it.

Redoing Short Artichoke’s wardrobe, we had our work cut out for us.  Let me start by saying that there’s a reason she’s called Short Artichoke (much to her disapproval).  One day, shortly after I met her, she was dressed head to toe in artichoke green, and she’s short.  You get the idea of where we were starting.

As I settled onto a kitchen stool, Short Artichoke began hauling clothes into the living room.  (Ok, Short Artichoke, in addition to being annoying to her, is a pain in the vampire to type. From now on, she will be SA.)  Shirts, trousers, sweaters, even a couple of dresses.  Piles of hangers, mounds of fabric, everywhere you turned, clothes.

Surprise after surprise came out of those piles.  Including a few goodies for me that were too big for SA.  Sure, there was the expected stuff  - the army green array of every article under the sun, the blazers and crew neck T’s I’d seen her wear.  But the expected was easily dwarfed by the unexpected.  A gorgeous burnt orange gauze blouse that fit perfectly and accented SA’s dishwater hair and green eyes.   A black vintage 1950s sweater from her grandmother.  Two suits that fit better and looked nicer than anything I’d ever seen her wear.  She even owns some heels!

But by far, the biggest surprised wasn’t in the clothing itself; the biggest surprise was what the clothing revealed.  SA has a figure! This discovery reminded me Pretty Wendyof when the neighbors and Munchkinhead and I played dress up with Alfred when she was in 5th grade and discovered she was really pretty.  Or when they played dress up with me in high school and we discovered I’d finally gotten some shape.  I was stunned, and super excited.  
Pretty Alfred.

The best part was when SA herself discovered just how great she could look.  We’d been jousting back and forth, me saying those jeans looked amazing on her and her griping about how she didn’t like them and yadda yadda.  Or her saying she loved some shirt and me telling her it was too stretched out and didn’t fit her well.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Then, she put on these jeans that were so different from her normal high-waisted tapered old-lady/Aflred style jeans,  resting a bit above the hip, boot cut, and a black button up blouse she’s practically never worn.

“Oh my goodness,” I exclaimed, catching my breath.  “You look amazing!”  Here she was, little ms SA, little ms frumpy t-shirts with the army barracks palate standing in the middle of her living room in a pair of blue jeans and a black blouse, looking like she was about to go out for a night in the City and arguing with me about how much she didn’t like the way she looked.  “Turn around.  Look in the mirror.”  Still muttering her complaints, she rotated around to the full length mirror.  “Oh,” she said, disappointment in her voice, “I do.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Story about Friendship

Friday evening, a friend and I went to the opening night of Contra Costa Civic Theater’s new show, The Story of My Life.  It was incredible.  An exploration into the depth of relationships.

The Story of My Life is a two-man show, and it’s a musical.  There isn’t a moment of the play when both men aren’t on stage engaged in the story.  There’s some serious acting ability involved here.  The two men have been friends since they were children, and the play goes back and forth between the present and their childhood memories, the stories of their lives.  It begins as one friend, the successful best-selling author, attempts to prepare the eulogy for the other friend’s funeral.

At this point, the two aren’t really friends anymore.  I mean, they sort of are.  To the one who has past away, the friend who is a bit eccentric and loving and humble, they were always best friends.  To the author, the friendship was one of those things you just grow out of.

It’s a very moving story, heartbreaking at times.  These two friends are up there reminiscing as the author attempts to express his feelings in the eulogy.  Stories about all the happy times in their lives and about their struggles, pieced together by both of them.

But the author isn’t really trying to figure out how to express his feelings.  He’s trying to figure out what his feelings are.  As he struggles to figure out what happened to his friend, why he’s here battling to write a eulogy,  he realizes that he has pushed everyone out of his life, including his best friend.  He has these excuses for what he’s done: he needs to focus on his career, he has to sort out his thoughts, he must establish stability in his life, and he is going to do it all on his own without anyone else’s help because he doesn’t need anyone!

The best friend sees it coming, the audience sees it coming, but the ‘successful’ man doesn’t see it coming. *Poof* before he knows it, he’s completely alone.  Alone and lost.  Having pushed all the inspiration out of his life, he’s unable to write.  Unable to succeed.  Alone.


As an audience member, it was heartbreaking to sit there and watch this happen.  Though it is fiction, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to old friends, to relationships I’ve brushed away, to struggling souls I know who seem determined to push everyone out of their lives.  That’s the point of the play, to make you realize the value of your friends.  The director even said during the post-production talk, ‘after you all call that friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, come join us for punch.’  Luckily, I had a good friend sitting next to me.

For those in the Bay Area, the show runs weekends until November 28.  Tickets.


