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I Made Something and You Can, Too (A Craft Tutorial. Really.)

How to Make a Wreath in 40 Easy Steps
(Alternate title: Stupid Pinterest, Stupid Crafts, Stupid Hot Glue Guns. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.)

Step 1: Start a new Pinterest account. The old one is full of inspirational quotes and complicated recipes. This new account will be useful. You will not pin anything frivolous or overly complicated. You definitely won’t pin pictures of rooms you don’t even have in your house, like a sun porch connected to a giant, outdoor kitchen.

Step 2: Pin 873 pictures of rooms you don’t even have in your house, like enormous laundry/work rooms with built-in dog condos and wrapping paper stations.

Step 3: Search “fall wreaths” on Pinterest. Pin roughly 137 wreaths, but do not look at any of the tutorials. Who has time for tutorials?

Step 4: Head to the craft store with a general idea of what you need, but under no circumstances are you to take a specific list. Lists are for sissies.

Step 5: Wander around the craft store for so long that the plain clothes security guard, meant to look like an average craft store shopper (if the average craft store shopper is a middle-aged man), begins to shadow you. Ask Mr. Security if he prefers a straw wreath form or a Styrofoam one, and launch into a seven-minute monologue about the difficulty of choosing the correct form.

Step 6: Watch Mr. Security shuffle off. Victory over the tyranny of craft store security is yours!

Step 7: Really, what kind of wreath form does one buy? WHAT KIND??

Step 8: Go with straw. No, wire. No, Styrofoam. Ew, the foam breaks off everywhere. Back to wire. No, probably straw. But what diameter? How big is your front door? Not that big.

Step 9: Choose fall colored silk flowers. Put them back, because they’re all wrong. Pick them up again, because they’re on sale today.

Step 10: Burlap ribbon. It’s everywhere. You’ve seen it on at least three different aisles in three different sections of the store. Burlap must be a big deal in the crafting world, and now, you must have some. Put seven different colors and styles of burlap ribbon in your basket.

Step 11: Spot burlap hydrangeas. That’s right, hydrangeas made of burlap. OMG! Grab those babies before some other crafty miss gets them.

Step 12: Return ugly silk flowers to their original location. Or to any location with silk flowers. There are so many silk flowers in here. You’re now disoriented from spending three hours wandering the aisles of the craft store.

Step 13: Grab any and all other ribbons (It’s all on sale! On sale!) and accessories you may need, ever, like for your entire life.

Step 14: Hand over your credit card to pay the exorbitant total. It’s possible buying a pre-made wreath would be cheaper, but don’t think about that. You’re about to make something with your own hands.

Step 15: Return home, and take a short break with the beverage of your choice. Craft stores are exhausting.

Step 16: Find your glue gun.

Step 17: Gather your other tools and materials. Huh. What exactly do you need to make a wreath?

Step 18: Wire cutters. Definitely need wire cutters to lop off the long stems on the burlap hydrangeas.

Step 19: Find a wad of cash in your husband’s tool chest while looking for the wire cutters. Wonder why there’s a wad of cash in the tool chest, but decide not to dwell upon it. Instead, keep the cash and feel better about the exorbitant amount of money you just dropped at the craft store.

Step 20: Wrap wreath in burlap ribbon. Be thankful you bought two rolls, and feel silly for ever doubting yourself. Feel even sillier about the 27 minutes you stood in front of the burlap ribbon section, picking up and putting down the same roll, trying to decide if you need one or two rolls. Note: You’ll need about 30 feet of burlap to cover your straw wreath form. (Look at that! Actual helpful information!)

Step 21: Glue down that ribbon with enough hot glue to hold the Titanic together. Too bad they didn’t have glue guns back then, right? Too soon?


Step 22: Forget that hot glue is hot. Really beeping hot. Shake burned fingers and cuss for a minute.

Step 23: Time to attach the hydrangeas.

Step 24: Look for giant pruning shears, because wire cutters are not strong enough to cut off fake flower stems.

Step 25: Consider that it’s probably not a bad thing you aren’t able to locate the giant pruning shears, because you just dropped the wire cutters near your foot. Things probably would not end well with you, fake flowers, and giant pruning tools.

Step 26: Decide to wait for your husband to get home. He can cut off these stems that are apparently made of iron.

Step 27: Whatever. You are woman, hear you roar. Remove stem number one. Do fist pump.

Step 28: Jam the hydrangea into your straw wreath. Now apply globs of glue, just in case the wire isn’t enough to maintain flower-to-wreath bonding.

Step 29: Forget how hot the glue is. Again.

Step 30: Look at your progress and your mess. Debate calling it quits.

Step 31: Repeat steps 28 through 30 for the next two flowers.

Step 32: Be glad you only bought three stupid burlap hydrangeas.

Step 33: Attach adorable letter ‘S’ (Or whatever letter your last name starts with – you don’t have to have an ‘S’ name to make this wreath. This is a project everyone can tackle!) with super cute ribbon that was, say it with me, ON SALE.

Step 34: Apply even more hot glue. Wait, why won’t the glue come out?

Step 35: This doesn’t look right, either.

Step 36: Finally get enough glue on the wreath to withstand the apocolypse. Zombies don’t eat wreaths, do they?

Step 37: Allow glue to dry. Thirty seconds should do it. Who has time to wait around for glue to dry?

Step 38: Think about saving your ribbon scraps for future projects.

Step 39: Laugh and laugh. Future projects!

Step 40: Hang up that wreath! It looks okay from 10-15 feet away!

