Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Whew! I’ve been up to my ears in busy so have missed posting for a while…sorry! I did just enter an essay contest and thought I might share my non-fiction entry. Go GIRLS!

 

Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Mary Ellen Wall

 

“What are you all red-eyed about?”

“High waters. All I got is high waters. Bell bottoms gotta drag the floor!”

“Prissy girls.” Mama went back to her crossword puzzle and I stomped back to my room to take off those durn blue jeans that showed my ankles as soon as possible. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t born a boy. Tossing my book bag and shedding my shame, the treasure spread across my bed stole my attention.

My Bookmobile treasure: Pollinators, Geology and the Inland Sea, The Science of Fire, Storm Dynamics. With a fluffed pillow at my back and my bare giraffe legs stretched out before me, I reached for the nearest tome. The 8th grade science fair was only 27 days away. Hmmm, weather instruments.

I had a jelly jar in my hand wondering what to use as a membrane when I saw the fancy syrup bottle with the plastic handle and spout in the trash. Ditch the spout. The jelly jar went back to Mama’s canning supplies. The smaller opening would mean a little balloon would fit lots easier and still be big enough for a pointer. A needle would poke the balloon. Dootdootdoot…what the hoot? Epiphany! A toothpick, flat rounded end stuck down. Glue, where’s the glue?

The two poster boards were a breeze to do. One had a wild tornado in the center with a spotted cow and a couple trees in it. Labels and arrows artfully drawn noted the meteorological details. The other had a precis of my EXPERIMENT. The harder part turned out to be affixing the index card to the bottle neck. Scissors! Tape! Where’s the durn tape?

I added another reading from the nightly weather report; the toothpick had a great range against the card which gave me pretty good space to record the data. The weather guys said a band of storms were on the way. Great! I might get a couple data points in the low range right before the science fair; the top of the card looked a bit blank.

Me, the biggest idiot in the room. The guy to the left of me had put an Apollo capsule model together. On the right, the guy with a hamster in a cage kept trying to make the critter run in the wheel. Across from me the guy had a printed, full color diorama of the Grand Canyon. Several boys had volcanoes. I had taped the cow tornado picture to the front of the table and whapped up a poster full of news of the record-breaking storm swarm and a fairly well drawn map to put in its place. Was it hokey? The boys had more polished displays. Except for me, all the contestants in the gym were boys.

Seeing the strange high school teachers quizzing the Apollo fellow reminded me of a Wild Adventures show including a warthog. Me, the warthog, now realizing lions approached. Could I still run? Where were the exits? I blinked at hearing someone knock on the table and there they stood, directly in front of me. Holy bovines.

“Miss, please explain why you brought this mess here.”

Mess? By golly, warthogs got tusks. “Sirs, Ma’am, I made this barometer from ordinary items and calibrated the device using the National Weather Association certified reports that are televised each evening.” Here I pointed at the data on the card. “There are 23 data points taken before Wednesday. On that day, the barometric pressure got so low, the diaphragm busted. This ‘mess’ is the evidence that my barometer worked.” I did not add that the sight of that balloon getting sucked way into that bottle and popping while Mama clutched my little sisters under the kitchen table and screamed at me to join them will amaze me to the end of my days.

Well, 1st place won me a whopping $50. The April 3, 1974 avalanche of ravaging tornadoes allowed me to proceed directly to the Woolco Department Store where I purchased a gleaming new Brother sewing machine. I figured out how to use it. From then through now, I choose the material for my clothes, I select the patterns and alter as I please. And my pants are always the right length.

Dishrags and Dresses

Marla need to earn the dough to be able to go to band camp, but this old lady had to be nuts. What a way to spend a Saturday morning. She’d listened to her mom who’d said this old thing needed the help. Grandpa raised his new hoe and agreed, following her out the door. “Darling, go aid our neighbor. I hear tell the woman down there lives all by herself. You’re lucky the Preacher found out she could use a hand and would pay somebody willing.”

