Monthly Archives: January 2010

Tee Shirt Eureka . . . or not so much.

Inspirational Tee Shirt?

Dear Reader:

So, I’m sweating and aching and groaning my way through my Thursday night aerobics class at the Limington Town Hall, and I’m thinking about the tee-shirt I’m wearing because, let’s face it, my brother-in-law’s paving business doesn’t exactly make for sexy workout gear (see picture) when the various pieces of my latest obsessions coelesced into one glorious idea. I would have shouted “Eureka!” but I didn’t have any breath to spare considering we were doing the umpteenth set of leg kick/arm punch combos. Here’s what I was thinking:

a)I probably look like a dork in this tee-shirt, but at least it’s black and black is slimming. (huff, puff)

b)Actually, printing company logos onto tee shirts is great advertising for local businesses. If someone makes a snide comment about my exercise outfit, I’ll claim I’m doing it because I believe in local business. (Ouch, my thighs are burning!)

c)And anyway, everyone else is advertising various national sporting goods companies on their Nike/Addidas/Columbia/Insert Name Brand Here workout clothes. Why shouldn’t I advertise a local business? Or in this case, a family business? (Hey, thighs about to fall off here!)

d)And, hey, wouldn’t it be kinda cool to start wearing all kinds of tee shirts and hats and sweatshirts with local business logos? It could be my new “thing.” (Seriously? Another set of eight? Is she crazy?)

e)But those tee shirts are so baggy and boxy . . . (Oh my god. I can’t feel my left toe!)

f)Unless I TRANSFORM them and turn them into a fashion statement. Eureka! (Water break? Water break?)

Here is where I thought I’d come up with a unique and inspired idea. I would collect a bunch of local tee shirts and sweatshirts and hats, figure out various ways to reconstruct them into more fashionable shapes and lines, and begin wearing them around town. I’d post tips and instructions so others could create their own DIY fashions. We cool loca-fashionistas could then pooh-pooh the silly fashion slaves with their manacles of Abercrombie and Aeropostale strapped around their chests or plastered on their butts liked cattle-brands.

Maybe I could talk to the home-economics (or whatever they are calling it these days) teacher at the local high school and suggest the students practice their new sewing skills on tee shirt transformation projects. Maybe the school could host a loca-fashion show (do you like that? The double meaning? Loca, i.e. local AND crazy) to raise money for the school system–since the state is going broke and has cut funding but not the mandates–or for local food banks or homeless shelters or people who are just having a hard time buying heating oil or maybe a scholarship or two for a kid who can’t afford the astronomical costs of higher education here in the U.S.

I began picturing a Massabesic High School model-wannabe parading down the catwalk in, say, a Waterways tee shirt halter top paired with a funky tulle skirt and black biker boots. Or a Limerick Supermarket baby-tee with ruched sleeves combined with a fringy, drapey skirt crafted from an F.R. Carroll’s tee worn over a pair of jeans.

“Too cool!” I thought. “Except I have no idea how to tranform tee shirts into anything.” I mentioned my idea to my friend Michele last night and she said, “Oh, a team from Odyssey of the Mind remade their school logo tee shirts a couple years ago.” She listed a number of transformative ideas, and about that time I started to realize that, like most good ideas, someone had already eureka-ed it ahead of me.

So, this morning I jumped onto the internet to see what I could find, and struck paydirt. Okay, I won’t get any big awards for this idea since apparently I’m way behind the proverbial 8-ball (see “My Sources Say No” post of January 6), because I found an amazing source for tee shirt transformation projects. Check out Generation T where you can find projects, books, and inspiration for your own DIY tee shirt fashions. The website is the brainchild of Megan Nicolay, a self-professed “obsessive Do-It-Yourselfer.” I am psyched, psyched, psyched to dive into this website and will probably purchase the books.

