In Praise of the Traditional Christmas Wish List

Chris and I tend to mix up Christmas gift giving a bit each year. One year we’ll do great big gifts of awesome, like the year there was a laptop, a Playstation, *and* a Wii, back when those were hell to get ahold of. And the next year we’ll do small, thoughtful gifts, like a small piece of jewelry, or something that we really need for the house. Last year we went to the big maul in Orlando together and had a really nice lunch with beers and took each other shopping. Chris came home with some fancy shaving stuff that he wouldn’t bought otherwise, and I bought a gorgeous fancy purse. Plus it was a ton of fun to spend an indulgent day together. Oh shit! I just remebered that that was the trip when Chris flim-flammed me into getting a new couch! So yes, that was kind of a big Christmas. One year I told him, ‘I want a concertina for Christmas and you have to get it for me.’ Guess what I got that year! Exactly what I asked for, and that was great!

The thing is that we usually just go ahead and buy stuff for ourselves when we want or need something. We don’t usually hold off very long on getting things for ourselves. We’ll think about it for an appropriate amount of time, but once we feel that we would really and truly use the thing, we just buy it. The reason the shopping trip worked so well last year is because we had both been thinking about buying those things, but hadn’t pulled the trigger yet.

And we always talk about how we’ll do Christmas well in advance. I don’t want to get Chris some $4,000 drone toy and end up getting a pack of rechargeable batteries in return. No one wins there. So when I brought it up this year, Chris said that he’d been working on a list and that maybe I could do one too. He said he had some crazy big stupid things on his list (Yes, there really is a $4,000 drone toy on there. Good luck with that, Buttercup.), but there are small things and reasonable things, and middle of the road things as well.


So I somewhat reluctantly began my wish list. One of the things that brought me joy about it making my list is that I could write it in my planner. I love writing lists in my planner. Especially if those lists will come to fruition within the next month. Especially especially if it’s a list of things that I want that I might get! I was stumped for a couple of days, but when Denise posted her planner wish list ideas, I went to town. I put a photo sticker printer on my list, along with all kinds of non-specific planner stocking stuffers like washi tape and stickers and stamps and such. From there I went to my Etsy favorites list, since I was kind of already right there looking at planner shit anyway. I added a sapphire stackable ring, and a metal clay setup (Look it up metal clay if you aren’t familiar with it. It’s kind of amazing.) Since I started it, I’ve gone back and added things to my wish list whenever I’ve realized there’s something I should be shopping for. When we had our first cold morning last week I got into my car to go to work and immediately realized that I forgot to buy driving gloves last year. Onto the list! When I started to shop for a new wallet, onto the list!

And while I’m making my list, I’m looking at Chris’ list too. Other than the aforementioned $4,000 drone toy, he’s got a couple of other slightly outlandish items there, along with some practical things that we should get anyway. And a bunch of really reasonable, fun things too! This was about the time that I realized the beauty of the Wish List. You have options, and your gifter has options. Say I want a puppy for Christmas. I can simply put ‘puppy’ on my list, and leave the fun part of choosing a puppy to Chris! Or I can put ‘hound puppy’ on my list, giving him some guidance, but not choosing my own puppy. I can even put ‘see link of puppy on Petfinder that I emailed you’ on my list if I’ve already choosen my puppy! It’s genius! It gives the gifter a chance to have fun shopping for you, picking out what colors and such he thinks you’d like, and it gives you the chance to name your specific gift if you are super picky about this one item. It’s so much more fun the going to an Amazon wish list and clicking buttons. The bonus is that if your list is comprehensive enough, you still won’t know what you’re going to end up with!

So start a list this year! And have your people start lists! And write them down and exchange them and send each other photos of your lists and have a very merry holiday season!

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My Voice

My voice does not lie on the white couches and comfy throws of home decor websites.
My voice is not found casually tossed among the apples of the fresh fruit bowl in the spotless farmhouse kitchen of the food blogger.
My voice cannot be heard springing forth from the carefully constructed Pinterest board that features colors found only near the ocean on a bright spring day.

