Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pockets Away

We’ve all had it happen. We somehow missed that small piece of paper or that scrunched up tissue buried deep in a random pocket. If we’re lucky, we have only a few stray pieces of stringy tissue to pull off as we fold the laundry. If we’re extremely lucky, we found a $20 bill we didn’t know we had. But, if we’re very unlucky, we discover amongst the frayed remains of a note or printed receipt that some ink has run, leaving a clear “I was here” message in the vicinity of our pocket.

That’s exactly what had happened to a few of Mr. Trizzle’s dress shirts. Over the course of many months, I collected these shirts with intentions of seeing what I could do.  I’d been able to save one or two similarly situated shirts on a prior occasion by simply removing the pocket. The shirt fabric was not stained, so voila! a new shirt.

Four shirts, four pockets, four stains. A few of the stains were very small and light. Highlighter remnants it appeared, tucked just near the pocket edge on a French blue fabric. OxyClean couldn’t quite get the whole stain out of the pocket, but it was able to remove the little bit of highlighter from the shirt. This one could be saved that way, but the others could not.

Pockets Off!

My first step was to remove the four pockets.  I then deconstructed them in order to use them as patterns for new pockets. P2201011 This was incredibly interesting because I had shirts from three different companies, Brooks Brothers, LL Bean and a more generic brand called Eighty Eight.  The Brooks Brothers and LL Bean shirts were clearly of a higher-quality construction than the other shirt. Their pockets were not just folded under before being top-stitched onto the shirts. The edges of their pockets were stay-stitched, pinked and adhered to the back of the pocket before being stitched to the shirt.

It was also neat to see how they had other slight differences. The LL Bean and Brooks Brothers were the more-difficult-to-sew rounded corner style, while the Eighty Eight shirt had a simple pointed bottom.  The Books Brothers and Eighty Eight shirt had a straight line for the pockets top hem, but the LL Bean shirts had a detailed V-line.

Pockets On!

One thing I have learned from my mother, among many, a good supply of scrap fabric is invaluable.  In my bin of stray pieces and old clothes, I was able to find fabrics that went fabulously with the three shirts needing new pockets.

P2201012For the pink, diagonal striped, Eighty Eight shirt, I found an old Victoria’s Secret blouse of mine that had been torn in the back. The pinks went perfectly. Using the blouse presented some extra challenges because I had to remove back darts from the stretch poplin fabric. Victoria’s Secret’s professional clothes are very tailored. After a few ironings, the dark stitch holes disappeared and all was well.

P2201015For the blue and white striped Books Brothers shirt, I matched another old shirt. This one had been my grandpa’s shirt, and from the looks of it, he had worn it a long, long time.  I couldn’t really tell if the short-sleeved dress shirt was white or off-white. By this point, it was basically sheer. But when I doubled the fabric over, it looked perfect with the blue shirt’s pinstripes.  Another great pocket.

Lastly, I had the blue LL Bean shirt. This one was tougher because blues can be so hard to match. I had some P2201013plain blue fabric left from making my bucket cover, but it was just off in terms of shade of light blue. (It would have been a great contrast pocket for the French blue shirt had that one needed a new pocket.)  I needed to find something that coordinated rather than matched perfectly.  And it just so happened that I had the perfect fabric in a scrap from another discarded article of Mr. Trizzle’s.  I’d been using this purple, blue and green striped fabric in a suit I’m making for myself, but there was enough of it left for a pocket.  The stripes and colors added a nice funky look to the shirt.

Four shirts, three new pockets, four new looks.


I was way more excited about the shirts than Mr. Trizzle. He’s still trying to figure out what to do with them. I have to admit, they aren’t really appropriate for professional suit-wearing anymore. But they sure are fun!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review: The Slaves’ War

It was one of those books that I ordered expecting it to languish on my shelves until I should happen to be in the mood for it. Though it sounded terribly interesting, interesting enough to prompt me to buy it, it was thick and had the sort of college-course-assignment vibe to it. But it didn’t languish nearly as long as I expected, and my expectations for how long it would take me to finish were even more exceeded.

The Slaves War by Andrew Ward is billed as “The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves,” and that’s exactly what it is. Woven together with more standard historical battle accounts and report from generals are first-hand accounts from slaves collected during several interview projects in the early 20th century.

The book is arranged in chronological order, covering from just before the war through some of reconstruction. It’s incredibly interesting to see how the slaves’ ideas about and reactions to the Yankees change as the war goes on.  From an initial fear of an unknown described to them as a monster, to an almost idolizing, to disgust, distrust and near hatred, there’s a very visible evolution that comes with the war, occupation and Reconstruction.