Yeah, she needed help alright. This was her second time here and planned to make it her last. There had to be another job to find in this little town.dishrag

Drying the last of the dishes, the dish towel snagged that darned Velcro glued across the counter again. She ripped it up and the dratted Velcro came with it. Then she noticed Miss Grady stood two paces away. She laid the towel down gently and moved in front of it.

“I have your wages for today. There’s a little extra because of my mess you helped me clean up. Nasty, I know, but at my age I can’t always make it to potty in time.”

Embarrassed for the poor thing, she smiled. “It’s okay, Miss Grady, my Granny did worse than that.” She took the cash and slipped it into the little purse she kept slung across her shoulder. “I appreciate you letting me do the few odd jobs around here so I can go to camp.” So much for her plan.

“I took the free time to make you a Sunday dress, if you’d like to try it on. I mean, in case I got your size wrong.”

Dread drenched Marla’s skinny body. No dress ever fit her awkward form, and who knows what she’d made it out of. She’d seen a glimpse of the sewing room and it was filled with piles of cloth. For all she could imagine, this dress came from the first scraps reachable. stack-of-cloth-to-sew“Thank you. I’ll just take it home; I’m sure it will fit fine.”

Miss Grady leaned back and raised an eyebrow. “You doubt me, young lady. Come on back and let me show it to you.”

Reluctant to be rude after just getting paid, she followed the seamstress back to her lair. They stopped inside the room. Marla raised her gaze from the floor to see a beautiful, cap-sleeved dress on a hanger. She reached and felt of the fabric. The full skirt felt soft yet substantial enough to have some bounce to it; the dress made her want to wear it so bad.

Miss Grady lifted the purse strap over Marla’s head and eased it off. She placed it on the cutting table. “I’ll leave you in here to try it on. Holler when I can come in.”

When the door clicked, Marla shucked her t-shirt and jeans, then her shoes and socks. A new dress! She unzipped it and stepped inside it, holding her breath. She got it zipped up and saw herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. “Miss Grady, I’m ready!”Download 090915 002

“Aren’t you a pretty gal. Now, tell me how it fits. I can alter it quick.”

“It’s like it was made for me. And the pattern with the flowers and all is so perfect. I…I don’t know what to say.”

“Honey, you already said all I need to hear. I’m thrilled you like it!”

Marla slumped and frowned. “I admit, I thought you were crazy and didn’t expect much. I’m sorry.”

Chuckling, Miss Grady said, “I am off my rocker; however I can sew fairly well in spite of it. With all this cloth I figured I could finally put some to good use. You can pick any material you like and I’ll make another if you want.”

Marla straightened. “I would, if you take it out of my pay.” Grandpa would make up the shortage for the camp if he knew she’d tried to earn her way. Couldn’t she have both?

“Look around you, dear. Humor me and let me do this for you, please.”

Marla started walking around, fingering the different materials, her mind distracted from money matters. The silks would be too fancy and the solid cottons too plain. She turned at the sound of a scrape and saw Miss Grady had pulled out a chair to sit by her sewing machine. She stepped over and pulled a stool over to sit near her. “Why do you have so much cloth? Were you a tailor or something?”

Miss Grady got a sad look and rubbed her eyes, shoving her bifocals up to do it. “I had dreams years ago of a fellow dropping from the sky to sweep me off my feet. I felt it necessary to have a fine wardrobe to befit my prince. I’d have such a dream and accidentally drop a dish rag and be eagerly expecting him to arrive.” She threw her hands up. “Of course he never showed. I fell for it every year or two for a long while. No more.”

“That’s why you Velcro’d the counter? To keep from dropping the towel?”

Download 090915 018“That’s right. I make it a point to forget my dreams when I wake up, too.” She put her seam ripper and small scissors into a bin and turned the sewing machine light out. “I’m surprised you know the omens; I thought they’d die out with my generation.”

“Granny taught me some, like your ear itching means a person is talking about you.”

“And your right palm itching means money coming in.”

“And a dropped dishrag means a visitor is coming. Did nobody ever come?”

“The mailman would deliver a package or a Jehovah’s Witness would bring me a Watchtower. Yes, always someone. Not who I wanted.”

