They’ve been popping up everywhere. Slightly curled and snow-white, some small and downy, others larger and a bit more robust. I find them laying in our yards, and scattered all along the walking trail, like angelic bread crumbs.
White Heron feathers.
It’s my habit to put things in my pocket when I walk, and the feathers are no different. A small handful in a dish sits in my living room where I can see it regularly. These feathers are a reminder. An affirmation.
Having walked this neighborhood for three years, finding an abundance of these particular feathers everywhere is unusual although seeing the birds themselves isn’t. There are several waterways nearby and herons fly over head regularly. I caught this big guy – a Blue Heron – hanging out with a couple of buddies a few months back.
Herons are rich in symbolism and no one does Animal Speak better than Avia over at What’s Your Sign. If you have a moment, hitch a ride over to her place on this LINK and check out the full spectrum of Heron Symbolism. You’ll understand why finding so many of these feathers is nothing less than supercalifragilistic during this season in my life.
Today I wrap up my first week at Habitat For Humanity, and – in a word – it’s been AWESOME. The work itself is rewarding and fun. But more than that, it’s the people I’m working with that is so exciting. I’m still getting to know everyone but I can already tell these are some great folks. Most of them are volunteers, under 30, and really love what they are doing. After a decade working in a toxic waste dump, this is like heaven!
I also attended the first of The Write Page writer’s group meetings. Held at the Katie Wheeler Library, an old Victorian built by an Irish immigrant who turned out to be the grand daddy of our county, it’s a combination of so many things I just love! About 30 of us ranging from 18 to 80….newbie college kids to old-time journalists and representing at least a half-dozen nationalities…all share the common bond of loving the written word. I’m already learning so much and can’t wait for the next meeting!
My tribe – my NEW tribe – is coming together. My new life is coming together, too. The feeling is indescrible after such a long, solitary and difficult season. Sure, there are still bits to add to the picture – a great paying part-time job, for one – but I know it’s coming. I know. Grace is surrounding me.
My peeps and a pocket full of feathers. What a great day to be alive. Think I’ll go for a walk before work.
Who knows what I might find.
A long time ago, there was a young girl – aged 10 or so – who spent hour upon hour alone in her room . This wasn’t a bad thing, really. Alone was a comfortable way for her to be, even though she sometimes wondered what the other little girls in the neighborhood were doing.
Were they playing “house” or dolls or swimming at the beach? Were their heads bent close together, conspirators sharing secrets about boys and their changing bodies and their common dislike of the new girl?
Sometimes, thinking about the other girls made her sad. But mostly, she didn’t mind being alone in her room at all, for it was there that something quite magical happened
She became Someone Else
The Magic started the minute she carefully gathered all of her dolls and stuffed animals, and put them in a circle. Once they were seated just so, she gave each of them a name. There was Sally and Mark, Kathy and Susan, Brian and Diane. Each had their own name, with their own “desk”, and their own writing paper with their names written on it in big, bold crayon letters.
The girl spoke their names often to the dolls and animals. She wanted them to know that they were important to her, and acknowledge that she saw them. Being “seen” is a very special gift to receive. Maybe the best ever When someone sees you, you know that you exist. You know that people want you around and that they like you. It makes you feel special, and maybe even a little bit taller.
Oh, and having someone call you by your name was extra special – especially when it was pronounced right! She knew this because, more often than not, people called her by the wrong name – sometimes over and over and over again, no matter how long she had been in their class or heard it pronounced correctly.
And whenever she was called by something other than her own name, her heart dropped. She imagined it happened because she wasn’t important enough for the person to remember to spell it right and to say it right.
This it made her feel very small, like there was something wrong with her. Something Weird. And being Weird was awful. Weird kids didn’t have many friends, and were picked last for the handball teams.
So when she was alone in her room, she would give herself a new name. One that was easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other girls. It was a name that would get her invited to slumber parties, or asked to play. It was a powerful name because it
She called herself “Jane”.
Miss Jane was the best teacher in the whole world! Not only did she remember the names of each of her students correctly, she carefully prepared papers with dashed lines and math problems so they could practice drawing their letters and adding numbers.
Sure, she might scold one for talking too much in class, but she hugged the children a lot and carefully glued innumerable stars – red and green and gold – on their school work so they knew how special they were. Stars told them what a good job they were doing.
Naturally, all of her students loved her, and knew her name, too. Miss Jane was their favorite person in the whole world! It wasn’t until after those magical hours came to an end, when she left the safety of her bedroom to go to school, that the little girl was reminded – over and over again – how different she was. How weird. How she didn’t fit in.
She was reminded by the snickers when the teacher would stumble over her name for the millionth time. She was reminded when all the other little girls, save for her and “retarded Kim”, were invited to an after-school party just down the street.
She was reminded when her mother and father asked her to be quiet, to go play in the other room, and to leave them alone talk and to drink. Or when she had a bad dream, and no one came to comfort her.
When she grew older, the woman used a made up name – one easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other women – when she met new men in bars. At least the ones she knew she wouldn’t spend more than just the night with.
