Throw Back Thursday

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Having fun the night before my friend, Julia, got married. Nov. 19, 2010

Welcome to Day 5 of my write-a-post-everyday-for-a-month challenge. I’ve actually been writing blogs for over a decade across multiple platforms. I used to write when I was younger as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. I still tend to do this – I have unsent letters I’ve written to people and my Facebook timeline is mundane reports of my day to day activities sprinkled with emotional rants that I almost immediately regret posting but feel compelled to in the moment (sorry, privacy restrictions require you to be my friend first, or some kind of hacker, or the government). It was much easier for me to write something every single day when all of my posts were personal – this was also when blogging was a regular form of socialization, before I bored people to death with smaller blurbs about my day on Facebook.

When I first started this blog in 2010, I had hopes to make it more professional. If you go back and re-read some of the earlier posts, you can see that I would write these researched pieces with links to sources that, at least to me, scream how fresh I was from college. I think, at the time, I had grandiose ideas about being a professional artist, thanks to the now defunct 3rd Thursday Art Shows that I was in love with. I was working at a thrift store where I became very conscious of the amount of textile waste we create, and I had much more free time to sew and create than what I do now. 2010 was a wonderful, transitional year for me for many reasons:

  • The early part of the year had me re-analyzing a 6-year relationship that I eventually chose to leave.
  • I was involved in a rather crappy dinner theatre bit that paid me and created some wonderful memories.
  • Being newly single, I had a lot of fun casually dating quite a few awesome guys – All of them remembered with fondness. Thank you for the memories and the stories I can still tell when I’m old.
  • I went to 3 different weddings – The first served as a catalyst for ending my last relationship, the second officially added an awesome person into my family, and the third introduced me to the man who would become my current boyfriend.
  • I was 25 and I really felt like I could do anything and that I had my entire life ahead of me.
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Taken from the skydeck of the Sears Tower in Chicago, Illinois by a friend. This particular trip to Chicago carries a lot of special memories that I look back on fondly. November 6, 2010.

So many things have changed over the course of the last 5 years. I have changed and grown as a person. My life is different, my priorities are different. But, overall, 2015 doesn’t feel like it has been that great of a year for me. It’s mostly been a lot of pain and deep-felt heartache. There were plenty of positive things as well. I hope that, in another 5 years time, I will be able to look back on this past year and remember these positives more clearly than I can right now.

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I’d Rather Be…

Part of me is already regretting my self-challenge to write a new blog post every day. Today it feels like a chore and I don’t really want to take the time to develop anything worthwhile. BUT, I’m only a few days in and I’m not letting myself shy away from this.

So, some things I’d actually rather be doing at the moment:

  • Binge watching more Mindy Project. I’m in the middle of season 2 on Hulu and I’m absolutely enthralled. And Chris Messina (Danny Castellano) is just… omg. That character is making me act like a 12 year old girl squeeing all over the place.
  • Snuggling with my boyfriend. Enough said.
  • Making doll clothes – I have so many more dolls now than I had when I last wrote about my dolls and I actually cannot wait to introduce you to them all.
  • Going for a walk
  • Eating a pizza I cannot have because diet. (But I’m 143.6 lbs this evening! Down from 150 at the start of this.)

There you go. Sometimes I don’t blog because I just don’t feel like it. And then I blame being busy – which I am, but this isn’t always what I want to do with the segments of free time I manage to get.

Analytic Data is Sexy

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When I was a little girl, my mother would workout in front of the TV with Denise Austin. I used to join her, mostly because I wanted to do whatever my Mommy was doing.

As I sit here and type this, I am being distracted by the sensation of my arms pulsing and vibrating. In what was probably a bad decision on my part, I splurged on an electric muscle stimulation (EMS) device. Like the name suggests, the device uses electric impulses to work your muscles. It is by no means a weight loss tool, but these devices have been shown to tone muscle, which is what I am going for. I’ve currently got electrodes fixed on my triceps in an added effort to stave off floppy bat-wing arms. I’m fully aware that I may have just wasted my money. But, it does feel pretty cool regardless.

 

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FYI: Thin wheat crust = 640 calories; 1/2 cup of sauce = 35 calories; 3/4 cup of cheese to barely cover the pizza = 270 calories. Total = 945 calories. Daily allotment is 1,200-1,300.

For most of my life, I have gone through periods where I at least make attempts to be healthier. These don’t always last and I usually fall victim to cliche excuses like lack of time, lack of money, or just really missing pizza. While the main idea is to just generally be healthier, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I do care just a little bit about how I look. Thus, I have buzzing arms. I also enjoy the fact that this allows me to multi-task.

