Saturday, June 29, 2013

An Arrrr-dorable Dress

Sometimes you’re walking through the store and you see this fabric and you just have to make something out of it.  That’s what happened when I passed this adorable blue, pirate fabric.  “Oh my goodness! I have to make something for Munchkinhead out of that!”  So I picked up the fabric and then started pouring through the pattern books.  It’s a little backwards than the way we were taught growing up, but it worked.

Munchkinhead looks great in natural-waist dresses.  I found an adorable pattern, with a rouched accent waist, knee-length skirt and thick-strapped, sleeveless top.  For the accent fabric on the waist, I used scraps from Mr. Trizzle’s Barristers’ Ball suit.  It matched the pirates’ pirate hats and boots nicely.

It turned out super cute!

Katrina in pirate dress 2.1 The white lettering on the dress says “Aye Aye Cap’n.”


McCalls M5876Pattern: McCall’s M5876

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ndili Mukuwa, and It’s Ok

I’ve always been acutely aware of my “whiteness.”  In kindergarten, it was benign, meaning only that I couldn’t do as much fun stuff with my hair as some of the other girls.  By first grade, it was that other people’s not having as much or being downtrodden was my fault as on Martin Luther King Jr. Day we were taught “white guilt.”  By fourth grade, I was evil, inhumane, cruel, for beating all those slaves before the Civil War. 

In high school, added to all this was that I simply wasn’t cool enough to talk to the groups of black students.  By college, all the guilt and meanness and cruelty and uncoolness, added to the fact that I’d never be able to dance or jump, had me paralyzed with fear.  “I can’t talk to you.”  “I don’t know how to talk to you.”  “I’m not good enough.”  “I’m not cool enough.”  “Everything bad that’s ever happened to you is my fault.”

So I did what anyone does when they’re totally afraid.  I ran away.
To Africa.

Here, it was different.  I was different.  New stereotypes were flung at me, but I didn’t buy into them.  Maybe it was because they were delivered to me by individuals instead of society as a whole.  Maybe it was because I knew them to not be true with respect to myself.  How come I always accepted that the stereotypes back home were true?  Indoctrination at a young age?  Societal reinforcement?  Not grown up enough to know myself?  I started to realize that things I’d believed about myself weren’t true.  I was me. Me. Alone. Me. Not the billions of other people in the world who had come before me and happened to have something in common with me.  Me.

I had been taught that “racist” was the worst thing you could ever be called.  My fear came from fear of that word.  In Africa, the worst thing I was ever called was Mukuwa/Muzungu/Onyibo and that isn’t that bad.

Now I understood.  Just because someone calls you something, doesn’t mean you are such.  I was, am and always will be Mukuwa.  But in some ways, I was also correct when I’d yell back to those “Mukuwa!” screaming kids, “Tandili mukuwa, ndili Ba Tonga.”  I am not a foreigner; I am one of you.

There may be times when I am racist, but it’s because of me, my thoughts, my experiences, not because of all those people I never knew in all those places I’ve never been.  I’m me. 

Sometimes I’m good; sometimes I’m bad.  Sometimes I’m right; sometimes I’m wrong.  Sometimes I’m cruel and unfair; sometimes I’m compassionate and generous.  But I am not afraid of what I am anymore.  Africa gave me that.  That, and some of those hairstyles I’d been wishing for since I was a little girl.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chuckie Cat

Munchkinhead had a lot of noisy stuffed animals when she was little.  There was Barks, the large Pound Puppy who, you guessed it, barked whenever you squeezed him or made a loud noise around him.  There was Humpty Dumpty, who made a crashing noise if you launched him across the room.  There was the baby doll – I don’t even know if she had a name – who, when you hugged her giggled and said, “heh heh heh heh Momma, Momma heh heh heh heh.”  And then, then there was the Chuckie Cat.

The Chuckie Cat 2Chuckie Cat played music and moved his little arms as if playing with an invisible ball of yarn.  Like the others, he could be set off by squeezing or by loud noises, but unlike the others, he could also be set off by motion.  There was a little sensor on his tummy.  At least, those were the three things that were supposed to set Chuckie Cat off, touch, sound and movement.  But Chuckie Cat didn’t play by those rules.  Chuckie Cat did what he wanted.

