OK I know it's just a prom dress.
But it was also one of those all-consuming, weeks of work, totally over our heads challenges that I am so pleased with how it all turned out. The fact that this was almost a complete train wreck, makes the outcome that much sweeter.
See this girl in our church (the beautiful lady pictured above) asked my friend and I if we'd make her a prom dress. Of course we said yes. Enthusiastically yes. That was before she showed us her inspiration photos at which point I had my "oh crap what did we just get ourselves into" moment. But we weren't going to back out now. About 2-3 weeks in, after already working on the dress for days and days, with another fitting gone awry realizing that we were going to have to start over--again--the mom pulled us aside and said, Listen you guys, you don't have to do this. I know this is a lot of work and just let us know and we can go buy a dress, is not too late to call it quits. My friend and co-seamstress Melissa said, No I'm good. I'm not burned out yet. I nodded in agreement. Lets just say it was a good thing Melissa was there as I might have pulled the rip cord at that point. I too wanted to move forward, if for no other reason than for my pride, but it wasn't looking good. And I have a newborn. And I'm moving soon. And I'm sick. And, and, and...
So yes, it's just a prom dress. But some good lessons can come out of the making of a prom dress.
First, this was not something either of us could have done on our own. Sure there was the time aspect, but also the skill level and the tools meant this really was a team effort. Individually Melissa and I were totally in over our heads. Collectively, just a little in over our heads, but friends... it felt good to be in over my head. Of course that's easy to say now that we pulled it off, but being just a little out of your league or past your skill level and certainly past your comfort level, well thats where change occurs...that's where the magic happens. OK I just quoted Jillian Michaels from my workout video this morning, but it totally applies here too.
In fact let's just run with the workout metaphor for a minute. See I did this one Jillian workout for about a year and it was friggin' hard every time. Everytime I could barely eek out those last push-ups and the final cardio moves. Eventually I got bored and wanted a different workout and purchased a different Jillian DVD. Well this one was even harder. Like SO much harder. But I started doing it and working my way though all 4 levels. One day I decided to go back and do the old work out I had spent about a year doing and it. was. a. breeze. I couldn't believe it. Then I realized that doing the same work out over and over wasn't really making me stronger, I was just sort of maintaining what little strength I had. It wasn't until I started pushing myself to do something harder that I got stronger. I mean the old DVD was hard--it really was. But the new DVD was too hard, as in I couldn't do some of the moves and I often fell to my knees for a break. But that's when I got stronger. And that's what this dress was... a little too hard. Just outside my skill set and comfort zone. And that my friends, is why the magic happened.
Second, I mentioned this girl is a member of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka the Mormons. Mormons, well we're often considered a strange bunch. As a people we have our own language and mannerisms. I'm not sure I've ever had a proper dinner party, but a million pot lucks and Sunday dinners? Sure. I grew up going to Stake dances, but not steak dances. I addressed my friends' parents as Brother and Sister So-and-so rather than Mr. or Mrs. I belong to a women's organization known as The Relief Society, and I believe in prophets, visions and angels. To me this all seems very normal, yet I know that from an outsiders perspective these things can range from quaint and simple-minded, to straight up whacked.
It's not that I feel sheepish about my beliefs--I really don't. But I watch the same shows you do, I see the same movies and I read the same news... organized religion as a whole is often portrayed as belonging somewhere on the scale between outdated moral code to manipulative brainwashing. However religious differences aside I think one thing that most people can agree on, is that helping one another through service or whatever you want to call it is always a good thing. And I'm proud to say that us Mormons... we're good at that. There is a strong sense of community within our membership. Having lived in multiple states over the years, the Church (as we call it) has been our extended family. When we first moved to Cincinnati a woman I had never met picked me and PSP up from the airport and drove us to our new house. Her husband who we also didn't know previously, was at our house with B helping to unload the moving van. I've had church friends clean my house while I was relegated to bed rest, tend my children and essentially nurse me back to health after a severe bout of PPD. In fact as I talked to my friend while I was on the cusp of a mental breakdown she told me she would come over and help me with my kids that week. I asked her what we were going to do if I needed help for a long time? She said, and I'm paraphrasing here, We will make a schedule and get you the help around the clock for as long as it takes. This is what we do. Of course I didn't end up needing help that long, but I knew she was right. If I needed it, help was there. I'm not trying to say that we have the monopoly on goodness or even service, we don't. But I do think there is something remarkable about our community in this aspect. And honestly, these examples are super common and pretty small potatoes when it comes down to it.
About a week or two before we were asked to make this dress a man was baptized into our local congregration. He was given a blessing in church the next day and while I don't remember anything else that was said during this blessing I do remember these words, Your problems, are now our problems... Admittedly, there is a certain Godfather-like ring to those words if you want to see it that way, but the fact is he's right. I thought about those words when our young friend asked us to make her prom dress. To a couple friends I jokingly said, This is what being Mormon is all about. We do free crap for each other. I'm really not trying to make this out to be more than what it is... it wasn't life saving or life changing, I know it was just a dress. But it was a lot of work, a lot of hours away from my family and ultimately a connection to the very core of what it means to me to be a member of our church. Out of all the things that make me a Mormon"doing free crap for each" other happens to be one of my favorite parts.