Tag Archives: Shopping

Six Years and Slowing

On the "skiddah"

On the “skiddah”

It is March once again, and the anniversary month of this blog which started out as Outside the Box and is now Localista.

I don’t look too fashionable there on the skidder, but let me tell you, I was THRILLED to have a chance to get into the driver’s seat, turn the ignition key, and roll slowly backward, oops! I was maybe in the thing for a minute and a half before I stalled it. Heavy equipment operator is not going to be my next career.

What I did learn from this experience was 1)guys who work in the woods are great storytellers and hard workers and all-around great people and 2)enough about operating a skidder to finish a writing project.

Harvesting in the Maine woods has long been an economic driver for our state, providing jobs and a marketable resource. It is a local sort of job, and even with improvements in equipment, still requires a human brain. Unlike other jobs which are being outsourced to…robots. Check out this article, “Your Job May Soon Be Obsolete Thanks To Robots,”  on AGBeat from the American Genius Network.

Yes, computers are now writing news articles. Egads! Soon they will be writing books, I suppose, cranking them out from synopses and outlines, or maybe just picking and choosing from scenarios, character lists, and possible turning points from specialized plot and narrative computer programs. I’m typing this and thinking, “It’s probably already been done, but I don’t want to go look. I’m scairt!”

So, I’m still doing the localism thing as much as possible, have incorporated it into my life with room left for improvement, as always. Those hiking boots in the photo up there? Got ’em at Reny’s, one of Maine’s independent stores. It was the only size of its kind on the shelves, the only pair of boots in my size, and they fit perfectly. In fact, they were so comfortable with a pair of wool hiking socks I also picked up, I didn’t unlace them all day. The support felt fantastic!

Today I’m wearing a combination outfit–a sweater from Goodwill, a scarf that was a gift, and a pair of pants I bought full-price at Chico’s at the mall. I ate breakfast at a local restaurant, but then I got a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s not about perfection. It’s about awareness and small changes and doing the best you can.

Six years later, I’m slowing down but trudging along, one step at a time.

Image

Black Shoe Tuesday

Black Shoe Tuesday

Dear Readers:

Are you planning to indulge in some Black Friday shopping after indulging in multiple helpings of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie? Don’t forget Goodwill and consignment and local shops this year. Remember, the closer to home you spend, the more money stays circulating in your community!

For inspiration, I hit the Gorham, Maine Goodwill on Tuesday afternoon. Found: For $15, this funky pair of black, suede, high-heeled clogs. For $10, brand-new thermal underwear in celebration of the first real dusting of snow. For $20, a new, fashion-forward red wood coat for the Teen in the exact style she was craving last winter while looking at the catalog of a popular teen retail store (price for the retail coats: $70-80).

I could have snagged three pairs of Talbot’s pants, two prom dresses for the Teen, and a pretty pink sweater with a pink floral embroidered motif–but I’m trying to pace myself:)

Shopping locally never fails to surprise and thrill me. I almost always find more than I expect, and my wardrobe has never been more interesting as the cost of trying something unusual is so very low compared to the mall or big-box store.

So, my Dear Readers, enjoy your long weekend, your Thanksgiving celebrations, and your Black Friday shopping.

Love, Localista

Shopping Local for the Holidays

Sandra Waugh Watercolor of Red Rowboat

Sandra Waugh Watercolor of Red Rowboat

Dear Reader:

How are you doing on your holiday shopping so far? I’ve been taking advantage of lucky opportunities that pop up–like yesterday’s trip to Portland for a Jim Brickman performance at the Portland Museum of Art.

Heading toward the museum for the performance, I noticed a Reny’s department store across from the parking garage. Hello! I don’t get into Portland that often, so the chance to pop into one of the branches of a Maine-owned department store was like an early Christmas present to myself.

Reny's Department Store Logo

Reny’s Department Store Logo

I’m fairly pleased with my local shopping progress this holiday season. I’ve bought books by Maine authors at public readings, handcrafted jewelry from the funkiest little shop--Maine Jewelry and Art--in Bangor on Plaid Friday (local answer to the mall’s Black Friday horror story), c.d.’s directly from musicians at performances (ahem, did you catch that Jim Brickman reference up there?), makeup from a local Avon rep, clothes from that Reny’s excursion yesterday, and a few things at Goodwill.

