Tuesday, May 31, 2011

day 11

It's a quarter to midnight. The touches on a custom order are complete, the Blackberry Sage and Williamsburg Night Bars on their way to Brookland, and the Peppermint Lavender Foot Cream dolloped into jars. Hello Pillow!

Good night,

Monday, May 30, 2011

day 10


River Girls Studio Spring Custom Soap
When my mother called me to her bedroom that night, I knew it was serious. There were six children in our home. My parents had the upstairs master bedroom with a private bath off it. No child ever entered either without permission.

I had been at school all day-- a girls Catholic institution across town. At 3:00, I had traveled back to a job answering the switchboard at a neighborhood seminary.  By the time I had arrived home, all I wanted was to eat the dinner my mother had left wrapped in the oven, and to study for my French exam. Then I heard  my name, and I went up.

My mother who I always recall as lovely and put together, sat in the corner Queen Anne chair. The room was dimly lit; she was smoking a cigarette and holding the catalog.

"Are you sure about this school?"

I had just been accepted early decision to Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine. The conversation went like this. "I don't want you to be lonely. I don't want you to be left out. If you're going that far, I think Amherst would be better. That's where Harold went."

Harold was the high school boyfriend of my mother's only sister and one of the first African-Americans in the 20th century to integrate the northern liberal arts schools. He was brilliant and handsome. My mother would attend Howard University--then known as the "Black Harvard." Her sister would go to American University. And Harold would go to Amherst--far away, up north in Massachusetts.

But it was too late, logistically and emotionally. I was in love with Bowdoin. I had pictured myself studying in the library as the snow fell. And I had accepted the early contract to go. Christmas had yet to arrive, and I was done.

Nonetheless, my mother's fears were legitimate. I was a city girl. Bowdoin was in a small rural Maine town. They received snow from as early as October until as late as April.  The school had a history of churning out successful male leaders but had only been coed for a few years. I would be one of roughly eight black students in a class of 335 to matriculate.

Years later, after I graduated with high honors, my mother would deny recollection of our conversation. I think she wished she had not expressed those doubts. But I would tell her--so adamantly now-- I am glad she did.  Two vital things happened that year. I mustered the will to go away to a place where I and my family knew no one, and my mother mustered the courage to let me go.  

Sometimes I wonder about gumption and chutzpah and temerity and courage --where "it" all comes from-- why it breaks free.  I think about my son Phillip sitting in a conference room at NIH, barely 18, surrounded by physicians and specialists examining patient case studies. He is giddy to be there--never once thinking, "I don't belong."

Gumption. These are our sky diving moments. We all must take them. Close your eyes. Let go.

Good night,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

day 9

Sunday Morning in the Studio...It's All about the Adorable!

My Meow Boxes are so cute. I made these early this morning for a custom birthday order. The boxes are stamped and filled in with bright permanent inks; they are glossy white chipboard which slide open. Tucked in each will be one of River Girls popular Meant to Bee soaps! But of course any small gifs will do including Hershey's Chocolate Kisses!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

day 8

Those Kinds of Saturdays: Day Old Bread, Missing Blace Lace, &  Random Confessions...
When I was in my late 20s living in Brooklyn, Saturdays usually had a reliable rhythm. It went something  like this: 

8:00 am  Meet my elderly, ex-smoking, cranky, New Orleans-bred neighbor who lives in the brownstone five doors down. Go with her to pick up day-old baguettes. 

9:00 am Take the loaves to the homeless shelter on 4th Avenue. Unlock the heavy steel doors. Hang out with the other single early birds while making watery pasta and carrot soup for 20 homeless guys. 

Available from ETSY artist. See below*
1:00 pm  Pick up my laundry from the Chinese laundry on 5th avenue. Point out to the counter guy that a pair of black bikini underwear and a matching half slip were missing for the 2nd week in a row while he shakes his head and smiles and pretends he doesn't speak English.

2:00 Grab groceries, then flowers, and Thai takeout food-- usually a strange five alarm dish designated with the 4 cartoon chili peppers. 

4:00 Dress up for a first run movie with a friend.

Now, wait. Stop. Some Saturdays meant Mass at Saint John's, the plum 5 pm Mass which meets "Sunday obligation." Thirty minutes in and out. This was because no one but 80 year old parishioners who went daily showed up, and there was no music. Zero. No guitars, flutes or dungeon organs. No bad Latin songs turned into warbled hippie folk renditions. And if so inclined,  you could do the double header: Confession first then Mass.  

