When my daughter was young we did a lot of arts and crafts together. I freely admit I cannot draw or paint. One memorable visit to Disneyland we were able to attend a seminar on how to draw Mickey Mouse. They told us it was so easy that in the end we’d all be pros, proudly displaying our drawings to everyone. Sadly, mine was abysmal. No matter how much the instructor and my 6 year-old little girl tried to coach me, it was still impossible to tell what my scratches and lines were meant to be. It was embarrassing.
I also freely admit I cannot sing. I once heard that if you can speak, you can sing. That is clearly not true! Watch any talent show on TV and you’ll see the majority of those auditioning can’t sing either, let alone win the top prize. America may have talent but it’s definitely not equal. Those at the audition that are like me are just fodder and fill in for those who can.
But I can decorate. That’s where my talents lie. I have a vision and pulling it all together usually produces an amazing final product. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes items don’t work out, but that’s ok, nothing is permanent. That’s the secret. It’s a fluid process that can be changed at any point until it finally falls into place. For me, I like to live with different looks for weeks. Let them percolate to see if they fit my mood and the rest of the decorum. Thank goodness for return policies. When I moved into my house over a decade ago, there were a lot of tags waiting to be removed when they felt “right” or returned when they didn’t.
Sharing this skill set with my daughter was a way to not only bring us closer but to help put our own special stamp on everything. That’s what clothes and decorating do, they represent us to the world.
Think about it. What’s the first thing you see when you meet someone? Not just their physical looks, size, and shape, but how they embrace and show off their features. Whether it’s casual, sexy, no nonsense, frilly, goth, a throw back to a different era. . . it all gives us a glimmer into that part a person is willing to share. Sure we all have different sides that we express depending on the circumstances, but how we do that says everything about us as individuals.
Just like our homes. The moment someone enters our threshold they’re surrounded by our essence. It’s incredibly intimate when you think about it. Our belongings, what we choose to display and how, defines us.
Growing up in the seventies, girls were still expected to take home economics at school and boys, shop. Seems silly now, and incredibly gender biased. I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn about cars, soldering, wood working in addition to “female responsibilities.” As an adult, I could have used that knowledge. And men could definitely benefit from knowing how to sew on their own buttons!
Learning to sew, make clothes and understand color palettes was a valuable experience I often use today. Not being able to afford something from a magazine never stopped me when I could reproduce it on my own. Patterns weren’t required, just my own idea of how to make it real in a way that also made it mine. Couldn’t find the exact fabric I wanted in a pre-made duvet or drapes? No problem, I just reworked sheets to fit the bill. To this day I still produce my own version when others don’t exist for clothes, furniture coverings, table cloths, or runners. Nothing is beyond my ability to figure it out and make it work.
Showing my daughter how to do this as well was a wonderful way to bond. It meant looking inside and deciding what picture represents us. At least at that moment in time. It’s always evolving and changing, just like life. What I wore as a teenager was never appropriate in my twenties. Each decade brought a new perspective and new choices. That doesn’t mean I’m not sassy, sexy, professional, conservative, retro, or hippy, when the time calls for it. But that’s the point- staying appropriate to the event. Cleavage at work is a no-no. At the theater that night, why not?
That’s what I wanted my daughter to understand. Expressing who she is in dress and accessories is a fun and exciting way to say,
“Here I am, world.”
As a toddler it was her dresses. This was who she was at that point in her life. Finding options wasn’t easy, so to honor her desire I started buying basic white dresses at Michaels, in bulk, that we’d then fix up in a variety of ways. The same with sweatshirts and sweatpants. It was easy, fun and a great way to change up what we wore. And when they got stained or ripped, we just made more! My nieces loved them so much we even started making them as gifts. Parents bombarded us with where they could get them as well, often shocked to learn we’d created the look ourselves for pennies. Mom and daughter outfits were a hoot. A great way for her to have creative say in what we both wore.
When very young, it was simply our hand prints with the date. We then progressed to adding fabric, paint, glitter and other items depending on our whim. If we didn’t like it? Well, who cared, we just painted over mistakes or started again.
Growing up, we branched out to decorating her room. She knew early on she wanted to be an actress so that was the initial theme. I had traveled to Las Vegas for a conference and was fascinated by the artwork, especially that depicting New Orleans masks displayed at Mardi Gras time. They also had huge pictures of sheet music that I found intriguing. That’s when we came up with the idea for her room.
I bought several plain plaster casts of masks and we went to work painting them in all sorts of colors and designs. We then cut up and painted eye masks with sticks like they wear at masquerade balls and added it to the inventory. Last but not least, I got dozens of old sheet music for pennies. We gave them an aged, yellowed look, then added a mixture similar to papier-mâché, allowing us to mold them into different patterns like I’d seen at the Venetian. When done, it looked like waves of music were coming off the walls. Combined with the face and eye masks with ribbons, it was a glorious site to behold. A wall that immediate spoke of the theatre and her passions.
As a teenager, even though she was still enthralled with acting, surfing and the ocean became her new delights. We may not have had those things close by, but it didn’t stop us from bringing them to her room. We put grass up all around the ceilings to make it look like a beach shack. Her lampshades were painted blue with a streak of orange as though the sun was setting in it. Sea shells decorated lamps, picture frames and a large net crossing one wall. Shapes of surf boards and colorful fish adorned the walls above painted waves on others. A Hawaiian designed beaded curtain over her bed and one in place of her bathroom door finished the look. By the time we finished I swear you could hear sea gulls!
Who we are is obvious to everyone. And it changes constantly. My bohemian days didn’t last long but my desire to express any passing fancy or desire continues to this day. If you look closely you can always tell how someone feels by how they present each day. And that’s what I loved passing on to my daughter. Regardless of the mood, showing ourselves to the world is an art. One to be cultivated and enjoyed. To this day I’m always playing with different versions of me. Some flop miserably but that’s ok too. It was worth the try and always helped me to understand a little bit more who I am and what I like.
Separating ourselves from our parents, social norms, and the masses is hard to do. What we wear, how we decorate our living space and office areas all speaks volumes. So now I get to start again with the new office I’m moving into June 28, 2019. Designed and built from the ground up, it is my vision of how I want my patients to be welcomed and treated. Without amazing support and a great deal of help from incredible people, I’d never have gotten this far. I owe them all a great debt.
To my patients, I hope you love and enjoy it as much as I did producing it. Everything about it says who I am and the way I practice medicine.
After 31 years in someone else’s home. I hope you’ll love my new one as much as I do.