Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Rachel Memorial Chucks

My sister Rachel loves Chucks too, and that's been one of our more pleasant conversation topics since she's been in prison - although I guess it's not so pleasant in that it reminds her she will be wearing crummy prison shoes for who knows how long. She mentioned that her favorite pair was pink slip-ons and in response to my description of monogrammed custom Chucks, said she had a shopping fantasy of getting herself a pair of white slip-ons with her prison ID # (more real at this point than her name) on the back. I know she misses shopping...well, she misses clothes, jewelry, and the freedom to purchase (not to mention, money for purchasing). Even after 6 months of her being in jail, I still catch myself in the thought of, "I could order this for her..." Nope! She can't receive anything from the outside world but letters, other things printed on sheets of white paper, or new books shipped directly from a bookstore. (Imagine the opportunity for abuse if prisoners could receive care packages.)

I came up with the idea of ordering myself a pair of Chucks dedicated to her, with her ID on the back. I chose slip-ons, in an ecru-olive shade that I thought would match a lot of my pants (it actually doesn't), lined with pink in honor of her favorite slip-ons at home. Her ID number is boldly printed on the back. Despite the odd shade of green-brown the shoes turned out to be, I love them, although they don't make it easy - they smell really bad. Friends suggested a variety of deodorizing methods, none of which worked, notably a mesh bag of "volcanic rocks" that are guaranteed to deodorize a men's dorm room and in fact did wonders for Craig's shoe closet, but did nothing for the Rachel Memorial Chucks. After an especially disastrous attempt with scented shoe liners that made the shoes smell like dirty motel sheets sprayed with floral janitor spray, I aired them outside for 3 days to get out the sickly floralness. It was a relief to get the shoes back to their true smell, which though unpleasant (the custom Chucks are made in China, and I assume some chemical considered toxic by US standards was used in the dye) at least has more honesty than fake floral scent.

The shoes are from Converse's Project Red line, which in the slip-on category features frayed eyelet bands and two red eyelets. They are meant to look casual and God knows this pair does. The traditional (non-frayed) slip-ons Converse makes can be, in comparison, a bit preppy/prissy looking, but the custom ones look kicked-around, in a good way. And after all, prison memorial shoes can't look too bad, or probably even smell too bad.

I figured out two outfits that match the Rachel Chucks - one more casual (pictured here), and the rest slightly (only slightly) more dressy, with longer pants of a slightly (slightly) nicer fabric and a long-sleeved pink tee shirt. I made sure to accessorize myself for these photos since Rachel always notices jewelry - not only does she like to wear it, she used to sell sterling pieces at her tanning & manicure salon.

Rather than chase down Craig and try to make him understand why I was photographing myself in sloppy clothes on no special occasion (and try to micro-manage his artistic vision, which I doubt would extend to this subject), I fell back on my usual standby, the self-portrait. The lighting and framing are never ideal (not to mention my head and smile are always crooked), but at least I don't have to wait for someone else to take the photo...and I remain in control of the project! I figured out that if I do self-portraits in the bathroom the lighting is at least half-decent (we have 1980s style makeup bulbs above our bathroom mirrors), and I can check my framing by looking at the view-finder in the mirror as the camera lens faces me.

My note sent to Rachel with the photos said, "Guess I could have moved the Kleenex box and hand lotion to make a better backdrop," and "For some reason I was wearing double socks that day – the shoes fit fine with a single layer." [You know me - always with the disclaimers.]

Rachel loved the shoes and the photos and wrote back something to the effect that everyone in her prison dorm was envious of her having such a wonderful sister. (Aaawww.........)

Whose Address Was It, Anyway

The following was written in late September 27 to share with my spiritual writing group, where we have a written check-in as our warmup ritual.