Nearly every anecdote popular about slavery and the Civil War seems to come out as true in some area another. The South was (is) a big place and there was great variety among slave-holders, slave treatment, and direct effects of the Civil War.  Some stories of society in the mid 1880s seemed to have a striking resemblance to aspects of current society. Stop snitching has deep roots.

But for me, the most striking part of the book was this photograph from the Library of Congress,

Five generations on Smith's Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina

which immediately brought to my mind this picture,

zam fam

and reminded me of Ba Faye (fourth from left, back row) telling me while we were picking cotton that she wished someone would kidnap her son (front row, 2nd from left) to make him a slave because then he would be in America.


I recommend the book.

Note: My “Zam Fam” pic also appears on the post “Mosquitos Kill, Kill Mosquitos” from October 26, 2008.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guess the BART Stop

“They're called stereo-types for a reason,” I was scolded.  “Yeah, because they’re often true,” I muttered under my breath. “Because, they’re often not true,” she continued.  True or not, they make for some entertaining time-passing on public transit.

One of my favorite games on my way home from work is called “Guess the BART stop.”  People watching upped with a predictive element. Based pretty much solely on stereo-types, I guess at which BART station other passengers will off-board.  I’m correct more often than I’m wrong, but not nearly 100% accurate.

Red line coming out of San Francisco.

Some are pretty easy and obvious. Pink or green hair, odd piercings, extremely flamboyant clothing; most certainly getting off the train at Downtown Berkeley.

Some are a little tougher for pegging the exact stop, but easy enough to narrow-done fairly well.  Mid-40s in professional clothing; if they didn’t get off at MacArthur to get into their car or switch to the Pittsburg/Bay Point line going out to the big house, big yard suburbs, they’ll most likely exit the train at North Berkeley, where they’ll get into their car and drive to their home in the hills.  Really ghetto-dressed people, often playing badly distorted music at top volume from their cell phones, who don’t exit the train at one of the Oakland stops are likely to stay on until Richmond. Though occasionally, some of the younger ones go to Downtown Berkeley.

Late 20s, early 30s hipsters in their skinny jeans and plaid shirts; it depends. If it’s commute time and they’ve got their terribly ironic and practical messenger bag with the seatbelt buckle tossed around their back, they’ll likely get off at Ashby, maybe a few stragglers at Downtown Berkeley. But if it’s later in the evening or it’s a train going the other direction, they’ll most likely exit at one of the downtown Oakland stops.

Red Line pre-San Francisco

The BART-leg of my commute home actually begins in Millbrae. But, I have not learned enough about the neighborhoods’ on the Peninsula and heading into the City to be able to play the game down there. All the people at that point just look the same to me.

Orange Line to Freemont

I can also sort of play on my way into work, when I take the orange line to Union City. However, since I board BART so near the end of the line (and so early in the morning), there aren’t really a lot of people to watch and guess about.  The main thing is to guess which people will transfer at MacArthur to the San Francisco bound train. It’s pretty much everyone other than me who is dressed nicely.

As I spend more time on BART, I get better at the game. But then, just when I’m starting to get too proud of myself and think I have everything figured out, a noisy phone-blasting kid gets off at North Berkeley, or someone with pink hair rides all the way to my stop.  “They’re called stereo-types for a reason,” because they can help you make a quick judgment when you need to but not necessarily a correct judgment.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Anniversary Alfred and Nathy-Boo!

Today is Alfred and Nathy-Boo’s first anniversary. Since I didn’t post about their wedding a year ago, I figured this is a good occasion to do so.

The air was moist and warm, droplets of imagined rain clung to the ferns. Munchkinhead and I ducked under a banana tree leaf and giggled. Paradise. Nearly everywhere you turned there was lush green foliage or a burst of flowers. Hard to believe it was 40 and rainy outside. No, we weren’t in a jungle. Munchkinhead and I were just pretending we were in a jungle. Where we really were was the rehearsal for Alfred and Nathy-Boo’s wedding.

A truly exotic location, Des Moines, Iowa.