Total time: 23 hours. Hands-on time: 1-ish hours. Expect your time to be spent approximately like this, although you may need more time on Pinterest:

13 hours on Pinterest
7 hours in the craft store
1 hour making the wreath
1 hour doctoring hot glue gun burns
1 hour rocking quietly back and forth wondering, Why, why is crafting so hard?


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How I Write

There’s a little thing going around called How I Write.

Normally when someone says there’s a little thing going around I run to the nearest hand washing station and scrub away. Then I drink a concoction of apple cider vinegar, cranberry juice, and lemon that feels like swallowing fire (I assume. I’ve never swallowed fire. I come from show people, but have never been in the circus myself.). Finally, I pray a fervent prayer of pleaseohplease Lord, don’t let me or the kids or heaven forbid, Mark, get sick, amen.

This time, however, I am glad to have caught the little thing from Leigh Ann. I’m also conflicted. Talking about writing feels pretentious and self-absorbed. Topping that off, a recent crisis of confidence (how artistic of me, right? barf) almost kept me from sharing. I wondered whether I should accept the baton from Leigh Ann, and then I smacked myself in the face with that baton. It was a metaphorical smack, but if you suspected I actually hit myself in the head, that’s okay. I do stuff like that all the time.

I realized that if like reading what other writers have to say about their process, perhaps you’ll like reading about mine. Confidence will be rattled now and then, but the writing must continue. The show must go on! (Remember, I’m descended from circus people and vaudevillians.)

And so. My answers to the How I Write questions:

1. What are you working on?

A novel. I know, sister, me and everyone else. The knowledge that 1 in 5 people (totally made up statistic) has a novel in their bottom desk drawer or drafts folder has stopped me dead before. What makes me any different?

I’ll tell you: Me. I make myself different. (Imagine I wrote that more eloquently and less grammatically clunky.)

This novel evolved from a need to tell a story of loss, recovery, and survival, and to tell it in my voice, with some humor. There are thousands upon thousands of tales of loss, but none have been told by me.

I started it a couple years ago and it was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. I read over my first few “chapters” (and yes, the quotes are appropriate), and quit. It was rubbish, not even fit for the compost bin. The story was muddled, tone and voice all over the place. I knew why I wanted to tell it, but not how.

The story worked at me, quietly, for the next couple years until I said fine, I’ll try again. I have a clear vision for it now. That’s not to say I have the plot nailed down, but I do know the basics of where my character came from, where she is, and where she’ll end up.

That feels good.

I’m also working on personal essays for this blog and other publications. Writing personal essays is a lifelong dream that started with reading my mother’s Erma Bombeck books, and finding pure bliss in Dave Barry’s weekly column. I used to read parts of Dave’s columns aloud to my family. I was always laughing so hard that I couldn’t speak coherently, so mostly they heard my guffaws instead of the story. I’m sure my family loved those live, unintelligible readings.

2. How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Saying I have a genre feels writerly and smug. I want to talk about it my best Thurston Howell III voice. Lovey, dear, let’s discuss genre.

I’m not ready to talk about the novel in a lot of detail. It’s early yet. For this question, let’s stick to personal essays.

I don’t know that my work is vastly different from other work out there. There are a lot of us – a lot – telling the stories of our lives in 500-800 words a pop. In less than 32 seconds, I can think of a dozen warm, funny writers that I hope I don’t differ from too much, at least not in the feeling I want to leave with you when you read my essays.

I view life with a humorous slant. Above all, I see the funny. This has led to inappropriate laughter at all the most cliché times: funerals, hospital waiting rooms, parent-teacher conferences, and work functions.

Laughter aside, I’m also a huge pile of mush. Once I’m done snort-laughing as quietly as possible while my husband’s colleague holds the entire table hostage with tales of his rod (fishing, duh, but you see why I got the giggles), I can find the heart of the moment. Maybe it’s something endearing about the graceful way my husband handles these work shindigs, or maybe it’s a poignant thought about growing up and not chortling at the word rod.

3. Why do you write what you do?

See my earlier nods to Erma and Dave. See also all that stuff about wanting to tell a story in novel form.

I write because I have no other marketable skills. I write what I do because, simply, it makes me happy. I process things by writing them down. Not only does it bring me joy, but writing also centers me and helps me make sense of all the crap. Jeez, there is a lot of crap going on out there.

4. How does your writing process work?

First, I get a cup of herbal tea. Then, I sit at my desk and work away for five uninterrupted hours.

Hahahahahahahaha. Ha.

I have small children. I have no childcare outside of preschool and elementary school. I do not have a housekeeper, lawn service, or chef. I do have an incredibly supportive husband, thank goodness.

Because of the no childcare, no house-care thing, I write when I can. That means I break the cardinal rule of WRITE EVERY DAY. I’m always writing in my head, but I don’t get to the page/screen daily. Most days, yes. Every day, no.

When I have a deadline, I meet it. Usually there is crying and some bargaining with God, but I meet that deadline. When there is no deadline… My process is haphazard, at best.

There are scribbled notes that I never understand when I look at them days – or months – later. There are feverishly written drafts that seem like pure genius at the time of writing, and pure drivel upon a second reading.

The process evolves as my children do. We’re all growing together. I suspect that once they are both in elementary school, things will look differently than they do now. Let’s not even talk about writing during summer vacation.

And there you have it. I think I could talk about writing, or write about writing all day, every day. I’ll stop here, though, in case you cannot so much read about it all day.

I’m passing the torch/baton/whatever to AmandaCarol, and Virginia, some of my favorite Austin-based writers. Talk about heart and humor, these ladies are masters.

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