Category Archives: doll collecting

My Mother’s Dolls

Tom Sawyer without the straw hat, as created by Lois Beyer

Tom Sawyer without the straw hat, as created by Lois Beyer

You may already know about my doll-collecting mania.  You may have already called the mental health people to come take care of the problem, and they just haven’t arrived at my door yet with the white coat that has the extra long sleeves.  But you may not know that my mother is a doll-maker and has something to do with my doll-collecting hoarding disorder.

In the early 1990’s my mother and I put our money together and bought a kiln while we were visiting my sister’s family out in California.  It wasn’t the most expensive model, but it wasn’t the cheapest, either.  We both had enough experience with ceramics that we didn’t want to buy a burning box that was merely going to blow our porcelain projects to kingdom come.  Mother had doll-making friends in Texas who taught her about firing greenware and glazing and porcelain paint and all the other arcane stuff you have to know to make expensive hand-made dolls.  Now, honestly, at the start we could’ve made some money at it selling to seriously ill doll collectors and other kooks, but we were not willing to part with our early art, and by the time we were ready to do more than just have an expensive hobby, everyone who would’ve paid money for the product was making their own.  So dreams of commercial success were supplanted by the hobbyist’s mania that made more and more charming little things to occasionally display at the county fair.

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The two dolls I have left to share on my blog from that era were both crafted by my mother.  She lovingly fired the porcelain body parts, painted the faces by hand, and created the wardrobe on her Singer sewing machine.  I made some dolls too, but never with the wondrous craft and care that made my mother’s dolls beyond compare.

Tom Sawyer was originally a boy doll who was supposed to be able to hold a model train in his hands.  My mother had the pattern for the little engineer’s uniform and hat that she would use on another doll instead.  He is named after the Tom Sawyer clothing pattern that my mother bought and sewed together to dress him in.  He has a cloth and stuffing body underneath his clothes together with porcelain head, hands, and bare feet.

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The other doll I have left to brag unctuously about is a doll named Nicole after the niece my wife and I have whom this doll bares a striking resemblance to.  She displays a beautiful little girl’s sun dress with quilted accent colors that my mother sewed from scratch with the help of a pattern she was truly fond of and used more than once.

These dolls were gifts to my wife and I, presented shortly after my mother bought out my share of the kiln when she retired and moved back to the frosty land of the Iowegians.  I haven’t kept them as thoroughly dusted and cobweb-free as they deserve because I have been a somewhat lazy and slovenly son… but I do love them almost as much as (and sometimes more depending on recent behavior) my own children.  (After all, porcelain kids rarely make a mess, overspend allowances, or hog the television too much.)

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Rest and Repair

Sometimes we all get a little tattered, a little weather-worn. Especially during this pandemic.

I rescued the little Valentine Bear from the pile of stuff from my mother-in-law’s house, the one that was sold this last spring. We still have all the rescued stuff on our patio, open to the weather, and the raccoons from the city park across the street.

I suspect he belonged to one of the two nieces that each lived for a time with Grandma. Sarooty Incaboody or Maroody Walladooty. One of them, though not both of them, and I haven’t given you their real names. Grandma had to move to San Antonio where there are more Filipino relatives to protect her from the virus. But less room for a lifetime of stuff that once belonged to her and my long-gone father-in-law.

You can see his right ear is damaged and needs to be resewn with red thread. His fur is a little crusty from the rain this last week and the dirt blown by the cold winds from this week. He’s a mess, and I thought I better bring him in and fix him up before the park fairies do the whole Velveteen Rabbit thing to him. After all, we don’t need a baby polar bear wandering around the Dallas suburbs, do we? And someone once loved him enough to keep him. He deserves to be cared for in retirement as much as I do.

I myself am a bit tattered and weather-worn by this pandemic. Being trapped in the house all day every day deprives me of the physical activity that keeps my heart healthy and my diabetes under control. My mental health is a little ragged around the edges as well. In this house we tend to get kinda snippy about money woes and unpaid bills. My wife and I now have separated finances. I am bankrupt and she is counting on Armageddon to overcome her credit-card-debt monsters.

My answer to the crisis continues to revolve around books and writing and movies and documentaries. I retreat into stories and ideas, both in the form of fiction and well-researched nonfiction. I throw myself whole-souled into the promotion of my books by earning the necessary points from Pubby by reading and reviewing the books of others and spending the points on honest reviews from other writers reading my books. I have never reviewed so many books before. Especially new is the number of badly written books that I have to slog through and then review honestly in a way that doesn’t crush the spirit of the slow-learning writing masses. I think so far I have only driven one writer to quit the review exchange. And I have only received two cruel and unfair reviews on my work. Which is, of course, less than expected.

