Category Archives: Personal Life

On Working with Women

I want to talk a bit about gender. It’s going to be binary, because I’m going to be talking about my life, and I’ve rarely interacted (in person) with people who do not identify as male or female. And really, I’m not really talking about gender fully. I’m talking about women. I’ve been thinking a lot about women, lately. Specifically their influences on me. Specifically how blessed I am to have so many strong, opinionated, ambitious women throughout my working life.

I work in a costume shop. For 95% of my adult life, I have worked in costume shops. At least ten different shops. Some of them (including my current shop!), have been staffed with only women. Most of them with women, gay men (who are definitely not women, but also bring different power-dynamics to a shop), and the occasional straight man. But we’re not going to talk about him. The whole world talks about him.

I’m going to say something that I don’t think gets said a lot: it’s really nice. It is really nice to work in a room of all women, day-in-and-day out. I’m serious. (And I think it’s sad that I have to say that I’m serious.)

I also love working with female designers, and assistant designers, directors, and actresses.

They all inspire me.

From the directors, I hear how to make my opinions known. How to believe they are valuable. How to be forceful.

From the designers, I learn collaboration. How to have a vision, and to bend other (very opinionated) people’s visions to my own. Or how to adjust. When to compromise, when to step back or forward.

From the actresses, I understand bodies. Our relationships to our bodies. I see how I can both hate and love how I look, simultaneously. I see how to flirt with a look–the tilt of the head, a smile–and I know how valuable flirtation is. How powerful and how harmless and how it really (usually) has nothing to do with sexual interest at all.

But it is from the other women in the shop that I learn the most, that I glean the most from. Tricks of the trade, of course. Little hints about working with leather or cutting chiffon. But it’s so much more than that. I learn about life, about navigating it as a woman. About how straightforward that is, and how tricksy too.

From the women who are older than me, I find courage and hope. Even though life will be rough (and it will, at times, be really rough), I can make it through. They did. And the scars they bear make them stronger, fiercer, more beautiful.

The ones who are younger than me (and there are more of those every year!), remind me what it was like to have a whole world in front of me and what it was like to have to make huge, giant decisions for the first time. They remind how scary that was, and how glad I am to be past my 20s. They also remind me that the huge, giant decisions that I’m making now aren’t irrevocable. Life isn’t a long line with only two divergences: good or bad. It’s twisty. And the right decision now may not be the right decision for always, but that’s the beauty of it. As long as you’re living, there are many more choices (and giant decisions) ahead.

I suppose that is true for all people, but it feels different somehow when I look at a young woman trying to decide between career paths, and family, and love, and the myriad of other things that go into decision-making.

I’m not naive. It’s not all daisies and tea parties and heart-to-hearts whilst hemming petticoats or boning corsets. I’ve disliked some of the individual women I’ve worked with. And some of them, have hated me. Some of them have been cruel to me, have worked to make my worklife harder. These thoughts are generalizations. Obviously, not all women fit into the categories I’ve described. Not all of my experiences with female directors, designers, actresses, or shop staff have been pleasant.

Sometimes, working with a room full of women–it can be annoying. When my department is overlooked or ignored or paid less than the other production departments, it’s annoying. When I’m told I would be prettier if I only did X, it’s annoying. When my menstrual cycle is pulled (yet again) to someone else’s schedule, it’s super annoying.

But mostly? Working with women is amazing. And I don’t think that gets talked about very much.

I didn’t connect the fact that choosing costumes would mean working with women most of the time. If I’d known when I was 22, I might have made a different decision. I wasn’t particularly fond of women then. I liked to bash my gender right along with the next girl who thought she was above it all. But now, at (just about) 32, I’m grateful and I wouldn’t change that aspect of this career for the world.

Afterall, there is a reason I chose a grad school situated on a women’s college, staffed primarily by female academics and writers, attended mostly by female students.

When I need inspiration? When I need help? I turn to the women.

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Grad School: Week 2

Week two has come and gone, and I thought I ought to post again.

Not too much has happened outside of classroom work, though I was surprised with an unexpected visitor on Friday of this week.

Kyle came down!