Post Script: one of the really neat things about this show was that I could see The Great Ecclestone playing either role very well.  Maybe someday, I will get to see that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Being a Black Man - Book Review

Race is a difficult subject to write about.  Though I’ve touched on the subject a few times, I generally avoid it, sometimes discarding half finished posts that aren’t coming out right.  But, I made a deal with myself that I’d write about the books I read.

imageThis week, I finished a book called Being a Black Man.  It’s a collection of essays from The Washington Post and should really be called Being a Black Man in Washington D.C.  Each essay focuses on one or two different people, and every single one of those people lives in the Washington D.C. metro area.  Most of them in one community in Maryland.


Overall, I found this book very, very frustrating to read.  The book has a number of interesting articles, including one about a hair dresser who was wrongly arrested and a black republican from the South who is still half-shunned by his home town for his political choice.  The frustrating part was just seeing how much some people still blame on racism, as if everything that goes wrong is because they’re black.

[Note: the article about the wrongly arrested man was also very angering to read, because of the sheer incompetence and stupidity exhibited by our criminal justice system.]

No Job, No Fault

There was one guy who’s unemployed.  Why is he unemployed?  Because most black men are unemployed.  The numbers of black unemployed are something like 6x greater than the number of whites unemployed.  (Or was in 2006, before the big crash.)  This guy had a job, a good job that was steady, paid well and was full time.  What happened?  He got bored.  He quit.  He quit before he had another job lined up.

Boardroom Blindness

Bob Johnson, founder of BET, complains that there aren’t enough black CEOs and company owners because getting those positions is all about networks and knowing the right people and being in the  good ol’ boys club.  Black people don’t know the right people; they don’t have the connections; they aren’t in the good ol’ boys club; that’s because of racism and that’s what’s keeping down black people, he says.  But there are thousands of people of all races, including white, who don’t know the right people, who don’t have the connections, who aren’t in the good ol’ boys club.  I’m one of them, most of my white male friends from high school are also in that group.  This is a social and economic thing, not a race thing.  Unfortunately, race and class are so often correlated, it’s sometimes hard to see them separated.

It’s My Great-Great-Great-Great Grandparents’ Fault I’m Not Married

By far, the most frustrating article for me was the one article focusing on a black woman.  It was about the lack of eligible black males in the dating pool.  I get that this is an issue, that the numbers, even when you count the young men in prison (which is a lot) are horribly skewed.  And I get that some women don’t want to date outside their race, and that’s fine. 

What irked me was that this woman’s behavior and that she blamed her inability to find a husband on slavery.  Yes, slavery.  Despite the fact that research cited in the article shows that the % of black married couples was very high until the 1970s, when it dropped off precipitously.  (Seems there’s a good case here for the real culprit being the white woman’s movement, but I digress.)

As this woman insisted that it was slavery’s fault she wasn’t married, she treated the guy she was trying to date rudely.  She kept telling the reporter about how she’s special, and valuable, and worth chasing.  So she makes the guy have to chase her, making herself difficult to reach, trying to change plans at the last moment without considering the inconvenience she might cause for the guy.  And the guy, since he’s had one five minute conversation with her up to this point, gets tired of it and moves on.  Good. 

Maybe I’m just extra sensitive about this topic because I’ve been at the receiving end of those “how dare you steal our black men” glares.  Because Mr. Trizzle and I have actually had to think about whether it would be appropriate for me to go to certain events simply because I’m not black.  Yes, in modern times, yes in the very diverse Bay Area.   But even if I am sensitive, there’s one thing that remains true:

If You Want to be Valued, Show Your Value

Look, I don’t care what color you are, how old you are, or how many degrees you have.  You probably are wonderful, but the guy isn’t going to know that until you show him.  You can’t just expect him to assume you’re better than other women, that you’re worth it.  Relationships are risky.  They take time and a lot of energy.  Both people want to know if the investment is going to be worth it.  And they want to find out before they start investing too much.

I know I’m worth it, that I’m special and valuable.  But, I had to show that to Mr. Trizzle before he could know.  And I continue to show him I’m worth it everyday, just by being me.  The same way he shows me how valuable he is just by being him.  Self-confidence is all well and good.  I wish some girls who think they’re so very priceless were more willing to show it before demanding something in return.  And especially before blaming slavery for the bumps in their road.

The New Black Youth

One article just made me sad.  It was talking about how youth culture in black communities has shifted so drastically in the past 40 years.  How young black men are afraid to love.  Stuck in a cycle where violence and ignorance are glorified traits.  Where to be calm, to try to talk, or even to want to get an education are seen as sellout traits, going against the community, “acting white.”