My voice comes from my puppy when I squeeze him just a little too tightly.
My voice is hidden behind the antler-less, somewhat crushed deer skull that hangs on my dining/sewing/office room wall.
My voice falls from the pages of the books that friends and family have given me that are filled with photos of mutant human embryos and dog-faced children and victims of elephantitis.
My voice spills forth from a thirty second video to Tim Gunn.
My voice is black and pink and sparkly and wears combat boots and is a bit tipsy on champagne and drives a hot little red sportscar.
My voice screams out in the screeching whistle of the teapot boiling at full steam.
My voice cares more about whether her bicycle basket lining should have rick-rack on it or not than when she’ll get to ride her bicycle again.
My voice clicks the box next to ‘free giftwrap’ and writes herself a love note when she orders a new handbag online.

My voice is mine and mine alone.
I will find my voice.
I will follow my voice.
Every. Single. Day.
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This is Halloween

Oh my gawd so Halloween! It’s my favorite! Chris and I had so much fun making our costumes this year that we’re digging the idea of making medieval versions for the ren faire next year, and we’re already tossing around ideas for *next* Halloween. So there better be as many parties to attend as there was this year! We went to four parties over the course of the weekend and each one was fun in such a different way! I’d do them all over again!


Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary


We got some great comments on our costumes! I was a bit nervous that no one would know what we were dressed as. But as we walked into Publix to grab some nibbles for our first party, another customer asked, ‘Where in the world did we get Beefeater costumes?!’ And several people at the parties we went to seemed surprised that we made them ourselves. Well that’s what we do! I live for this shit! We even got stars and retweets from two actual Beefeaters (@ravenmaster1 and @ladyyeoman)! Which is like Rhea getting a Tweet reply from Wil Wheaton. Which is one of the most exciting things to ever happen. So there’s that.

A bit of history: Last fall Chris and Channa and Mariana and I were in London in September and we went to the Tower of London and it was gorgeous and it was amazing and I cannot wait to go back. One of the things that was really awesome to me was not just the tower guards and not just the fact that one of those guards is deemed the ravenmaster and gets to take care of the seven gorgeous birds that live on site but these Beefeater uniforms were amazing to me. They were well built and had a lovely shape and somewhat casual but also really fucking spiffy and military. They were gorgeous! And I found myself looking at Chris and saying, ‘I want to make one of these! I want to make you a Beefeater costume!’ I took a few reference shots of like the back of the uniforms because I knew specialty shots like that would be sparse online.

Fast forward a year and Chris and I were tossing around ideas for Halloween costumes 2015. So we looked at this and we looked at that and I wrote all those ideas down and started secret Pinterest boards for them. I’m not going to tell you what they are because maybe that’s what we’re going to do next year. But we ended up cutting it down to Chris would be a Beefeater and I would be Queen Elizabeth which would be awesome and gorgeous and amazing.

Then in September I freaked out a little bit. I got overwhelmed with the idea of the Queen of England costume because who wants to be the fucking Queen of England if they don’t have the perfect replica crown and the ermine cape with the 6 foot long train and the high-end mind-blowing coronation dress?! I sure as hell don’t. But I was stressed about it. I didn’t feel that I would be able to do the costume justice. So I cancelled Halloween. I told Chris we had to come up with something quick and easy where we are ordering most of it from Amazon, similar to the Mythbusters costumes we did a couple of years ago, because I just couldn’t do it. It was too overwhelming. My brain had exploded two days ago and I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I explained that it was the queen costume that was really freaking me out and that I was still really looking forward to making his Beefeater costume. Chris in his patience and his infinite wisdom looked at me and says, ‘Then why don’t we both be Beefeaters?’ And my brain kind of exploded again. Of course! Of course we can all be fucking Beefeaters! So it was settled, Beefeaters it is!


So. Much. Red. Tape.