Fly Fisherman painting by Sandra Waugh

Fly Fisherman painting by Sandra Waugh

I’ve also ordered Christmas cards from my good friend and fine artist, Sandra Waugh, who lives right here in my town. That is her “waughtercolor” at the top of this page, such a cute, little red boat skillfully rendered, floating between sea and sky. This and other select paintings are for sale right now, but Sandra also creates beautiful watercolor portraits of loved ones, children, and pets from photographs you mail to her, like this one of the fly fisherman.

I am in awe of that kind of talent! Please visit her website at http://www.waughtercolors.com/ and/or private message her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/messages/waughtercolors

With the shopping well-underway, I guess it is time to start looking toward decorating the tree and holiday recipes. Food shopping for holiday meals can be a bit challenging (I need an egg source!), and I will write about that in another post as we get closer to Christmas. In the meantime…

I challenge you to buy at least ONE item this year from a local merchant or small-business owner, knowing that when you do so, much more of that money gets sent back into the local economy than if you spent the same $$’s at a mega-corporation. Want more reasons? Visit the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website for the Top 10 Reasons to Support Locally Owned Businesses.

Happy Holiday Shopping, everyone!

Wedding Card, Ralph Lauren, and a Little Black Dress

Handmade Card

The handmade paper card shown above was made by a local vendor who was showing her work at the Newfield Farmer’s Market. I am going to use this as a wedding card by inking in a lovely poem by hand. Best Wishes, Adam & Steph!

Dear Reader:

It has been awhile since I have posted about my adventures in shopping locally. You may or may not remember, but this year I am attempting to buy all my clothes from locally-owned or small-business owner shops (for instance, online from another state). Dear Daughter is also coming around to the fun and challenging shopping experience that is consignment-shop hunting, though if it comes down to a choice between fashion-forward and socially-conscious-but-ugly thrift, she’ll go with the dress from the mall. Hubby could care less where I get his clothes as long as they fit and aren’t ripped or stained.

Of course, I draw the line on used socks, underwear, intimates. That’s just a little too gross for me. Someday I may begin to sew my own unmentionables, but that is a project for down the road. Sewing is still sadly waiting on my to-do list. Anyhoo….

Here are my local shopping finds from the past two weeks. Ready?

Detail Vera Bradley Bag

Last week, I went with Dear Daughter and a friend to Sanford, Maine to check out a resale shop called Sequel Consignment. We were on the hunt for semi-formal dresses, but I came away with this Vera Bradley purse in great fall colors. At $24 I thought this was a steal. I think it originally retailed for around $60, and I saw it listed for $47 on Overstock.com.

Perhaps I could have found it cheaper from some big online discounter, but this was local, I loved it at first sight, and it is in great condition. Consignment shops like Sequel take in your clothes and sell them for you, keeping part of the profit and giving you part of the profit. So if you have party dresses, bags, shoes, etc. that you’ve worn only a few times and will never wear again, go ahead and take them in to a local consignment shop in your area and earn a few $$ of your own. Better yet, use the $$ as store credit and pick up some incredible finds right there.

Vera Bradley Morgan Bag shown here on Gabby, my dress form.

Next up: Goodwill. Goodwill Industries has a mission to help people lead productive lives through job placement, training, and other support services. With stores located all across the country, the organization accepts donations of clothing, home furnishings, and other items and sells them to generate income that supports their mission. And the prices are unbeatable. Truly. This is a total win-win situation between retailer and customer. Can you tell I totally love Goodwill?

Gabby in Ralph Lauren

Here was a great find at the Biddeford, Maine Goodwill store. Bright color. Fashion-forward cable. Classic shape. This Ralph Lauren sweater set me back a whopping $4.99. I wore it yesterday with my orange pants and got a few eye-balls-popping-out-of-head looks at the mall. Okay, maybe the colors together were a bit bright. Next time I’ll just go with classic dark-wash jeans and some neutral shoes.

Detail from Ralph Lauren sweater

Which brings me to this RLL label on the sweater. I don’t care all that much about labels, but sometimes a label indicates a better-quality piece, one that will resist fading and stretching and pilling, especially important for sweaters. I love the color, shape, and cabling on this sweater so much, it could have no label at all and I’d still love it.