 

One of my fellow bloggers that I really enjoyed reading (and I’m curious for updates, as life seems to have sucked her into the abyss as well) is Claudia Bette. For awhile she was doing the diet and exercise thing and was posting charts tracking her progress. This has is something I would also like to do because, well, analytic data is hot. This is why gizmos like FitBits are so freaking cool. I kind of want one. But, I already have a heart rate monitor and a pedometer and I spent my extra money on this Compex instead. The EMS is only one part of the picture. I’m also attempting to diet and I went in this morning to re-join the gym. I’ve been keeping track of my daily basal metabolic rate or BMR (these are the calories your body burns each day just keeping you alive), starting weight for each day, the foods that I eat and the number of calories I consume. After all, the idea is to burn more calories than are consumed. However, there is a caloric minimum needed to avoid going into “starvation mode”, which the internet cannot seem to definitively confirm or deny. So, my goal each day is to fall somewhere between that minimum and my BMR. This is a lot harder than it seems. Perhaps after I have been doing this for another week or so, I will create my own pretty data art.

Reflections on Socio-Economic Status

Scrolling through Facebook this afternoon, I came across the following Slate article: When You’re Poor, Life’s Little Annoyances Actually Ruin Your Life. Reading this, I find myself reflecting on my own life – my background, my life choices, privileges I’ve been afforded, and how easily my life could have been very different.

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Socio-Economic Status, or SES, is basically an individual’s or family’s economic and social position in relation to others, based on income, education, and occupation. And this is relative. As a nation, the United States is fairly well-off. As well, our perceptions of where we fit along that spectrum will vary based on where we are compared to those around us. This accounts for why sometimes people who seem to have a much higher SES can still feel they have less if they are surrounded by others who have even more. This is why there are Americans who complain about, say, not having a tech gadget while there are many other people (including fellow Americans) that are starving. Chances are the guy upset about his tablet doesn’t have as much interaction with the guy that can’t afford to keep his utilities on.

There is a running joke between my boyfriend any I that anything over $30 is a major purchase. This is because we come from different SE backgrounds. I grew up in a series of trailer homes and other rentals, moving around frequently. My parents divorced when I was young, so I was raised by my single mother and her parents. I went to public school and was taught to stretch money out by repairing, recycling, or doing without. On the other hand, my boyfriend’s parents remained together, they owned their own home, and he was able to attend a private high school. He doesn’t do much in the way of repairing or recycling. As a result, the ways in which we view and spend money tend to be different.

On the other hand, my own adult life is so different from that of my parents that I run into the same thing from the other side. When my mother was my age, she had 2 children (I was 9, my brother was 5), was separated and on the verge of divorce, driving some beat up vehicle, and working whatever job she could just to make ends meet. While she had some college, she had never graduated. My life went in a different direction. I have my BA, I’m fortunate enough to be working a job I like, have never married or had children, and have the income and credit that allowed me a buy a new car with all the warranties and a maintenance package.

I’m not really sure if there’s a point to be made with any of this, but, this is what is going through my head at the moment. I’m thankful to be in a position where I have (so far) successfully done better than my parents (which, I am led to believe, is every parent’s hope for their kids) while not taking that for granted. I’m cognizant of the fact that, while I have worked and continue to work hard, there is no such thing as “self-made”. I grew up in a home environment that valued reading and education, I had adults that were able to help me with my homework, I had access to resources via the local libraries and schools that were paid for with tax dollars, I was eligible for need-based financial aid to go to college, and there are plenty of privileges I’ve had and things I haven’t had to worry about because I’m white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, and happened to have been born in a time and place where women had relatively more rights and freedoms.

And Evolve It Shall

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Auntie! I’m Scared!

Every time I come back to my blog from a hiatus (Here, Here, Here, or Here), I can’t help but feel awkward and like I need to somehow justify my absence. Why is that? I suppose, because this is a kind of social platform, I feel guilty in the way I would if I had managed to neglect and ignore a friend for half a year. However, I keep hoping that, like a good friend, we’re able to just pick things up where we left off. I also forgot to get you anything for Christmas…

And your birthday…

And I missed your wedding.  OK, I get it, I’m a shitty friend.