Personally, I think this is starting to change.  Due in large part to a shift in urban music and what’s “cool.”  Hip hop and R&B are becoming more pop influenced.  Lyrics are starting to be less about drugs and violence and more about other things.  Stars like B.O.B. changing it up a bit.  The article mentions this briefly, though it uses Chris Brown as an example – written pre-Rihanna fiasco.  And there’s intelligent, educated, high-profile black role models.  Most notably the Obamas.  It may take some time, but this issue is shifting.  A little bit of positive in a negative mess.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Zebra says “Meow”

Apparently, the See and Says sold in Oakland are a little out of wack. 

On Halloween, I dressed as a Zebra (or Zebula in Zambian English).  All day at the Raiders game and at the BART station in Oakland, I kept getting meowed at.  It didn’t help that there was a Batman in our group at the game.  That prompted quite a number of cat woman comments.  The most unbelievable comment came from an elderly gentleman at the Coliseum BART station who told me I looked like Halle Berry.  In his defense – I guess – he was smoking pot at the time.


Mr. Trizzle, Batman and me at the game.




A cat? Really?  A cat?!  How many cats with zebra stripes have you ever seen?  Me, I’ve seen one.  And he was wearing a zebra striped jacket.  Maybe I should save my outfit and go as Cat next year.  (By the way, I saw a Raiders jersey at the game that said “Lister” on the back.)

Anyway, despite the not-so-bright people at the game, I really liked my costume.  It was soft and fuzzy and warm.  I’m still a little bit stuck in Wisconsin mentality.  I think Halloween costume and I think “ok, either needs to be really warm or needs to fit over a snow suit.”  So my costume was really warm.  A full-length, fuzzy, turtleneck body suit.  It even had a beige bodysuit underneath it for an extra layer.  It was in the mid 70s the entire day at the Raiders game, sitting out in the sun.  Whoops!

Sewing Time

Making the costume was a bit of an adventure.  As usual, I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like and had to go on a bit of a hunt to find the right materials.

First task, the pattern.  It took a bit of online searching, but I finally found something that looked like it would work, KwikSew Pattern 3052.  Unfortunately, the pattern is discontinued, so it took a bit more searching to find one actually available for purchase.

Second task, the fabric.  I wanted fuzzy.  Obviously, it had to be zebra print.  And it had to be at least somewhat stretchy.  I found something that worked at the Jo-Ann across the BART station from my house.  Soft, fuzzy, zebra, some horizontal stretch.  I could work with that.

The beige under-body suit was easy and came out pretty good, after I lengthened the legs about 5”.  It was a little bit baggy in some areas, but the fabric was so thin, I figured it would work fine underneath the zebra suit.


Then I set to task on the zebra suit.  I took the pattern in a bit where it had been baggy on the under-body suit but didn’t adjust anything else.  Fail.  Major, absolute fail.  I forgot to take into account that the zebra fabric didn’t stretch at all vertically and had only about half the horizontal stretch that the pattern called for.  The result would fit Munchkinhead.  (I asked her if she wanted a zebra costume, but she was already going as a ‘40s pin-up girl for Halloween.)

Back to the fabric store.  I bought all the rest of that zebra fabric that they had.  Nearly twice what the pattern called for.  Then I resized the pattern for my actual measurements, compensating for the lack of stretch.  I had to add another 6” to the inseam, lengthen the sleeves about 4 inches and the upper body a good 2 or 3”.  By the time I was done, the pattern didn’t fit on my kitchen table.  Which, I guess makes sense since it’s a neck to ankle pattern and I’m longer than the kitchen table.  I almost didn’t have enough fabric!


This time, the zebra fit!  It was actually a bit big in the mid-section, but that was easily solved by taking in the center back seam. I had a fabulous zebra-suit.  Final touches: some black gloves, black socks and black heels for my hooves, and some banana clips to make a mane.

Me as a fabulously cute zebra zebula girl

Friday, November 5, 2010

My First NFL Game

Last Sunday, I got to go to my first ever live NFL game. It wasn’t a Packer game, but hey, we can’t all be Mommy.

I missed the tailgating, because the bell choir was playing in church.  We played Phantom of the Opera for the end of the service since it was Halloween.  I love that music!

DSCI0005Anyway, I got to the parking lot just as Mr. Trizzle and his friends were packing up to head into the stadium; perfect timing.  Our seats were way, way, way up top near the goal line.  It would have been perfect for watching marching band.  Wasn’t too bad for watching football either.  I had a lot of fun watching the game with Mr. Trizzle and his friends.

