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Posts Tagged ‘crafts’

redman photo 82 side k pref head vert typaI had a very strict mother. Not about everything, you understand. She was actually quite a free-thinker, an intellectual and a good deal ahead of her time, feministically speaking. πŸ™‚ But she believed in a certain kind of public behavior. Manners. Refinement.

Lucy at typewriterWhatever you call it, she must have made a bigger impression on me than I realized. I like to think of myself as terrifically open-minded, a little avante garde in a very ladylike way, not at all repressed or repressive.

Imagine my shock, then, when my daughter told me that, way back when she was in elementary school and someone did something crazy, her friends would pose the sardonic question, “Irene, would your mother call this vulgar? Or tacky?”

OMG. That is how they saw me? Cool, intellectual, free-thinking me? Apparently.

puzzle monsterSo, just for the record, girls, here’s how you know what’s vulgar, and what’s tacky.

TACKY is just a bit cheap, poorly made, or the etiquette equivalent of poorly made. It hints that you might not have champagne tastes or the Queen’s manners. Nobody gets hurt with tacky. It includes innocent sins, like showing too much cleavage at a funeral, or letting your dog lick your plate when you’re finished.

VULGAR is much, much worse. Vulgar is when you send naked pictures of yourself in a Santa hat as Christmas cards–and you actually believe it’s sexy, not gross. Vulgar is when you make body-function jokes in front of your maiden aunt, or tell strangers too many details about things that should be private.

Tacky makes you look bad. Vulgar makes other people uncomfortable.

Or so my mother taught me.

However, there are quite a few things that the world probably considers tacky (and I *KNOW* my mother did!) that I absolutely adore. Don’t we all have some? Here’s my list of my top five Tacky Treats.

St. Francis corner1) Yard knick-knacks. I know…I really do know…that a dozen cheap little ornaments scattered around your yard don’t look very swanky. But I don’t care. I’m addicted. I do keep my shame in the *back* yard, though, to avoid embarrassing the rest of the family.

beach store mannequin2) Kitschy beach stores. I love the smell of plastic beach toys shaped like alligators, and what we used to call “suntan oil,” but now would undoubtedly call “sunscreen.” I like towels embroidered with the name of my favorite beach: Indian Rocks. I like flip flops and straw hats and yellow plastic buckets with crenelated bottoms for making sand castles. I even like…get ready…little people and creatures made entirely of shells, like these poker players.

puppy in christmas lights

3) Christmas lights hanging crooked, or mismatched. I love the idea that real people who want to twinkle a Merry Christmas to their neighbors actually get on ladders and string these babies up…maybe getting a little cranky, even, while they do it. I like yards that have gone a little too far (not Griswold far), or who clearly let the six-year-old pick out the color scheme. I don’t really like those net strands of lights, because they look too neat, too linear, as if someone professional put them on.swing at christmas I also love lights that stay on all year. I have an outdoor swing that I decorate with fairy lights. I have some in all different colors–pink for Valentine’s Day, red-white-blue for Fourth of July, purple and orange for Halloween. I’m hopeless.

glitter

4) Glitter. This is obviously a hangover from childhood. We had a babysitter once who knew how to draw a ballerina using only a very few lines to make a fluffy tutu skirt. And then she’d let us paste glitter along each ruffle of the skirt. Oh, it was magical, and I never got over it. Also, we used to drive to Indian Rocks Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast every summer, and somewhere along the way we passed a billboard that had a strip of something metallic that glittered in the noonday sun. I can’t remember what it advertised…if anyone else remembers, please let me know! I see that glittering sign in my dreams!

Tiara5) Wacky costume jewelry. I don’t wear this, you understand. Not because I’m afraid of offending the memory of my mother. She thought costume jewelry could approach true art. I don’t wear it because I wear four piece of jewelry, the same ones all the time. A necklace, a watch, my wedding rings, and a pair of earrings. I got them all from His Highness on special occasions, and, except for the earrings, I never take change them. The necklace hasn’t come off in twenty-six years…although don’t worry–it does take showers. But in a purely “museum” way, I love a fabulously tacky piece of costume jewelry. The more color and kitch the better! I particularly can’t resist tiaras. πŸ™‚ Pinterest was invented to allow people like me to indulge interests like that. πŸ™‚

Big blue monsterI also love wonderful, horrible tearjerker ballads, like “Shake Me I Rattle, Squeeze Me, I Cry.” But those songs can’t be on this list, because they’re corny, not tacky. Don’t believe me? Ask your mom. πŸ™‚

How about you? What do you insist on loving, in spite of snob pressure to renounce it?

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Today at lunch, one of my best writing buddies and I were talking about joy. Specifically, how to get more of it into lives that have become so busy, budgets that have become so tight, and families that have grown and changed and sometimes separated.

We talked about the little pleasures from the past, the moments when we’ve felt most at ease with our worlds and with ourselves. We mentioned floating on a raft in the Gulf of Mexico. Long walks with something corny on the iPod. Cooking up something wicked in the kitchen (this was my friend, not me…lol). Making silly things we aren’t even very good at, like Christmas ornaments, posters, ceramics, macrame.

And then I mentioned poetry.

She’s polite, but her eyes got wide. Poetry? I’m sorry. I know it sounds impossible. Isn’t poetry something you slave over in school? But I can’t help it. I’m a geek that way. My parents were both writers, and they both created beautiful poetry. They shared their favorite poems with my sister and me even before we could read. They quoted the greats when they wanted to give advice. “Ah, love, let us be true to one another…” “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter…”

And we got hooked. I still find wisdom, beauty and consolation in the poems I love. They give me much the same feeling I get from a really good romance. Here’s what Percy Shelley said about poetry: “It strips the veil of familiarity from the world, and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty…”

Isn’t that what we want from a book? Don’t we want a writer who can help us see our worlds through fresh eyes? Don’t we want to awake anew to the beauty that is a part of everything, but we’ve begun to take it for granted? Don’t we want to remember what that first rush of falling love feels like…that first coming together in wondrous intimacy?

Of course, I also want to make silly things and play with paints, like a preschooler. The picture at the beginning of this post is my beloved collection of hand-painted mugs–hand-painted by me, a woman who has absolutely zero artistic talent, at one of those do-it-yourself pottery places. I’ve made five so far, the first back in 2004. Each one has one of my favorite quotes on it. So far, I’ve got

“Margaret, are you grieving?” from Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poignant “Spring and Fall”
“I’ll come to thee by moonlight,” from Alfred Noyes’ tragic ballad, “The Highwayman”
“I am half sick of shadows,” from Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalott”
“Yet we will make him run,” from Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”
“The seven stars go squawking, like geese about the sky,” from Auden’s “As I Walked Out One Evening”

They look like a pre-schooler’s work, and yet I cherish every one. I remember the fun I had making them, with my friends, my sister, my daughter… And I remember each poem, and the joy it has brought me through the years. In fact, I think it’s time to make another, because every set of coffee mugs should have at least six, don’t you think?

Any suggestions for the next quote? Anyone out there a poetry geek, too? If you don’t have any poetry to share, I’d still love to hear where in this hectic world you still can find nuggets of joy. I just heard from my friend while I was writing this post, and she reports that she’s out in the pool, floating on a raft and refusing to let anything get her down. That makes me happy. Or, as Shakespeare would say, “But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored, and sorrows end.”

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