The Dress That Nearly Killed Me


I’ve been writing on this blog for so long I can’t remember what I’ve shared and what I haven’t. Have I shared how much of a fan of Project Runway I am? I probably have. I’m a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE fan. It’s my favorite reality show EVER and every time it’s on I am glued to it, commenting my opinions about every piece of clothing that is made. I don’t care about any drama. I’m there for the creativity. Every time it’s on I say, I wish I was on that show too. I really do.

I may have missed my calling when I didn’t go to fashion design school and chose to study journalism at a state school instead. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had chosen that path. Did I tell you how I almost went to FIDM? Yep. I almost did. But I didn’t. At the last minute, I changed my mind because I didn’t think I was good enough to get a job and I was worried I’d end up in retail working at Clothestime for the rest of my life with a huge debt.


So when Bug showed me this picture I thought in my tiny  I-think-I-could-be-a-fashion-designer head, “I can do that! We just create a bodice, overlay some lace, sew some ribbons on top to look like boning, add a tulle skirt and some ribbons for straps, and tah-dah, DESIGNER DRESS!”


What I did not know at the time of looking at the above photo is that THAT designer dress cost $4,900 and probably for a good reason. I cannot make that dress. It’s not as easy as it looks. I am full of crap and I need to be taken down a notch or two.

(I need to insert here that the dress that Joon is wearing on the right is my dress that we decided to Frankenstein into a skirt for this dress. It was a mistake but I’ll get to that later.)


And so I was taken down a notch or two.

First I created a bodice out of the only off-white fabric I had on hand: wool felt. It wasn’t a bad choice. It draped nicely on Bug’s body and held its form but it wasn’t the best for fitting because it does have some give and it can stretch out. I must have draped and pinned and sewed and ripped and repinned and re-sewed that wool felt a million times. Making a bodice with a shelf to hold very small a-cup boobs was much more difficult than I realized. I did it wrong about four thousand times.

Maybe now would be a good time to admit I don’t really know how to sew properly. I know how to use my sewing machine and I do make things from time to time but I’m not actually a seamstress with a working knowledge of how to construct clothing. I tinker. I alter already-made clothes and I can whip together a pillow or even a stuffed owl but I have never really followed a pattern successfully or really made anything fitted outside of a couch cover that was admittedly pretty wonky.


After the four-thousand ill-fated attempts at the bodice, I decided to ask my mom for help. I also came down with a cold during this time and developed a five-alarm sinus infection.  But nothing could stop me from finishing this dress.


Not even a teenager who has self-diagnosed herself with misophonia could stop me from finishing but believe me she almost did. She just about broke me with this project.

Let’s talk about misophonia. It’s an uncontrollable anger over sounds. Yes, sounds. Bug can go from perfectly pleasant to break-down-on-the-floor weeping over the sounds of someone eating or putting the dishes away too loudly. It happens when she’s hungry or having PMS. She’s impossible. Everything sets her off and asking her to stand still to be fitted in a dress is like asking a rabid squirrel to sit nicely and have a tea party.  It’s crazy-making.

Bug tries really hard to control her anger but she doesn’t always win. During PMS week she is a wreck. And the thing with these mental illnesses is that you can’t really accommodate them. The more I accommodate, the worse she gets until she’ll be living like a hermit peeing in a jar. I say this because I have experience with this. Her dad has it.

It was probably one of the reasons why our marriage didn’t work. It’s very hard to live with someone who is so sensitive to sound they are constantly in a bad mood.   I never really understood Toby and how angry he would get until I had a daughter develop the same irrational sensitivities.

The difference is that Bug knows this about her dad. She’s seen misophonia in action all her life. She might have even learned it this way. She’s had her feelings hurt from her dad’s sudden outbursts many many times so she knows not to act this way. It’s just a lot harder to do when it’s happening than you realize. Bug tries so hard to stay calm and often retreats to her room in tears instead of venting her anger. Her friends don’t understand her. Her own family doesn’t understand her. I barely understand her and we are the closest. She tells me everything and my heart breaks for her when she tries to explain the hell that she is in because sounds set her off.

We are on a three-month waiting list to speak to a child psychologist about this and we probably will have a whole toolbox of coping mechanisms soon but presently we are just bumbling through.

