You know, I am Wonder Woman

Some of you may know that I started working at a new company last summer.  Among the many perks of working here is an annual theme party held each Halloween.  They encourage everyone to dress in costume for an afternoon parade, and there's a panel of judges, and prizes for the winners.

Essentially I've died and woken up with a job in heaven. 

After we got the memo with all the details about the parade, I spent about 30 seconds trying to figure out what I could be for Halloween.  It hit me like a bolt of lightning - I could finally dress up as the one character that I have wanted to be since I was 4 years old and severely addicted to Lynda Carter's lousy acting skills on what passed for action shows on television in the 1970's.  I could finally spin around in a circle 5 or 6 times, and I could BE Wonder Woman.

The thought was just too delicious.

There's a great costume shop in town that I stopped by to ask about a rental, but they said they don't have any for rent.  Something about licensing?  They did have one for sale by Marvel, and it was not the best thing I'd seen.  So I spent the next week searching the internet for a suitable costume to buy.  There are people on eBay who will make one for you for several hundred dollars.  Some of them are even pretty good.  There are a few knock-offs costumes that I immediately dismissed.  I also could have cobbled some things together with a few key props, and it might have passed for decent.

As I searched, I could feel myself settling for the easy way out, but the lure of the fame and the prize money was just too strong.   So I kept searching.  And that's when I found The Wonder Woman Museum.

There is a man somewhere who loves Wonder Woman too, possibly a bit more than me, and you can make whatever you want of that.  But this man spent a couple of years creating an exact replica of Lynda Carter's costume from Season 1, and meticulously pictured each step along the way.  All of his research, all of the fabric and stitching and stars and gold leather - it's all there in stunning detail.

As I scrolled down the page in awe of this man and what kind of life he must have to spend it on such a fun project, I saw a picture of a pattern he had made for the cape.  It was all sectioned out in red, white and blue, and taken from a few angles to show the pattern and the finished project.   And that's when it hit me.

I could totally make this costume myself.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't have any skills in the sewing arena.  I've never made anything more complicated than a hem in my whole life.  And when I have hemmed something, you can really tell I did it.  Know what I'm sayin'?

But with that pattern, and all those close-up pictures of the outfit - well, I knew exactly who could help me.  And within about 3 minutes, I was dialing her to spill out the whole crazy thing.

I was 35 years old.  And I was calling my mom to help me make my Halloween costume.  

To her credit, she didn't even hesitate to say yes.  I sent her the link to the website I was pouring over obsessively, and we exchanged a few suggestions about how to make this happen.  Then, the first sewing weekend trip was set.

Okay, so if you're thinking to yourself, "Self, there's no way that Jennie is going to show up at work in that Lynda Carter bathing suit," - well, you're right.  I found several pictures during my research of a few episodes with her in a skirt version of her outfit, and I also decided some kind of tank top would be an appropriate substitute for the bustier she normally wore.  

Brian had a client who did embroidery - bowling team shirts, monogrammed girls' dresses, you name it.  He & I talked about how to make that top, and he talked to his client about how to make that top, and to sum up, there was far too much discussion about how to make that top.  And one evening, I came home from work, and lo, my husband had been to the fabric store.  

He spent hours looking for pictures of the eagle (it changed over the course of the show, so he was looking for a good one to copy) and finally made an eagle pattern out of this gold lame' fabric, and laying it out across a red tank top, I could see it all coming together.  

He had also bought some fake white leather on sale, and figured out a way to wrap that gold fabric around it to make the bracelets and tiara and belt.

You can make of that whatever you want, but at that moment, I could not have possibly loved my husband any more.

He claimed it was not a particularly rough job, looking at hundreds of pictures of Lynda Carter on the internet.  I'll have to take him at his word.

I was over the moon with excitement as I headed home for a sewing weekend.  Mom & I dragged the sewing machine out from its hidey hole in the upstairs closet, and tallied up a short list of the things we'd need.  Mom, god love her, had already found the stars to put on the cape.  We went to Wal-Mart and spent about 45 minutes trying the patience of 2 toddlers while deciding on fabric and notions.   Red, white and blue costume satin, gold trim and rope, thread, and some other stuff.  I think I spent about $40.