There have been times I have felt like writing something, but I’ve second guessed doing so because it doesn’t fall in line with the original premise of this blog – Textiles, Art, Communication.  And I debate with myself whether it’s ok to write something personal or off topic if I can’t tie it back to these founding themes. Should I create another blog? Is it really ok if I just allow this blog to evolve as my own interests and life does? I would certainly be able to write more if I didn’t feel the content was limited or that it needed to be “professional” – whatever that’s supposed to mean.

And so, evolve it shall. Starting today, with this entry, I endeavor to post something every day for the next month. It may not always be deep or witty, but it will be the opposite of neglectful.

Give Me a Head with Hair

I recently hand one of those rare moments when I actually managed to come back to a project and finish it. Do you remember a month or so ago when I started my first re-root of an old Barbie doll? I ended up putting her and a lot of other projects on hold while I dealt with some of life’s other issues and picked up a second job. I also ended up putting her head on a Liv doll body so she would have superior articulation:

                                            GE      GE

She isn’t completely finished yet. I still need to cut and style that new hair. Right now, the hair is very uneven as the strands were different lengths and there is just so much of it that her head pulls to the back from the weight. She will very likely end up with bangs and shorter hair when I’m done with her. I’d also like to repaint her face some and give her green eyes. I’ve decided to name her Sinead – she’s Morrígan’s cousin from her mother’s side (If you didn’t catch Morrígan’s intro narrative, catch it here if you’re interested) I haven’t figured out her personality yet, but I really love the name.

I’ve also recently picked up a cousin for Mitsuko. (Morrígan and Mitsuko are my favorite dolls – most of my other dolls I have gotten with the idea that they would be friends, family members, love interests, etc. – at least for now). I was at a Toys R Us a few weeks ago and I picked up a cheerleader Barbie with articulated joints. I named her Zahara. She’s Mitsuko’s cousin from her dad’s side:

Mitsuko: I am so happy you decided to move in with me, Zahara! It must have been hard for Aunt Richelle and Uncle Terry to let you go... Morrígan: Hi, Mitsuko! Who's your new friend? Mitsuko: Konbanwa Morrígan! I'd like you to meet my cousin, Zahara. She just moved up here from Georgia. Zahara: As-Salaam-Alaikum! I've heard SO much about you! Morrígan: Wa-Alaikum-Salaam! Welcome to Illinois! I look forward to getting to know you.

Mitsuko: I am so happy you decided to move in with me, Zahara! It must have been hard for Aunt Richelle and Uncle Terry to let you go…
Morrígan: Hi, Mitsuko! Who’s your new friend?
Mitsuko: Konbanwa Morrígan! I’d like you to meet my cousin, Zahara. She just moved up here from Georgia.
Zahara: As-Salaam-Alaikum! I’ve heard SO much about you!
Morrígan: Wa-Alaikum-Salaam! Welcome to Illinois! I look forward to getting to know you.

                                           GE GE

Inspired by Kristl Smith Tyler’s work over on How to Play with Barbies (her posts are all quite amazing and often delve into sociocultural commentary that go beyond doll play alone – something I appreciate in particular coming from an Anthropology background) I decided to give Zahara a boil perm. I wanted to give her more natural looking hair – black dolls very seldom come with anything but straight hair. It’s only been within the last 10 years perhaps (I don’t know exactly when) that black dolls actually got their own face molds to more accurately reflect common facial features – I remember as a kid all the black dolls were just white dolls made with brown plastic. (Some links for more related reading at the bottom, because as a white woman, I don’t feel I have a platform to really comment on these issues – though I will say that I find any manner of scrutiny and pressure from society to look any certain way is complete bullshit. Women get this from all angles, and women of color get further scrutiny and pressure placed upon them – and I want to recognize there is a struggle here that I am not privy to rather than gloss over it or pretend it doesn’t exist.) So, following Ms. Tyler’s instructions, I gave Zahara a more natural do.

                                             GE GE

Mitsuko: Sugoine! I love what you've done to your hair! So pretty! Zahara: Haha! Thanks.

Mitsuko: Sugoine! I love what you’ve done to your hair! So pretty!
Zahara: Haha! Thanks.

I’m pretty happy with the results and I feel confident now that I have successfully completed my first re-root and boil perm. I have a number of other projects lined up, and more pictures to share with you all, but I think I’m going to save those for another post – which will come sooner than later, I promise 😉

Further Reading:

1) http://jezebel.com/5387821/new-black-barbies-same-old-controversy
2) http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2014/01/politics-black-hair
3) http://www.academia.edu/4463226/Black_Hair_Politics_in_White_Academia_With_Reference_to_Black_Studies
4) http://thefeministwire.com/2013/04/untangling-the-knots-understanding-the-hair-politics-of-black-women-revisited/
5) http://www.forharriet.com/2015/02/why-it-isnt-just-hair-hair-for-so-many.html

Books! Dolls! Prisoners! Um… What?!