When she grew older still, and married a man with a weird, unusual last name, she had children. The woman gave those children names that were easily pronounced, commonly spelled, and more like those of other kids. There wasn’t much she could do about the last name, although she hoped her daughter could eventually change hers through marriage.
When she grew old, the woman grew to appreciate her name and to cherish it’s uniqueness – correcting or ignoring the mispronouncing of it, depending on her mood. And even though she’d spent innumerable hours alone in her room reading and writing, learning and healing her broken bits (you know the ones…the ones that make you feel unwanted and unimportant), she still found herself making that certain magic at times.
It happened every time the barista asked for a name to write on the paper cup, or when the saleswoman asked her name so she could write it on the dressing room door – to make her shopping experience more personal…to make her feel special.
It happened every time she placed a fast food order, created a user name, or was in some situation where it was just easier to be someone else. To be more common. To be more like others.
She told them, “Jane”.
Ever since a girlfriend and I had weekly “Project Runway Date Nights” years ago, I have been hooked on the show. It was such a fun time! We would take turns “hosting” our dates, and always served up a little nosh and a few glasses of something yummy to enjoy during the show. We loved to critique the critiques, judge the judges, and root for our favorite designers all season long.
This was the year before The Year I Started to Sew, and – really – Project Runway was my inspiration. Whether it was watching the designers create that inspired me, or the thought of handling all kinds of FABRIC (I have an addiction), the result was an inexpensive Brother’s sewing machine purchased a whim (The “Project Runway” model, of course), and the launching of a whole new way to express myself.
Project Runway has all the makings of great reality television. There’s the exciting competition for the Holy Grail of becoming the next “It Girl” of the fashion industry ($100K cash ain’t too shabby, either ). There’s beautiful fashion, awesome guest judges and shade galore (No “T”, No Shade, Gurl!”). And one of my favorite parts: the heart warming “overcoming the odds” stories that never fail to bring a tear to the eye and inspiration to the heart. Stories like Mondo, who – after 10 years of silence – came out on
the runway as being HIV positive. (He won Season 8, and is huge in the industry now.) Or Ashley, the uber curvy retro girl with the purple hair who began sewing as a way to self-medicate from a lifetime of bullying. She ended up taking the whole shebang in Season 14,and now has a line of Plus Size clothing in JC Penneys.
Every show has an element of surprise thrown in, too. Maybe 2 designers will be eliminated instead of 1, or Tim Gunn gets so mad, he drops the F bomb! (For some reason, that was HUGE!) Whatever makes up the Magic, it works and they have millions of fans out there to prove it.
I know some folks consider Project Runway beneath them. And that’s ok because I love me a little mindless entertainment at times. (I’m also a big “Drag Race” and “Chopped” fan). What may come as surprise to the PR Nay Sayers is that there is wisdom to be gathered from the show…little “keepin’ it real” tips I use in everyday life, like
MAKE IT WORK
Ok, even people who’ve never watched the show are familiar with this iconic encouragement by the great Tim Gunn. As mentor to the young designers, it’s Tim’s job to help them figure out how to take hideous mistakes, unconventional materials and their own emotional meltdowns, and turn them into a Top Look within the allotted time. (And there’s never enough time.)
“Make It Work” moments usually show up when a designer hits a brick wall. Maybe they didn’t buy enough of the right fabric, or Heidi surprised them with the dreaded Black Bag “gotcha” of a Team Challenge (ooooh, they hate that one!) Often times, Make It Work moments hit when a contestant is feeling overwhelmed. From all accounts, it’s a very stressful competition – and that’s just dealing with all the bitchiness. It’s not uncommon for a normally “together” designer to start falling apart at the seams under the pressure. They want to give up, or run away in tears.
That’s when Tim, like everyone’s favorite Uncle, comes to the rescue!
Well groomed with exemplary taste and manners, Tim dishes out just the right amount of Tough Love and encouragement with equal panache. He reminds us that many times, when we are feeling stuck, our best way forward is to simply accept what is, and then just get busy. We might need to reevaluate our plan….think outside the lines…..pull the “issue” apart and start over. Whatever it takes, we don’t give up.
Make It Work Moments can be some of our best, most enlightening experiences. They are our chance to turn a train wreck into treasure. I’m in the middle of a Make It Work moment myself, in fact. After being surprised with an Unconventional Challenge I never saw coming last year, with all the drama, tears and stress that’s gone with it, I’m doing a Life Redo. I’m editing. I’m tearing things apart and reconstructing them. I’m dreaming of the Big Win (in my case, staying cancer free and enjoying my life), and daily seeking new inspiration to keep moving forward.
And sure enough, there’s a voice is in my head. One I’ve listened to and admired for years. It’s saying to me:
Don’t lose yourself in the challenge!
Stay true to who you are!
MAKE IT WORK!
Thanks, Uncle Tim… I’m going for it!
(This is the first installment in a series I’m writing called, “That’s Sew Smart or “Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Project Runway.”)