August 29, 2013

The BIg Pink, Revisited

It's been a year and a half since I shared the re-do of my daughter Lily's bedroom.  In the original post, I wrote about how it all evolved, and also about the (many) things I don't love about the room.

Fast forward to this spring, and my irritation with the general look and feel of the room hadn't changed.  In fact it was worse, because now the room was thoroughly lived in and thoroughly messy and more, it was clear that Lily couldn't hang out in the room with her friends because there wasn't anyplace to sit. 

Around this time, in my despair to find a way to rearrange a room that just can't be very rearranged, I remembered the little orange futon that used to live in the playroom. After rearranging the playroom/guestroom, the futon was living out in the garage, waiting for me to put it up for sale on Craigslist.

One Saturday afternoon when I went in to dust and straighten the bedroom, I got completely fed up and started hurling piles of crap out into the hall and getting that "thousand mile decorator's stare" as I leaned in the doorframe and started cooking up a plan.

Within the hour, I had the husband hauling that heavy orange futon out of the garage and up the staircase. (I have such a nice husband. Have I mentioned that?)  Anyway.

Before:
And After:
I rearranged the room and later that weekend, hung up the shelves (that used to live in my entryway).  I'd been promising to do that forever, and Lily and I were both glad that I finally came through.  It allows her to display her Josef birthday doll collection (note that they stop at 9 -- because she didn't have any display space, they didn't get purchased these last 2 birthdays).  It also lets her display the "potion" crafts that were a big part of her summer.
So her room was completely rearranged, but still needed a good sorting and re-organization of so much clutter. But then summer hit and the kids were out of school, and so for the entire summer her room was merely different, but still not really done (or cleaned). 

Now they're back in school, and this week I've been cleaning and cleaning and throwing things out and helping to find better storage and organization options for her.

She's been a Japanese manga and chibi drawing fool lately, which is cute, but also means that her desk (and the surrounding floor) have been littered with papers in various stages of creation.  Since she's in middle school now, and since she's starting to do her homework alone in her room, we needed to clean up the chaos and make it a better space for studying along with the creativity.
The drawers are cleaned out, the crayons and markers are sorted and contained, and I bought her the pink paper organizer at Ikea this weekend. 

Her vanity area is now next to the door, and the surface was also a big cluttered mess of lip gloss, earrings, Harry Potter wands, marbles, papers, etc.  And she'd stopped wearing most of her earrings, because they were lost in her equally cluttered little jewelry box.
I bought the earring tree at Michael's, and she loves it, and loves that I found & sorted her earrings.  Let's see how well she can keep up with actually using it!

 Some cheap purple Command hooks serve to display her soccer medals and Disney pin lanyard. I want to buy some nicer, real hooks to install to the left of the mirror for necklaces and scarves. So far I haven't found anything I like, but  a trip to Anthropologie would probably solve that. 
The futon has just enough room under there to fold out into a full sized bed, once you move out the little table. We've used it for a sleepover, and it worked out great. (In the old version of the room, there was no space to sleep on the floor.)
While I'm still a long way from loving this room, I like it a lot more now that its more functional. Lily is able to invite friends into her room and have a place to actually sit and hang out.  This is a small room already, and it's packed full of furniture -- but every piece serves a function
The fact that she still prefers to crawl into my bed on lazy weekend mornings to sit and read gives me hope: it tells me that in a couple years, she'll likely get tired of exotic loft-sleeping, and want a regular bed again.  Already, she has to duck down to get into the bed, and she certainly can't sit up in it.  She's mentioned wanting a chandelier -- until I reminded her that she can't have any hanging fixtures while the loft is up. 

I'll be more than happy to oblige when that time comes. Until then, she's an eleven-year-old girl who still feels that she has a pretty awesome bedroom, no matter what mom thinks.
And mom just thinks she's a pretty awesome kid. 

You can see all the bedroom Before shots in my original post about her bedroom, here.

Linking up with Jules for the William Morris Project.

August 26, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

Last week I finished "The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls," a coming-of-age novel set at an exclusive riding/boarding camp for rich Southern girls in 1930.  I really enjoyed this book; the voice of the narrator, Thea Atwell, is strong and sure and terribly self-possessed for a sheltered fifteen-year-old. 

I was a couple of chapters into the book before it dawned on me why I was enjoying it so much: back when I was a teen/tween, I inhaled books about girls at boarding schools and summer camp.  Going away to school, and particularly summer camp, is something taken for granted if you're at least middle-class on the east coast (or so I learned), but that reality was terribly exotic and foreign to me, a barely middle-class girl from SoCal.

 I also have a huge weakness for books set in the South, especially the wealthy South prior to the 1960s, where manners and etiquette and good breeding were so much a part of the culture. Again, growing up I knew nothing of debutantes and cotillions and family names, but I soaked it all up like I was studying for some future test. (I read Gone With the Wind at least 3 times.)

So when wealthy young Thea is shipped from her isolated home comprised of acres of wild north Florida landscape, and shipped off to the mountains of North Carolina as punishment for some unnamed transgression, I was hooked. 
I liked the plot of the book, but what I liked even more is how DiSclafani chose to make Thea such a fiercely strong and feminist character in that insulated world of wealthy young horsewomen. Yes, she is sexual, and has strong sexual desires and fantasies, which maybe upsets people, but her desires are perfectly normal -- for 15 and 16 year old girls now, and those back in 1930.

Not to give too much away as to why Thea is abruptly sent hundreds of miles away from her beloved home and twin brother, but in our current culture of "slut-shaming" and blaming the victim, I loved how Thea understood and tapped into her own female power to navigate her new surroundings.