I had a great time making these costumes. I am thrilled that Amazon Prime exists because I misread the amount of yardage contained in the packages of red bias tape and only picked up a fraction of what I needed at Joanns. I learned a lot about draping. I learned to not be afraid of lining. I learned how to bust out some badass buttonholes and make them my bitch. And that’s one of the things I love best about sewing costumes as opposed to sewing garments that I would wear to work or something like that. I’m not afraid to tackle little fiddly things or things that I don’t do very often or things that I need practice at because it’s just a costume. It doesn’t matter if I mess it up a little bit because I can always temporarily cover that up and make it look fine from a galloping horse. I’m not being paid by someone to make these, no one is flipping my seams, and I’m not entering any contests. The welt pockets that I put on Chris’ Christmas vest two years ago is a perfect example of that. It was a brand new technique for me. It is difficult to get done perfectly, it’s hard enough to get it done well, and I just practiced it a few times on scratch fabric until I felt better about the whole technique and then did it for reals on the vest. It didn’t turn out amazing but it turned out nice enough that I was pleased with the results. So pleased that I told Chris now that he’s lost 100 pounds if he wants a new vest for tuba Christmas I’m going to cut down his old vest around that welt pocket and instead of making one from scratch.

Another thing I learned this year making Halloween costumes is that Chris not only up for attempting pretty much anything making wise, but he’s also really really good at it. I asked him to make both of the hats for our costumes and he did an amazing job. These things look fantastic. He bought inexpensive Zorro hats from the Halloween store then built those up with craft foam and quilt batting and covered them in fabric so that they were similar to the actual Beefeater hats. They fit great and they look really genuine. I was really so very pleased with them. And then when he asked if there was anything else he could help me with I handed him the red felt stencil for the front of the costumes and my super sharp fabric scissors and asked him if he didn’t mind doing detail work he could start cutting away on those. He cut out all of the red felt applique pieces for both of our costumes and he did such a beautiful job with that. I’m still kind of amazed at these things came out between the two of us.

And he really was up for anything! After I made his costume I needed to make a pattern for the tunic for my costume. The way I made the pattern for Chris’ was by having him stand still with the Beefeater shirt on, and I draped pieces of muslin on him then marked my cutting lines according to how that piece of fabric fit on his body. So it would have been difficult for me to do that to myself. Enter Chris the Wonder crafter! He jumped in with both feet and he did the same draping technique to me! He made perfect pattern pieces for me to make my costume from. And he’s such… he’s such a… a kind of guy who will give anything a shot. If I ask him to help me with it he will totally help me with it even if it’s learning how to do something like drape a pattern for a Beefeater costume.

I think the last thing on my list of things I learned while making Halloween costumes this year is that it is so much easier to make a second identical costume then to make two completely different costumes. I alredy had the construction engineering figured out on Chris’ costume before I even cut mine out, so it took me about half the time to make mine. I just need to remember that if there is a make a mistake on the first piece, I’ll need to make the same mistake on the second one in order to be consistent! And I’ll keep that in mind in the future because not only is it easier, but I think we had more impact with the two of us being together. Especially since it was a military style costume I think it really pulled the two of us together as a team.

So what’s next for me? I think I might do some knitting this weekend. The craft room could use some tidying. And I’ve got some cool sewing ideas using some fabulous new tools that I got for my birthday! Hurrah for making!

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The Best Kind of Biopsy

I think it’s normal to be anxious about getting a biospy. Even with the whole idea of the possiblity of having cancer set aside, some stranger is going to stick a big sharp needle in your boob and that’s most likely going to hurt. No matter how much research I did, I kept finding more stories about completely different biopsy experiences. Different tables, different equipment, different needles and scapels and such. And all of these things made me nervous because I just didn’t know what to expect. I’m pleased to say that my biopsy turned out to be the best kind of biopsy, and one I hadn’t read about.

The waiting room at the Surgical Group of Gainesville is kind of dismal. There are like a dozen doctors that work out of the facility, but I didn’t expect the waiting room to be that crowded so late in the afternoon. But it was, and most of the people there looked like complete crap. They were ill. They were exhausted. There were patients and caretakers of all kinds, but many of them gave a lot more meaning to the word ‘cancer’ than hundreds of colored ribbons ever could.