Years later, Saturday sometimes has that fresh sweet echo but without the homeless guys and missing underwear. Mostly, the whole service and confessional thing come to mind. So therein lies today's homage:

6 Random Confessions

1.)  I saw perhaps  a grand total of three Oprah shows my entire life, and I don't even know which ones they were. I have no idea what she was talking about all those years but I'm sure it was fantastic!  I did however read all her magazines, see the Color Purple twice and watched her being interviewed on Larry King about sixteen times.  

2.)  I really don't like cheese. I pretend to love pizza, but sometimes, the smell of cheese makes me think of sweaty guys walking around in sweaty socks in a locker room after someone got sick and threw up.

3.) I think Angelina Jolie ties Brad Pitt up and does things to him, and he likes it.

Available from an ETSY artist. See below**
4.) When I was eight months pregnant with Lily, my neighbor let his two tartan coat wearing  Scottish terriers defecate on my lawn. Unbeknownst to him, I was hanging a border in the nursery and spotted them. I opened the window and begin screaming. Whatever I screamed, I never saw them again. I immediately went into labor. Weird. A Twilight Zone Episode for sure

5.) I think there was a Jesus but I'm pretty sure that he did not have watery blue eyes, thin blond hair and baby soft manicured hands and feet. Walking in the desert for forty days does things to a man...we're talking brown skin, crusty soles and dry hair.

6.) If my house goes up in roaring flames, I'm fairly certain I will not be running back for my cat or the wedding photos.

Good night,

* The Nothing Button available at ETSY: http://www.etsy.com/shop/kohaku16
**The Soap Lady Magnet available at ETSY: http://www.etsy.com/listing/62315908/vintage-funny-magnet-4-x-4-inches?ref=ss_listing

Friday, May 27, 2011

day 7

Winds Whippin'
We are having a Tornado Watch. Visit this spot here for me tomorrow.....
Ashley Lord and Mistress ;-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

day 6

Massive Demonstrations Break Out
(well not really but it sounds sooo good... ;-) )

Today, the River Girls Studio was all abuzz with demonstrations--actually, the making of three short videos on the GLADIATOR ROW Soap. The soap, a smooth rich sandalwood and earthy patchouli, comes by its macho name honestly. It was tossed out by my endocrinologist at a doctor's appointment as we jokingly brainstormed a name for it. Truly a warrior, Gladiator Row has consistently brandished its sword to the Top 5 Best Sellers List. 

Thanks Phillip Gasperetti for assistance with the filming on this very first River Girls video! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

day 5

How Much Do You Notice?
Entwined Soap in Honey, Ginger & Cream
When I was living in Park Slope, NY, I witnessed a purse snatching. The police officers who
arrived on the scene asked me if I would be willing to come down to the station and look at mug shots. I agreed but to this day, the experience stays with me. Why? Because it was harrowing? Because the coffee was so bitter, I was certain it had come from a steel campfire pot that sat brewing all day in Montana? 

No. I realized once I began peering at the pages of criminals, that I never really saw the man. It happened so fast. The victim's purse strap was so long and her scream so curdling. It was she I spied. Indeed, I could describe her countenance down to the parentheses that wrapped her mouth. I could recite her punctuated staccato "STOP Him! STOP Him!" And that purse? Gorgeous maroon leather! But the thief? Virtually nothing. Zilch. I was of no aid. I would sleep and never dream of the rogue snatcher.

In the Studio, days are often not only about getting the soap and creams made, but about fashioning the new, and noticing the slimmest of details. That my mint soap sold in the heat of summer must smell clean, almost ocean blue and never ever like December candy canes. That a man will rarely buy a pink soap unless it for Mothers Day, and that round soaps--even fat ones-- are easier to hold in the palm of a hand then sharp edged squares. Ah, Details. What do you notice?

Good night,
wanda fleming, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

day 4

Courting Silence While Pouring Soap
 Blackberry Sage Soap, Made May 24
When I was younger, much younger, I worked with other professionals in think tanks and a foundation. Often, I was researching, writing or speaking for others, all with the wonderful urgency and belief that we could diminish societal ails. We could make the uneducated and alone less isolated or more whole.
Sometimes, a colleague from that life will ask, "Don't you miss the daily interactions?" The truth is-- a bit-- but not entirely. In most places I would invariably slip into the role of listener. Even when the pay became loftier and I was rendering judgement on someone else's thinking or policies, I was still the listener, the watcher of body language and the tones of voices. 