Thankfully with this mental illness also comes lots of mental brilliance. Bug is incredibly talented and artistic as you already know. She has a lot of creative outlets for her frustrations and she finds joy in many many things. It’s just the down days that are hard.


Unfortunately, life does not schedule around down days. Sometimes you have to sew dresses when you are suffering from PMS, misophonia, AND a sinus infection that feels like a tent stake is being hammered through your eye socket and into your teeth.

Eventually, it came together. Meanwhile, Bug dyed her converse dark burgundy to go with. Color will always keep Bug happy. She even created a tiktok video about it that kinda-sorta went viral.


Sadly her converse faded to pink but I think they still looked cute. I love that wearing heels is no longer in fashion. Good riddance to sore feet and dancing barefoot, I say. Tennis shoes are way better for dancing.


Also, sadly, the dress didn’t live up to either of our standards. The skirt was too heavy-looking for the delicate top. I thought I was going to add more heavy black lace to the chest to create that milkmaid look but Bug was over it and not going to sit for another fitting. We fudged the waistband by adding a lace strip but it just didn’t quite hit the mark. The bottom was way too chunky for the top. I should have remade the skirt in tulle and skipped re-using my old dress but at this point, it was too late. We had no more days to sew.

I should also note that a teenager who doesn’t like to stand up straight doesn’t really help a dress look its best but I think she was slouching because she didn’t feel confident in the dress and I get that.

I understand this because my mom used to make me dresses when I was a teenager and many of them didn’t turn out.  We would pick out a pattern together and I’d pick the fabric.  Invariably I’d pick the wrong kind of fabric and the dress that looked so graceful and flattering on the model on the pattern envelope would look stiff and thick and awkward on me. Then my mom’s feelings would be hurt when I shoved the dress to the back of my closet and refused to wear it.  So much love and time is invested in handmade clothing and so many times those investments are not returned. It’s hard.

So I forgive Bug for not standing up straight. I get it. I’m just surprised and flattered she actually wore it to the dance.


In certain angles it is a very pretty dress.  It’s definitely something I am proud of. I tried to do something really hard with limited experience and looks okay. It’s not great. I wish I could re-make it with a new princess style skirt and maybe I will someday.


I’m so proud that she wore it. She even told her friends that she made it, even though she didn’t actually sew a stitch. But if you count all the hours of sitting around in pokey-pins and all the decisions that she yayed or nayed, she was very much a part of it’s construction. It was a joint effort.


She did end up wearing her boyfriend’s jacket over it but I don’t care. She wore it.  We made it together.


And she had a good time.

Now I just need to find some sewing classes to attend because I don’t think this fashion designing bug is going away anytime soon. It didn’t kill me.

The Sweet Sixteen Trip to Seattle


It was an epic birthday trip. I mean it had to be, right? What else could follow The Great Pink Kitty 1st birthday party, (No 2nd birthday party. We were worried about overstimulation that year.) the Great Green Puppet Show 3rd birthday party, the Rainbow Seed 4th birthday party, the Royal Pink Princess 5th birthday party, The Six-in-the-Sticks Fairy birthday party, The Meowy Cat 7th birthday party, Eight somehow didn’t get blogged but I know we went to Disneyland and she drew on her own fondant cake that Bethany made her. The Skatery Funness 9th birthday party, The Minecraft 10th birthday, The Amazing Galaxy 11th birthday party, The Great Limo Ride 12th birthday party, The 13 Doesn’t Suck Succulent birthday party, then covid hit and we started doing trip birthdays instead so there was the 14th birthday Trip to Eureka and the 15th birthday Trip to Nowhere

People used to give me a hard time when I would throw these over-the-top birthday parties. What are you going to do when she turns sixteen or twenty-one? they’d ask. I always said I’d take her to Paris when she turned 16 and I turned 50. I wasn’t joking at all. Twenty twenty-two is a huge year for both of us. But that’s this year and travel overseas is just not really an option, germ-wise and funds-wise. Maybe on her 17th, we’ll go there as a family. It’s a goal and I’m saving up for it but it’s not anywhere near realization at this point.

Birthdays have always been a really really big deal to me. Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised. We always went big on birthdays because we didn’t celebrate other holidays like Christmas or Easter or even Halloween. We celebrated each person and there were always big family get-togethers. My grandma on my mom’s side was very creative at throwing theme parties and that made a huge impression on me. It’s been an integral part of who I am creatively. I get a vision and then I execute it.