We’d all be downstairs, eating dinner or sitting in various rooms, and someone would hear music.  “What’s that?”  Chuckie Cat.  No one nearby.  No one nearby to touch him, no one nearby to make noise, no one nearby to move near him.  Chuckie Cat, playing away.

Munchkinhead would go up to room for bed.  Before she even got to the top of the stairs, she’d hear Chuckie Cat.  She’d go in her room and there he’d be, playing, moving his little arms, his plastic eyes staring right through her.  He’d stop.  She’d turn the light on and off a few times, trying to get him to play again.  Nothing.  She’d leave.  She’d be in the bathroom brushing her teeth and she’d hear the music again.  Chuckie Cat, playing, moving his little arms.

In the middle of the night, when everyone was sleeping, there’d go Chuckie Cat again, playing, moving his little arms.  “Maybe we have ghosts and his sensor can see them.”  We’d hide Chuckie Cat under baskets and boxes and blankets, attempting to block his motion sensor.  No matter, there’d go Chuckie Cat, playing, moving his little arms, wiggling the blankets. 

I’m amazed Munchkinhead was able to sleep with him in her room.  Alfred or I would have thrown him down the laundry chute, playing and moving his little arms.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Second Insta-Dress

Someone’s been bugging me to get my newest dress up on the blog, so here it is.  Another foray into insta-dress fabric.  Unlike my first insta-dress, I decided to get a bit creative with this one.  It would have only taken me a couple days to make if my sewing machine hadn’t broken.  Instead, it took me a few weeks.

P6172037 Munchkinhead has a dress that’s similar to insta-dress style.  We picked it up at one of those festivals down at the Summerfest grounds.  (She’s wearing it in the photo on my first insta-dress post.)  It has the smocked part around the midsection and then has a summery, overlapping triangles, top above that.  I like the way it looks on her and thought the smocked midsection would be nice for the insta-dress.  It has the bonus effect of making the dress longer, too.

Gathering the Materials

The insta-dress fabric I chose was white with white and hot-pink roses on the bottom and smaller roses climbing up the skirt with a few scattered roses on the smocked part.  I swear the roses are hot pink even though they look red in the pictures.

I searched through my patterns until I found a bodice that I thought would work nicely.  I chose a Simplicity pattern that I had made once before but made too big.  (I love the dress but never wear it because it’s huge on me.)   The top I chose has a full back with a zipper closing and a V-neck line.  The goal was to have an undergarment-friendly dress.

P6172040 Now that I had a bodice pattern I could use, I needed fabric.  So I dug through fabric drawer in my file cabinet and found some perfect scraps.  White and beige gauze from Mr. Trizzle’s summer pjs.  The beige was perfect for the lining.  The white fabric was in one long, fairly wide strip, so I had to do some piecing before it was large enough to fit the bodice pieces.  Those seams are small and fairly well hidden near the underarm seams.  There wasn’t enough beige to line the whole bodice, so I decided to only line the front. That’s the important part after all.


P6172039 The bodice was a bit tricky to put onto the smocked fabric, mostly because it’s gathered at the bottom and it took a few tries to get the gathering properly distributed.  I also added some detail to the shoulders with little ruffles on the shoulders.  These ruffles are from the smocked part of the fabric, strips from a part I trimmed off.  The smocked part is sewn into the lining/bodice seam at the shoulder so the little ruffles stick out.

I didn’t quite like the way the front of the V had turned out – same problem I’d had with the original dress when I’d made it.  I also felt the top of the dress was too disconnected from the bottom.  P6172046So I decided to add some  decoration.  I found a bit of ribbon that had been a handle on a Victoria’s Secret bag that was the exact same shade of hot pink as the roses!  (Again, doesn’t look like it in the photos, but it is.)  I hand-stitched the ribbon onto the center front, wrapping it completely around the bodice from smocking to smocking.

I also modified the back of the bodice a bit.  In the original dress pattern, there’s a zipper from the skirt up through the bodice.  I didn’t want to mess with a zipper and didn’t know how it would work with the smocking below.  Instead of putting in a zipper, I hemmed the edges of the back opening with the neck edges.  My original intention was to put a button and button loop or a snap at the top of the back.  But once I tried it on, I decided I really liked the back opening folded diagonally open instead.  (See photo below.)


