Audio: A Holiday Challenge

The audio accompaniment to “A Holiday Challenge.”



A Holiday Challenge

At the library Maker Lab I have been experimenting with paper cutting.

Before I show you my holiday card, browse Colossal or Instagram for examples of stunning paper craft. The projects I’ve started are modest in comparison, but as you can see, there are many possibilities.

With access to a library laser cutter and electronic cutter, I can cut acrylic, wood, vinyl, and cardstock. Cardstock is fast, easily replenished, and inexpensive. When you make a mistake in cardstock, it’s easy to try, try, try again. Cardstock can be layered for a pop of color or contrast.

Now, I usually nab holiday cards in the post-season sales and forgot to do that after Christmas 2016. I said so online, and was instantly challenged by my craftiest buddy to laser cut a card. (If you are familiar with Gretchin Rubin’s Four Tendencies, you may know this is the best way to get an Obliger to challenge themselves — by throwing them a gauntlet.)

So what’s involved with laser cutting your own card?

You need a design, then a digital file, which I create in Inkscape, and testing the concept. My decision tree was something like: folded versus not folded, if text then stencil or vinyl, if image then stencil or vinyl, laser cut versus ecutter.


At the end of the tree you see “laser cut: can’t use white” versus “e cutter: can use white,” and that is how I ended up using the e cutter, so I wouldn’t have to worry about smearing laser ash on snow white paper. And because I tape holiday cards onto a wall, a folded card seemed like a waste of space.

My first design employed pattern and vinyl. On the left is the digital design, and on the right is a simplified sample, after I realized how time-consuming peeling a contrasting chevron pattern would be. It was back to the drawing board.


After some thought about this Christmas, and buying my first tree, I sketched a Christmas tree. In white and bright blue, the tree also gives the impression of a ski slope. I liked the look of “happy holidays” and moved the inner circle of the letters A, P, O and D to create a stencil effect, and cut out round ornament silhouettes from the H, Y, and S. As a last touch, I added a few red vinyl sticker ornaments to create a tricolor card.


And below, what they looked like in paper and vinyl.


You’ll see there are some unique variations, like the spacing between the Ps where the e cutter slid, or the placement of the ornaments. I like to think of them as limited edition.

Now that these are complete, I can start working on 2018, which I’m sure will look very different from the pink and blue snowflake I started this week.



Over our heads: the ride


You have earned: The Tilta Whirl badge! Created in Inkscape.

Red nose, black maw, red lips, and small eyes kept me off the Tilta Whirl for two carnival seasons until my brother and I finally step in line, excitement and dread swirling in our guts. The music starts, then the motors. The car seats three to four, a bar above our thighs to keep us from flying or leaping out. The car spins 360 degrees, sometimes slow, sometimes quick, as it circles a track that rises and falls on a gentle slope. If it stalls, everyone starts to shift their weight and rock in unison, accelerating the spin.

The Gravitron is the superior sweep you off your feet spin. From the outside, it looks like a movie spaceship. You enter a doorway and step onto a track. You pick a vinyl-covered wall mat, leaving space between you and your neighbor, and wait. “Here we go,” a fuzzy voice announces over the speaker. The lights of the mad carousel flash and flicker and the spinning accelerates. The mat, on rollers, slides up the wall and your feet dangle, first six, now twelve inches from the floor. You raise an arm, a leg, and the force pulls you back. You lose the struggle, helpless, and strangely unafraid.

We were young and there were other rides to try. Our final daring attempt was the Zipper. The yellow lights glinted against the dark sky. He and I hopped into the cage, nervous and excited. The Zipper is a compact Ferris Wheel, each car a cage with a vinyl seat. The car rotates 360 degrees and at times, your feet are above your head. We poked our fingers through the grate and waved to our mom. The other cars filled up and the ride started in earnest, track turning and cars spinning. In over our heads, my brother and I clung to the cage as the car spun. We tumbled and cried and wanted out. We yelled and waved our hands, but the ride kept going. Is there better advertising than the screams of children? When the ride stopped on our car and the cage was opened, we flew out, faces wet, shaking with adrenaline. Never did we ride the Zipper again. Our carnival days were numbered.

Don’t call it destiny

I knew at a young age that I was a Sagittarius.

My family was well-read in astrology. By announcing your birth date, they could tell you your sign, your element, and your planet. My parents are a Virgo (earth, Mercury), and a Cancer (water, Moon). My brothers are a Taurus (earth, Venus) and an Aries (fire, Sun).


I call this Sag Badge. Made in Inkscape.

I am a Sagittarius, also known as the Archer, ruled by fire and Jupiter. As a kid, I was a non-athletic bookworm, reading on porches during the summer, and there were so many astrology books telling me who I might be one day. Between following the misadventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield in Sweet Valley, and the homicidal stars of Christopher Pike mysteries, I was sure to stop by the occult section of Waldenbooks to see what Sagittarius was working on.

According to most sources, the Archer is funny, optimistic, independent, moral, curious, a risk-taker, something of a philosopher, impatient, and tactless. Our colors are blue and purple. What a list! A great friend and partner! Winning at life! The truth is, I’m no risk-taker, as I’ve never lost more than $50 in a casino, I haven’t skydived, and I’m only sometimes funny as I rely too much on puns. I do wear a lot of blue and purple, though.

My young mind read this information and took it for the suggestions they were intended. I wasn’t a dauphine or a Messiah. I was just another person on the planet, and since I was born in the US, I was expected to be a decent person and make something of myself. I could only move up.

Admittedly, it gets much more complicated if you try to date according to your sign, but who has time for that? After all, if neither of you are a paragon of your sign, the point is moot. As you might expect, I eventually turned to personality tests, which have a more concrete description of my strengths and weaknesses.

It turns out, I’m still optimistic, independent, and curious. So I take it with it a grain of salt, and continue on my way.

P.S. I’m an ISTP.

Writing prompt found here.