Marla got up and returned to the material bank. “How about this one, with the different colored polka dots?” She held it up as Miss Grady wiped a tear.

“There’s enough of that for a dress and a matching jacket. Do you prefer a long jacket or a short, bolero type?”

“Long, with a pleat in the back if you can.”

“I can and will.” She levered up on the table to rise and walked over to a pole that spanned the room, full of clothes. “Sort of like this?”

The chocolate brown velvet jacket made Marla lick her lips. “Yes, wow, yes. With the buttons on the back like that if you have them.”

“Well, let me take some actual measurements so I get the sleeves and shoulders right.”

On Marla’s way out, she waved goodbye with her new dress draped over her other arm. All the way home she thought of her Grandpa who’d been so lonely the last three years, and really the three before that while Granny got worse and worse. He could sure use a nice jacket. What excuse could she use to get him there? He loved to garden and her roses looked puny and weedy. Yes, she would tell him to follow his own advice and aid his neighbor. When she remembered ripping the Velcro off the counter, she grinned ear to ear. She hugged the dress close and wondered if Miss Grady dropping another dishrag might not assist her urging in some cosmic way. Grandpa might be very happy to make friends with so talented a woman. And such a payment for her lovely new clothes removed the cloud of Miss Grady’s sadness and the negative feelings she’d harbored earlier. Altogether, it felt so right.

Hancock Fabrics, Good Bye!

Pile of cloth

Alas! The venerable Hancock Fabric Store is no more. I have such fond memories of Hancock Fabrics, from way back. I won the 8th grade science fair and got $50 cash money for it. I bee-lined it to Woolco Department Store in the Indian Trail Shopping Center so Ma and I could pick out a sewing machine. Not that she was much help – she did not sew at all. I got a Brother, rather plain but highly serviceable.

I made all of our church dresses and made my little sisters colorful outfits for church and school. I particularly remember Poo (Alice) wanting more pockets! I made a yellow tunic with matching flared pants. The cotton material had big white flowers splattered across it, and a red band across the front tunic bottom divided into at least six pockets. I made myself a deep purple pair of hiphugger flared brushed denim jeans…the coolest nerd in school.

071415 018Imagine my delight many years later, when I found Hancock Fabrics had a store minutes from the house I’d moved into! I didn’t actually go in there or even find my sewing machine (a different one, another story) until Ma moved in with me over a year ago. Oh, she needed tailor made church dresses! We both enjoyed roaming Hancock’s, ferreting out the deals, and she loved the quirky and brightly patterned stuff.

When I heard they were closing, bankrupt, I couldn’t believe it. No reorganizing? No restructuring? Nope, just gone. I haunted the store the last few days and bought entire bolts of cloth at 90% off. I got gobs of patterns at $1 each. One always needs buttons and zippers, so into the overloaded cart they went.

Now I have cloth from satins to upholstery to fanciful cotton blends. I have years worth of scrumptious silky, flowery fabrics and all of the smooth linings I hope to ever need. Sure I loved the spectacular deals. I’m so sorely going to miss dear old Hancock Fabrics, though.

 

 

What It Looks Like Now

As I mentioned before, it took many days of diligent labor to get the floors, wall and windows clean and cleared. TheCleanup Monster Cabinet next step was moving heavy furniture. This monstrous cabinet is one big unit. My ex made it. Not slow, not quick, but half-fast. It just about wore me out shoving this from one end of the house to the other – it took a while.

The desk was in a little room meant originally to be an upstairs bath. That’s where my office has been; now it is in the corner of the great room. Naturally, I had to disassemble it, move it piece by piece and Cleanup Desk Closereassemble it. I like it here even if the bats don’t.

Oh, yes, the bats. The next morning after scrupulously scouring the floor, I discovered guano and shredded insulation. Marvelous. I put this rug down so I can take it out and shake it every weekend, and wash it on occasion. As they’re directly behind my left shoulder as I type, I Cleanup Bat Matthink I can hear tiny bat babes. I shall deal with the bats later. I love ‘em, but they really should be outside.