My first insta-dress can be a bit difficult to walk in if I need to take large steps.  I wanted this dress to be more flexible.  I had more fabric than I needed to go around my mid-section.  I measured what I needed to go around my mid-section, folded the fabric in half and stitched a seam down the smocked part of the fabric, leaving a very, very large seam allowance that was equal for each side of fabric.  Then I trimmed only the smocked part down to a regular seam allowance and left the straight fabric with the full extra hanging off the P6152032seam.  I hemmed the top and side edges of these large hanging rectangles.

Next, I folded both straight-fabric extra hanging pieces over to one side of the dress.  One piece was folded back on itself and the other was basically pulled around in the direction it had been going.  I then tacked the corner of each piece onto the dress itself at the bottom of the smocked part, leaving some slack width-wise so the smocking can stretch.  When I walk, a slit opens in the back to allow as much movement as I need without ever revealing anything that ought to stay covered.  If I’m standing still, the dress looks like a regular straight dress.

I’m super excited about the dress.  I think it came out pretty nice and it met it’s goal of being undergarment friendly.  Now, I just need somewhere warm to wear it!

simplicity 0605 Pattern used for Bodice: Simplicity 0605

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stop the World! Someone’s crossing the street

There’s this thing Californians do – well at least Bay Area Californians – that absolutely drives me nuts.  They love their pedestrians and are all about letting them cross the street safely.  I’m all about pedestrians safely crossing streets, too.  But, I’m also about sense and logic and efficiency.  Californians are not about any of those things.

Pedestrian’s standing at corner of intersection, waiting to cross street.  All good.  See the little diagram below.  Person is waiting to cross from the north east corner to the north west corner.  North-south traffic has the right away.  East-west traffic has stop signs (yes, I know they don’t have enough sides. Paint doesn’t have an octagon tool.)  Although honestly, the scenario I’m about to show you would also happen if it were a four-way stop.

road scene 1 Traffic comes along on the roads.  Say someone comes along going west.  They stop at the stop sign and wait a bit because there’s a car coming north on the cross street.

road scene 2 Now, 1 time out of ten, that green, north-bound car is going to keep going, and after it passes, the pedestrian and the blue, west-bound car will cross the main street.  The other 9 times, here’s what’s going to happen.  That green car’s driver is going to see that there’s a pedestrian waiting to cross the street.  So the green car is going to stop for the pedestrian.  Is the green car going to pull up to the intersection and stop, which allows the pedestrian and the blue car to cross?  No.  The green car is going to do this.

road scene 3 The green car is going to pull into the intersection and then stop.  And sit in the middle of the intersection until the pedestrian has fully crossed the street.  Meanwhile, more cars come along….

road scene 4 And the streets are needlessly jammed because there’s a car just sitting in the middle of the intersection.

As a pedestrian, this drives me nuts because it often appears the car isn’t going to stop until it’s right in front of the cross walk.  If it had started slowing down sooner, I could have been half-way across the street before it got to the crosswalk.  Plus, now if I cross, I hold up the whole intersection.

As a driver, this drives me crazy because you’re zipping along at 30 and the car in front of you fairly suddenly stops in an unexpected place and you can’t see why because they’re so close to the crosswalk they’re blocking the pedestrian from view.  I’ve heard stories about people getting rear-ended in exactly this way, yet stopping in the middle of intersections is still very common.

I asked a local police officer about this once, at their annual fundraising dinner.  His response was along the lines of, “well if I saw a pretty girl waiting to cross the street, I’d try to get as close as I could to get a good view, too.”   Not only was it inappropriate, it was also entirely unhelpful.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Don’t Shoot, I’m not a Real Princess!

yellow roomThe thing I remember most about my childhood is being afraid.  I had – and have – wonderful, loving parents who did everything to keep us safe.  I had no reason to be afraid.  But, I also had a very active imagination.  I could turn anything into a terrifying situation.

I was afraid of monsters and ghosts and death, burglars and murderers and wild animals, escaped prisoners – in 5th grade I couldn’t sleep for a week because I was afraid of Jeffrey Dahmer, after he was arrested – you name it, it probably scared me.  Disney movies, closets, basements, stampeding cattle in my bedroom, the bathtub drain, things Daddy got from estate sales because they’d belonged to dead people who might be angry I had them now, streets with tar lines, swimming pools – there might be sharks! – the dark, bathrooms especially with mirrors – Blood Mary was very popular at my school in 3rd grade – my sister dying in her sleep, my parents dying in their sleep, me being murdered in my sleep by those burglars/murderers/escaped prisoners or because I was a princess, like Lincoln.

