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The best way to do anything is to NOT know what the heck you’re doing.  And stick with it.

One of my friends gave me this bizarre animal face doll mask and challenged me: I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

I Eat People... and I enjoy doing it

I Eat People… and I enjoy doing it

I pondered, I mused, I spun in circles, I got a little carsick, and finally I pulled out the box of baby-clothes-cum-doll-clothes just waiting to be shrunken down to Lin-Lin’s size, and pulled out the secret bottom compartment (doesn’t every box need a secret compartment?) wherein I beheld..!  Yes!  A super secret stash of three types of fun fur.

Just look at that face!  It’s the face of childlike evil!  It’s the face of a smirky snarky leering creature that knows everything you’ve ever done that you would be embarrassed if the world knew about!  If you were to attempt a craft project with this face and FAIL, it will haunt your dreams and your sock drawer for the rest of your life!

But I had some fun fur, so it would all be okay, right?

DISCLAIMER: I do NOT sew.  I own a super adorable blue-green sewing machine in a beautiful walnut sewing stand… and I haven’t the faintest idea how to turn it on.  It was the first piece of “furniture” I bought when I decided to think about buying a house.  I figured: I’m a girl; I’m supposed to have a sewing machine.  (This was back in the day when I was still more than mildly brainwashed into believing that some day I might just SNAP grow up and know how to do these things I’m supposed to be doing.)  So this… creature… is hand-sewn.  Poorly.

Despite the fact that the face is most likely a chipmunk-rabbit-squirrel-thing, I decided to go “cat”.  When I was four, I honestly thought I could grow up to become a cat.  My sister quickly squashed that dream (I’ve never been the same since).

Now, I said unto myself, if I go “cat”, cats are all about being agile and fluid and graceful, right?  So this cat needs to be fully POSEABLE.  (What was I thinking???)  Now I not only had a sewing project on my hands, but I was going to attempt to give it the ability to do things?  Yeah… sometimes I’m a peanut-walnut-pecan, and I really need to stop doing that.

I'm full pose-able... and I own the whole world!

I’m full pose-able… and I own the whole world!

I had a creepy face… I had a weird spotted leopard print fur… I had a cat plan… I had a needle… I had a cheap clothes hanger covered in a rubber coating… I had fiber-fil… and I had a single thing of thread (pink). Mwuhaha, let’s take over the world!

I found a vintage sewing pattern online and I adapted it.  The legs, they needed to be longer so the cat could get into more mischief.  And it needed feet, oh yes it did!  Paws!  Paws with claws!  (FYI: Do not forget to put the claws into the first paw, take the whole thing apart with a seam ripper, sew it back together, and on the second go-around, AGAIN forget to insert the claws.  This is simply pathetic and says much about work stress affecting short-term memory.)

These claws were made for walkin'... and rippin'... and scratchin'... and possibly decapitatin'...

These claws were made for walkin’… and rippin’… and scratchin’… and possibly decapitatin’…

But now comes the problem: when to insert the wire?  And can it be done at all?  And how are you going to sew on that super-long tail?  All these pieces and if you sew the whole thing inside out, you’ll never be able to flip it right-side out later!

Let’s just say that trial and error took on a whole new meaning.

And that was before I ever got to the head.  I couldn’t use the original sewing pattern head.  I’m not very third dimensional in my thinking.  So how do you create a head pattern that you can attach a complete face to?  I work in a library so I am no stranger to research, but no matter how much I searched, I could not find any tips, hints, or patterns for creating a doll using a plastic face sans full head.  Hmm, hmm, I decided to finish the body and attach the head later.

I cut the hanger, I stuffed the cat, I sewed its seams… and I had a full cat body!  Swoon!

Without a head.  But the whole point is to use this oogly-googly weirdo face!

I cut out a dozen pages of what I thought might be how you could make a round-backed head… and I could never get the papers to fit together.  So I found another doll pattern online and I took the back of the head and added ears.  (Cheeeee-eeeaaating! La la la!)

The cat face suddenly demanded that I add hair, so I wrapped some brown yarn in loops to create curly hair and glued it to the head.  I glued ribbon around the inside of the face so I could sew it to the head.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Until the ribbon came apart from the face while I was taking apart a seam that showed too much of the fur backing.  Well, better for the face to fall off now than later!  Talk about creepy…

Option Two: Heat up a pin or needle in a candle and poke a thousand tiny holes into the rim of the face.  This was not fun.  This was hot.  I got soot all over the face.  The cat was unhappy and it was threatening to haunt my dreams!  Several days and its head was still not attached to its body!