I now have a sewing table and a big shelving unit to organize the cloth and other goods needed. Ten feet away is the huge thick plastic cutting layout, with grid lines. I bought that years ago and it was still curled up in the box. The layout is on a 4×8 foot table that has wonderful work room. There is a grand open floorspace for rolling out the canvas for floor cloths. The monster cabinet is by the easel where I will store the paints, palette and whatnot. The north window will be behind me. I have room to array the paints in use. I also put a nice stool at Cleanup Reading Areathe big table and can pull out my drawing stuff, wood burning stuff or the jewelry making stuff as needed. When not in use, back to storage in the monster cabinet.

Ah, here is the relax-and-read area. I bought that sofa eons ago, put it in the loft and immediately piled crap on it. Nevermore! Now I need to bring back a few hundred books at a time to repopulate the forlorn shelves. I miss my books.

Stop Howling! I Hear You!

I have changed the cabin dynamic and nobody around there is happy about it. I have taken Spring Cleaning to Cat 3an all-time high by clearing out entire rooms, all of them, one at a time. The cabin was stuffed with old boxes of obscure plunder, decrepit appliances, one more project shoehorned into a tight space, too many books (can’t believe I said that) and was generally junky with a couple decades of accumulation. Moving and sorting all this might sound easy, but I assure you IT IS NOT! Stuff to keep goes in boxes elsewhere. Hundreds of them. The remainder is revealed and can be donated or disposed off, tons of stuff.  I have developed marvellous muscles from carrying heavy loads down long flights of stairs. What of the usual and well-loved pastimes that I so looked forward to each weekend?

 

Cabin June 2015 056These are calling to me in a shrill, demanding voice. Some of the squirts even threaten me, saying, “Look you, I’ll dry up if you don’t get a move on! Everything you need is right here, hop to it!” I retort, “Shut UP! You are waiting for me to carve you out a real studio!”Paint tube

 

 

 

 

These grab at my shirt every time I walk by. The weather is  warm! We can ferment like crazy! I walk by swiftly to avoid that, but these suckers are sometimes quite wily and lull me into thinking they are asleep. I tarry a second too Cabin June 2015 085long and GRAB! “STOP IT!”, I say. “You need to much space and time to fool with right now!”Cabin June 2015 076

 

 

 

 

 

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These cry to me in some foreign language I don’t understand, yet I know they are restless and wish me to transform them into the ephemeral beings that are destined to be. They would turn out to be quite physical if I did the required work. I used the word ‘ephemeral’ because these beverages seem to disappear when I’m not looking. Since I have no opportunity now to carry them to their highest calling, I look away as I slink by. I WANT to put up a few more cases. I will, I promise.

 

No greater din is made than the cacophony coming from these piteous things. I have the old workhorse Cabin June 2015 077machine which has provided me many hours of pleasure and increased my sense of accomplishment – usually. I have so many pieces of cloth they could form their own country. They do have their own language. A persuasively ardent call echoes in my head; they urge me to sit for just a while, feel the scissors in my grip, IMG_1365smooth out the printed paper pattern on a smooth floral cotton blend. The blue cottony material nearly rises from the bag like a primordial beast from the sea in earnest yearning to breathe. I callously shun them. They howl! I put the cover on the machine and snap it down decisively. I shove all of the material into boxes and stack them. They whimper. The guilt is onerous.

 

 

Feb Cabin audio setup light Keys Wing Penny QuoteThe saddest, most hurt of all are these poor, neglected things. They do not cry out. They do not make a sordid scene every time I get near. The microphone had such lofty hopes of being part of a 10 hour narration; she stands there stoically, waiting. The keyboard believes I left them because previously pecked out efforts have not sold well, no return on investment. I’d love to tell those sweet keys that this is not so. I have extensive plans! I know I’ll never get rich with writing, that’s not the point. I have written out of a strong desire to let the stories fly and be free in the skies of this wide and wondrous world, letting the words dance on the clouds! Delays now are unrelated, not their faults. But I don’t say anything. They can’t see that recording will take acoustic material application, that the old computer equipment had no reason to take up so much space. No area was safe from my furious junk attack.