My wait wasn’t long, and the PA that spoke to me was kind and gentle. She wanted to hear the whole story of why I was there. It was nice to be able to tell it to someone who would be able to help me. She left the room to update Dr. Hipp, and he joined me and Chris shortly thereafter. After some chit chat (I really like this doctor, by the way. He’s a bit nerdy and easy to talk to.) he summed up my story and asked if it was correct. It was. He flat out told me that the images taken at my mammogram very much quite obvisously show only cycts. He went ahead and gave me a breast exam, which he felt confirmed (See what I did there?!) what the mammogram and ultrasound showed. He then told me that he’s been doing surgery on breast cancer patients for ten years, and that there is no reason to biopsy a cyst. It’s a cyst. It’s full of fluid, not abnormal cells. He said that if I wanted him to, he would take me into the next room and excise the cysts (I think he counted three this time.). They would be gone, and I’d not have to worry about them, but it’s possible that more would grow. He said he would also be perfectly happy to just send me out the front door right then and there and never have to see me again, but remining me to have my regular mammograms. He never dismissed Dr. Alderman’s cautiousness in insisting that I have a biopsy, and he said that he’d write a nice note to her explaining the situation.

I told the doctor that the word ‘excise’ sounded pretty extreme. He agreed. I told him that if it would make him happy to see me simply leave right now, I would hate to disappoint him. After he left the room, I high-fived Chris before I even put my shirt back on. Then he took me shoe shopping and bought me a jumbo soft pretzel. Yep, best kind of biopsy ever. :)

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The Mammogram

I had a mammogram years and years and years ago, like when I was… I dunno, early 30-something or so, because I had a sore spot on my breast. Nothing came of that and all was good. But it was good to get one under my belt. Then I had my first regularly scheduled it’s-time-to-start-doing-this-thing mammogram four years ago. They let me go a little later than usual because I had had that first one before that and it showed nothing mysterious. And I had put off that second one a bit because of nipple rings.

You see, everything I read on the Internet about mammograms and nipple rings said that they are a no go. That all jewelry above the waist would need to be removed. And wow, what a pain in the ass that would be for me. It would mean a trip to the piercing shop, none of which I was currently on terms with, perhaps a trip back if they didn’t have the plastic jewelry I needed to replace my metal hoops, having a piercer I don’t know replace my jewelry for me, getting the mammogram, and then maybe even having to go back to the piercer to have my original jewelry replaced. The reasons the Internet gave for removing all jewelry was pretty vague. Some said that the metal would interfere with the x-ray (Interfere? Ummm… dubious.). Some said the doctors are afraid that there might be lumps or bumps hiding behind the metal (In my nipple? Which sticks out? Dubious.). Some said long necklaces would interfere with the big machine moving around. That one I get! But a long necklace is easier to take off than body jewelry. I wasn’t ready to give up this mark of passage just yet, especially for another rite of passage that I wasn’t really looking forward to. So I called my diagnostic center (Doctors Imaging Group, if you’re interested, Ladies.). On the phone! And talked to a stranger! That’s how important this was to me. And you know what they told me? They told me that’s all bullshit. They asked me not to wear copious amounts of dangle jewelry, but my happy little nipples would be just fine all dolled up for the doctor. They said they are more worried about the liability of somone leaving an expensive piece of jewelry in the dressing room than the mammogram getting messed up because someone’s wearing earrings. That was such a relief! So I happily went to have that mammogram. And that was that. I had the mammogram, a quick ultrasound (Which I assumed was just to get a baseline since no one said anything otherwise.), and was sent on my way with a simple, ‘All clear!’ from the doctor.