Wait, wait!  It totally makes sense in princess child logic. 

The old house, as Alfred and I still call it, had a large yellow bedroom that she and I shared most of the time we lived there.   It was bright, happy room with orange carpeting and a rainbow wallpaper border around the top.  The room had a special nook area in it where the ceiling was lower and sloped down to short walls.  This nook wasn’t yellow like the rest of the room but instead wallpapered in a fun primary color plaid/stripe type design.   There was a scalloped white, wood edging around the slanted entrance to the nook.mommy and wendy by wendy's bed You can see the nook and a bit of the edging off to the right in this picture of Mommy and Alfred.

At some point, we didn’t use the beds as bunkbeds.  My bed was in the nook, head against the back wall, feet sticking out towards the entrance.  It made me feel like a princess, being in this special area with scallops coming down from a point above my bed, with the ceiling sloping down from a point above my bed, it was like the drapery around the princesses’ beds in fairytale movies.  I was a princess!  And I was terrified.

Princesses are the daughters of Kings and Queens.  But in America, we don’t have Kings and Queens, we have presidents.  And being President is dangerous because people may want to kill you, like they did Lincoln.  Lincoln was shot and died in his bed because he was President.  I’m like a princess now and a president is the closest thing we have to that, so I might get shot in my bed, too.

Never mind that Lincoln got shot in a theater and then carried to the White House and died in a bed because that’s where they put him.  I didn’t know any of that.  Never mind that Lincoln was shot for more reasons than just that he was President.  Never mind that a princess is really nothing like a president and never mind that I wasn’t a real princess.  In my young mind, the logic was solid, and I was scared.

I was very glad when Munchkinhead moved into the yellow room and I moved into the nook-less blue room.  Then I only had a giant closet to be afraid of.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My First Insta-Dress

katrina holding me I call it “Insta-dress fabric.”  Munchkinhead probably knows the real name for it, if there is one.  It’s the fabric that’s pre-smocked up top.  Usually, the design is some sort of one-way pattern with lots of stuff going on at the bottom.  I call it insta-dress because all you have to do is sew one seam joining the two-sides of your fabric and you instantly have a dress.  You don’t even have to hem it; the printed pattern goes all the way down to the salvage edge.

Last summer, while visiting home, Mommy and Munchkinhead helped me make my first insta-dress.  It was a little more difficult than it was supposed to be.  Either the fabric was improperly cut at the store, or we didn’t quite have enough, or my legs are just too long. 

When you buy insta-dress fabric, the cutter is supposed to cut through the smocked part and then tear down the remainder of the fabric.  This is so the tear follows the fabric grain and you get a straight edge.  Because of the smocking up top, attempting to cut the rest of the fabric tends to result in a very crooked cut and much narrower fabric at the bottom of the dress.  Narrower bottom means more difficulty walking.  For whatever reason, my insta-dress had a bottom too narrow for me to walk.

Mommy helped me trouble-shoot the narrow bottom.  We had more fabric than we needed at the other end of the dress.  So we, trimmed some from the top and middle and added a gusset to the bottom.  It’s a fairly narrow triangle, about 6” wide at the bottom and 14” high and it’s set into the bottom of the back (and only) seam.  It provides enough room to walk comfortably, though not enough to effectively carry a couch up stairs.

Insta-dresses, by default, are tube top dresses.  I’m not a great fan of tube tops, so I wanted some sort of strap.  We made two long straps and tried them out in various positions.  I decided on having the straps come from the center in the front and go to regular strap spots in the back, rather than tying.  Munchkinhead gave me a beautiful bead from her bead collection that perfectly complimented the black and white floral pattern of the dress.

I love the dress. It fits wonderfully and is super comfy.  Unfortunately, it’s mostly a travel dress as it’s rarely warm enough in the Bay Area for such a summery dress.

me holding katrina

I’m working on a new insta-dress fabric dress now, but this one’s much less instant.  Stay tuned ;)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Children, Dead Animals and Morals

chicken in a pot

There’s this blog post being passed around on Twitter about a 5-year old boy named Luiz who’s beginning to understand that meat is dead animals.  It’s one of those things every kid goes through.  I remember when Munchkinhead was figuring it out.  Being the oh-so-nice big sister that I am, I’d moo every time she took a bite of Hamburger Helper. 