Homecoming Dress for Somebody?

Now, this gorgeous little black dress was hidden in between some rather dubious formal-wear, but when I pulled it out from the rack, I thought, “Oh, hello you sweet little thing.” It is beautifully drapey, has a nice padded bustier, silken cummerbund with a generous sashes for tying into a big bow in the back, lovely sheer straps about two inches wide…and the cutest little sparkly accents where the straps meet the top.

What girl doesn’t like a little sparkle?

Unfortunately, though Dear Daughter liked the dress, it was a little snug. I can return it for the $4.99 it cost me (I’m serious! I don’t make this stuff up!) or hopefully I can find another girl in need of a homecoming dress. Any sale I can pull away from the big box mall I consider a victory.

Hello Bebe

So, black can be a little harsh for younger girls, right? Even for formal wear. Enter this Bebe top in a gold-threaded, coppery-salmon color. It is so cute over the dress, adding just a little wash of color to tone down the black. Again, this cost me $4.99 at Goodwill, and it would be so versatile, dressing up a pair of dark-wash jeans and a cute pair of ballet flats, maybe?

Did you think I only bought clothes? How silly. Actually, things here in my office are getting a bit out of hand again….

Books, books, books

Last year I worked so hard to clean out my office and bookshelves, donated fifteen plastic bags of books to the library book sale. Now look! They are piling up again. I came away with eight or nine books from Goodwill this week. Eight or nine from a local church fair this summer…and on and on it goes.

Still, for $1 a book that goes to a good cause (food pantry at the church, library services, etc.) I can enjoy these books three times…once while looking for them, once while paying for them, and once while reading them. Oh, and maybe once again when I give them back to the library or Goodwill to recycle once again.

Curling up with a good book is essential to my autumn and winter well-being. Now that we’ve passed the equinox, there is a new chill in the air. Mornings and evenings are cool. The tomatoes are not ripening as fast. I’ve pulled the cuke and most of the pumpkin vines from the garden boxes. Chickadees are visiting the sunflowers and the window-feeder. The wind ruffles the leaves on the beeches…

Brrrrr! Good thing I bought that sweater.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Announcement

I’m in the process of building a mailing list so that I can make sure my interested readers get up-to-date information on my stories, books, blog posts, essays and whatnot as they are published. If you are interested in getting the inside scoop on how I “get my story ideas,” the writing and publishing process, contests and other fun things related to writing, please click the Shelley Burbank Author Newsletter link to subscribe.

As always, thank you, Dear Reader, for sharing your time and thoughts with me here Outside the Box. –Shelley:)

Found: Fashion Outfit Recreated Locally!

Recreated Modern Minerva Outfit

Scarf: $1.99 at Goodwill
Sweater: Van Heusen $5.99 at Goodwill
Shoes: Bass Weejuns $5.00 at Goodwill
Skirt: H & M $7.99 at Zeus’s Closet (locally-owned resale shop in Scarborough, ME)

All I need is a bag…and I’m gonna try to order one from a woman who designs cloth bags here in my town, and an owl ring or other piece of costume jewelry.

View the original by clicking HERE.

What do you think?

Day 41: Art’s The Bomb

At Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory

Torpedo Factory

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. –From Isaiah II, King James Bible

Dear Reader:

You’ve heard about turning swords into plowshares. But what about turning a torpedo factory into an art center?

This is exactly what the city of Alexandra, Virginia did with its old torpedo factory sitting on the Old Town waterfront. Built in 1918, just after the first World War, the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station produced Mark XIV and Mark III torpedoes until 1945 when WWII ended. The building was used as storage for Smithsonian artifacts, government documents, and military films and records until 1969. President of the Alexandria Art League, Marion Van Landingham, suggested the space be turned into art studios, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center was born.

Artist Studios in Torpedo Factory Art Center

The Torpedo Factory Art Center now has 82 artist studios with 165 juried artists creating, talking about, and selling their work. Visitors stroll along the space, peeking through the windows to watch the artists at work, stepping into the open studios to look at and purchase art or even chat with the painter, sculptor, printmaker, or fiber artist at work there.