I ended up cutting a swatch of fur to sew directly to the new holes in the face so I could then sew that bit of fur to the rest of the head, thus shutting down the unsightly fur-backing issue I’d been having in the first place.

Then I stuffed the head, did a little “ew that doesn’t look right” as I completed the neck seam (and promised myself the cat would not notice, no matter how much she licked herself), and ta da!

I gots me the weirdest looking cat this side of the Mississippi.

Ta da!

Ta da!

Although then the cat chased down Lin-Lin and attacked her.  But I blame Lin-Lin, who was once again dressed in her favorite Mitzi Mozzerella ShowBiz Pizza tribute outfit, complete with mouse ears.

I'se gonna eat you, my pretty, ands yer little ears, too!

I’se gonna eat you, my pretty, ands yer little ears, too!

night,

dawn

A Head on a Pike! Squee!

A Head on a Pike! Squee!

I let Lin-Lin re-decorate part of the house. I let her fill the fridge with yarn. I let her bring in an entire collection of miniature creepy Santas. But sometimes, you get home, and you just start to wonder: how permissive is TOO much?

For instance, it’s kind of creepy to come home to find someone cutting the head off of someone else: https://nightdawn.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/10-things-you-need-to-know-before-dismembering-someone/

But is it more wrong to cut off their head, or is it more wrong to mount it on a pike in the yard?

Is it more wrong to mount it on a pike in the backyard, or even more wrong to then paint it glitter green?

My moral notions are slipping… I used to be such a good girl… I used to know right from wrong… Is it Lin-Lin as my corruptive force, or is it the creepy Santas?

I’m going to go with: It’s clearly the creepy Santas, because obviously, Lin-Lin is waiting for me to get home, and she’s running with scissors.

night,

dawn

The world wants conformity and perfect clones, but what happens when the world itself is stood on its own lopsided head?  Is everything that seemed to happen in one direction also conversely true?  What if you look at it all backwards?

If you expect everything to be the same forwards and backwards, you might not like it when a simple countdown from a simple event spins backwards in two different directions.

Find a little truth, maybe a little justice, and definitely some counting backwards in “Everything is Backwards”, a short experimental story by Dawn Wilson, published by CommuterLit and available here: http://commuterlit.com/2015/01/thursday-everything-is-backwards/

Thanks for reading!

night,

dawn

So you put your life on hold for months in order to open scary doors and windows in your brain that are closed for a reason.  Your family hates you.  Your friends fear you.  People who have graduate degrees who never had to take the GRE laugh at you.  Your hair is just slightly green.

Now what?

Day of the test: disregard everything you read on the ETS website about what to bring to the GRE.  Depending on the testing center, you get zip.  Zilch.  And maybe a little humiliation.

I work nights, so my sleep schedule is a little different from everyone else’s anyway.  Despite the admonitions in the GRE study books stating not to do any studying the day before, I went over my copious notes.  Slope of a line, anyone?  Area of a triangle?  No, no, that’s the perimeter!  My notes were filled with cute little tips like: Don’t be stupid, you fool!  In fact, I had even illustrated them.  A little court jester told me the ten different things to keep in mind when comparing two quantities.  He was not a nice court jester at all.  He was hateful.

I also took another timed practice test in the book.  The bad thing about the online practice test is that, although it does help you get familiar with it, it Doesn’t Give You The Answers.  And if you don’t know what you got wrong, how are you ever going to learn?

I do wish I had had a little more time to study for the verbal section, considering that’s what I want to get a degree in, but sadly, the verbal studying had to suffer because there was no way I was flunking out on math.  (There must be something wrong with me.)  Over the few months of prep, I basically read the instructions, did a practice essay that can’t be graded, and read through the mini-dictionary.  Day before the test, all I studied was math, though.

Then I took a nap and stayed up all night re-watching the Harry Potter series so my brain could rest and I wouldn’t oversleep my test or be groggy.

As suggested on the ETS site, I ate a little for breakfast, but not too much that I’d get sick from nerves.  But.  Oh no!  I drank a cup of hot chocolate.  Then I packed myself a drink and a snack and an extra sweater and some pens and a watch without a calculator and a good luck charm (a sarcastic sheep).