I’m sad to say that the party-planner in me is struggling. I still have grand visions but I’m starting to learn that my vision (while great, popular on this blog, and a ton of fun) isn’t always the best way to celebrate for everyone else. I’ve had to take a beat and really examine the chaos that is my obsession with big birthday parties. It’s been hard. I’m still in the thick of it. It’s a part of my identity and I’m clinging to it like a cat hanging from its claws stuck in the curtains. But I’m getting older, my family is blended and complicated. Not everyone is on the same page as I am and when my visions don’t work out how I expect them to I tend to get crushed. It’s not a pretty picture. I am like a spoiled child throwing an internal temper tantrum. I need to learn and grow from my mistakes. I need to adapt.


So Seattle it was! Bug begged me to take her to Eureka again but I just couldn’t justify spending so much money on travel (there’s no way around it with flights and hotels) to go to the exact same place we’ve been already. I need to explore and I knew she would love it too, she just didn’t know it yet because she only knows what she knows. In the end, she agreed to go to Seattle on the contingent that I took her to Aberdeen, the childhood home of Kurt Cobain. Deal, I said.


I found the cutest boutique hotel, The Palihotel of Seatle. I love a boutique hotel. They do everything better. The decor, the details, the location, the food, the staff, the photo opportunities.  I know travel isn’t supposed to be about the “instagrammable moments”, and it’s not like we are influencers or anything but as an artist, I appreciate aesthetics in ways that non-artists can’t understand. Aesthetics are EVERYTHING and thankfully Bug always agrees with me. We are two artistic peas in a pod squeeing over every little adorable detail and I love that.


It was really great. Not the most comfortable bed, not the thickest walls. But photogenically… they had my number.


After we checked into our hotel we headed off to the original Starbucks. When in Rome, right? My ex (Bug’s dad) and I went to Seattle on our honeymoon and I remember him telling me I could have three mochas a day if I wanted. That stuck with me and I told Bug the same thing.


Then we were hungry so we hit Beecher’s for homemade macaroni and cheese. It was cold and drizzly and the mac and cheese hit the spot like a bowling ball falling into a bean bag. Bug was in heaven. The pictures above are from a day later because we went back again it was so good. It’s the coolest spot where you can watch them stir vats of cheese from the outside window while you wait in line for your cup of cheesy cheer.


We explored Pikes Place Market and the gum wall of course. The gum wall is totally gross but Bug thought it was cool. I have a picture somewhere but apparently not here.


We tried some gingerbeer and that was a hit. We pretty much ate and drank our way through Seattle.


More lattes at another Starbucks on a different corner where you didn’t have to wait in line.


Of course we had to see the fishmongers throwing fish.


And pigeons and graffiti…


Bug and I both love a big city adventure.



Bug fit right into Seattle like a local.


We checked out the hood, notice the same water drainage pipe that I have a photo of Toby standing by?  Funny how things come full circle.


Then back home to our sweet hotel.


The next day I rented a car and we drove to Aberdeen. I’m glad we did because it felt sort of wrong to fly all this way and not have some kind of outdoor nature experience. Of course, we were walking all around downtown Seattle by the market but we weren’t out visiting the rainforests like I knew her dad would want us to. But we did get outside in Aberdeen and it was beautiful.


It was really grounding to walk around the humble town and imagine what it was like to grow up there. It was very poor and most of the houses were falling down and decrepit. The weather is relentlessly wet there and everything is damp and molding. It kind of put together some puzzle pieces in my head about Kurt Cobain and his lyrics, who he was, and how he grew up. He touched so many people with his music and the sad ending of his life. I can see how this part of Washington created the artist that he was.

That green house is next to the memorial park they have for him and the residents are sick and tired of all the fans who visit and think he grew up there.


We didn’t see anybody. It was deserted. It was nice having the whole place to ourselves so we could imagine what it was like being a teenager getting up to no good under the bridge next to the muddy banks of the Wishkah.



We sat on a bench and had a picnic lunch of our leftovers from the day before. We played a few Nirvana tunes quietly on Bug’s phone and thought about Kurt Cobain.