More Studio Space

The Mom-‘Rent and I found our way to this amazing space on Sunday morning, the day we planned to spend shopping in Old Town Alexandria. I had heard about the Torpedo Factory, but it wasn’t until we’ve strolled down to the waterfront and over to a gazebo that I realized the large building behind us WAS the art center. Entering the bright red, painted doors, we were very impressed by the space, the bright studios, the concept of working artist studios being open to public view. There are gallery spaces here, as well as an art school where people of all ages and interests can take classes.

Some of the artists had placed “no photography” signs on their windows, so I decided not to take pictures of individual studios. However, the volunteer at the information desk said to go ahead and snap a photo of the general space. We saw everything from pretty, traditional watercolors to bright modern oil paintings to giant metal sculptures to belts and purses at a fiber artist’s studio. We gaped at large paper mache sculptures of animals. We ooohed over some delightful handmade prints. We talked to a couple artists and complimented them on their work.

I decided I HAD to bring the Teen back here as she is a budding artist, so we contented ourselves with the first floor and then headed back out to the shops on King St. and a few of the side-streets where we found some delightful little places.

Outside Bittersweets

We had begun our morning with a good, hot breakfast at the Bittersweet Cafe. This is a homey little place with a couple long, wooden farm tables, wooden counters with stools at the front windows, and tall cafe tables and chairs along the sides. The Sunday Brunch menu included scrambled eggs, a choice of omelets, breakfast burritos, and breakfast sandwiches ordered at the counter and brought to your table by a server. The coffee at the beverage bar was hot and delicious . . . and they had soy milk, always a plus in my book.

Good, Hot Coffee

After breakfast and the Torpedo Factory Art Center, we veered off onto Union St. and found The Christmas Attic where we spent a good hour and a half browsing cards and gifts and collectables and ornaments, not just Christmas stuff but all kinds of lovely things. The space was charming with old floor boards and narrow staircases leading up to the second story.

Bicycle Shop

I loved these little side streets. I snapped a picture of this bicycle shop on a narrow, little street near the waterfront off Union. A couple of the older streets are still paved in cobblestones, and the houses retain their historic charm and beauty with painted doors and shutters and crooked windows looking out onto the street.

Cobblestone Street near Waterfront

There were disturbing posters and an information board calling for community action to prevent a large Old Town waterfront development. I hope the citizens of Alexandria will decide to fight to preserve the historic character of that part of town. As lovely and comfortable as highrise apartment buildings and hotels may be, some things are best left as they are . . .

Cobblestones Up Close

Leaving Union, we headed back up King and stopped into Decorium Gift and Home, a quirky and elegant and whimsical (with just a touch of frou-frou) home decor shop that meets every grown-up girl’s fantasy with its gorgeous upholstered furniture, painted armoirs, framed prints, glittery costume jewelry, children’s room furnishings, sparkly chandeliers, and much more.

Blue Chandelier at Decorium

The saleslady was gracious enough to let me snap a quick picture, saying, “Just pretend you are buying something.” Was that a gentle jab? Probably, but that’s okay. I thought about picking up a sweet, fabric-covered journal, but with all this online blogging, I just haven’t been hand-writing enough to justify the purchase. I may have to go back for the chunky, glittery ring with the fake stones or the precious green-print fabric slippers before the end of my stay, however. If I lived in Alexandria and had the cash, I’d take advantage of their interior design company, d2.

Maybe someday I’ll write a bestselling book and be able to afford to patronize beautiful, locally-owned shops like this one. Until then, I’ll look and report and buy a little something now and then. It’s the best I can do for now.

Decorium Doorfront

The Dad-‘Rent and Hubby decided to forgo the Metro and instead hopped on the bikes to zip down to meet us. After buying bottled water from a street vendor, we decided to take a walking tour of some of the history Old Town Buildings, starting with the Alexandria Visitor’s Center situated in the Ramsay House, Alexandria’s oldest house built by William Ramsay, a friend of George Washington.

Visitor's Center

Next, we headed over to Fairfax to the Carlyle House, built by Scottish merchant, John Carlyle, for his bride. The Carlyle House has a pretty park and holds outdoor concerts and events open to the public. Might have to check that out before the end of our stay.