DSCI0004I was surprised how few Raiders fans were in costumes.  On tv, it looks like the fans always come dressed up, and this was Halloween!  There certainly were a lot of people in Raider’s jerseys, even old Jamarcus Russell jerseys.  The oddest thing to me, being from Wisconsin, was that there were open seats, and lots of them, in nearly every section.  Now that’s something you’ll never see at Packer game.

It was the Raiders vs. the Seahawks and the Raiders were playing really well.  Not as well as the week before when they set a scoring record and completely creamed Denver, but good enough that it wasn’t a very close game.

But the game wasn’t the most interesting thing to watch.  The most interesting thing was the birds, filthy birds.  Seagulls had swarmed over the parking lot as the tailgaters left their vehicles.  By the middle of the third quarter, the seagulls were starting to migrate to the field.DSCI0007

They perched on the scoreboard at the end of the field.  They swarmed around the outer edges of the field.  And then, they began to swoop down into the stands.  Soon, there were flocks of seagulls everywhere you looked.  Worst of all, they were exactly where you didn’t want to look.  Up.


By the fourth quarter, the seagulls had lost all fear.  They came low, they came often.  They were landing and resting on empty seats not far from people.  And they had started dropping presents.

Mr. Trizzle got a small present on his trouser leg.  Being the big, tough man he is, he got a napkin and took care of it.  The people four rows in front of us fled after one guy got two presents.  Then more people started to flee.  I was getting scared.  Cleaning goo out of long hair is not as easy as wiping it off a pant leg.  But  I was sticking it out.  More people fled.  We fled.


The game wasn’t over.  There was a minute and half or something like that left.  We traipsed down the long, winding ramps to a lower level and ducked under a covered area with open seats.  The Raiders got another touch down, right before we ducked into the viewing area.  We did get to see the extra point, though. 

The Seahawks may have lost, but the seagulls sure won.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Growing Up Vampire

My little munchkinhead grew up convinced she was a vampire.  I still remember the first time she bit me.  Waddled in on her little legs, chomped down on my hip, and waddled back out.  Mommy and Daddy wouldn’t believe me until I showed them the bleeding teeth marks.  She was two.  Today, she’s twenty-two.

Munchkinhead.  My pretty little munchkinhead.  She’s a senior in college now.  She’s been around the world, lived on three different continents, spent weeks on a fourth – she’s still trying to get to Antarctica – and she is still in love with vampires.  Though I think she’s stopped biting people.  Maybe… katrina biting callum

They say the best way to be happy is to make your passion your job.  Well, Munchkinhead ought to be very happy, because she’s done just that.  Her senior capstone paper, the big, long paper she has to write in order to graduate is about, you guessed it, vampires.  Not just any old vampires.  Her paper is specifically about the roles of females in ‘60s era American and British vampire films. 

For the past couple days, I’ve been helping Munchkinhead with proofreading her draft.  In addition to having lots of vampire-filled nightmares, I’m also really impressed.  Despite the fact that it is a pretty feminist paper, it’s really good.

I don’t think I’ve read a paper of Munchkinhead’s since her If You Give a Mouse a Cookie-styled essay from freshman year of high school.  That was cute.  This is better than cute.  This is a well-written, thought-out paper that uses examples to illustrate a point.  And, best of all, it’s interesting.  A sneak peek:

[Marianne's] reaction to [Van Helsing’s] suggestion is not one of fright but of gladness to be rid of her horrible fate, once again allowing and needing a male to intervene on her behalf putting males in the dominating role. This was especially important for Hammer[A1] during the early 1960’s and late 1950’s because the Cinema audiences were changing from families to young male teenagers, and so Hammer began to orientate their movies toward a certain age group of one gender leaving the other gender under [A2] developed.[1] This male dominated role continued though the 1960’s in other Hammer films and in a few American films. Dracula: Prince of Darkness and Blood of Dracula’s Castle are two such films.[2]

[1] Barta, Tony. Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History. Westport: Preager, 1998. P.122 and 111

[2] Blood of Dracula’s Castle. Directed by Al Adamson and Jett Hewitt. Produced by Paragon International Pictures. 1969

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not perfect.  This girl still needs to learn the difference between “then” and “than”.  And for someone who hates run-on sentences, she sure hasn’t befriended enough commas.  But, it’s on its way to being a really amazing paper.  About vampires!  Maybe if you ask nicely, she’ll let you read the whole thing.

Perhaps someday Munchkinhead will find the perfect job as curator at a vampire museum in Scotland.  In the meantime, keep enjoying those vampire films and,…

Happy Birthday Munchkinhead

Pirate and Captain (9)




Even as a pirate she has vampire fangs, gold vampire fangs.


If you click on Munchkinhead’s link in the toy box, you’ll see lots of vampire pictures and get more vampire stories, like The Not-So-Little Vampire.