Very strong and engaging first novel, and I look forward to more from DiSclafani. 

********************
So, as I got a few chapters into the book and remembered how much I loved "boarding school books," I remembered my favorite one of all.  But I couldn't recall the name.  Thanks to the internet, a few minutes of searching provided the answer:
It was "They'll Never Make A Movie Starring Me," by Alice Bach.  Despite re-reading the book several times, all I can recall now is that the narrator is a well-to-do young woman from NYC, sent to boarding school in New England.  She's obsessed with the young Katherine Hepburn, and tries to live her life by mimicking Kate's wealthy blue blood/dryly witty persona of her early comedies.  What I most remember from the book is that protagonist wants to attend Bryn Mawr, the exclusive women's college that Hepburn actually went to.

Since I had no clue about New England blue bloods or what the heck "Bryn Mawr" was or implied, I lapped up all this fascinating cultural stuff. And since it feels like I also spent huge chunks of my adolescence trying on personas and mimicking famous people or characters, it's no wonder I responded to this book so much. 

And I'm happy that "The Yonahlossee..." novel brought it all back to me.  

August 16, 2013

Love and Eydie Gorme

Last Friday, a chill went through me when I learned that Eydie Gorme had passed away at 84.  Celebrities die all the time, and sometimes it gives us pause, and more often we say, "who? Oh....right. Her/Him."

But sometimes we get a little misty and take a longer pause, like the last time I was inspired to write about music.  If George Jones was the artist who most reminds me of my dad (for so many reasons), than it's probably the sound of Eydie Gorme who most makes me think of my mother. Well, her and Johnny Mathis.

Eydie Gorme reminds me of so, so many things. Of being a child in both my parent's and grandparent's homes, sitting and listening to their stacks of albums.  Of late Sunday brunches that my dad worked over all morning, eggs benedict with creamy cheese sauce and Bloody Mary's (for them) and Sunny Delite for me, both served in tall glasses that he'd chilled first in the freezer. And Eydie Gorme and her Amor album on the hi-fi. 
It's the Amor album that we all loved best, and by "we all" I mean most of the members on my mom's side of the family.  As I have (or haven't?) mentioned here before, I'm half-Mexican American, on my mom's side. If I mention this, people who aren't familiar with the cultural makeup of Southern California will ask, Ohhh. So where's your family from?" implying that my mother was born in Mexico or a Latin American country. But no, my mother's family are from here, from this native ground of Santa Ana winds and palm trees and balmy Christmas mornings.

(If you are from SoCal, or have at least lived here long enough, you know that half-breeds like me, who don't look or sound at all Mexican, are a dime a dozen. Turn over any Mission tortilla, and there we are.)

What this all has to do with Eydie Gorme is that I find it funny and ironic, how a white girl from New York City produced an album that’s so beloved in so many families like my own.  What this all has to do with me is that, in a way, Eydie Gorme is the reason I'm writing a memoir, rather than sticking to my first love, fiction. 

Here are the opening lines from a short story that I wrote while in my MFA program:
A crackle and hiss as the needle falls and I watch the album spin, black and grooved as the comb marks through my grandfather’s oiled hair. Now come the guitars, nearly as high, sweet and mellow as the female voice that follows, all surging through the box speakers on either ends of the couch.
This time, I’m sitting cross-legged on my parents’ hardwood floor, but I could just as easily repeat this scene, with this same record, on the floor of any of my relative’s homes. Like my grandparents, for instance, who live only minutes west of here across the dry concrete riverbed of the San Gabriel, tucked against the rolling foothills miles east of East L.A. Many afternoons I’ve laid on my belly my grandma’s carpet, her raised blue shag burning its pattern onto my bent elbows, studying the album cover of her copy of Eydie Gorme and the Trios Los Panchos Sing Great Love Songs in Spanish, a 1964 recording that’s about the closest thing we have to an heirloom in this family. Each household has a copy – my grandparents, my mother, assorted aunts and uncles. In each house I’ve sat and studied the album cover as the familiar notes fill the air: Eydie with her Liz Taylor-Cleopatra eyeliner and fake eyelashes, her glossy black beehive and turquoise turtleneck; a lovely Jewish girl singing a flawless “Sabor A Mi” that makes my mother’s eyes well up.
 So what’s she singing about? I ask, after she turns the volume down, and with her spotty second-generation Spanish she attempts to translate the lyrics:
It’s uh…the taste…a taste of me. 
A taste of me? Seeing my skeptical frown, she finally waves her hands before her face and says, Well, it’s hard to explain in English. You know, love. What else is there to sing about?
The story in its entirety is a blend of fiction and non-fiction, but those opening lines above are pure memoir. And while the story garnered lots of praise and hand-written "almost there!" kind of notes from over-worked editors of lit journals, the most thoughtful notes accurately pointed out that "this piece probably needs to be a memoir."  (A no-brainer that I resisted for a long, long time.)

Also: another story that I did get published is titled "Don't Go to Strangers." Which is the name of the title track from this album, another fixture in my household:
That album, and my story, which is also thinly-veiled memoir, are another story altogether. Which is why I'm finally writing that memoir. So many stories to tell.

For now, here's "Piel Canela", that first song on the Amor album that starts playing when the record needle drops into the grooves.  I know all the songs by heart and sing along --- phonetically.  I still have no idea of most of what she's singing about.  Except, you know, love. What else is there to sing about?


R.I.P., Eydie. 
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