The blog post is essentially a transcript of a video.  Except for the last line, where the blog writer, a vegan mother, exclaims, “Kids know what’s right.”   There’s nothing right or wrong about eating animals. 

The author talks about how Luiz is so logical and it’s this logic that brings him to understand that it’s right to not eat the animals.  Luiz’s logic is something like this: this octopus had to die for me to eat it;  I like animals better standing up, so I don’t want to eat any animals.

Ok, that’s logical as far as why Luiz doesn’t want to eat his octopus.  I’m a vegetarian; my reasons at 10 were probably pretty similar to Luiz’s reasons at 5.  I don’t want eat animals, so I don’t.   Little Luiz doesn’t want to eat animals, so – honestly, I can’t tell if his mom lets him off the hook or tricks him into eating it.  But this reasoning says nothing about morals; it says nothing about the ramifications of eating or not eating animals, whether to the animals, to Luiz, to the environment or to anything else.

Does a 5-year old like the animals alive because he thinks it’s better for the animals, or because feels guilty for harming the animals?  Luiz says “These animals, you gotta take care of them;” I’m sure he was taught that.  Most of us are taught to be nice to living creatures, taught not to harm, taught that killing is wrong, and taught to feel bad (guilty) when we do something we were taught not to do.  When you put all these things together with a child’s logic, it’s easy to see how eating animals becomes “bad.”   But it ignores a whole lot of other things about life.

If you want to be vegetarian or vegan or raise your children on those diets, that’s fine.  I’m right there with you, eating my tofu and Morningstar Farms.  But if you’re going to say it’s morally wrong to eat animals, have some reasons beyond “I like the animals better alive.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Top 10 Reasons Pit Latrines are Better than Toilets

In follow-up to yesterday:

10.  House is safe from bathroom odors.

9.   No pipes to burst.

8.   Don’t need a garbage can nearby. 

7.  No water wasted on flushing. 

6.   Doesn’t clog.

5.   Very little time and energy required to clean it.

4.   You can’t flush porn down the toilet.

3.  Lots of exercise walking all the way out to it. 

2.  Much stronger thigh muscles.

… and …

1.  No fights about leaving the seat up.

Monday, June 10, 2013

No Place to Pee

It was our first week in Zambia.  Our third day, actually.  Site visit; our first taste of “real Zed.”  We were divided into groups of three or four and sent out with the PCVLs (Peace Corps Volunteer Leaders who were each in charge of a province) to visit currently serving volunteers at their sites for a few days and see what it was like to live as a volunteer.

My group was going to Northwestern Province, an 11-hour drive(covering 372 miles) just to the province’s capital, Solwezi, and then another 9 hours out to the volunteer’s site the next day on mostly dirt roads and bush paths.

The first day was long and fun.  The second day was long and not as fun.  On the first day, we were on main highways; we stopped at small roadside restaurants and ended the day at the very nice PC house where we had electricity, plumbing and beds.  The 10 of us, packed in the Land Cruiser with camping gear and our luggage bags, rode along excitedly.  We sang along with the PCVL’s cassette tape of 80s hits and oohed and awwed at the gorgeous country-side.

The second day, we left the main highways and headed onto the very bumpy dirt roads.  We drove through thick grass and frightenly close to trees.  The countryside was even more gorgeous but also more intimidating.  Vegetation was thick.  The road disappeared behind and ahead of us.  Red dust swirled all around and coated the vehicle and everything in it, including us.  As we passed near villages, children ran alongside the Land Cruiser yelling “Byepi! Byepi!" (hello) and “Muzungu! Muzungu!” (white person).  Some of the other trainees yelled back out the open windows, “Byepi"!’  Waving as enthusiastically as the children.

My daddy raised us to always use the restroom before getting in the car – we took lots of road trips as kids – so I’d taken care of that before we left.  But on this day, there were no roadside restaurants to stop at.   We stopped a few times for “restroom breaks” that consisted of pulling over to the side of the road.  I was amazed at how easily the other female volunteers in my group could exit the Land Cruiser, wander off into the grass, and take care of the business.  I stayed close to the vehicle and waited.  The hours ticked by, 3, 4, 5.  It wouldn’t be long before we were at the first volunteer’s site to drop off half our group.  She’d have a muzungu-appropriate bathroom, I was sure;  I pictured a full ceramic throne in a small hut.

