For the Good Advice File: Washing Your Face.

posted in: Tips 0
Woman Washing Her Face by Hashiguchi Goyō, 1920. Image: Wikipedia.
Woman Washing Her Face by Hashiguchi Goyō, 1920. Image: Wikipedia.

Some of the best advice I ever got was this: If you are feeling sad or lost or stuck in your day, go to the bathroom sink and wash your face. You don’t have to use soap, though doing a full wash is the best case scenario. If you don’t have soap or don’t have time for a full wash, turn on the faucet and splash your face with cool water for a minute or so.

If you’ve been crying, it’s a wonderful technique; it cools hot tear tracks and flushed cheeks. If you’re a woman who wears mascara, the water will also remove any dubiously sexy raccoon eye you’ve got going on after breaking down in whatever small or large way you just broke down.

But you don’t have to be weeping to use the cool-water-on-face fix. In fact, this feel-better method is almost more effective when you aren’t crying; feelings of despondency or anxiety can come and get the best of us, rob our days of better feelings. Splashing water on your face — cup your hands, make it count, you’re not flicking water, you’re doing this — washes away at least a thin layer of all that. Maybe it’s one of those ancient gestures and it just feels natural to do it, thereby returning us to a place and time with no alarming subject lines, no transaction fees, no social media blunders.

When you turn the faucet off and stand back up from being over the sink, the water runs off your chin; you figure it’ll do that. Gravity still matters. Gravity is not alarming. Gravity charges no transaction fee. Grab a towel and bring it to your face. Press. Now remove the towel. Daub your chin. Wipe at your hairline, away from the face. Take a breath. Look at yourself in the mirror.

You’ll be okay.

The Patchwork Kimono.

posted in: Art, Day In The Life, Quilting 1
In the tree. Photo: Me
Quilt kimono in tree. Photo: Me

I was almost going to break my “one image per post” rule, but if you don’t stand for something, you’ll post anything.

When it was certain I would come on this road trip, I had a matter of days to get everything together. I immediately made a mental list of all the thousands of items I would need to go out and get (e.g., leather jacket, campsite hand-wash detergent, a carton of Gauloises, etc.) but I decided to buy nothing that wasn’t absolutely, positively necessary. I’ve been making a lot of purchases recently — a gal’s gotta watch her pocketbook.

But one of the things that seemed absolutely, positively necessary was a robe. I have a robe, but it’s big and fluffy. “Big” and “fluffy” are not words welcome when you’re driving across Death Valley in a Subaru. I was having fun with the “buy nothing” preparation tip I was on, so I decided to make myself a packable, pretty kimono. And so I did.

Quilters have “unfinished objects” (UFOs). UFOs are portions of patchwork that have not yet been turned into a quilt and therefore sit on a table or in a tupperware container, waiting to get their day in the sun. Patchwork is much happier in a quilt, so I keep my UFOs to a minimum; still, I have a modest collection of orphan piecing. So I took blocks and patchwork units from my UFO bag and incorporated them into my kimono — and by the way, cutting into finished patchwork is horrifying and exhilarating and every quilter should try it once. The “pattern” for this thing was just figuring out how to make a back and two front pieces. Then I double-lined it for softness/durability and voila! The patchwork kimono. I made an obi, too.

I cannot express to you how perfect this thing is. I mean, in general, it’s perfect to me because I made it with my hands and my brain. But on this trip in particular it has been astonishingly useful. It’s a picnic blanket. It’s a robe. It’s a towel. It’s a blanket for the car. It’s padding for a seat. It provides shade and wind cover. And it’s a quilt, of course; many women (and men, and children) have traveled this westward route over the centuries with a quilt at their side. So there’s some kinship going on.

If you’d like to see more pictures of my kimono (including several with me actually inside the thing) please visit my Facebook page.

On (Not) Hating Your Body.

posted in: Day In The Life, Fashion, Tips, Travel 2
Image: Wikipedia
Image: Wikipedia

While washing my hands in the bathroom of the Des Moines Airport, I overheard two girls of seventeen or eighteen having this conversation:

GIRL A: I’m 136 right now. Which isn’t too bad, I guess.
GIRL A: But this summer —
GIRL B: What were you this summer?
GIRL A: 128? 127?

The anxiety was palpable. Both of the girls were pretty, even dressed as they were in sweatpants and UGG boots.

The weight conversation pained me for reasons that tangled up in my head as I lathered up at the sink. I felt first the Ms. Magazine stab, angry that young girls were wasting breath on an eight-pound fluctuation in weight while they’re clearly still forming. I felt a stab of nostalgia for an age I will never be again; seventeen was lousy in some ways (e.g., school, acne, etc.) but so great in others (e.g., inventing sex.) I’m ashamed to admit that there was a flicker of jealousy (or envy? I never know the difference) as I glanced at their tanned wrists and thick hair. I feel so poor today, so compromised — I had a pretty grim setback last night. Ah, but to be a young adult in good health is a beautiful thing — for a split second, I longed to change places with either of those kids.

The pair also reminded me of a promise I made to myself many years ago. At Mayo Clinic in 2008, in the darkest hour of that period, in a lucid moment — there were many moments I was not present for — I looked down at my infected ileostomy site, at the four different IR drains woven through my belly and rear, the IV, the PICC line, and all the bruises and my rapidly disappearing pounds of flesh and I said, “If I get through this, I will never hate on my body again. I promise. I will never complain that I feel fat, I will never say I look bad. I will love myself.”

I have not kept that promise. I still complain that my thighs aren’t toned enough. I worry about my hips. I try various Retinol treatments to improve the quality of my complexion, which is never satisfactory, ever. The desire to measure up to a beauty ideal has shown itself to be — at least in me — stronger than the memory of all that mortal devastation. And it’s about the saddest thing I can tell you.

It’s good to look your best. You’ve only got one life: Dress for it. And eat right because you’ll feel better if you do.

But girls, girls, girls. Ain’t nothing wrong with you.