Monday, February 23, 2015

cheers to you, Graham.

There have been many times in my life where I felt (long pause at keyboard).....weird.  Yeah, weird I guess.  Different.

By who's perception?  I guess my own.  From being a kid that rollerskated in her basement, lip synching to the Annie soundtrack, all while pretending the poles that held up the floor were my watching admirers.

To high school where I saw what popular looked and acted like, but I just could not bring myself to DO it.   I dipped my toe in and just couldn't do it.  Don't get me wrong....I had friends, but I chose to leave high school with two SOLID friendships and that was it.  And it was plenty.  And it has been plenty still.

To my adulthood where I feel like I need to carry around a water-proof roll of duct tape to stick over my lips when I feel the word vomit coming up.  I once told "someone" that my brain is like a non-stop peanut gallery of muppet characters.  Not in the "I hear voices" kind of way, but in the white-noise way.

A sound bite from my inner dialogue at any given moment would sound a little like,

"What'd he say? No, that's wrong! Don't say it! What would he/she think of me if I did?  I should keep my mouth shut.  What's that? Oh, it would be really funny if XYZ happened! What if it did? What would I do? AGGGHHHH! My head's going to explode! Why am I the only person bothered by this??!?!? Am I wrong?? Maybe......NO!"

Some days I get completely wrapped up in wanting to save the world.  Or at least try.

I teach 6th grade, so...11 and 12 year olds.  On the brink of middle school.  A.K.A. THE BRINK OF DISASTER/WORST PHASE OF LIFE EVERRRRRRR!!!!  Okay, dramatic, but I find myself getting caught up in thinking and/or saying things like, "Ohmygosh these next few years are going to be a WILD ride, but HANG ON 'cause you're gonna make it!!!"  It's like I see them as calves going down the conveyer belt, but I know they're going to jump off at the last second and be okay.  Whaaaat?  What the heck kind of analogy is that.  That is weird.

I know I can't save 'em all.  As much as I want to be the one that puts an end to bullying once and for all with THE PERFECT words of wisdom......I alone can't stop the you-know-what storm that happens in EVERYONE'S life between the ages of 11 and...........well, I'm 33 and still wearing my raincoat and wellies.

But what I can do (I think? I KNOW!) is I can be one person in a child's life that believes they WILL be okay, and they'll be okay by being themselves.

You do NOT need Uggs.
You do NOT need to do duck face. (in fact....don't.)
You do NOT have to silence yourself.
You do NOT have to pretend to be someone you are not.

I think it was William Penn that said, "Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone."  No, I think it was Walt Whitman.......I forget.

Babble babble babble.  I love blogs, because I can babble, but I'm doing it for me.  (read my first post....this is Kestutis.  This is my coping)  :::::pumps fist in air:::::: (that's weird?)

Anyway.... all of that saving lives on the brink of disaster plus oh, having a career and plus being a wife and plus being a mom and plus maintaining who I am has left me a bit.......(long pause at keyboard again).....emotionless?  It's like, I get so overwhelmed with "stuff" that I just go into auto-pilot mode.  Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop.

And maybe that's why I don't speak up enough? Because, "don't rock the boat", right? Don't cause waves?  Well....I'm seeing some very wrong, wrong things and I don't think I can keep it in anymore.

I plaster my walls with quotes such as, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi!) and
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about  things that matter." (MLK!!!) but I feel like a hypocrite because I haven't been doing enough of that.  I feel my passions being stirred but I'm afraid to act.  Afraid to be different.  Afraid to deviate from the norm.  But what if the norm is not acceptable?  What then?

I've been home for the past 5 weeks, taking a family medical leave from work/school to take care of my 2.5 year old, who broke his leg and is in a chest to toes (yep, plural....toeS) spica I've had some "think" time.  Some time off of the go go go go merry-go-round to reflect on who I am and what I really stand for.

This morning, I groggily brought him downstairs, let his happy fingers start the coffee machine for me (mommy's barista!!!) and laid with him on his beanbag chair.  I popped on the TV and pulled up my DVR menu to eagerly watch the last 45 minutes of the Oscar's from last night that I just could not stay up and finish live.

Oprah walks up on stage to present Best Adapted Screenwriter.  ("She's pretty", my little man says.  Mommy's heart melts into goo.)  She announces the winner, Graham Moore for his screenplay written for "The Imitation Game."  Never heard of the guy, but he looks pretty pumped that he won, so I listen to his speech.

He finishes by saying that at age 16, he tried to commit suicide.  Then comes this......

Laying on my back next to my little dude, I felt heavy tears stream down my face.  Wow.

I'd like to say thank you to him.  Thank you for speaking up and speaking to the other "weird" people out there. Thank you for using your time to be brave, for the chance that it may help someone else.  Thank you for renewing my own sense of purpose in the work that I do.  Thank you for making me cry.

So, I hope to spend these last few weeks that I have nursing my love back to health, thinking about where to go from here.  To continue to try to be a voice that matters.  That sticks.  That says, "Don't listen to them.  Be who you are.  You are perfect." And maybe say that to myself every now and then.

I encourage you, reader, to watch this yourself if you need a high-five or a hug.  We're all weird.  We're all different.  That's the point of life.  Click here to view his speech... Graham's Speech
Congratulations, Graham. XoXo.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

You were wild once, don't let them tame you.