In a few weeks, I plan on having an updated, black and gold “Proseal” tee shirt to show you. Can you see me rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation? I’m going to try to turn it into something I can wear to my aerobics class. I’m hoping that others will notice my cool shirt, ask how I did it, and soon the entire area will be wearing local logos instead of mindless fashion labels that are really nothing more than profitable advertising for the multinational company that owns the name on your hoodie.

Think about it: they con you into paying sixty to a hundred bucks for the privilege of advertising for them. Come on! They should be paying YOU!

Break free from your fashion chains, tranform a tee shirt, send me a picture, and we’ll have our own virtual fashion show right here . . . Outside the Box.

P.S. I’m calling my fashions Flabbercrabby & Stitch. I love the slogan “It’s cool to be Flabbercrabby!” It’s just so much fun to say, don’t you think? And in the spirit of collaboration and sharing, I am “open-sourcing” the name and slogan, so use it if you want (but it will be very bad karma if you take it and copyright it and sell it to some conglomerate. Very Bad Karma!)

Creative Website–Check It Out!

handspun yarn buttoned scarf

Dear Reader:

This scarf is the finished product crafted from the mohair fleece I carded and spun and plied on a borrowed Kiwi spinning wheel. The Kiwi is a beginner wheel, and because I’m a beginner, it works for me. I also have a more traditional wheel given to me by a good friend of the family. My next spinning project will be done on that wheel in hopes that I have acquired the skill necessary to spin the thin yarn that wheel requires. Learning a craft isn’t an overnight project. I’m expecting at least three years to even become halfway proficient. However, the journey may be more important than the destination. Every time I sit down at the wheel or hold a couple of bamboo knitting needles in my hands, I feel connected to the age-old crafting tradition . . . and so can you!

One of my online writing friends has started a new website geared toward crafting and do-it-yourself projects and the creative impulse each of us has inside us. They will be offering projects “in a bag” and blogs and articles. I’m very excited to see these kinds of sites going up on the internet. With all these resources at our fingertips, we can explore and experiment to our hearts’ content.

Make 2010 the year you learn to produce something useful and/or beautiful. I strongly believe that along with relocalizing, we also need to become a society of skilled craftspeople. Imagine producing clothes, furniture, houses, vehicles, toys . . . you name it . . . that are meant to last a lifetime rather than a few months or years.

Check out and make something . . . Outside the Box.

Quick Post: Materialism in Children

Dear Reader:

In connection with the previous blogpost, I found this interesting, short piece on what some researchers say causes materialism to increase during the early adolescent years. Basically: Low self-esteem. Click on the link to the blogsite GROMIND to read the article.

However, here is one sign of a changing ethos. According to a Science Daily article published in June, ostantatious displays of materialism may be going out of style. In other words, maybe soon it will be IN style to be OUT of style. Cool.

My Sources Say No

Happy New Year!

Dear Reader:

The Year of Our Lord 2010 is here and with it a slew of prediction blogs which have just about the same odds of being right as that good old fortune-telling technology known as The Magic 8 Ball. Remember using those? You ask a yes-or-no question, jiggle the 8 Ball, and wait for an answer. For example: “Oh, Magic 8 Ball, will Billy Bob fall in love with me this year?” Jiggle. Jiggle. Message pops up floating in a pool of electric-blue liquid. “Absolutely yes” or “maybe” or “concentrate and try again” or “my sources say no.” If you don’t like the answer, you try again for one of the other seventeen answers in hopes that it matches your desire. Eventually, one does. Ta-da! Magic.

Well, I’ve been trying to read the signs for proof of positive changes in our society and so far the “oulook is not good.” Oh, I hate to be a party-pooper right at the beginning of the new year, but if we humans need to begin relocalizing rather than outsourcing, producing rather than consuming, conserving rather than wasting just so that we can continue with some semblance of civilization let alone the frenzied, glittery, electrified extravaganza commonly known as Western Society, then the following story my sixth-grader brought home from school yesterday does not portend warm and fuzzy things.