Now, if you haven’t had to take a standardized test in forever and a half (can’t you just see how much studying I did for that math test???), you might be unpleasantly surprised when they hand you a contract and force you to write a full paragraph–in cursive.

Wait, what?  Cursive?  Like, what I haven’t used since third grade, that cursive?

And I panicked.  I couldn’t remember how to make a cursive I.  It was the first letter in the paragraph.  I had flunked the GRE because I couldn’t get through the door.

A minute later the little old lady came out to ask if I was done yet.  I was still struggling to make cursive r’s.  I gave her a harrumph.  She went away.  She came back.  I said, I have to pee.  She said, No.

My contract looked like a five-year-old had written it.  It’s tough to remember 3rd grade when a little old lady keeps interrupting and glaring at you!  She made me put all my belongings in a locker, including the snack and water the GRE website specifically told me to bring.  Oh, please, little old lady, I’ve gotta pee, but what if I get thirsty???

No water.  No peeing!

She took my photograph and my ID.  She made me sign something so she could check my signature.  My hand was shaking and cramped after the cursive exercise, and honestly, how was I going to get through a five hour test if she wouldn’t let me potty?

She finally let me go.  It was still twenty minutes until my test was supposed to start, so really, she shouldn’t have given me a hard time.  But she wanted me to start early.

But then we hit another snag.  If I wore a sweater, I was not allowed to remove it during the test, no matter how hot I got.  But they wouldn’t let me feel the closed room for the temperature.  Now, I get cold.  So I had brought one short-sleeved sweatshirt and a sweater.  She made me go back to my locker and leave one there, including my watch, my bracelets, and my own earplugs.  Then she stole my sweater and checked it on every side for crib sheets.  She checked the pockets.  She made me turn out my jeans pockets, including the coin one, lift my pant legs, stick my hands in my back pockets so she could Look Inside (what a creepy job you have, lady!), and then she WANDED me.  Yup.  This was more extensive than airport security.  The only thing she didn’t do was actually frisk me.

At the break time, you have to repeat this process just to get out.  To which I reply: Wait, how could I have swapped bodies with someone inside a locked test room???  This included a signature check.  And then you were allowed your break–except half your break was already used just to get out of the room!

Super-sonic pee break.

Then back to the wanding, pocket-searching, signature checking little old lady.  I suppose that I could have been up to no good in the bathroom.  Most little girls are.  You go in, you play in the sink, you splash water, you body swap with your Mensa-smart twin sister, and then you go home while she finishes your test for you.

After all of this, it didn’t matter what was on the test at all!

Halfway through the third section I started to pray that it was experimental and would not be graded.  That meant that the final math section should appear easier.  But it wasn’t.  The third and fifth sections of the test made no sense.  Now, there’s two options for this: either I did so well on the first math section that they amped up the second.  Or: I soooo failed the first section that they put baby arithmetic on the next section.  Baby arithmetic is my Kryptonite.  I honestly have no idea if it was easy or hard math, and that just went to show me: it didn’t matter how much I studied.  The final eight problems out of twenty were all exponents.  So it wasn’t even very well-rounded.  Say, if a student doesn’t understand exponents in trigonometry, the next question should be something like: Let’s count paper coins!  But alas, it was like my random question generator got stuck.

But: I passed.  Verbally, I did great.  Mathematically, I don’t have to kill myself, and I also never ever ever need to learn math again unless I decide I hate myself and want to give myself a reason to die.  And that’s all that really matters, right?  Separating the people who commit suicide from the ones who are just plain masochistic.

night,

dawn

There is a grand and mythic test.  It decides your fate, your future, and whether or not you’re worth the air you breathe.  It’s called (dun dun dun!) the GRE.

So what’s it really like to study for the GRE?  It’s like having your brain stuck in a blender and transported through a wormhole back twenty years.  Honestly, I started having flashbacks of the first time I learned all this.  Suddenly I was sitting in Mr. Bragg’s 9th grade Geometry class next to the window, while our teacher played with a basketball, and I met my future locker partner for the first time.  Suddenly I was standing in my grandparents’ blue/green carpeted kitchen in the 80s, just barely taller than the counter, learning to make Tang for the first time.

I had to turn off the creative side of my brain entirely.  It kept calling to me: Come out and play!  And I had to be a ninety-year-old grumpy woman and tell it to get off my porch.