All of this means that I was completely prepared for this mammogram. Which is good, because I was a little nervous about the outcome. I donned my tutu and my combat boots for the appointment, and was given a lovely cape when I arrived! It all went very quickly once I was called into the dressing room. The mammogram lady was super nice and just the right amount of chatty about just the right things (Walking Dead, natch.). I knew I’d have an ultrasound, so she promptly whisked me off to do that once she was done with the x-ray stuff. And the ultrasound went fine! I had read that it’s a good sign if the tech says nothing. And mine said nothing! Not even a ‘hrmmm’ or an ‘ohhhh…’. Good signs! She went off to have the doctor look at the pictures of my boob (She scanned just the one problem one.). The doctor came in a few minutes later. She said, ‘It’s a cyst! (Yaaaayyyy!!!) And the last one hasn’t changed at all. (Yaaayy… errrrr?!?!)
‘What cyst?!’
‘The cyst they found the last time you were here.’
‘No one said anything about a cyst the last time I was here.’
‘Well didn’t you get an ultrasound?’
‘Yeeeees, but still no one said anything about a cyst…’
‘Well there was a cyst. There is still is, and it hasn’t changed.’
‘Ok, thanks?’
And I was sent on my merry way.

You may recall from my last post that my GYN, Dr. Alderman, who I adore and respect and it totally cool and knows what she’s talking about, told me that if I was given an all clear and wasn’t referred for a biopsy by the imaging center that she would make a reference for me. She stressed that it was very important for me to not only have a mammogram and an ultrasound but a biopsy as well. And that’s scheduled for Wednesday! Yay?!

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‘It might just be dense breast tissue…’

…but there’s definitely something there. You need to get it checked out. What are you doing after this?’ And so begins my morning of Googling ‘breast biopsy’ and touching my boob a lot.

I love my gynecologist (Dr. Jennifer Alderman at the Gainesville Gynecology Group if you’re in Gainesville and looking.). I’ve been going to her for about ten years, seeing her once a year like clockwork. She’s super cool, speaks to me frankly without seeming cold, asks the right questions, and gives the right answers. I saw her yesterday and everything was business as normal until my breast exam. ‘Have you felt this lump?’ she asked me. ‘I don’t remember feeling anything like this on you before.’

I hadn’t felt it. I don’t do regular self exams. I know I should. I do it when I think about it. I do. But that’s only once every few months. But I don’t think I would have caught this lump if I *did* do self-exams. Dr. Alderman had me feel it, and while I definitely did feel something there, it’s not how I expected a lump to feel. I expected it to feel as hard as a rock, probably spherical, and pretty small. This lump is firm, but somewhat soft. It kind of feels like a muscle in comparison to the slightly softer tissue around it. It’s about the size of my thumb which seems huge to me. It definitely moves separately from the tissue around it. But I really don’t think I would have noticed it without Dr. Alderman showing me right were it is.

The doctor wanted a mammogram and ultrasound done immediately. She was firm, without being alarming. She was serious when she asked me what I was doing after this appointment. I did have to go back to work to finish something up before the weekend, but the GYN office made an appointment for me on Monday. Dr. Alderman explained to me that if something looks funky at the imaging center, they would send me for a biopsy. She was sure to make me understand that if the imaging center tells me everything looks clear and sends me on my way, I need to have a biopsy anyway. Turns out mammograms and ultrasounds are great at detecting changes in your breast, especially if you have an imaging history, but are pretty lousy at detecting the difference between all the different types of lumps and bumps that can live in your breast. So I was instructed to let her know immediately if the ultrasound center sent me away with a clean bill, and she would refer to me to someone for a biopsy.

As Dr. Alderman sent me on my way, I was feeling a little quirky. Not frightened. Not quite nervous. But there’s the whole unknown thing. Not the unknown of whether I have cancer or not (Nearly all lumps are completely benign. I don’t think I have cancer. If I do, well, we’ll deal with that when we find that out.), but the unknown of what happens behind the doors of a different doctor’s office. I’ve had mammograms before, so that’s fine. Right after the last one they whisked me into the next room to have an ultrasound, and that was kind of scary because it was unexpected. But I’ve never had a biopsy. I had a skin melanoma excised** from my left butt cheek about a year ago, and that ended up being a *lot* different than I expected it to be. I don’t want those kinds of surprises again. I want to know what to expect.