Actually, let me start this story a couple weeks before Christmas. While talking to various friends of mine, a curious common theme ran through the conversations about this year’s Christmas shopping. It is the phenomenon known as Wii. I would add a link but you would have to be from another planet (or maybe a Third World country) not to know what I’m talking about here. Just about everyone I know, except those who already possessed the glorious invention, bought one of these gaming systems for their offspring this Christmas.

We want Christmas to be fun for our kids. I understand. I am not blaming any parents for buying their kids a nice Christmas present. What you buy your kids is your business. That’s not my point.

Yes, there is one and I’m getting to it so stop rolling your eyes at me.

Anyway, maybe if my kid had been clamoring for said homophone of “we”, I would have joined the crowd in line at the big-box store on Black Friday and purchased one (maybe but not likely). However, for some reason my child’s desires were of a simpler nature this year, and I thanked my personal deity of choice (the lifeforce of the universe, unnamed, if you are curious) and proceded to fill up her stocking with small gifts I thought would delight her when she got herself out of bed on Christmas morning. They did. We spent the day sitting around in our pajamas, eating cinnamon rolls, and hanging with my parents.

It was a nice day, and everyone was happy and contented.

In any case, because I’d had these conversations with parents of her friends, I knew what would happen as soon as she got back to school. I tried to prepare her. “Honey,” I said. “Lots of kids are going to be talking about what they got for Christmas. Alot of kids got stuff like Wii’s this year, and you got a bunch of nice, little things. You might want to figure out what you are going to say when they start asking to compare presents.” Did she listen to me? Sorta. I think what she heard was, “Other parents got their kids really cool stuff for Christmas and we didn’t so you are going to be embarrassed to death when school starts up again.”

Unfortunately, we were both correct, but at least my offspring was prepared for the bus-stop talk and the cafeteria talk and the hallway talk and the locker talk. “I got a Wii what did you get?” “I got a PS something or other what did you get?” “I got a cell phone what did you get?” Yup. Junior high hasn’t changed a bit from when I was there. I was always happy with my presents, but I do remember being embarrassed by the comparisons with kids whose parents had more money to spend. I dealt back then. She could deal now. At the very least, it’s character-building.

According to her, she handled it with as much dignity as she could muster and went off to first period social studies class. This is where things went into the Twilight Zone, at least as far as I’m concerned.

According to my twelve-year-old (and yes, I’m taking everything she says with a grain of salt), the teacher started off class by saying, “Okay, let’s get this over with. Go around the room and tell everyone your biggest present. Or your most special vacation activity.” As a parent, listening to this tale, I knew what the teacher meant by vacation activity. Trip to Disney. Trip to Washington D.C. Trip to the Bahamas. Probably not sledding or ice-skating or sitting around in pajamas watching White Christmas with the grandparents. My kid didn’t pick up on that, poor little semi-innocent that she is.

“I spent the whole time trying to figure out what I was going to say, Mom,” she told me “Everyone was like ‘I got a Wii, I got a flat-screen tv for my room, I got a cell phone, I got a DS. I was the last person. I said my special vacation time was typing up my story on the computer. I felt stupid. Did I sound like I was trying to impress my teacher?”

Um, yes, I thought, but that’s beside the point. What in heaven’s name was that teacher thinking?

I grumbled and mumbled and, yes, ranted. I called my mother and ranted. When my husband got home I told him, i.e. ranted. I hopped on Facebook when everyone else went to bed and guess what? I ranted!

I’m not naive. Junior high is the age of figuring out where you stand in the social hierarchy. Comparing yourself to the rest of the kids is de rigeur. The trick is to look, act, talk, smile, smell just about like everyone else . . . only a little bit better if possible. I know. I remember. I’ve watched The Breakfast Club a couple times.