Carlyle House

We were anxious to find the Yeaton-Fairfax House on Cameron St. because my mother’s maiden name is Yeaton. We were told we were lucky to have the 2010 Alexandria Visitor’s Guide because this house is no longer included on the walking tour. The house is privately owned, and the inhabitants were fed up with tourists knocking on the door and asking, “Can we just take a peek around the house a little bit?”

Yeaton-Fairfax House

I guess the owners must have really been discouraged, because when we found the house, a For Sale sign was posted at the front entrance.

Front Door of Yeaton-Fairfax House

There appeared to be a wonderful, shady, and extensive garden attached to the home. The house was built by a Scottish merchant William Yeaton in 1799. Yeaton also designed and erected the Washington family tomb at Mt. Vernon. Later, Thomas, the Ninth Lord Fairfax, bought and lived in the home.

Gated Garden at Yeaton-Fairfax House

For anyone interested, the property is listed for $5,995,000.

We moved on to a wonderful talk by a charming volunteer docent at Christ Church where George Washington and his family and servants attended services. We sat in the Washington pew where U.S. Presidents and heads-of-state such as Churchill have sat. So much history everywhere in this city!

Christ Church

After the walking tour, we revived ourselves with a frozen custard (I had a blueberry acai frozen fat-free yogurt), Mom-‘Rent and I visited a couple more shops, and then we took the Metro home while the guys headed back along the bike trail. Once again, Old Town was a delightful and charming place to spend a Sunday.

The Confession Issue

Ripe On The Vine

Ripe On The Vine

PART ONE

Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned:

Last weekend I had the overwhelming urge to go shopping and buy some new clothes.

It really isn’t all that complicated. I had broken my foot at the beginning of July, I had lazed around on my butt all summer while the foot healed, and I had gained weight. I simply wanted some pants that fit. And maybe a nice, bright, stylish top to go with. And some pretty earrings. I was in full-blown consumer mode for the first time in months, and I didn’t even try to fight it. I stumbled. Hard.

To cut myself a small break, I did try to find a Mardens (a Maine-person owned company, not a conglomerate-owned company) on my way to the mall. I heard there was one going in on the site of the old Wal-Mart in South Portland. Apparently, Wal-Mart had deserted one cement-block box and built a new one a few hundred yards down the road. Someone told me they were selling the old building to Mardens, but the site was still and bleak as only empty, big-box retail buildings can be, devoid of personality or charm.

Even a ghost-town would have more interesting architecture.

Okay, I may be projecting my guilt onto the Wal-Mart’s of the world rather than owning up to my complicity with them. For one thing, last month the school sent home a list of supplies my daughter is supposed to take with her to the middle school. She needed folders, pens, dry-erase markers, colored pencils, book covers (whatever happened to covering books with paper bags from the grocery store–and what do the kids do with dry-erase markers, anyway? Do they get their own white boards?), and a three-ring binder plus reams of paper to go into said binder. I bought what I could at the Sanford Mardens (pens, loose paper, sticky notes, tape, gluestick), but Dear Daughter had specific requirements when it came to the design of folders and notebooks, i.e. they couldn’t be plain and ordinary. They had to be cool and colorful and funky.

Off to the new Sanford Super Wal-Mart we went. Dear Daughter found what she wanted . . . and I came home with a bunch of spiral-bound and marble-top notebooks for me. How could I resist twenty-cent and fifty-cent notebooks? My conscience screamed at me all the way home, but I kept thinking about how in a post-oil future I’d be happy for a supply of paper. Uh-huh. Justification. Self-delusion. The Wages of Sin.

Maybe I was infected right then by the back-to-school virus that makes one long for new clothes, new shoes, and the latest shade of lipstick advertised in the September VOGUE. Or maybe one sin leads to another. In any case, I didn’t have the strength to resist temptation. One Friday night, despite thunderstorm (and tornado!)warnings, I headed to Macy’s women’s department and checked out the sales racks where a pretty fushia top jumped into my hand. No sooner did I think “khaki pants” did the perfect pair present itself . . . in the right size . . . on the other side of the rack. On the way to the dressing room, I spied a blue, ruffled top on clearance. And wouldn’t you know it? They all fit. If I were superstitious, I’d have thought a devil was aiding and abetting.