As I walked across the parking lot to my car, I remembered that Lorena had gone through a similar experience to this a couple of years ago. So I did what I do: I went straight to the Internet. Because Lorena does what she does: She writes. So I found her first post in a series about her mammogram, Lenny the Cyst, and her biopsy. I read most all of Lorena’s series on the way home at red lights and finished later in the evening. And Lorena, I want you to know that it helped! It helped me *so* much. I wasn’t sure if I’d write about this, but Lorena made a couple of really good points throughout her posts that I’d like to reiterate.

She found that when she started talking to ladies about her breast lump experience, many would surprisingly tell her, ‘I went through the same thing!’ It seems like this kind of lump/mammogram/biopsy thing happens pretty frequently, but for many reasons we don’t talk about it. I understand if one prefers to keep medical matters private. That is totally ok by me. But if you don’t care so much, as I don’t, I think we should make a point to talk about things like breast lumps. Talking and writing about it makes it much less frightening to others, and even to ourselves. Just writing this up this morning while I’ve clicked around on biopsy sites has made me feel tremendously more at ease with whatever next week brings me. I have a better idea of what’s going to happen, so I’m not as nervous and my mind isn’t racing the way it was last night when I went to bed.

Also, my lump is completely different from Lorena’s. Hers was painful; mine is not. Hers is tiny; mine is larger. Hers turned out to be a cyst; I don’t think mine is. So the more we talk about all of these different lumps and bumps and breast stuff, the more we realize that there are all kinds of things that can go on in there, and nearly all the time these things are perfectly fine and not cancer.

So the good news is that I have a couple of baseline mammograms on file so there will be something to compare the new one to. I’ll find out what kind of biopsy I’ll have before I go to that appointment so that I can research that a bit and know what to expect. And then everything will be fine and dandy and life will move right along. I really kind of hope it’s a mass of hair and teeth, but I doubt if I’ll be that lucky.  😉

**Edited to add: I really had no idea what I was getting into with that one. No one told me I’d be having a ‘wide excision’. I thought they would just shave some more of the mole off, similar to how they did the shave biopsy, but just go a little deeper. Chris asked me if I wanted him to go with me, and at first I declined. But thought about it for a minute and thought it’d be a good idea. I like having him around. So when we ended up on the surgical ward I was so confused. I wasn’t having surgery. I was just having a mole removed! Things were a lot more invasive than I imagined. I ended up with like seven or eight stitches. If you’re interested, here’s a great blog post documenting someone else’s wide excision:
I did get ice cream after that one, though. Always a bonus.

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Staycation by the Numbers

1 Bicycle basket liner sewn
7 Magically happy pillowcases constructed
1 Tutu resized to fit
1 New skirt from my own pattern completed
2 Upcoming sewing projects in the planning and fabric purchasing stages
729 Creative ideas formed
0 Cars washed
All Pizzas eaten
0 Floors vacuumed
2 Puppies forcibly hugged and kissed upon my whims
0 Papers organized and filed
4 Naps taken
0 Blog posts written
1/4 Lawn mown
0 Fucks given about getting hardly any chores done

The point here is that I took a week off of work in order to stay home and sew. I sewed and sewed and relaxed and ate pizza and sewed, and I loved it. I needed a reset, and I’ve totally got my mojo back. And damn, that feels good.

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On Blogging

I’m ‘doing’ the NaBloPoMo in August. I’ve signed up and given my url and everything. But I’m obviously finding it to be a difficult task. When I said, ‘YES! I can do this!’ I figured that the worst case scenario would be that I could post a photograph or or a short quip each day if I didn’t have time to write a full blog post. That isn’t happening, though, and I’ll tell you why: Too many social media options. When I’m thinking I can write up a quick little blog post even when I don’t have the time for a proper decent post, I write it in my head and realize that it’s a Facebook post, not a blog post. And then sometimes I realize that it’s not even a FB post, but a Tweet! If it’s a photograph that I really like, it’s going straight to Instagram. So you can see that in my wee head I’ve composed a dozen blog posts this week, but they’ve been expressed on Facebook instead of here. :(

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And That’s a Wrap!