With parenting and children comes years of what I call "V Talk", voluminous, vociferous, vomitous talk. Sure, you're listening. You're watching their tone, their body language, their temperature--literally and figuratively, but frankly, you talk constantly. Then one day, when you are confident enough, and the hard work truly has been done, you simply turn and say, "I'm not going to repeat this again." And you do not.

In soaping and narrative writing, both which demand a degree of creativity, silence is  the jewel that dazzles. The quiet allows the push asunder of the blah, blah, blah, blah.

How about a wee dose of  Shut the Hell Up"?
I was recently brought back to that belief while watching one of the young children in the bridal party of Prince William and Kate Middleton. As the  jubilant throngs cheered below the balcony, she raised and cupped her small hands to her ears as though to say, "Enough with this bloody ruckus. Get me to a quiet place."  

Whatever you do, find yours.

Monday, May 23, 2011

day 3

What does the word friend mean to you?

This Sunday's Washington Post Magazine Date Lab is the latest in a heap of items making me reconsider Facebook. 
Birthday Roses May 2011

A popular column, Date Lab revisits the details of a blind date, whose costs the newspaper defrays. 

This couple passed on the usual dinner at an upscale  restaurant for a "tree swinging" expedition. What seemed promising, however, began to unravel. They were not suited for each other. He appeared to be zooming around DC almost nightly, probably meeting with potential business clients, having drinks with fuchsia paper umbrellas poking out of them, volunteering, exercising, and shaking hands. The lineup of his life alone engenders a breathlessness. One could sense the woman's eyes glaze over. Sure. She might like vacations to exotic haunts but intimated that most nights, she's crawled up on the couch, maybe with a Heath bar, a book and franchise TV--(Law and Order or the Closer I would guess.) 

Ultimately though, it's their  Facebook revelations that hammered the death nail.The man has over 3300 Facebook friends. She-- about 75.

3300. Is that a typo? I ask myself. Really? Who is he friending? the mailman? the security guards at his job? the dust bunnies under his IKEA couch?

Sometimes, after two years of active posting and an unexpected expansion of my own list, I find myself placing the entire experience under a microscope. I push my eye to the stem, and I shudder a little at what I see on my "Friends" list. Persons who despise the President enough to use words like "idiot" and "putrid". Persons who won't eat ice cream (what?? no double scoop cones??)...or bother posting a kind comment after another "friend" reveals that a parent has died.

Last week, a woman from my college days sent me a friend request. I recognized the name, but we rarely spoke during those four years. On the contrary, the man she would later marry, attempted to have sex with me on a first date.  When I  quietly turned him down, he stormed out of my apartment, the door's slam reverberating . Thereafter, he would walk by me, past the quad's six foot drifts of snow, glaring through his Highway 99 sunglasses, never speaking again. I look at the "friend request" and click "ignore." The truth is I already have my hands full with these friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

day 2

The Heroics of Artistry

In the River Girls Studio at Daybreak
Imagine a world where every American child grows up to attend a competitive college and becomes a wealthy physician, lawyer or corporate mogul. Where all education leads to a lust for, and eventually, a scooped up, white collar job. Where students are funneled conveyor-belt style into lucrative businesses or computer technology fields.

What is wrong with this picture? If your response is, "Who will do my dry cleaning? Who will repair my car with its fully loaded electronic panels?  Hose down my mansion when it catches on fire?, you are only partially correct.  

There will be days when a florist who painstakingly plucks the most exquisite blush roses will create a bouquet that will end an argument and save your marriage--for at least another week. A stained glass artist will design a window pane whose white winged dove turns an autistic child's face to the sunlight, and a gifted photographer who sees thing you cannot, will take the last photo you'll ever have of your aging parents. Your father will be smiling though he so rarely did.  

None of this will happen because of medical school degrees or lawyers or Wall Street. But it will happen, and that will be good.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

day 1

The Numbers Game
Happy Happy Birthday to Me!  

Four hours ago, I finished celebrating my birthday. Officially, I am now too old to know better and too young to care. This is the premiere entry for what I hope to be daily submissions on life, work, and love in my cherished Studio. I have been writing since 18, but I am also the owner of River Girls Soap and Bath which I launched more than a decade ago. I have been married 20 years and have two children and a cat, Ashley who believes she owns all my property and deed to this home. If she could talk, she would say, "Run down to the 7 Eleven, Woman. Get me a king sized Slurpee and a pack of Marlboros too."  It wouldn't matter if you were a man. She would still say, "Woman." I don't know why. It's just the way she stares at you.

 Good Night ;-)