Turns out he had Friday off for the holiday, so we decided it’d be a good time to visit (also a good time because it’s the only week I don’t have a MAJOR project due the following week). We didn’t do a whole lot while he was here–checked out some local restaurants (ate at an AMAZING Mexican place), saw a movie, celebrated the fourth with some of the other children’s lit students.

We also explored the library. Kyle approved.

We also explored the library. Kyle approved.

Celebrating the fourth was really just heading over to another dorm on campus, eating some junk food, and waiting to have one of the super-talented illustrators from the program paint our faces. Apparently, it was Kyle’s first-ever time having his face painted!

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A close-up. Isn't it gorgeous?

A close-up. Isn’t it gorgeous?

After face-painting we trekked up one of the big hills on campus to where the cemetery is (it’s a really old campus) to watch the fireworks. It was pretty amazing how many different towns’ celebrations we could see–there were at least 3 really visible, with 2-3 mostly hidden behind trees and mountain peaks.

Finally (sadly) Sunday came and my homework beckoned and Kyle went home.

Other things I did this week:

* A big presentation comparing Female Body Representation in Fan Art from Ovid’s Pygmalion myth and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park

* Read 2-3 Novels

* Read a whole bunch of chapters from my textbook

* Wrote a couple of response papers (no fiction)

* Began my research for my giant term paper

* Met with my advisor about my plan of attack for the next 3 years.

* Ate and talked and ate and talked

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    Writing Assistant Monday: Off and Away!

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Cat bellies increase productivity. It is known.

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It’s hot.

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If only writing assistants could also be tidying assistants. Between packing and trying to finish up this novel, the house is a bit of a mess.

This will be the last Writing Assistant Monday featuring either of my darling cats for at least six weeks. I leave for my first summer residency at Hollins on Friday morning. We’re stopping DC on the way to visit with some friends and have lunch, then we should be Roanoke sometime in the evening.

I’m nervous. Really, really nervous. And I’ve been focusing a lot of energy on worrying, which I want to try to stop. So in an effort to shift my focus: a list of things I’m super, duper excited about for the summer.

** Meeting amazing authors and industry professionals. Um, hello. I’m going to be taking classes for Alexandria LaFaye and Hillary Homzie. Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and Terri Windling are amazing and will be all be there for the summer. Visiting are greats like Cece Bell and Andrea Brown and Charles Vess and freaking Maggie Stiefvater. I can’t wait to absorb the energy and knowledge of so many talented, dedicated people.

** Being just beside the BEAUTIFUL Blue Ridge Mountains. Kyle and I already have plans to hike next weekend.

** Bluegrass.

** Books.

** Reading and writing and talking and breathing children’s lit with people who are just as passionate about it as I am.

** Not having to cook (much). Hello cafeteria and meal plan!

** Books.

I’ll miss Kyle and the cats and my friends in NJ, but with each new move (however temporary) there is the chance to expand. A new place to explore. New foods to eat. New favorite people to add to my already long list of favorite people.

And of course, new books.

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New Orleans: Day 1 (All About Dem Birds)

Our first full day in New Orleans was full of food, rest, and aquarium adventures. We started out a little later than planned, but still pretty early, walking the few blocks to Cafe Beignet, our housemates favorite places to get Beignets. It was packed. Like, lines out the door crazy packed. (This, as you may be guessing, has become somewhat of a theme of our trip.)

So…we pulled up yelp and walked around the corner to the little Cafe Fleur De Lis. It was pretty great, and we had our first celebrity sighting. I was staring as some lady’s breakfast (because I couldn’t tell what it was and it looked interesting). Then she looked up and gave me this strange, strained smile. It was Robin Roberts (from Good Morning America), and I’m fairly certain she thought I was staring at her. Oops.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

Kyle is very hopeful about what his breakfast will entail.

After breakfast we headed to the aquarium, which was Kyle’s birthday gift to me. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we ran up to Parakeet Point, where for the low, low price of $1.50 you can get a little feed stick to feed parakeets in a large, netted room. It was amazing. Like, one of the most amazing things we’ve ever done.

The parakeets were charming and sweet. They loved getting into small spaces–pockets and purses, even sleeves a couple of times.

This is my absolute must do recommendation for anyone who comes to New Orleans (or if we ever come back).

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Inside that yellow cage, are hundreds of parakeets.

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What’s in here?!

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A perfect perch for the most discerning of parakeets.