I’ve been to quite a number of weddings over the years and I have to say that this one was by far the best wedding I’ve attended.  It was well-organized, beautiful, economically, delightfully representative of the bride and groom, tons of fun and just over all amazing.  And I’m not just saying that because it was my sister’s.  Alfred knows I’d tell her if I thought she could have done better.
Alfred did pretty much all of the planning herself. The venue was delightful: the Des Moines Botanical Center.  A beautiful glass dome arcing high above succulent gardens with a small stream where colorful fish flipped their tales. Banana tree leaves and spindly flowers waved in the breezes created by people walking down the cobblestoned paths.  The moist, warm air inside hid any indication of the cold April gloom covering the outside world.  Why fill a church with expensive flowers when you can have the convenience of an indoor garden?

Alfred’s dress was, of course, absolutely beautiful.  A simple woman of logic and practicality, she is nothing of the diva that her two sisters are. Her dress showed this perfectly, classic, yet elegant, with just a touch of sparkle in the purple embroidered flowers at the bottom of the white satin.  Being as cold-blooded as the rest of her clan, she has had a matching bolero for the reception.DSCI0098
Her bridesmaids dresses also exemplified an important part of her nature, her consideration for others. Knowing that the fairer sex is prone to fluctuations in body size and shape, mommy, me and katrina at wendy's weddingand having her bridesmaids coming from across the country, Alfred chose an adjustable option for the dresses. Purple satin corsets with matching long skirts.  Of course, Mommy made all the dresses, her own, the bridesmaids and Alfred’s.

Standing at the front of the garden with the other bridesmaids, I couldn’t help but tear up. Not only did Alfred look so beautiful and happy, but Daddy was tearing up next to her. How could anyone not get misty eyed seeing that?

The ceremony was short and sweet, presided over by the pastor from our home church in Milwaukee who came all the way to Iowa on Easter weekend just to marry Alfred and Nathy-Boo. And then the bride and groom walked together down the aisle to music from Star Wars. Geeks.

And then the real fun began, the reception. Every person had a gift to take home with them, lovely nameplates cross-stitched by the bride centerpieceherself.  Alfred and Nathy-Boo also made all the centerpieces for the dinner tables, out of Legos! No one can tell me they’ve had better center pieces.  The small cake above the mountains of cupcakes was also Lego-themed, with a small corner of icing peeled back to revel bricks beneath  and a Lego bride and groom up top.cake
The cupcakes provided lots of amusement throughout the night as the cake part, and the fillings inside were quite delicious, but the frosting was a bit too much for anyone. Tables were covered with mounds of frosted peaks carefully removed from little cakes. Mugs overflowed with the pastel swirls, looking like fancy lattes.  One of our aunts had close to a dozen cupcakes and left a fine frosting display around her table place.

Alfred and Nathy-Boo’s music was perfect. All their favorites. I don’t think the dance floor was empty the entire night.  A ridiculous line formed across the middle for the “Time Warp”.  Munchkinhead and I waltzed to Metallica and danced with Daddy to the family theme song. Mommy and Daddy danced to their song. Alfred and I played air piano to “November Rain.” And we all polkaed.

It was a fabulous night. Wonderful to see so many family members and old friends and an absolute blessing to see Alfred and Nathy-Boo so happy. Congratulations on a fantastic wedding and on your anniversary!
back of Wendy and Nathan - jill brown
Photo by Jill Brown

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Lake

[Originally written on my way to visit Alfred, November of last year.]

jeremy and daddyAs we flew out over Lake Michigan, a tear slipped from the corner of my eye and slowly rolled down my cheek. I was so happy.  Though miles away, seeing the lake made me feel close to home, as if Mommy and Daddy were an arm’s length away. 

This lake, this wide shimmering body of blue, this lake is part of me.  Though it took the life of one of my friends and still holds the body of his wife, I bear it no ill will.  Theirs were not the first, nor last it has taken.  But it does not know. 

It ripples on, beats against the shores, rages on the breakwaters and laps onto the sands.  This lake that I have enjoyed from every side, climbing dunes in Indiana, sitting on the beach in Michigan, walking along the cliffs in Wisconsin and gazing at hungrily from a plane leaving Illinois. 

This lake that filled my marching band days with the smell of dead fish, that kept us ten degrees cooler than the next county over, that brought us extra snow, delightfully heavy snow perfect for snowmen and snow forts. 

This lake that gave me beautiful sunrises, the red ball reflecting below, yellow rays streaking out in all directions, a mirror of water and sky both purple at the edges, a glow of pink slowly lightening into a bright clear day.The lake that tumbles under my favorite bridge. 

How much of this lake have I drunk, swan, bathed in, played in! 

Yes, this lake is truly great.  It is my Great Lake.