If I can’t make a parallel between, I can at least talk about, my Freudian slip with my return address and a newly recognized dimension of my online shoe ordering. Prisoners can’t receive stickers or stamps, and while a return address label might be allowed it might not, so rather than have a sad rejection for my sister in the mailroom (too long a story to go into here, about other rejected items she’s written about in fine voice), I have been hand-writing my return address. It feels burdensome every time, and I write her a lot. I also grit my teeth when copying her jail address because the zip code is somewhat similar to my dad’s and jangles my mental gears. Several letters ago Rachel enclosed the torn cover of one of my envelopes – she had written, "I saw this when I copied your address," smiley face. I had my Garland street address but Tomball, TX and the Tomball zip. When I have time – I keep reprioritizing the things I want to write to her about, and try to first address [oops, overuse of the same word - I mean "discuss"] what she most needs to hear – I will make a joke like, "Can’t take the Tomball out of the girl." Not only do I verge into Rachel’s world, maybe too much, but interacting with Rachel, both the fact of getting close to a never-close sister and the subjects we write about, often childhood and Daddy, drags me back to Tomball…not always in a bad way, but – it hardly needs to be said – usually in a wearing way. On to Chucks, my only fresh air topic lately (if an addiction can be related to fresh air)… This morning as I AGAIN combed through the 3 pages of Zappos size 7 Chucks and the 2 pages of Converse outlet store Chucks, I forced myself to consider styles I had previously (many times, probably dozens of times, I look at these sites a lot) dismissed. It feels good to push my boundaries of comfort and taste. Am I sure I hate black toes and only like white toes? Am I sure I don’t want to spend the extra $ for this designer leather pair?, surely they wouldn’t be much less appropriate than all the other Chucks I’ve been guiltily/boldly (yes, in combination) wearing to my office…they are inappropriate but I haven’t been sent home to change yet. I have ordered shoes that were not my usual taste because I so much want to get shoes delivered to my door, but it’s a wonderful bonus that my taste has expanded at the same time. If I had more time I would stretch a point here about broadening my Sarah world close to Rachel’s and finding it an interesting, even valuable place.


Not my usual topic - Being Around Kids

Craig's dad, his wife and their 4 year old daughter are spending 6 months in Tyler, which is the closest they have lived to us since Craig's dad moved to Florida in 1998. We warned them, so as not to have (to avoid, anyway) hurt feelings, that even if Carrie chose a travel nursing contract within the state of Texas, we might not see them much more than if they lived in any other state. Craig's dad tries to respect our schedule but of course we have seen them more this fall than in past years. Frances is a great kid but like all kids she sometimes engenders in me my usual reactions to young humans - anxiety and exhaustion.

Having Frances spend the day at our house catapults me back to the 1970s when I did babysitting for a couple of years. I guess by some standards I was a good babysitter, since I had repeat business, but I hated it. I think that every other babysitter on the planet takes it easier than I did, assuming there is any truth to how babysitting is portrayed in the movies and on TV commercials - a relaxed teenager sitting on the couch with snacks and the TV remote while the kids do appropriate activities in the background. I was convinced that my job was to follow the kids around and interact with them, which I'm sure they enjoyed, but which made me feel like that old deodorant commercial where the star athlete tries to log as many miles as a stay-at-home mom does and collapses, exhausted, mid-afternoon. Even when I occasionally tried to take it easier or at least sit still for 5 minutes, the kids sensed that with minimal effort they could keep my focus on them. "I wanna show you something!", ad nauseum.

I used to have an if-I-ever-get-laid-off fantasy that I could teach public school if necessary, but a part of me, for very selfish reasons, was greatly relieved when the Dallas school district recently laid off hundreds of qualified teachers. Oh well, guess they won't be needing my services!

Frances is a well-behaved little lady now, but when she was younger we had some near misses at our house - Craig's and my idea of childproofing was moving the box of dog toys into the garage when toddlers came to visit. I had learned in a disgusting way that dog level is also toddler level when I caught a cousin’s son sucking happily on a rubber thing that had been an oral fixation of both dogs for many saliva-producing years.

Despite my history and non-history with kids, there has always been a small but significant level of comfort with Frances. She's not my child or even my immediate family, but I have some understanding of who she is...and maybe more importantly!, I have some authority over her. (I don't think I ever felt much authority as a babysitter.) It's nice when Craig and I spend time with her together. He provides the family connection – the reason she’s there and the reason we care and make an effort – and he also provides a counterbalance of childcare philosophies. It's not that we have opposing ideas, but every two people have different thoughts about childcare, and Lord knows it takes a team to manage a child.

[Craig was scowling because he thought enough photos had already been taken that weekend.]

Back to the Blog - back of a pickup truck

Back to the blog...starting with a grab bag of notes from the last couple of months...including, of all things, bumper sticker quotes. I see a lot of bumper stickers on the Garland roads, and I saw a trio on a pickup truck that I kind of liked, thinking I could relate them to my Chuck habit.

Fish tremble at the sound of my name. [Chucks tremble at the sound of my name?]

Beer: helping ugly people have sex since 1862. [I don't have a personal equivalent of that, but it IS a rude classic.]

And the best one: I spend my money on booze, gambling and women – the rest I waste.

[I spend my money on Chucks, jewelry, food & drink - the rest I waste. Obviously the 3rd item in my series is not as definite as the first two.]