In getting the sewing machine, I dug out an old pattern for a short wraparound skirt that Mom had made for us about 10 different times as kids.  It was billed as one of those "make it in a hour" patterns that convinced me to try it.  So as the kids went down for naps, Mom & I put together the first piece of the costume.

The skirt didn't take long, and soon I could see the whole thing coming together.

We found some paper and put together our pattern for the cape.  Essentially it was a half circle sectioned off into one large half of blue, and the other half alternating red and white.  We didn't have a protractor, so we spent a couple of minutes trying to figure out how to make even sections for the red & white.  Considering how proud we were of ourselves for getting it right, I'll tell you now:  neither of us majored in math.  But we did it.

We measured the long edge with a ruler, and it was 54 inches.  We divided by 6.  With a string tied to a pencil, and holding the pencil up near the neck, we drew a straight line down the string every 9 inches.  We wrote the color name on each section, and cut the pattern to begin laying it out on the fabric.  

Piecing it together later on, we realized we probably should have added a seam allowance.  After putting together a few more sections, we realized we also cut out the fabric on the pattern with the wrong side up.  Essentially, every section we added kept getting shorter and shorter.  What started out looking like the one in the WW Museum came out more like a short one to match the length of the skirt.  I didn't mind a bit, actually.  It was pretty impressive for the first try.  Mom added a red satin trim to tie the cape around my neck, and it matched perfectly.

Mom & my sister helped with sewing stars on the cape and skirt.  We tried ironing them on, but the sticky side wasn't working too well on costume satin.

We used some stitch witchery to adhere the gold lame' to the fake leather to make the bracelets and tiara and belt.  Mom stitched gold trim on the edges and after adding red stars, we were set.

At home, I added velcro for the leather pieces, and fitted them.  I had bought a black wig for a Snow White costume ($6) to serve as the gorgeous tresses of Lynda Carter.  I found some boots on a website called Trashy.com ($38, and no, I didn't buy anything else there), and with some nude pantyhose and bright red lipstick, the outfit was complete.

Parading around at work as Wonder Woman, I got plenty of smiles and laughs.  It was well worth it, especially when I got to tell people that I didn't buy that costume - we made just about every single bit of it.  People were stunned.  Mom & I were pretty proud of each other for how great it turned out, and Brian & I were wondering how to make some extra bucks at Halloween, possibly by selling the accessories kit.  

Over Mothers Day weekend, I got to show Mom the results of her hard work.  The company films the parade every year, and I borrowed the DVD to show her my short moment in the sun.  Letting her hear the laughter and applause of other folks as I hammed it up for the crowd - I can only hope that felt like some kind of payment for the project.

Mom, you went above and beyond for what has to be the umpteenth time in my life, and all for a little of your daughter's own personal glory.  You unselfishly spent two weekends on a sewing machine and working over a hot iron to make my little crazy fantasy come true.   I can't say thank you enough, and I just hope the great big grin on my face was worth it.  


Confidential to my mother

Shortly after we arrived home from visiting you for Mother's Day, your precious granddaughter severed our connection to this laptop in a most unforgivable manner.  You remember that power cord for the G4 that I'm always complaining about?  And the one that everyone else complains about, too?  Well, it shorted out and sparked its final time during an intense viewing of "The Incredibles" on DVD.  You can't imagine what it took to order a new one on eBay at the wonderful steal of $25 and wait for an excruciating 2 weeks for it to arrive.  Not having a backup meant we had no laptop at all during that time.  Turns out that the shipment had to clear Customs first.  I guess they don't sell Apple power supplies to overseas customers that easily.  Brian's looking at stocking up for the next time it breaks (an inevitable proposition since this will be our 3rd cord in about as many years), but in the meantime our newest cord has about 8 feet of electrical tape wrapped around the portion that always breaks.  

So, to sum up - I have my entry almost polished, but I was waiting to get the pictures from the laptop, which of course required power.  Now that we're back in business, I'll get the entry finished up & posted soon.


You just wish you could be me

So, last night at 10:15, I was standing in our garage, watching my husband hold a small butane lighter in one hand, and repeatedly push the pilot light button on our brand-new water heater with the other hand. My hands were trembling as I held the instruction booklet. "Oh please God," I prayed, "let it be the tiniest of explosions."