I simply have too much work to do right now! This weekend STARTS cleaning…I know it won’t be easy either. Then fumigating to rid us of the Brown Recluses (I weep for the collateral damage to my beloved Wolf spider friends). Then repairs. Then creating more organized and efficient storage and work spaces. This takes faith, I tell you.

Me worriedDownload 090915 081Bird in basket

Ma’s Church Skirts

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Ma loves to wear skirts to church; they’re easy to pull on, she has a variety and they have a tailored fit. You might note they all feature an elastic waistband. That is her preference. The length is her request. She also picked out all of the cloth. I’ll tell her, “No more! You have enough!” She will agree! Then we’ll spot a gorgeous piece of greatly discounted material and…

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I made her some dresses, too.

Ma Porch DanceSmile Pillow

This shows that a couple yards of material and about an hour total time can make an 85 year old woman that can’t get around very well anymore happy. That’s happy when her custom skirt or dress is first finished and then again each time she saunters into church with a big grin. Worth it.

Updates!

Snow South Trees
View From Front Porch

I heard we’re getting at least 5 inches of snow before morning, oh yip-yop-yippee! Out with the shovel!

That blue paisley rayon I got last week is not a floor-length, long sleeved dress with a full skirt. Ma wore it to church Sunday. It fits her, she likes it, good enough for me! The thick blue fleece became a very cozy nightgown; she likes that too.Sew pattern on Blue

 

I got through the new book  about Otto and Socks, draft 2. Now I’m not sure aOtto Socks bluebout the title…I called it Outpost 1 at first since that in the common thread of the story. Then I changed it to One Valve Away because that’s all there is between life and death at the beginning and again at the end of the story. I have Outpost 1 on my timeline but edited the One Valve Away version last weekend. Titus gives ET the advice to make the references accessible. He referred to her writing Outpost 1, but the same applies to my situation. Outpost 1? One Valve Away? Which sounds like two young folks caught up in a dangerous mechanical situation out in space, all because of the fella’s Mama’s hit series – Outpost 1?

Being short of time, I’ll finish this off with random pictures. Have Fun!

NOLA Vacation 008
Mama!
Mouse reading
Everybody Ought to Read!
harp
Of course I cannot play it…yet.
Cabin Chicken
Do I really need a caption? Bye Bye!

Amish Market, Anyone?

I have a sister that lives in a podunk little town in Pennsylvania. While Ma lived there, I drove or flew up on occasion. Seeing family is great, but the town is moribund. The big deal is the Wal-Mart, right. Except for me.

Cabin June 2015 073The Amish market there sprawls across a mini-mall sized lot. It has all manner of furniture on one side. The other side specializes in baking needs. I ALWAYS spend a gob of time and a wad of cash in there! Specialty flours, dried fruits, various sweeteners, a cornucopia of spices and more. I admit I go overboard and still have buckwheat flour from three years ago. You can see I have my (self-made) shelves loaded, and I use most all of it. I did get semolina flour to make pasta and haven’t even attempted it yet.

I have to go on a business trips to Wisconsin every year or so. Last year, my host hooked me up with the local Amish Store and I left with a big ball of butter among my usual haul of local cheeses. Yum and a half! They say there’s one south east of here. I drove all over the place and saw buggies but no store. I shall keep an eye out where ever I go because they are great!

Other than that, yes I did got to the cloth store though I have an Everest stack of sewing projects already. I got stuffDownload 090915 017 that was originally $20 -$25 a yard or item at 60% to 80% off PLUS a blanket 25% off my entire purchase!  My theory is when receiving a huge discount, get the pricey stuff. I would not splurge on the expensive fabrics otherwise, and some are very beautiful. I would rather save $10 than 10 cents!