Like so many others…how do you tell someone who’s dead how much they meant to you? Don’t get me wrong I’m not a huge Nirvana fan or anything but Bug is and she knows all the songs by heart. It was really special for her to go here.


This is Kurt Cobain’s actual house. Nothing special. Just a humble little house guarded by cameras and a sturdy chain link fence.


Then we headed back in the golden hour sun.


The next day was Bug’s actual birthday so, after breakfast, we went to Cupcake Royale, across the street from our hotel, and got two cupcakes. How perfect was it that there was a bakery across the street from our hotel? I didn’t plan it that way. But there it was.


Of course, we had to do a little photoshoot. I mean, she did turn sixteen and I am a photographer.. how could we not take advantage of the low light and the pretty green walls of our hotel?




Even the Smeg got in on the action.



After photos, we stuffed our faces, a theme of this trip.




Then out and about for more mac and cheese and shopping for souvenirs.


Crepes, and coffee and… fog?


The funny thing about Seattle is that it’s so cold and gray and depressing but the market is warm and glowing, it draws you to it like a moth to a flame.


We loved the market. The colors, the glow, the many many things to look at and admire. It wasn’t very crowded either so that was nice.


Shop owners are very aware of this juxtaposition of cold against the warm inviting glow of the inside so they paint their shops brightly. It’s the opposite of where we live where it’s hot on the regular. Our shops are painted cool colors and offer blasting air conditioning to draw in customers. But not here. Warm and glowing was the ticket.


Incandescent lighting and bright happy colors called to us like sirens. A favorite was this cute all-over-pink stuffed animal store called Marnin Saylor. The artist makes hand-sewn felt cat doughnuts that are so cute I was getting a toothache from the sweetness.


I loved that you picked them up with tongs as you do in the Asian bakeries where we live. We bought adopted several.

One of the things I love about the Pikes Place Market is that there are no big chain businesses. Every vendor is small and local. I love buying souvenirs that aren’t made in China but actually from the place you are visiting.


We shopped and shopped, buying small trinkets here and there, and then we walked along the water admiring the lights.


That night we missed dinner because most of the shops close early due to pandemic-related understaffing.  Thankfully there was an Indian food restaurant that sold us Tiki Masala in takeout containers. It was divine. We took it back to the hotel and watched Netflix on the bed with a big towel spread under us picnic style.  One of the perks of the pandemic: way more picnics!

we like-to-eat

The next day we were back at it. More food! More cute shops! Chilaquiles for breakfast, tiny doughnuts for dessert…


Is butter a carb? I think I seriously put on ten pounds.


This plant store, the Jungle Bean, was so cute. Just like the other shops we loved, it was very well lit, warm and inviting. We especially loved the dog in the window though he could not care less about us.


After that, we were pretty shopped out but we still wanted to see some local sights. So we ubered across the bay to Fremont to see the troll under the bridge. It was so funny because our Uber driver wasn’t that familiar with Seattle and he had no idea where we were going. He just followed the directions on his GPS and spoke to us in broken English. You can imagine his surprise when he pulled up next to this giant sculpture. He loved it and asked us to take his picture next to it too.


Then because we had shown an interest in sculptures he took us around the corner to a Stalin statue. We weren’t particularly keen on a giant Russian statue but we got out and took pictures anyway like good tourists.


Then we headed to the Gasworks nearby to get a good shot of the skyline. Nothing like a bunch of pipes to stand on and take pictures next to.


This is a close-up shot so it’s kind of blurry but you get the jest. Gray, gray Seattle, and a GIANT Brenda squishing its space needle head. We didn’t actually go up in the space needle. Bug had been to the Strat in Las Vegas and dismissed the Space Needle with a “You’ve seen one needle, you’ve seen ’em all.” toss of her head. That was fine with me since inside spaces give me the heebie-jeebies these days. I had really wanted to go on the underground tour but I just chalked that one up as a no-go during a pandemic, not enough clean outside air for me these days.

But overall it was a successful trip. I love that Bug and I love to do the same things. I treasure these moments with her as a teenager like they are precious rare experiences, even though we do hang out together a lot. I know she’s growing up and getting more and more independent. Every day is another day closer to her leaving me and even though I know we’ll always be close, it’s not ever going to be the same. So I suck up every memory and savor it.


I love you, Bug. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.