Here’s the worst part: It felt so good to be in an air-conditioned store with a smorgasboard of clothing options, soothing music pumping through the sound system, and an attentive saleswoman eager to carry my three sale items to the register, where, with a quick swipe of the credit card, I bought myself a big, warm slice of American Consumerism. After six months of local buying and doing-without, that twenty minutes in Macy’s felt like coming home.

I walked out into the humidity of the parking lot with its circles of brightness cast from the sodium-light streetlamps and wondered if maybe I should simply give in and live the life I was born to, this energy-sucking, high-speed, overabundant, luxurious American middle-class life. It’s an old issue for me, this tug-of-war between the world that is and the world as it used to be and might be again. I never felt totally comfortable with modernity, didn’t trust that it could last or even progress much further, and yet for my forty-one years it has continued and it has progressed.

I like to read fashion and shelter magazines, romance novels, and chick lit. I watched the entire run of SEX AND THE CITY, and I just ordered the movie from Netflix and hope to watch it this week. This part of me appreciates our instamatic lifestyle–music at the touch of a button, movies at the click of a mouse, travel at the turn of an ignition key. It’s magic, this life we have here at the edge of the century, and I wonder how many of us actually stop to admire the sheer audacity and brilliance of our modern life even as we ponder the possibility of its ultimate demise.

I’d never heard of personal computer when I was my daughter’s age. The internet hadn’t been developed. A mouse was a little rodent you hoped not to find in your cupboard. Talking to someone on a screen was something from the cartoon The Jetsons, and I remember watching the cartoon and thinking “that will never happen.”

As I type this on my laptop, the little eye of my web cam stares at me, accusingly, like the eye of some techno-god irritated by my lack of faith. Maybe technology will save us, after all, as our oil supplies diminish and we continue on with our consumerish ways. Delusion. Self-deception. Sin?

Is it a sin to want the comforts we’ve enjoyed for so long? I just don’t know for sure. It’s easy to plunk down that credit card and walk out of the mall with new clothes when you don’t stop to think of the third-world worker who made them. When you don’t stop to think about your fellow Americans who lost their jobs when the manufacturing sector closed shop here in the U.S. and moved to those third-world sweat-shop hives. When you refuse to think how those dollars could have been spent supporting a local business struggling to make it in a “flat and crowded” world. (See Thomas Friedman’s book.)

Unfortunately, I thought about those things and suffered pangs of guilt.

Farmer's Market Fare

Farmer's Market Fare

As penance, I headed off to the brand new farmer’s market in Newfield the next morning. The market was set up at Willowbrook, a historical village and museum. At nine in the morning, the vendors were just setting up, and I was charmed by the setting, the goods on display, and the nice people. I came away with a loaf of Anadama Bread from the Brother’s Bakery in Alfred, a bouquet of curly, green kale, some cookies from the Boy Scout troop, and a pair of earrings.
Earrings From Farmer's Market

Earrings From Farmer's Market

For those of you in the neighborhood, the market is open at Willowbrook on Saturdays at nine am. There is also a new farmer’s market that has opened up in South Waterboro, just up the street from the Milk Room. This one is also on Saturdays. I checked it out a few weekends ago, on it’s opening day. Vendors were offerering local produce, homemade charcoal for the grill, ice-cream, pottery, and some hot food items. The Shaker Valley Farmer’s Market even had a band on site to celebrate the day. See this write-up about it in the Waterboro Reporter–our local newspaper.

Rockin' out at the farmer's market

Rockin' out at the farmer's market

What have I learned from all this? The obvious lesson, of course, is that we aren’t perfect. All we can do is try to do the right thing . . . whatever we think is the right thing . . . as often as we can. For me, this means putting on my new clothes and acknowledging the sheer luck of having been born in this place at this time. It means regretting an impulsive and possibly selfish decision to do what came easiest rather than suck it up and wear the old clothes until I found a local option. It means vowing to do better in the weeks and months ahead.