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Feed stick, licked clean.

 

After our first round with the birds we came back for a quick sandwich (Mufaletta, for the win!) and nap, then went back to the Aquarium. There were more birds to feed! And also, fish. We figured we ought to spend some time with them as well.

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For dinner we trekked up to Frenchman St to Three Muses, a short-of tapas place with fantastic food, cocktails and music. Afterward we wandered around the street, listening to music (Kyle was especially happy to find a sousaphone player in the midst of the hubbub). But the highlight for me was attending an outdoor art market and finding the art of Tony Hollums.

Oh my word, his art. Just follow the link above. It’s beyond beautiful. Despite always loving art, I’ve never actually had a favorite artist before, and now I do.

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Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

Sidewalk chalked coy at the art market.

We bought 4 of his prints, then headed home for a short sleep. We were getting up in the morning to watch the sunrise over the Mississippi.

 

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New Orleans Trip: Day .5

We arrived late(ish) last night, tired and famished. So we checked in, unpacked, and then braved the streets of New Orleans.

There were lots of drunk people. Lots. And surprisingly enough, a huge chunk of them were older than us. For some reason, neither of us expected that.

We tried to go to ACME Oyster House for an oyster po-boy that was highly recommended by a friend who grew up around these parts. Not knowing how it worked, and wanting to see how long the wait was, we started to go in only to be shouted at by a member at the waitstaff that we had to wait in line. “Wait in line!” Multiple times. To be fair to her, there was a glob of people standing outside the restaurant. To be fair to us, it looked nothing like a line. And we weren’t trying to cut. Needless to say, we left. You could even say, we left in a huff. Well, I left in a huff. Kyle doesn’t generally huff much.

We wandered around, trying to get Yelp to load to figure out where our next best bet was. And we finally landed at the Palace Cafe. It was nice. The shrimp remoulade was AMAZING, as was the blueberry tart (so says Kyle. I don’t generally eat blueberries willingly.) 

The pecan pie was not as good as my Grandma’s, but that was no shock.

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Cakes!

 

One of the big projects I did when I was home in Michigan this June was to help Mom revamp the window displays for the cake shop. I had a lot of fun searching on pinterest for style ideas, both for the background of the windows and for the cake dummies that would sit inside them.

One of my main goals for the “fun” window (she has two and the other was wedding/romance themed), was to try to get away from really girly cakes. Cake can be for everyone, obviously, but I think a lot of time people thing of decorated cakes and they think of swirls and flowers and sugar pearls.

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The first cake I tackled? Admittedly girly, but I liked the grass feature. As far as decorating and fondant work go, it’s an amateur attempt at best. Mom can do much, much better. But it’s for a window display and not a promotional shot, so we declared it alright.

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The hobbit cake was something I designed because I thought the nerdy guys in my life would like it. And I was right! Kyle loved it and wanted me to bring it back to NJ with me. But nope, into the window it went!

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This third cake, is my favorite. Again the fondant work is only so-so, but I love the monochromatic colors and its simplicity. The little red crab was supposed to go on top of the cake, hanging over the edge of the waves, but I found the darling whales in Mom’s extra fondant figures box and I couldn’t help but use them. They’re perfect and so charming. Now the crab sits in the sugar sand at the bottom of the cake.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. Though I have to say, cake decorating is HARD and not for me. I’m glad to jump in when I can to help out, and it was fun to stretch some new and different creative muscles, but oofta. I’m glad it’s done.

I don’t have any pictures of the finished window displays, but if you’re in Hillsdale you should swing by and check them out. They’re pretty great (if I do say so myself). And if you’re there between 10-3, stop in and get a cupcake!

 

 

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The Last 5 Years

And by last, I mean previous…

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Photo by the very talented Jen at Luna Dulce Photography.

Five years ago today, Kyle and I got married. It’s hard to know what to say about last five years of our life– the first five years of our marriage. It’s been hard. At times, really hard. And I have no doubt the difficulties will continue to follow us through the years. But there is no one else on the planet I would rather share burdens with than Kyle.

I find it both ironic and perfectly appropriate that we’re celebrating this milestone anniversary apart. Ironic, because, well, it’s a milestone anniversary and we’re 626 miles away from one another. But I think the fact that we’re apart is also indicative of my favorite part of our relationship. We support each other.