Monday night Brian came home to discover a giant pool of water in the garage. Turns out our water heater finally remembered that its warranty had expired. Our main concern was how quickly we could get the new one installed. Brian was leaving Wednesday for a 2-day work meeting out of town, so waiting until the weekend wasn't an option. Especially after that first cold shower on Tuesday morning. A headache-inducing cold, I might add.

Homeownership has been grand, (3 years next month!) but unlike apartment living, it's a steady debate of "how much does this bother me? a lot? okay, let's spend the money to fix it." Or, "well, daycare will be over in a few years, we can get it then." And the idle conversation about how we might spend our PowerBall winnings - um, I mean daycare budget - turns to new appliances and new flooring and we're off to the races. But in all honesty, we haven't actually done anything significant to the house since we moved in, except to paint it. Well, I take that back. There was the Toilet Repair Day of 2005 right after we increased the water pressure, but for the most part, this house works just fine. So, to find a broken hot water heater Monday night - I thought, you know, we've been pushing our luck for 3 years. Time to pay up.

On the Top 10 list of reasons why I married Brian, somewhere around #5 is "truly handy with tools." I just assumed he'd look at the old unit and try to fix this himself. But we needed a new hot water heater instead. And in our initial discussions on Monday night, I learned that Brian knows enough about plumbing to be dangerous, but was understandably nervous about working on something attached to a natural gas line. So I had a conversation with a guy at Home Depot before work the next day, and Brian checked out the scene at Lowe's. We compared prices & models & warranties & the all-important online reviews. The choice was made, and payment exchanged hands.

Note to taxpayers: Next week is tax rebate deposit week. We are spending our economic stimulus package early. You can thank us next month when you hear about the rebound in the manufacturing sector.

During the shopping, Brian saw the stiff numbers associated with an installation, and he was truly inspired to try it on his own. (I should have known.) He borrowed a truck from a friend, shut off the gas & the water, got the old unit out and hauled it to the dump. Then he hauled the new unit home from the store. By this time, Helen & I were home from work. I sort of helped manuver it through the gauntlet of car projects while Helen danced around like a ninny. I quickly decided the two of us would be no use in the garage and planned to put her to bed early with the idea that I would try to help later.  Instead, a short time later, she & I were at Home Depot getting 90 degree copper pipe bends. Plus, a propane torch and solder and flux.

Yeah, a blowtorch near a natural gas line. Sign me up for this job!

When I got home, I put Helen to bed and then watched Brian work. First he soldered a new cold water pipe out of the wall and attached a flex bend pipe to it and the new water heater. Then he did the same thing for the hot water pipe coming out of the tank. Next trick was to get the air out of the line, and pray nothing would leak. It's hard work to solder copper pipes together from an angle above your shoulders.  Even with a ladder. It's even harder to attach that flex bend pipe with two wrenches at that angle. But he kept cranking away and finally achieved no leaking.

He then had a tricky time figuring out if the gas was on or off. He turned it back on to the house, but the knob on the pipe was a mysterious little thing that didn't indicate either way. I think he must have pushed that pilot light button a zillion times and kept readjusting the knob with a wrench to see what might work. Finally he grabbed the butane lighter. I clutched the instruction manual like it was our Last Rites, which clearly stated with all kinds of giant warning signs - DO NOT TAKE OFF THE INNER DOOR TO LIGHT THE PILOT. DO NOT LIGHT THE PILOT WITH A LIGHTER. DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. Oh dear lord, the praying began. But to my credit, I never said a word out loud.

He didn't have to use the lighter, thankfully. After some more adjusting, which also included me moving clear to the other side of the garage for an easy escape, I heard him say "Aha!" and I realized something important must be happening. Or something bad was about to happen. I inched even closer to my escape hatch. And then there was light - a pilot light. Lo & behold, it all worked like a charm! Oh, what a relief.

That night I slumbered peacefully, with the new water heater humming along a mere 6 feet away on the other side of our bedroom wall. This morning, our house was still standing. The bonus? We had plenty of hot water this morning for Helen's oatmeal and both of our showers. Hallelujah.

Brian, deep down, I never doubted you for a second. But I'm peeking into the garage when I get home to see if I need my swim fins, or a nice hot bath.