If you can’t be a mermaid, make a mermaid.

Make a mermaid doll - free pattern!

I made a dozen mermaids a few weeks ago.  Three of them were intended for a certain Tiny-Small daughter of a friend, who celebrated her third birthday recently.  They were mailed last week, so I think it’s safe to reveal them now.

The others I made because if I’m going to bother making three, what are nine more?

The dolls are based on the free Mermaiden pattern.  Based on means that I used the pattern pieces for the tail and upper body and ignored the directions.

Mermaid Dolls with Seaweed Hair - Free PatternFor my version, just print page four.  Cut out the body and tail.  I trace them onto the fabric, right side together, and sew before cutting.  I think it went faster this way, but I also think that sewing the body by hand would give it neater curves.

Stuff them with fluff, then push body into the tail and hand sew them to each other.

The hair is Lion Brand Homespun yarn.  I have a few little balls of this left from knitting projects.  If you buy a skein, you will have enough yarn for hundreds of mermaid wigs.  You could use other yarn, and have less fuzz floating about, but this is delightfully seaweedy as it unravels.

(So do not give these mermaids to children who are apt to put them in their mouths.  Use the original Mermaiden pattern for wee babes.)

To make the hair, cut eight pieces of yarn the length of the doll and a dozen pieces double her length.  Sew the short eight pieces together a half inch from one end.  Sew the long pieces straight through the middle.  Leave long tails of thread at beginning and end; you can use these to sew the wigs in place.

Adapting the Free Mermaiden Pattern for a Doll with HairHand stitch the short wig to the back of her head.

Align the center of the long wig with the seam on the top of your mermaid’s head.  Sew along this line.  Part the front section wherever you like, and swoop her hair out of her face.  Tack in place, and continue to sew the wig in place.  Adjust the yarn so she doesn’t have bald spots.  You get the idea.

Did that make sense?

I stitched the mouth and eyes last, but I think you could use permanent marker if you’d prefer.  Ignore the face markings on the pattern, unless you like them.  I find the eyes freakishly far apart and low on the head, but I’m not a fan of anime, either.

I’m debating giving the remaining mermaids as gifts or as Random Acts of Mermaids.  What do you think?

Do you know anyone for whom you’d make a mermaid?

A rose, or a daughter, by any name…

What's in a name?  Would you allow your child to change theirs?Last week, I was talking to a friend about our children’s names.  Like me, she adopted older children.  I asked if she’d changed their names.

Like me, she’d only changed middle names.

I didn’t easily come to that decision myself.  I really wanted to name my own child, from scratch.  New life – new language – new name?  Just plain possessiveness?  The sheer fun of choosing names?  Yes, yes, and yes.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I read pros and cons, all written by adoptive parents, certain they’d chosen correctly, or at least not incorrectly.  I wanted to read something from the perspective of an older adoptee, but did not find anything.

Then, I remembered Patty Duke.  I’d read an article about her once, decades ago, where she spoke about how traumatic it had been to have her name changed for the stage, as if her identity had been stolen from her.

How much more traumatic could it be for a child whose life has already been so out of control and full of loss and change?

I kept the given name, and chose a middle name for my daughter.

Nine years later, my daughter would like to change it.  She chose to go by her middle name several years ago, and if everyone would call her by this name, she would not be pushing for a legal name change.  However, they don’t.

A rose, or a daughter, by any other name...Imagine you are from a foreign land, and your name is Karen.

In your homeland, this is a soft name, pronounced Kah-rin, with a slightly rolled R.  You move to America, and everyone calls you Care-en.  It’s spelled the same, but it’s not your name.  You tell people how to say your name, but many still call you Care-en.

Now imagine that your name is Karen (Kah-rin)  Elizabeth, and you ask your teachers to call you Elizabeth.  They call you Care-en.  You explain that your name is pronounced Kah-rin, but prefer to use Elizabeth.  They call you Care-en all year.

The first year in public school, she began mentioning that she wished I’d done her names the other way around.  I told her I wished I had, too, but explained my reasoning for not.

The second year, she began saying that she’d like to change her name.  I told her that it’s easy and free to do when you get married, if you still want to do it then.

Recently, she asked could we please do it now?  We’re starting the process this summer.

Unfortunately, it won’t be legal when school starts in August, so she will begin high school as Care-in.

Is hindsight 20/20?

If I had it to do over again, would I change her name from the start?