Hour 6… Whew. We clamored out of the Land Cruiser and began unloading the items that belonged to the group staying there.  The volunteer had made us lunch so we stayed a bit and also received a tour of her two-room hut.  I asked if I could use her restroom and she pointed me to a small brick and thatch structure around back from her hut.  I snuck away and found the entrance. 
On no!  The small square shelter had a dirt floor and a small hole in the corner.  That was it.  “This is the bathroom?!”  I stood there for awhile, too embarrassed to go right back outside where the volunteer would know I’d been too scared.

We got back in the van and headed to our site visit location where I hoped I’d have better luck.  Despite the drastic increase in personal space after dropping off half the group, my physical discomfort was growing exponentially. 7 hours, 8…  It was only a couple hours to our site, I could make it.

“Well, I suppose this is slightly better.”  Our host had a stone floor and a bigger hole but it wasn’t less-scary enough to matter to my body.  9 hours, 10 hours, 11, 12. 13… That night was very restless and attempts to sleep did not go well.  The next day proved better.  27 hours…  Fear of the cimbuzi, conquered! 


At my own site, my Bataata built me a very nice cimbuzi, with a cement floor, a cover and raised feet holders.  By the way, there’s a darn good reason for women to traditionally wear dresses and skirts.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My New Lamp

Last week, I wrote about the end of my Lego lamp.  Death is always connected to rebirth in some way.  So, after taking apart the Lego lamp, I made a new table lamp.

Introducing, my Lego Bucket Lamp!


I had started this lamp years ago, after building my Lego lamps.  I had gotten two lamp kits and two sets of steel nipples back then.  So I had this Lego bucket with a hole drilled in the lid and in the bucket’s center bar sitting around just waiting for finishing details.

P5291975 To finish the lamp, I drilled a smaller hole in the bottom of the bucket.  The holes in the lid and support bar are sized for the lamp pipe.  The hole on the bottom of the bucket is smaller so the lamp pipe doesn’t fall out the bottom.  That hole is for the cord.  Lego buckets have a groove on two sides of the bottom of the bucket.  They’re the perfect size for the cord; the bucket sits completely stable on a flat surface.

P5291974  I strung the cord first through the bottom hole and into a 6” steel nipple inside the bucket.  Then I put a longer piece of lamp pipe through the hole in the support bracket and threaded a coupler onto the bottom of it.  I pulled the  cord through that pipe and threaded the 6” pipe into the coupler.  The pipe rests on the bottom of the bucket, held up straight by the snug hole in the support bracket.

Next, I put the lid on the bucket and attached the shade holder and socket pieces to the top of the lamp pipe, wired the socket to the cord and placed the socket cover over the wires.  Lampshade harp and bulb in, and the lamp was ready to try out.

P5291976 P5291977 P5291979

It worked!





Mr. Weasel is demonstrating how the lid can be lifted and the bucket can still serve as a storage device. :)


Other neat things to do with Lego
Cute as a Bucket

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Road to being Stuck in Your Room is Paved with Good Intentions

1st day of school 1992 It was June, the summer after 6th grade.  My sisters and I had some sort of fake slumber party on the hide-a-bed.  I don’t remember the details.  The middle of the day on Saturday, Mommy and Daddy had gone out for a walk.

My sisters and I wanted to make Daddy something for Father’s Day but we needed supplies.  There was a JoAnn’s not too far away; Alfred and I rode our bikes there frequently, just over a mile.  Munchkinhead was too          Us, a few months later
little to  ride that far; she was only about 3 years old.  We decided we’d walk.

We cleaned up our slumber party.  Sort of.  Figuring we’d want to play again later, instead of folding the hide-a-bed back into the couch, we made the bed up and tucked all our stuffed animals into it. 

We cleaned anything else we’d been playing with.  We left a message for Mommy and Daddy in the living room, checked that all the doors were locked, took our house key and set off for the store, pulling Munchkinhead in the little red wagon.  We took an umbrella with us in case it rained while we were away.

