Friday, June 24, 2011

Photo: Souris River Rising in North Dakota Forcing As Many as 10,000 to Evacuate | Denver Post Media Center — Denver, Colorado, Photos and Video

Photo: Souris River Rising in North Dakota Forcing As Many as 10,000 to Evacuate | Denver Post Media Center — Denver, Colorado, Photos and Video

Talk about a flood of emotions. Imagine the city or town you grew up in - the club your dad has golfed at for decades (& where you swam every summer as a kid,) the gas station your parents always filled their cars up at, the house you used to live in, etc. Now imagine that they're all under water, or likely to be.

I left Minot, North Dakota at age 19 because I wanted a life that I didn't feel was available there. After my graduation from the University of Iowa (& a year of frantic job-hunting) I landed in Baltimore, Maryland, a city I've proudly called home for nearly 18 years. My husband, J, & I never want to leave this area unless we're moving to an even larger city, perhaps one with palm trees, or maybe Europe. Still, that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell to see pictures of familiar places being destroyed. My parents' "new" house (the one they've lived in since I was 15, LOL) is on a hill, so they've been watching their sump pump closely, but will likely be spared. Some of my childhood friends still live in Minot, or have loved ones who do, & may face the loss of their homes, businesses, or both. One of my old boyfriends probably won't lose his home, but has been bailing out his basement for weeks (sometimes with the help of another of my old boyfriends... hey, it's a small town.)

Minot doesn't make the national news very often, & when it does, it's usually because of extreme weather. Then again, when Baltimore makes headlines, they tend to be crime-related. Ouch. There's more to both places than that, but you know the old saying about the news media - "If it bleeds, (or in this case, floods) it leads." I've been reading tons of online news stories about the flooding, both on local & regional TV stations' websites & from farther-flung sources. My parents were rather surprised to learn that the flooding catastrophe had made the NY Times. Some of the comments posted after the online stories have made me want to reach through the computer screen & shake people. There are those at various points on the political spectrum (ahem) who feel the need to turn everything into a platform for their own views, & much as I tend to agree with those who think global warming may have at least contributed to this crisis, I feel that we can wait to address that later; it's more important now to offer help to those affected, even if we only do so by sending good thoughts. Other posters wonder why we should care about people being turned out of such "ordinary" houses.... maybe because they are people's HOMES? I recall reading similar comments after Hurricane Katrina & feeling sick to my stomach. Same thing this time around, only worse; I have no connection to New Orleans.

One type of comment that I find hard to take in this case is "it's just stuff", directed to those who might lose their residences &/or places of business. Yes, I understand that people who say these things do so with good intentions. I just can't sit here in my nice, dry house, safe & sound, surrounded by my husband, our cats, & all of our belongings, & say such a thing. I'd feel too smug. Amazingly, one of my old friends made a remark along those lines on Facebook & he IS in danger of losing his business to the flood. Maybe he has an inner strength I wasn't given, or perhaps people just deal with adversity differently in order to stay sane.

Of course it's true that loved ones are more important than possessions. J & I have faced a couple of life-threatening situations of our own, namely a serious accident & later an armed carjacking. (I hope we're done with those sorts of drama.) Still, I'm reminded of friends of my first husband's, whose house was gutted by fire while they were on vacation. Not only were they spared injury or death, they are well-to-do & were able to live in their vacation home while their primary residence was being repaired, so they had it far better than many fire victims, to be sure. When they mourned belongings lost in the blaze, we never once heard them mention antiques, art, clothing, or furniture. What hurt them most was that prior to going away, they'd spent an evening looking at old pictures of their wedding, their kids growing up, family holidays. Had they taken time to put them away, the mementos might have been spared, but sitting where they were, every single one of those pictures was devoured by the flames. Sometimes it really does hurt most to lose the "little" things. Hearing their story, I cried a little & gave big thanks to my lucky stars. I'm feeling the same way toward those affected by this awful flooding. Good thoughts are all I can send them right now, but I'll keep 'em coming. Be safe, everyone.

Victor Costa "Commedia dell'arte" dress

Up, up & away... when I first found this vintage Victor Costa dress in a local thrift store, I called it the "Hot Air Balloon" dress because it has such pouffy sleeves. I also had a slight fear that it might make me look like said aircraft, but was so in love with the thing that I bought it anyway. Victor Costa dresses are beautifully constructed & with the exception of a long velvet gown that had to be chopped off at the bottom due to my short stature, I've never had to alter one. No wonder VC has been my go-to brand for special occasion dresses for years.

I recently wore this to opening night (er, day) of a play that my husband is in. The theater has a large Orthodox Jewish clientele, so all their shows are staged according to that culture's standards of modesty, which means that J has had to learn a few "new" (to him) rules of conduct during the rehearsal & performance process. One that's been rather difficult for him: no touching between unmarried (or otherwise very closely related) men & women. J & I are both huggers from way back, as are most secular theater people, but even innocently embracing a female co-star would be extremely inappropriate in this context, so he's contented himself with verbal congratulations. When in Rome, right? The show is great - brilliant script & wonderful cast - & has been a learning experience for both of us. I wore this dress to the show partly because I love it, but also due to a desire to be at least somewhat respectful of my environment. I have plenty of chances to wear sleeveless, spaghetti strap, & strapless things; didn't feel the need to stick a lot of skin (& some ink) in people's faces that day.

Which got me thinking, because I usually bristle at words like "modesty", so I went online & began researching Orthodox Judaism. I found a lot of very interesting information about the faith & its practices, especially on, a site created by Allison Josephs, who began to take an interest in Orthodox Judaism as a teenager. Ms. Josephs is a very talented & persuasive writer, & the videos on her site are hilarious. I can't say I agree with everything I read on her site, but I have issues with almost every faith due to my personal beliefs (childfree by choice, staunchly pro-gay rights... you get the idea.) That said, I have tremendous respect for the strength of her convictions & her willingness to live by them, even when it's not easy. Oh, & by the way, Orthodox Judaism has high standards of modesty for men as well as for women, both in dress & behavior. To me, that makes it quite different from certain other cultures (hello, mainstream America) in which women, or even very young girls, are expected to show lots of skin, but demonized if they actually express their physical desires, yet men can do as they please.

DIY Rhinestone Clamper Bracelet

On a recent trip to NYC, I went out for a run & spotted some fabulous KJL cuff bracelets in the window of a vintage store. Unfortunately, such pieces coast around $300, even on eBay (yes, I checked.) With J still between jobs, such an expenditure is not an option.

A couple of days after I got home, J & I needed to make a "mall run" & I decided to see if any of the stores had similar cuffs in stock, or perhaps something I could customize. I found a plain, hinged black plastic cuff bracelet on sale for $7 at NY & Co. Then I checked a few vintage stores for a broken pin or brooch that I could use as an ornament (I generally dislike altering old jewelry if it still "works") but found nothing suitable. I went through my jewelry armoire at home & came across a gorgeous old rhinestone brooch that I hadn't worn in ages because its pin back was glued on at the wrong angle, which made it impossible to get the piece to hang right on a jacket or dress. I pried the pin back off, got out the super glue, & went to work. I'm pretty pleased with the results.