A rose, or a daughter, by any name...As tempting as it is to think that it would have been easier to change my daughter’s name nine years ago, I don’t know that it would have been easier for her.

I think she would have accepted it at the time, but would she have resented it later?  Would she now, as a fifteen year old, or later, as a 30 year old, wish to reclaim a heritage and identity which was stripped away?  How can I know?

I do know that now, it is her decision, one that I think she is capable of making for herself.

Have you ever thought about changing your name?
Would you allow your child to change theirs?

Happy? Memorial Day

For most of us, Memorial Day is the launch of summer. Our neighborhood pools open. Picnics and bbq’s abound. Maybe we’ll even shop the big sales.

For Memorial Day, I wish you peace.For most of us, the meaning of Memorial Day is so far from our minds that we don’t bat an eye when someone wishes us a “Happy Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day isn’t happy.  It needn’t be morbidly depressing, but happy?  That doesn’t quite capture it.

I’m grateful for the sacrifices made by members of our military, but happy?  No, I’m not happy.

Often, I think of their loved ones as those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  They live with their loss every day, those husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends, siblings, lovers.

I imagine it is even harder on the day that has been set aside for remembrance, to see that so many of us do not care to remember at all.

So, what do we say?  I’m choosing peace.

I wish you peace this Memorial Day weekend, and I pray for the safety of those who serve the cause of liberty.

How buying a pillow makes me want to knock down walls.

Trixie cares more about pillows than kitchen cabinets.This week, I bought new covers for some throw pillows and restuffed the others in the basement family room.

Within 24 hours I went from looking at furniture on craigslist to researching the feasibility of cutting a sofa down to loveseat size so I could eliminate the main level family room and have more seating in the living room.  Then I could revert that family room to a giant eat in kitchen, and eliminate the dining room.

I’m not sure what I would do with the dining room then.  Perhaps a conservatory?  Flowers would do a lot to get me through the long brown winters.

Am I the only one who spirals out of control like this?

I don’t despise my home, but it’s not the most efficient use of space.  More accurately, it has a lack of space for things I need (storage, bedrooms) and too much space I don’t (three rooms with sofas).

Now that it is looking like I will not be moving within the next few years, all the things I’ve been ignoring for the past couple are grating on my nerves.

I’ve lived in this house for ten years.  That is significantly longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my adult life.

It was easy for me to overlook the faults in houses when I knew I’d be gone soon.  Ten years has given me a lot of time to mull over what I don’t like.  My bathroom, for example.

I’ve been ready for a change for the past five years.  Now I’m at the point where I stare at walls and think, “If I’m not going anywhere, maybe I could move that wall.”

It’s crazy talk.  I haven’t the budget for it.  (And, frankly, if I did, I’d use the money for a nice, long vacation instead.)

My budget is new covers for the throw pillows.

They do look nice, and Trixie seems to find them comfortable.  It’s enough.  For now.

In Defense of Size Zero

Among the backlash to the pointed remarks on size bias from the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, was this contribution, from Ellen DeGeneres.

It’s cute.

Except, there is nothing wrong with being a size zero.

That is my daughter’s size.  She’s a petite, curvy, muscular, perfectly proportioned healthy girl.

She’s neither skinny nor fat.  Any “ideal weight” formula you use, she’s close to ideal.

As much fat-bashing as I read and see online, there are equal numbers of people who openly disparage those who are naturally small.  It’s just as wrong.

Ideal Beauty, 1920's:  When will we leave the "ideal" behind and embrace beauty in all sizes?My daughter, and girls like her, don’t need to hear people talking about Size Zero as if it indicates an eating disorder or an un-feminine body type.

Or, worse, be told they are “not a real woman,” as if real woman all share the same body type.  Real women are big and small, petite and tall, bigger on the bottom and bigger on top, curvy and straight.  You don’t have to be under a certain weight or over it to be real.

My girl’s not invisible or trying to be.  She has a normal, healthy appetite and a good metabolism.

The truth is, size Zero does not exist because girls are getting skinnier.  There is a size Zero because as a society, we are getting heavier.

What size would Marilyn Monroe be today?  Why does it matter?Vanity Sizing, as it is often called, means that the size 14 of today is not the size 14 Marilyn Monroe reportedly wore.

I like to look at vintage dresses online.  Because the sizes are so different, sellers list the actual garment measurements.  Waists are typically 24-28 inches, with bustlines of 32-36.