While out and about, I picked up a book of sewing patterns which included a pattern for a pretty, wrap skirt. That’s one step in the right direction. The book is called WEEKEND SEWING: More than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross. Click here to see the book. Ms. Ross has compiled a lovely bunch of sewing projects including table napkins, an apron, a tunic, kids clothes, and even slippers! She has included patterns that can be traced onto transfer paper. I’ve never done that before, but I’m looking forward to trying. It’s definitely time to get out my dusty sewing machine. Back in college, I used to make some of my own dresses, but then clothes just seemed to get cheaper and cheaper in the stores. The cost of materials was more than buying something premade. Not stopping to think about the reasons why this might be, I simply put away the sewing machine and got on with my role as a Great American Consumer.

But if I’m going to be serious about staying out of the Boxes, I need to start making my own clothes again. Wish me luck!

PART TWO

Fiction. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried it, but in keeping with today’s theme I thought it was only right that I tell you about my latest project. I’m writing a confession magazine story. And I’m having a blast doing so. If you don’t know what a confession magazine is, I’ll fill you in. You know those thin magazines with titles like TRUE STORY and TRUE CONFESSIONS you see in the grocery store next to the teen magazine and crossword puzzle books? Those are confessions mags. Each issue has six or seven stories of varying lengths, all in first person, most following a formula that goes something like: heroine makes a bad decision, heroine digs herself in even deeper, heroine suffers, heroine repents, heroine is redeemed.

These stories aren’t as bad as they sound, actually. They may not be what they purport to be–true–but they can be true to life. Since I haven’t had much drama in my own life, I’m forced to take smidgeons of personal stories I’ve heard over the years and to try to morph them into a story resembling truth. And isn’t that what all fiction is–even the most literary of fiction?

I was thinking about the power of story the other day. Here’s a confession: I listen to Christmas music in the summer. Just the instrumental stuff, but still. I don’t quite know why I get the urge to hear O Holy Night in the middle of August, but there it is. So I was thinking about Christmas and the Christmas story, Jesus’ birth, the angels, the star, the whole deal. I’m not a true believer as I once was, but I have to admit there is something powerful about the story, something that speaks to me even though I think the “truth” of the story is about on par with those of the “true” confession stories. A little bit of reality mixed with alot of desire for order out of chaos.

It struck me that we humans have a deepseated need for story, for the order of story, and if we could only realize that the various religions are all attempting to create that order, telling of a universal truth if not an exact historical one, we might be able to tolerate or even celebrate our religious differences. How many religious stories speak of the god being born, usually under mysterious and magical circumstances, growing, and eventually dying . . . and then being reborn. It’s an old, old story found in many cultures and religions, Christianity obviously included. One could argue that the pre-Christian religious stories were only there to prepare the way for the One True Religion and all those that came after are mere peversions of the same, I suppose, but that’s a stretch for me.

So, the big question. Can we fulfull our human need for spirituality, for order out of chaos, if we lack unquestioning faith in one religion? Or can the story itself be enough?

It seems to me that as adults, we are able to filter what we learn of religion. We take what we need from it and let the more disturbing elements go a little fuzzy and bleary along the edges. Kids don’t have that filter. If they hear it, and if a trusted adult tells them it is The Truth, they’ll believe it. Concretely. Think about the kids being taught in the madrassas in the Middle East right now. Think they have a filter for what they are being taught?

I was taught that one of these days Jesus Christ was going to blow a trumpet, dead Christians would rise out of their graves, live Christians would disappear into the heavens, and all hell was going to break loose here on earth. No filter. For years I lived in fear that my salvation “didn’t take” and that I’d have to live through said hell on earth before being thrown into a fiery pit. Lovely stuff for a bedtime story, right?

Now I have to think that the adults in my life just didn’t realize they were using a filter. They were not going to worry about the supernatural stuff. Not really. There was a mortgage to pay and jobs to do and, well, church to go to. Those prosaic concerns filtered out the usuable stuff like the Ten Commandments from the less usuable stuff like lion-headed locusts in the story.

But what about the kids? I wrote a story about this about six years ago. It’s called Second Coming. I’ll post it under my Fiction Corner, but with a warning for those of you who are strong in your Christian faith. It isn’t pretty. There’s stuff in there that will disturb you. In other words, Read At Your Own Risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Since writing that story (and, man, it was cathartic!) I’ve come to a more tolerant view of my Christian upbringing. I can see the beauty and power of the Christian story, so wonderfully encapsulated in the music. Birth, life, death, rebirth. Good stuff.