We were pleased with ourselves, feeling we had remembered to do everything we were supposed to do.  We were having fun together and excited about making something nice for Daddy.  How were we supposed to know Mommy and Daddy hadn’t taken a house key with them?

They couldn’t get in.  They couldn’t get our message.  They didn’t know where we were.  And, it had started raining.  Apparently, these circumstances make parents freak out.

Mommy and Daddy found us with the little red wagon, next to the McDonald’s, heading out of the Plaza parking lot.

I don’t remember what Daddy got for Father’s Day that year.  It couldn’t have been good because I remember we spent a lot of time looking at puffy paint supplies.  I know what I got though.  Grounded.  For being irresponsible by not anticipating the facts I didn’t know.  And for making my sisters go with me.  They didn’t get in trouble at all.  “They’re too young to know better.”  Harumph.  And yes, 20 years later I am still bitter.

But I’ll tell you this much, as a grown-up, I’m pretty darn good at anticipating a whole lot of “what-if” scenarios and preparing for most of them.

Monday, June 3, 2013

SoPro Pride

You gotta have some hometown pride, even when it’s for your adopted hometown, or home state, or home province.

When I first arrived in Zambia, there were so few Peace Corps Volunteers in placed in Southern Province, we were grouped in with Central Province, under Central’s Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (PCVL) and reporting to Serenje in Central Province for information from headquarters.  By my second year, the organization had expanded in Southern Province and we had enough Volunteers to truly be our own province.  So naturally, we needed something to show our province-pride.

Central Province had t-shirts with CP/PC and a lightening bolt on them for Central Province Peace Corps and their lightening bolt tattoos.  Northwestern province had their branding (an attempt to compete with the tattoos), which I can’t really say what it was supposed to represent because none of them turned out right.  I think Northern and Eastern province had some t-shirts, too.  But us down in Southern Province, we needed something better than a t-shirt.  After all, this was the era of Southern Hip Hop’s international prominence and we were in the dirty dirty.

So we got together and had our own special garments hand-painted.  Jumpsuits!

They had our province on the front: So Pro, our names – mine says “Nchimunya”, and “The Dirty South” on the back.  We loved them and our Zambian counterparts found them highly amusing.   They weren’t very cimbuzi-practical, but they were great fun when we were in town.

I still have mine, though I don’t really have anywhere to wear it.  It’s a jumpsuit, so it’s meant to be worn when you might get dirty.  But if I get it dirty, I’ll have to wash it, and the hand-painted lettering might come off.  I’ll have to host a janitor-themed costume party or something.

Dirty South jumpsuits (4)

And the back:Dirty South jumpsuits (3)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

So Long Lego Lamp

It was one of my favorite pieces of decor.  But, having no place to put it now that I rearranged my living room and the fact that I broke it moving it means that the Lego lamp’s time to shine is over.


Its coordinating partner is already long gone, having been broken years ago by an old roommate.

One lamp was black with a white stripe and the other was white with a black stripe.  Zebra colors to go with the African decor in my living room.  I had gotten some zebra home decor fabric to cover the lampshade but didn’t like the lampshade enough to cover it.

P5291969 I made the lamps with Legos – obviously – a simple lamp kit and standard 1/8-IP Thread steel nipples, aka lamp pipe.  I built a little house with a door way and window openings.  The cord exited through the door so the lamp could sit flat on the table.  Then I built a tower with a hollow center.  Near the middle, a Lego stuck into the tube to catch the lamp pipe.  At the top of the hallow tube, I inserted the lamp pipe and cushioned around it with tissue so it would stand-up straight inside the Lego tower.  You can see some of the structure in the picture above.

P5281959 The lamps had fun little details, such as a ledge, ladders and other places for Lego people to hang out.   This lamp, the one pictured above, served as a table lamp in my living room.  It was home to a little Luke Skywalker and Darth Maul, much to my sister’s chagrin since those two are from different generations.  No creativity, that one.

Taking the lamp apart was pretty easy.  Breaking Lego creations is always easier than putting them together.

 P5291972 And the great thing about Legos is, if I ever decide I want another Lego lamp, I can just build a new one!


Here’s the lamp that replaced the Lego lamp.  I got it from church when we cleaned out the building.  It’s an old surveyor’s stand.  (There used to be a speaker there, serving as an end table for the Lego table lamp.)  The awesome ceramic bunny was also a church-cleaning find.