GEAbout a month and a half ago, I got involved with the Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners project (B2P for short) and took up a second job as an online seller to help bring in funding for this awesome not-for-profit. One of the many programs within the Independent Media Center here in my wonderful dual-town, the B2P has been providing Illinois inmates with free books since 2004. From their Facebook page, here is a rundown of what they’re about:

UC Books to Prisoners is an Urbana, IL based project providing books to Illinois inmates at no cost. We offer books by mail to all Illinois inmates and operate lending libraries in our two local county jails.

We are an all volunteer organization with a number of easy ways for you to get involved. Whether you have an hour a month or would like to volunteer more often, you are invited to to work with us. We interact with inmates by reading their letters, selecting books from our collection of donated materials and shipping the books directly to the inmates.

Our volunteers also staff lending libraries in the Champaign County jails. If you would prefer to work behind the scenes, we need help managing, soliciting and coordinating book donations as well as raising funds to pay for this work.

Mission: * to provide books to inmates in Illinois by recycling donated books * to facilitate a quality volunteer experience * to offer a venue for inmates to tell their own stories * to educate ourselves and our community about prisons

Basically, what I do is I take all of the books that aren’t sent to prisoners (they get priority for anything that comes in, I am stage 2) and make what I can in online sales – sometimes I am selling to 3rd party vendors, sometimes I am selling through my B2P Amazon store, AikiFox Books ( www.amazon.com/shops/AikiFox_Books )   I only make a percentage of what we bring in and the rest goes back into B2P to help them cover overhead/ operational expenses. As I type this, there are 352 books for sale at AikiFox Books. Most are around $3 plus shipping and cover a variety of topics and genres, both fiction and non-fiction. The girls each picked out their personal favorites that are on sale as of this writing:

GEOpal’s pick: “Antique’, ‘vintage’, ‘previously owned’, ‘gently used’, ‘cast-off’ ñ the world of second hand encompasses as many attitudes as there are names for it. The popular perception is that second- hand shops are largely full of junk, yet the rise of vintage fashion and the increasing desire for consumer individuality show that second hand shopping is also very much about style. Drawing on six years of original research, Second-Hand Cultures explores what happens when the often contradictory motivations behind style and survival strategies are brought together. What does second hand buying and selling tell us about the state of contemporary consumption? How do items that begin life as new get recycled and reclaimed? How do second hand goods challenge the future of retail consumption and what do the unique shopping environments in which they are found tell us about the social relations of exchange? (from Amazon Summary)

GEHouda’s pick: This book studies the acquisition, loss and re-acquisition of Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Hebrew, the first languages of this writer’s son. It applies the results of current work in the areas of psycholinguistics, bilingualism, and applied linguistics to the study of language development in one multilingual child, Noam, from birth to age 17. The acquisition, loss, and re-acquisition of four languages by Noam also is compared with that of other children studied by the author and others. This book uncovers linguistic, cognitive, psychological, and social mechanisms of language acquisition, loss, and re-acquisition and documents the child’s increasing, decreasing, and, in turn, increasing proficiency in four languages. This book applies Dromi’s guidelines for qualitative case-study research to the study of language development in one multilingual child (Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, English), Noam, from birth to age seventeen. In addition, the results of Noam’s case study are compared with other case studies conducted by this author as well as by other researchers. (Amazon summary)

GEMitsuko’s pick: In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in her mother’s American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken’s neck for dinner. Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this graceful, beautifully realized portrait of a child who “was a north-south collision, a New World fusion. An American Chica.” (from Amazon summary)

GEMorrigan’s pick: The author shows how Irish women developed the political skills required to represent women’s interests to government effectively leading to the dismantling of a range of discriminatory policies against women and the accommodation of a feminist agenda within the political system. (Amazon’s summary)

If you like what I write (when I get around to it) and want to help support me (and help support a great non-profit in the process!), please consider buying some of the books I have for sale. Again, that site is: www.amazon.com/shops/AikiFox_Books
I’m also still running my Etsy site as well, if you’d prefer to go that route and pick up some nifty handmade items for a dolly friend. You can find that shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AClothTheWorld
Broke but still want to support? Share with people who might be interested! 🙂 Spread the love!