So, while I understand the underlying junior-high pschological need to compare, I can’t for the life of me figure out why a school teacher would not only tolerate that behavior but also encourage it! What about kids who don’t celebrate a holiday? What about kids who are too poor to eat let alone get fancy presents? I’m just curious to know what possible benefit there could be to this classroom exercise. Don’t they need to learn about China or Ancient Egypt or something?

My Facebook friends came through with encouraging yelps of indignation on my behalf. Bless you, girls.

The consensus is that while we all have our own levels of gift-giving and recognize that kids will brag about their new stuff, we don’t appreciate teachers promoting that behavior in social studies class.

I hate to jump all over hard-working, underpaid, public-school teachers. For one thing, the teacher didn’t buy the kids all that high-end stuff. The teacher isn’t responsible for telling those children that it isn’t polite to brag about their acquisitions. It’s also possible my pre-teen drama queen blew the whole thing out of proportion–it’s been known to happen.

The discussion on Facebook also brought up all kinds of reminiscing about Esprit shirts and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and Nike high-tops. Some moms said they shopped at low-end department stores when they were teens and figured they turned out all right just the same. Another shared that she started buying Vogue in 8th grade and never stopped but now contents herself with knock-off bags from Target rather than spend a month’s grocery money on Coach purses.

I used to save up my money in order to buy the Bonnie Bell Makeup Collection advertised in Seventeen magazine which I took out religiously from the Bangor Public Library. Oh, the Prom Dress edition! Oh, all those fluffy Gunne Sax dresses! (Did you know Jessica McClintock is from Aroostook County, Maine? How cool is that?) I still buy the September issue of Vogue and vicariously enjoy the $16,000 couture dresses and $6,000 shoes. I understand the pull of the Sex and the City phenomenon. I’m not totally immune to what is considered hip and cool and fashionable.

A little fashion never really hurt anyone. However, people saying you aren’t cool because you don’t wear Ambercrombrie & Fitch and Aeropostale clothes does hurt when you are a kid. (I’m thinking of starting my own clothing company aimed at teenagers. I’ll have the tee-shirts made for pennies in some Third World country and mark them up like six-thousand percent and sell them in cave-like spaces in the mall where the smell of expensive uni-sex perfume will draw them in like flies to honey. I’ll call my company Flabbercrabby & Bitch. I even have a great marketing slogan: It’s Cool to be Crabby. What do you think?)

Which all leads me to the possiblity of our society changing anytime soon BY CHOICE. My daughter will survive the social stigma of being Wii-challenged. She will get by with tee-shirts from J.C. Penny and, gasp, Mardens and, double-gasp, maybe even homemade if I can get my sewing maching out and running. Yesterday’s experience gave us the opportunity to discuss, as a family, our values and what mom really thinks about clothing labels. But what about the rest of society? What about the future? Do we have any chance at all of evolving from our materialistic, consumeristic ridiculousness to a more enlightened, thoughtful, productive way of life?

If my daughter’s experience in school yesterday is anything to go by (maybe a little more accurate than the Magic 8 ball) I’d say we have some work to do as parents and educators in pointing out what really matters in life.

When do the kids get a chance to go around the room and share the last time their parent said, “I love you” to them? When do they tell about how their parents played a board game with them after supper. Will they get to stand up and compare how many nights their family sits down to dinner together at the table rather than scarfing down take-out in front of the television? How about going around the room and saying whether or not their parents live in the same house, if their mom is home when they get off the school bus in the afternoon, if they visit their grandparents regularly, if they attend church together every Sunday, if they volunteer at a soup kitchen together as a family.

Until those sorts of topics become the bragging points for our kids and ourselves rather than who bought the latest and brightest MP3 player and video gaming system, I don’t see much hope for the future.

My family mantra for 2010 is “It’s not what you buy; it’s what you do.” I challenge each of my readers to join me in this quest. If you can make it, don’t buy it. Don’t buy something, do something. It’s a start . . . Outside the Box.