Granted, many women wore waist nippers, but today we have spanx to reform our midriffs.  People were, on average, thinner then.  Not better, not prettier, just thinner.

You don’t have to go back to the 1950’s to notice the change.  Looking at today’s Levi’s measurements chart, I would have worn a size 4 before my sons were born, and a size 6 afterward.  In the early 90’s, I wore a size 8 before and a 10/12 after.

I do not blame designers and brands for adjusting the sizing scale.  They are in business to sell clothes, and if they sell more things labeled 10 than 16, why wouldn’t they change the numbers?  If that means that those on the small side now wear a size double zero, so be it.  The point is to sell dresses and jeans.

Personally, I wish designers would do away with the arbitrary numbers and put actual measurements on their garments as they do with menswear.  I wish women could accept those numbers and not be lured into spending money with the flattery of smaller sizes.  I’m not holding my breath for that to happen.

I won’t even hold my breath waiting for women to stop bashing each other.  To stop comparing and disparaging.  To accept that real women come in a variety of sizes, and none of us are lifted up by putting others down.

Whether we are a size 00 or 22, we are real women, with feelings, and we are more than the number in our waistband.

Are we too self-deprecating?

To someone like me, who does not like meanness, self deprecating humor is the best sort.  Mocking one’s own foibles can be hysterical in a way that pointing out the faults of another never can be.

On the other hand, there is nothing amusing about walking into someone’s immaculate home and having them apologize for the mess as they straighten the one pillow that was not perfectly plumped.  Instantly, I am made aware of potential messes I might make – where should I put my purse, how much hair am I shedding right this very minute, and am I really allowed to sit on this furniture?  It doesn’t make me anxious to visit again.

If your house is a mess, apologizing for it only draws more attention to it.  Chances are, nobody would mind the dust-doggies trailing across the floor if you didn’t point them out.  (Let’s be honest.  They might notice, but noticing and minding are two different things.)

Body Image:  what do we say?Yesterday, I read that the same holds true for the things we say about ourselves.  Self disparaging comments about our bodies do not make us more likable, whether the remarks are true or not.

For some reason, I find this harder to believe.  Am I just kidding myself?  This research was done among college students.  Would the results be the same for women in different stages of life?

I also wonder if this is true only of strangers, or if it affects those with whom we are already friends?  It seems that most of the women I know speak more of discontent than delight with their appearance.

It’s not a constant topic of conversation; that would be tiresome.  It is, however, a frustration shared aloud – the difficulty of losing the post-baby weight or the mid-life bulge.

Obviously, I share those thoughts myself.  Does this make me a less likable blogger?

I don’t think ill of my friends who share that they’d like to lose a few pounds.  If I know a friend is trying to change her eating habits, I won’t serve cake or sweets when she visits, but, other than that, it doesn’t affect my behavior or opinion of her.

Honestly, sometimes it would be weird to express a positive body image.

Body Image:  Banning Fat-Talk?If I were to greet a friend with, “Anything new?” and she responded, “I joined a gym, trying to keep from outgrowing my jeans,” I’d ask if she liked it or if it was working.  If she responded, “I joined a gym.  I’m already the ideal weight, but I want to get stronger,” I’d wonder why she mentioned her weight if it wasn’t an issue and hope the topic soon changed.

How often can you work it into casual conversation that you like your looks before you sound like a boor or a braggart?  I’m thinking it is slightly less than the number of times you can mention that you are still have ten pounds to lose.  Not a whole lot less, but, really, one announcement that you’ve lost all the baby weight is sufficient.

Still, I get the point of the article.  Negativity is not appealing.  Whether we are talking about our homes, our bodies, our jobs, or our families, complaining is not the way to win friends or influence people.

Unless you are a comedian.

What if they don’t like me?

You’ve probably seen this.  It was a social experiment done six years ago, to see if anyone would stop to listen to Joshua Bell play the violin during their morning commute.

I see it pop up every so often on Facebook, and when it appeared in my feed again this week, I looked up the old article in the Washington Post.

In it, you can read about the reactions (or lack of reactions) of various passers-by, but what struck me today were Bell’s comments:

“At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.” This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”

If not universal, it’s certainly a common fear, isn’t it?  The first day of school, the new job, every time we stretch ourselves wondering if we’ll be accepted or rejected, even when we are sure of our abilities.  Like Bell, we wonder, “What if they don’t like me?”

Because, sometimes, they don’t.  We could be Joshua Bell, one of the world’s finest violinists, playing a Stradivarius, and still be ignored, a mere irritant to people with other things on their mind, other agendas, and no interest in us.