About a week after this picture was taken (on the day of the wedding)– Kyle left for a month-long fellowship in Massachusetts. I didn’t go along. It wasn’t a traditional way to spend the first few weeks of marriage, but it was important to us that he attend. It set an amazing precedent: that we could handle time and distance, and that we could support each other as we strive to succeed on our independent paths.

I’m very thankful for a partner that supports me, no matter how crazy life gets.

Here’s to the next 5 years!

 

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Writing Assistant Monday & Some News

First with the news: I sold a story! “Remnants of a Quilter’s Memory” is not science fiction or children’s fiction of any sort. It’s a very small 500 word piece about a family’s struggle with dementia, and it’s very close to my heart for a whole lotta reasons. It’ll be live at Every Day Fiction on June 22, so check it out if you’re interested.

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Task mistress.

This will be my last writing assistant Monday post with featuring these furry faces for at least the next three weeks, because I’m headed home to Michigan! The plan is to help Mutti with the store (specifically sprucing up the window displays).

I’m also planning on finishing up the first (very rough) draft of my middle grade novel, relaxing and playing with my nephew who is just growing up too fast.

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Assisting writers is hard.

I also hope to get some reading done…

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How many books do you take on your 3-week vacation?

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Writing Assistant Monday: Gardening Assistant Edition

And by “Gardening Assistant,” I mean anything but. This bunny-butt has been wandering through our yard all spring, and I’ve enjoyed spotting him through the kitchen window. I knew he would eventually mean trouble to the garden boxes, but I didn’t expect him to actually begin lounging in them! Breakfast in bed?

Hmph.

Hmph.

What I don’t quite understand, is why he didn’t go for the raspberries that are in the right of the picture, directly in front of him. We found about 12 perfectly formed raspberries on the ground when we got home from Ireland. Unfortunately, they were moldy or I would’ve brought them in and eaten them myself.

Ah well, as long as he contains himself to that box (where Kyle’s 6 zucchini plants are planted), we’ll be okay, the garden bunny and I.

Today’s the first day of “work” after the vacation. My to-do list currently includes:

* Calling Unemployment. Because it just can’t be easy.

* Writing 2200 new words in the novel in progress. At least.

* Dishes.

* Unpacking.

Other things I could/should do:

* Mowing the yard.

* Going through my clothes and shoes and things. Purge.

Riveting, stuff, I know.

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Ireland Trip: Day 1

Adventures away!

I haven’t mentioned it around the interwebs a lot, but Kyle and I are in Ireland for the next week. We were supposed to meet my Mom, Grandma and uncle in Philly yesterday and all catch the same flight over, but their flight out of Detroit was delayed and they landed just as the doors were closing for our Dublin flight. Hoping that they would make it, Kyle and I were aboard and so we had an extra day to ourselves.

Since the first stop on our originally scheduled adventures was over 3 hours away and we needed to pick up the rest of the fam the next morning, we followed Rick Steve’s advice for staying in Dublin and headed outside the city walls to the small fishing village of Howth, about 30 minutes away.

None of his recommended places to stay we’re available, but we still managed to find a quaint B and B with the best view.

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This is what I got to wake up to!

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King Sitric’s. Restaurant, bar, cafe and lodging.

Yesterday we decided to head into Dublin as we originally planned. We took the train in, which was nice and easy, then walked over to see the Book of Kells. Being late afternoon, it was pretty busy and the people there seemed exceptionally pushy, but it was still pretty cool. Extra cool because there was an exhibit on Brian Boru featuring the art of the same people who made the movie Secret of the Kells.

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In the longroom at the old library at Trinity College. It smelled so nice, like old books and knowledge.

Then last night we (sort of accidentally) went to a rather nice dinner and a show at the Abbey Tavern back in Howth. We thought we were just going to a local pub for fish and chips and some music, but it was a whole prefix menu with traditional Irish songs sung and even some Irish dancing. It was a bit strange to be thrust into the middle of, but it was nice experience all told. And the food was amazing.

Today we woke up early to enjoy the east coast sunrise. We’ll eat breakfast then head to the airport to pick up the rest of the bunch, then to Derry and Northern Ireland. Hip, hooray!

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