Chris and I made a video today! We’ve made a small handful of videos together, all of which have been me talking to the camera while working from an outline. Chris and I have had a blast putting these together with me in front of the camera and him behind it. He’s a great editor, and I enjoy being a movie star for the day. We’re a great team! This time, we had a script and a set and costumes and wow.

A friend of ours is turning eight years old next week.wrap He’s having a huge Harry Potter birthday party (Ok, who are we kidding? His *mom* is having a huge Harry Potter party!) and we’re going to have to miss it because we’ll be camping all weekend. We wanted to do something super special and a wee bit magical for him, so Chris put on his Cornelius Fudge costume that I made for him many years and many pounds ago, and he ACTED for this kid. He ACTED his ass off. Unlike our previous works, this one was done with one camera in one take. Granted, we worked that take over and over and over again, but our final run through wasn’t too bad at all.

We found a little corner of our home that looks kind of old school and turned it into Fudge’s office where his secretary, Ms. Fussywidget, took a letter from the Ministry of Magic to our friend Kieran. We’ll print the letter up on some faux parchment paper and slide it to Kieran’s mom sometime this week. We’ll have a QR code on the letter that his folks can scan with their cell phone that will play the video of us ‘making’ the letter for him. Of course at the end of the movie we’ll have a little muggle shout out to Kieran with our birthday wishes to him. I hope Chris puts his trademark outtakes at the end too! Regardless of what makes the cut, though, I’ll post the video here when it’s all said and done!

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I Was Upskirted. And I Didn’t Call the Cops.

Chris and I are on our annual Mother’s Day vacation, and we’re at our favorite part of it: Our time with our dear friends, Katie and Paul, in Maryland. This is time that we treasure each and every year. We usually try to find a couple of fun or unusual touristy things to do, and Paul will take a day or two off of work to play hooky with us. Katie just finished up her first semester of nursing school, so I’m excited that she was done with her finals by the time we were pulling into their driveway. She kicked ass on her exams, by the way!

This year we took a little trip to Savage Mill to check out the shops, have a pint, and just hang out with our friends. We were in a particularly quaint store that sold only handcrafted items. A place after my own heart! As I looked at handbags and tchotchkes and jewelry I thought about the lovely things that my maker friends produce and how well it would fit in there. I thought about the makers of these products and made a decision to definitely buy a thing or two in order to support them in the best way possible. The shop is made of up three rooms that aren’t necessarily small or isolated, but there were very few shoppers in the mall this Thursday afternoon. As we entered the shop, the four of us split up and we wandered in different directions, towards things we each found to be interesting.

As I glanced at some too cute little signs on a wall, a man, maybe in his late twenties (I’m horrible at guessing ages.) or early thirties commented to me about how nice the artwork is. I smiled, like I do, nodded in agreement, and turned to continue shopping. I’m usually pretty aware of people around me when I’m in public. Not in a paranoid way, but I don’t want to get in anyone’s way. At the grocery, for instance, I like to know who is in front of me and who’s behind me so that I don’t block an aisle or something. I had noticed that this guy had been pretty close to me most of the time I had been shopping in this room, but I didn’t think much of it. He was a little closer than I like a stranger to be to me, so I turned to actively avoid talking to him any longer. When my back was to him I felt the hem of my skirt move. Skirts do that. They move when your butt does. It’s not unusual. What *is* unusual is when you twist around to fix your skirt and you see that the guy who had been next to you is moving into a standing position and is putting something behind his back.

I didn’t immediately realize what had happened. I saw that whatever the guy was putting behind his back had a light at the end of it. I was confused. Why would this stranger have a light of some sort near the hem of my skirt? I’m sure he saw the recognition dawning on my face as my brain put together the clues and formed an idea of what this cretin had done. I was between him and the exit of the shop and I started slowly backing away. I could feel the blood rushing to my face as I raised my finger at him. ‘You… you!!!’ I said, shaking. It was when he immediately got defensive that I *knew* that he had done what I suspected. I called out for my husband. ‘Chris…? Chris! CHRIS!! THIS GUY JUST UPSKIRTED ME!’