“Not everybody is going to like you,” I used to tell my children, “And that’s okay.  You won’t like everyone you meet, either.”

Easier to say than accept.

Crafty Like a Porcupine

Have I ever mentioned how crafty I am?

No?  Well, that’s because I’m not.

I’m a wannabe, and always have been.  (Just so you know, I was a wannabe before Pinterest made it cool.)

In my mind, I am always doing amazing things with paint, fabric, and other people’s junk.  I even sew my own clothes and reupholster furniture in my imagination.

In reality, I’m just a detour on the way to the recycling or trash bin and lucky when I don’t injure myself in the process.

Next time, buy primer.Take, for example, this tray (which I forgot to photograph before I started painting it).  I “rescued” it from a friend’s donation pile, imagining that a few sprays of paint would give it new life.

Mistake #1:  Not buying primer.

If I’d had primer, I’d have used it, but I only had one 40% off coupon.  I didn’t want to buy primer and paint.  That would have taken the project over $10, and I’m pretty sure I could have bought a tray for that.  I brought home a single can of yellow spray paint for less than $5 to paint over a black tray with a dark bird and fruit design.

Mistake #2:  Painting on a breezy day.

I think every day is breezy, and spray paint fumes need to be outside, so why wait?  Bits of pollen and tree debris now add texture.

Mistake #3:  Drips are not correctable.

Holding the paint can closer than recommended in an attempt to not have so much of it blow away results in drips.  If you think that a drip can be fixed by tapping it with your finger, you are wrong.  It will make it worse.  Also, spray paint is harder to wash off your skin than regular paint.

Mistake #4:  Not knowing when to quit.

After the drip fix fiasco, I think a reasonable person would have stopped, taken the project into the garage, let the tray dry so it could be sanded, and tried again another day.  Not me.  No, I continued because there was still some paint left in the can.  There wasn’t enough to start over, and I certainly wasn’t going to buy another can of paint, so I just kept going until all the paint had been used.  That’s right, an entire can of paint for one small tray.

Mistake #5:  Documenting the project.

I’m pretty sure the drips, smudges, bits of debris, and still visible bird and fruit motif are hidden by the African Violets.  I positioned the leaves over the worst drips.  If I hadn’t told you, you’d probably never have noticed.

An entire can of spray paint for one tray.

Are you crafty?  What sorts of projects do you enjoy?  Have you spray painted anything lately?

Unfinished: Believing is Only the Beginning

Unfinished: Believing Is Only the BeginningA couple weeks ago, I received a message on Goodreads offering me a copy of Richard Stearns’ new book, Unfinished:  Believing is Only the Beginning, to review.

I immediately said yes, please.  Stearns is the CEO of World Vision, and you know how strongly I support their work.  I was expecting this book to be similar to his earlier book, A Hole in Our Gospel, which spoke of the need to respond to the incredible suffering of the impoverished world wide.

It isn’t.  The scope of Unfinished is both broader and more personal.  In it, Stearns calls Christians to examine their lives, to assess whether they are truly following Christ or merely claiming the benefits he offers.

Are we, he asks, true disciples, committed to expanding the kingdom of God?  Are we meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the world?  Are we taking Christ’s message and love, in word and deed, to the farthest corners of the world?  Are we even bringing them to the corner where we live?

Or have we become mere consumers of Christianity?  Looking for a way to fulfill ourselves, an insurance policy against damnation, something to make us feel better about our lives, and frustrated when it does not?  Are we sitting in the pews, teaching our Sunday School classes, serving on committees, and still feeling like we’re missing out on something?

If we are not engaged in the mission Christ left for us, we are missing out.  If we are leaving the Great Commission to the professionals, we are disregarding our true purpose and denying ourselves the very fulfillment we seek.

So how do we figure out our role in expanding the kingdom of God?  How do we live lives of meaning and purpose, right where we are?  Unfinished guides us through these questions, helping us to discover our own part in growing the kingdom of God.

Stearns’ admits that he is preaching to the choir in Unfinished, that those who read his book will most likely be Christians who are seeking lives of service, but, as he says, even choir members need a kick in the pants sometimes.

God’s timing is always perfect.  I received this book just as I’ve been pondering this very topic.  Pondering too long, frankly.  I had just taken a first step towards responding, and was already second guessing myself.

My seat has been kicked.  I am moving forward.