Ma will have a new long sleeved, floor length fleece nightgown so when the one I made her last month is in the laundry, she’ll have a back-up. She also gets a blue paisley flouncy skirt of rayon, floor length do she can wear long johns under it. I can knock those out in an afternoon. For me I got a slate blue cotton-poly blend, very nice, that I’ll use a Vogue pattern with. I got a few yards of dark brown long fur because I downloaded those stuffed animal patterns from Pinterest a few days ago…I shall make a big dog with moveable legs. We’ll see what the cats think of that! No pictures yet, I’ll get some this weekend.

Speaking of pictures, hover over most pictures and the Pin It icon now shows up! Except this post, I have no idea why not. Try on some of the other recent posts, I think the work there.

What Might New Year Bring?

Oh boy, the last few hours before the New Year Holiday are tick-ticking by…then CABIN TIME! I have already determined to improve these items:

  1.  Science Fiction Writing. I shall finalize the 6th book of the Elise t’Hoot series, send it to the editor and thank those odd characters for the exhilarating journey. The series started out a little rocky, requiring a second edition of The Distant Trees (1st book) to fix errors. Even so, these books won top or high spots in contests with Tenembras garnering GREEN.Dig.BadgeWINa Kirkus Best of 2012 designation, hooray! I have a new story line in mind with some vignettes and character sketches done. On the Elise t’Hoot series, I had Create Space do the interior design, cover design, everything but the text. It cost me a bundle, more each time. The interiors were okay, but I never felt I got my money’s worth on the covers. Download 090915 078They used clip art and took no apparent effort to fulfill the advertised “Custom” part of the art. I could have done that much. Since I had a poorly resolved dispute with them on the fifth book Hate All Around (cover nothing like what I asked for), I’ll do my own interior and exterior design this new series. Maybe even for this last book of the t’Hoots, although I’d like them all to match. Book Baby has some good deals, so I might jump ship. I got interior and exterior templates from Joel Friedlander “The Book Designer”, licensed for multiple personal use, so I be eager to try them out. They’re 40%off!
  2. Contests. Hate All Around is submitted for the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards; cross fingers. The so-far published t’Hoot series is entered into the Eric Hopper Awards, a big time contest. I should know one way or the other this Summer on both. Wish me luck!
  3. Brewing. I shall carbonate properly and not slack on sanitizing since I have recurring Cabin June 2015 085issues with muddy water. I may even get a filter (wow!). I have exclusively used hopped malt, but 2016 is the year to work up to Midwest Supplies’ next stage of brew boxes; you need to assemble more. Surely I can do.
  4. Mead. I discovered a fella that works here is part of a family bee farm. Even if the honey is a little more than my online sources, honey is heavy – no shipping. I got a book called Hooch for Christmas and there is an interesting recipe for mead in there, among other things. Still, the Alaska Bootlegger’s Manual is my go to reference (pun intended). It’s for my stories, I have homebrew and distilling throughout the series. What did you think?
  5. Sewing. I had not sewn more than curtains in decades before Ma arrived just over a year ago. Now I have scads of skirts and dresses for us, I can whip them out in no time. 2016 is the year of sewing challenges. Dresses and jackets with linings and special features. Coats. Cabin June 2015 077Costumes. Slipcovers. One challenge extant is my Janome is 30+ years old, the light won’t work and the presser foot won’t stay on. Santa failed to bring me a new, modern one – I need to rectify that.
  6. Picture Books. This year I wrote several kiddie books and made elaborate plans. I tried to find the right artist on Fiverr (5$ gigs!) and gave up. The ones that put vigor into their art charged many multiples of $5. This could be another case of how I can do as good as I can afford and save the money. I have lots of paint supplies and have devoured Northlight  art instructional videos. I believe I will give it a shot. When I got the interior and exterior templates up top, I also got templates for kiddie picture books. I gotta find out how to make days last longer.
  7. Up in the Air. I could register myself as a publisher and publish with my own imprint. That seems easy, yet it gives me the willies. Too ambitious for the time I have and skill level? I’d be running my own show and having my own imprint would be so cool! I could do podcasts, maybe reading my books, I bought a microphone. Or I could serialize my books on my blog or on Reddit. More practically, I could put gutter up at the cabin…now we’re really talking ambition.

What New Year goals fill your dreams?

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