At this point a couple of things were going through my head: 1) Don’t let this guy get away, and 2) Let as many people hear the commotion so that they will help detain him. I was not embarassed. I was not going to be quiet. I think those first few moments helped define how I feel about the situation right now, a couple of days later. I think being outspoken about it right then helped me continue to be outspoken about it and not brush it under a rug. And I think that’s a good thing for me.

As Katie and Paul and Chris came to see what was going on, the guy was walking, backing actually, towards the door, talking, saying how he did nothing wrong, using lots of ‘Maams’, ‘No no no’, ‘You don’t understand’, backing away, on his phone, deleting the photos, hurrying to the door, walking, ‘Maam’, ‘It’s not like that’, walking, deleting, ‘I didn’t do anything’, walking. As Katie and Chris blocked his way in an effort to slow him down, Paul began video taping the confrontation on his phone.* Chris and Katie were trying to get the guy to hand over his phone. He would show them a photo or two, but wouldn’t hand the phone to either of them. We were out in the hallway part of the mall by then. The guy was still trying to walk away, still deleting, still defensive. Katie smelled pot on him. Walking. Deleting. ‘I didn’t do anything’.

Chris asked me what I wanted to do. If I wanted to report it. The evidence, if the guy even got a good shot, was gone**, there was no witness, I had somewhat humiliated the guy in public, and I didn’t even know if upskirting is illegal in Maryland.*** I asked Chris to just make sure there were no photos of me on the guy’s phone and that would be enough. Paul was still video taping. I was still confused. I was *so* pissed. I was pacing. Walking towards Chris and Katie and the guy, then walking back to Paul. Back and forth. I just wanted the guy and his phone to go away. The guy finally handed his phone to Chris, and among the seemingly consentual nude pictures of ‘his girl’, Chris found no upskirt photos of me or anyone else remaining. The guy apologized to Chris who in turn made the guy apologize to me. Whatever. Just go away. He did.

Katie had asked the shop-keeper to call security. She kicked it up a notch and was on the phone with 911 by the time we made our way back to towards the store. I told her not to send the cops. She asked if I was ok. A couple of women who had been watching the confontation asked if I was ok. That helped. It somehow helped me feel better that strangers recognized a horrible situation and at least seemed to care. I don’t know why, but it did.

I felt myself start to cry, but I didn’t allow that to come to fruition. Fuck that guy. I didn’t want him to be able to make me cry. In the end, that’s exactly why I didn’t want the cops. I didn’t want this guy to have the power to ruin my day. I get just a couple of days a year to be with these people who I love, and I was not going to spend one of those days dealing with cops and paperwork and statements, let alone take the risk that this horrible thing that happened to me would be downgraded to a ‘Oh, sweetie, just you don’t mind. These things happen when you wear cute little skirts.’ I won’t forgive, and I sure as hell won’t forget, but I really just wanted to have a good day with my friends. Again, I didn’t want to give him the power to ruin my day, let alone my whole vacation, or this place for me.

So did I do the right thing? By not reporting the crime, I have failed the guy’s future victims. But I don’t think calling the cops would have stopped him from doing this next week. But I did do the right thing. I did the thing that was right for me at the time. It’s the decision I will live with, so it has to be the right thing. And if this ever happens to you, you will do the right thing for you at that time. At this point the only thing I can think of that I wish I would have done is this: I wish I would have thought to tell him, ‘For every disgusting act like this that you do, someone is doing this to your mother. Someone is doing this to your daughter. Someone is doing this to your sister.’ I wish I would have had the foresight to make it personal to him. That’s the only way he will realize that what he is doing is wrong.

*Fucking brilliant. That somehow comforted me.

***Even if the shot(s) he got had been crappy, if he hadn’t have had time to delete them, the tattoos on my legs would have positively identified them as being photos of my underskirt.

***It is. I think. Maybe? Frankly, it’s hard to tell.

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