Last summer I got to know a family that lives diagonally across the street from me at a neighborhood party.  They have 3 beautiful little girls, now ages 10, 8 and 6.  I began tutoring two of them last summer, "L" and "E" (helloooooo internet paranoia!) and was immediately impressed with not only their individual personalities and interests, but how both of them seemed "wise beyond their years."

E would frequently relate vocabulary/phonics words we were studying back to her knowledge of the Titanic or other historic events.  L (who had just finished 1st grade), showed me her Picasso-esque artwork that she loved to produce.  L has a form of dyslexia and I feel like jumping into her brain for a day would be extraordinary.

Anyway, one day E saw an old picture frame that I had experimented with some chalk painting techniques on and she casually said, "Oh, is that distressed?  My mom said people distress furniture to make them look like antiques."


Every week, I looked forward to working with L and E, and keeping my teaching skills sharp over the summer break.  Even more than that, I enjoyed the conversations I had with these two soulful girls.

Flash forward to a cold, winter morning last month when I was hurrying my toddler into the car, late for daycare drop off and school as usual.  E & L's mom walked by and we stopped for a chat.  She told me that E had recently decided to re-vamp her bedroom and she was letting her have full reign in the design process.  She also said that E had a nightstand and a dresser that she'd love for me to chalk paint to my heart's desire.  I told her I'd absolutely love to, but life was running 400 m.p.h. recently and I wasn't sure when I'd have time.

Then came January 29th.  Loooooong story toddler broke his leg doing a little jig to the Thomas the Tank Engine song and ended up in a practically full body cast...."spica cast" as they call it.  Well.....with a family medical leave suddenly upon me, turns out I had some spare time for a project while my baby napped !

I stopped over to see E's new comforter, which would turn out to be the color palate for her re-design.  She chose this beautiful "dip dyed" comforter from Pottery Barn Teen seen here:

So cool!  Seeing the colors and hearing her thoughts, I immediately thought of the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint colors Provence and Henrietta......
She had a large, 5 drawer dresser and a small night stand for me to work on.  We sat together with iPad in hand, browsing Pinterest for inspiration and found this picture that made her go, "Ooohhhh!"...

Oooooh! Now, this color shown is Emile, which is a darker purple than the pinkish-purple Henrietta, but we both agreed this would look awesome in her room.

Then, Miss Amazing Vocabulary said, "Can you distress the drawers??"  Uhh....yeah!! So, I suggested doing the turquoise-y Provence underneath Henrietta so that I could distress it and let the pretty turquoise peak out underneath.


But, this being my first pre-teen piece of furniture, I couldn't stop there!

"How about an initial or a monogram on the side?"   "YES!"
"How about a quote about dance somewhere?" "YES!"  "In gold!"  "YESSS!!!"

WEEEEEE!!!!!  Seriously......there is nothing like a creative project to pull me out of the Winter funk....especially having to stay indoors while my wee little one's leg was healing.  The next day, I hopped up to my favorite Annie Sloan retailer, Pippi & Peanuts Eclectic Boutique in Quakertown, PA and my husband helped E's dad haul her furniture over to our house and into my workshop ( basement)

Bad news for me, but I took absolutely NO "before" pictures and NO "step-by-step" pictures.  I hit this project with reckless abandon and finished in a week and a half.  A new record.

All I can say is.....use your imagination for the "before."  It was green.  Okay, light green?

And now.....the afters!
*Note:  This is the very very very very last time that I am apologizing for the low/horrible quality of my pictures.  I can no longer take pictures on my LG Something-Something phone and try to show off pictures that actually do my work justice.  Next purchase....a real camera!!!!!! Oh....SORRY!!!*

Finished piece:  body of dresser- three coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White, finished with clear wax
                          drawers- two coats of ASCP in Provence, one coat of Henrietta, distress lightly with medium grain sanding block., faux distressing of Provence and Henrietta along edges and clear wax finish

I did the "E" initial before I applied the wax.  Instead of buying a large letter stencil, I simply went on MS Word, found a font I liked, typed a giant E (about.....400 pt.?  Took up whole page) and printed it on dense cardstock.  Then, I cut out the printed portion of the E verrrrry carefully, taped it back together carefully and used it as a stencil!

Close-up of drawers......again....sorry for quality.  Wahh.
"Faux distressing" is what I call it when I dip a small paintbrush in the color I want to peak through and lightly brush it again on edges.  This helps when I've distressed too hard and the wood or previous color is showing through.  After I brush the "peaking" color (here, Provence), I brush over it again with the top color (here, Henrietta) until I achieve the look I want.

In this picture, the distressing on the flat part of the drawer front is "true" distressing with a sand block, and what you see on the edges is "faux." 

 Lastly, I added a couple of details in gold paint pen, like this Isadora Duncan quote on the side of the nightstand....."You were wild once, don't let them tame you."   If ya don't know, Isadora Duncan is known as the creator of modern dance.  She wowed audiences in both Europe and the U.S. with her new-fangled free-form dance style.  Teddy Roosevelt was a big fan.  Don't ask me how she was killed.  I'm not saying not to Google it.....but I'm not gonna tell you what happened!!!! Eeeks!!!!

 The dresser, I put a quote from Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." 

"There was a star danced, and under that I was born."

Can you tell she has a passion for dance?

And a little scrawl of "dream" on the nightstand's side that is closest to E's bed.  And, my signature gold heart. 

 E and her sweet sisters trudged through the snow to come see her furniture yesterday and her reaction was exactly what I was hoping for.  Jaw dropped and exclaimed, "This is so cool! No one else will have anything like this!!"

Just a small piece in the world of a unique girl!