Now, you can study for these tests, sure, but for a non-traditional student, you’ve got to be prepared for the hellish wasteland that is your memory.  The last time I took any math class was 16 years ago.  I took geometry 20 years ago.  Algebra (the only math I actually kind of like) is barely on the test at all.

The creators of the test claim that you’ll be using only elementary and middle school math.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha snort (oh no, she just died! medic!).

I work at a library and thankfully had access to several different review books by different publishers.  My favorite book to talk about liked to set out what appeared to be straight-forward questions, and then in the answers, the editors would laugh and make fun of you.  “Ha ha, I bet you chose answer D, but in reality, that’s WRONG! Ha ha ha, tricked you!”  I was also lucky enough, at that point, using that book, to have a math genius who was willing to help me out, and who finally took that book, flung it across the room, and explained that I didn’t need to be treated like a fool to re-learn a few math concepts.

Actually, re-learning some of the concepts was fascinating.  (I’m not being sarcastic or anything here!)  If I had been taught this way in the first place, a lot of the math would have not only made more sense, but it would have been more fun and more logical in how to use it in real life.  Unfortunately, my public school teachers were not taught to teach us the logic behind the math.  All I knew was how to show my work, every single step.  And on a timed test that only cares if you can guess what the correct answer is, this is Not Helpful.  Besides, it had been 16 years since my last math class, and I Had Not Used Math Since.  AND, even worse, if I could pass the GRE and if I could get into a university graduate program in language arts or writing, I would Never Have To Take Another Math Class As Long As I Live.  So where’s the incentive?  I could easily go back and re-learn the fascinating parts of the math and spend five or six years doing it.  But there are really no math games out there, and until someone invents The Most Fun Atari Math Game Ever, or a way to publish Fun Math Problems for Grown-Ups next to the crossword puzzle and word search in the daily paper, the only people who are going to benefit from the GRE test are the people who put together said test.  It’s a test designed to Simultaneously prove that you can CONFORM and get the right answers while Thinking Outside the Box.  This is a paradox.

The question becomes, for students hoping to get into an arts program, When do you stop?  How much is enough?  You can keep studying until you get a perfect score (at which time they’ll change the format of the test), or you can decide what’s Good Enough.  The biggest problem was that, once I got to the end of the math review book, I found out that I had re-entered all that information into my brain, but that those TYPES of questions (straightforward concepts) are not on the test at all.  They aren’t testing if you can use the math; they are testing if you understand WHY the math exists in the first place.

Also, as a non-traditional student hoping to get into an arts program, I’m currently working full-time, doing a little elder care on the side, writing and publishing short stories, submitting queries for novels… and what I found when I had to lock my creative side in a Jack-in-the-Box and be all dull and studious was that I hated who I was.  I became dull and drab and watched more television because I didn’t have the energy to be creative after studying for about five hours a night.  I didn’t have time to make Christmas pressies for my sister’s children.  My responses to stupid questions were less malleable and probably less kind.  And all because I was using a side of the brain that I (through genetics) am not supposed to be relying on for anything except to keep me from death.

Coming up in Part 2: I took the test, I passed the test, it nearly killed me.

night,

dawn

We’ve all got ’em.  The good, the bad, the ones who sunbathe naked on their rooftops.  Suburbia is filled with the indescribable.  But what would you do if your closest neighbor wasn’t just bad and awful, but was God Himself?  A know-it-all, a show-off, extremely infuriating, holier-than-thou, and perfect.

Quake in your boots, then go read “Extraordinary Neighbors” by Dawn Wilson, published in Paper Tape Magazine and available here: http://papertapemag.com/2014/12/11/extraordinary-neighbors/

night,

dawn

Teeny Tiny Numbers

Teeny tiny numbers still mean something, no matter how small and insignificant they seem, fractional to the world as a whole.

Big giant world!–and the more you subtract from it–minus one little boy, minus one little girl–the sadder and sadder it gets.  Whoever says one person doesn’t make a difference?  When in your heart, there’s holes that grow bigger, holes that fill in with cement, holes that count the days of life with the tick-tick-tick of a kid learning to count on their fingers.

I’se one.

I’se two.

I’m fwee.

Check out the preview of my latest short story “Zero One Zero One One One” posted at Big Lucks in preparation for Issue #6.  Check it out, then pre-order a hard copy of this great magazine.  http://www.biglucks.com/dawn-wilson/

Pre-Order here: http://biglucks.bigcartel.com/product/bl-6

night,

dawn