The least mind-bending activity I use to repair my psyche is fixing up and playing with dolls, as indicated by the photos I have used in this post.

In these pictures you see five bargain-bin dolls and toys, two dolls bought at Goodwill and cleaned and dressed in a reclamation project. One repurposed aquarium decoration (the skull) and one Pinkie Pie that I bought with Christmas money at the full six-dollar price.

By doing these things, I have managed to avoid getting Covid 19 and generally avoid depression and mental illness.

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Funky Friday Fun

I used to work for a principal who would come on the morning announcements every day to welcome us to school with another anomalous and annoying alliteration. We had numerous Magnificent Mondays, Terrific Tuesdays, and Wonderful Wednesdays. Thursdays were harder. And Friday was usually Fun. See, I think I ironically proved I can do it too, if not better.

Meet Orion Slave-girl Barbie, waving to you from the Slave Markets of Dantooine.

It has been my goal to set Friday posts aside as days to either be funny or to tell stories about being a school teacher… or, quite naturally, both at once.

But ironically, Trump and Pence have made it extra difficult not to talk about politics. One has been so blatantly idiotic in his quasi-fourth-grade-intellectual pumpkinheaded blathering. While the other has been robotically ignorant, heartless, and unmindful. Not wearing masks in hospital visits? Recommending injecting cleaning fluid? I can’t even be ironically funny by throwing flat irons and curling irons at them, since those would just bounce off the walls of the house I am confined to.

Princess Leia says hello from the slave markets of the United Federation of Planets.

But, even though the Bughead Boys are making original humorous thinking difficult, there are things that make me happy. I qualified and signed up to be a substitute teacher again if a new school year ever happens. They are pleased enough with my performance to make that a reality for me today. And I do love teaching, though each year of it is increasingly difficult physically. I just have to eat more spinach, keep talkin’ loik Popeye, and try not to die of Coronavirus.

And I have not yet gotten any kind of stimulus check from the gubbermint even though I know people who have. But I am happy that, for this month at least, the State of Texas is not yet bankrupt and ready, with Mitch McConnell’s permission, to cancel all future pension payments.

The Green Orion Slave Girl now has a new master, General Urk-Me, who will take her back to the Planet of the Apes to pick bananas.

So, if I can’t be all that funny today, at least I got a chance to complain. And I didn’t even manage to squeeze out any jokes about slave-girls, even though there is a definite slave-girl thing going on in the illustrations today.

Twi’lek Barbie is not a slave anymore. In fact, she’s free to use my library as often as she likes.

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Goofing Along at High Speed

Kong captures a cheerleader to eat and falls in love instead.

There is so much I need to get done. I need to finish mending my yard’s retaining wall before the city decides they can no longer put up with my old-man, do-it-yourself stubbornness.

I need to do my taxes. My wife insists we do them separately now because Trump’s new tax policy costs retired people so much more than previous years that she can no longer put up with my crippling tax burden. I need to know how much Uber-slavery I will have to do to make the IRS less miserly.

Action-Figure Gandalf is upset with wimpy-wizard Mickey.

My status as a wizard is called into question. A wizard should be able to solve problems and overcome anything.

A dragon is ravaging the suburbs? No problem. I can imprison it in a fire-proof giant soap bubble. Aliens invading the DFW metroplex? No problem. I just show them my psoriasis sores and they will worry about getting infected from eating Earth people so they will run back to Zeta Reticuli as fast as their spaceships can fold space.

The Cowardly Lion and Student Witch Hermoine steal the last of my pretzels.

The problem is, it is raining. My old diabetic and arthritic bones are aching from the cold Texas rain. I can’t Uber-drive today. I can’t work on the wall, or let my son work on it either (wet bricks are too easy to drop). I can’t even eat pretzels and write blog posts. My pretzel jar is mysteriously empty. So, you can see, I have no choice but to stay in the nice warm bedroom and play with my dolls… er, action figures. They like posing for photographs and are really good at holding still while I snap the pictures.

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Filed under action figures, doll collecting, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, illness, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Stupid Sunday

When you spend most of your time writing and thinking with the Sword of Damocles hanging over your head and the hourglass of your life looking more and more like the sands of time are running out, you are tempted to take the curves too fast and make extremely stupid mistakes that make your brain crash into a brick wall of stupidity.  You are stuck in a stupor of stupidity that must somehow un-stupid you with downtime and do-nothing brainless activity.  I won’t try to explain what I did wrong, because, after all, I am still stupid at the moment and don’t really know what I did wrong.

A Hermione Harry-Potter doll which is my birthday present. 

I bought myself a doll yesterday.  I spent some of my birthday money on it.  My octogenarian mother sends me birthday money every year to remind me how many years beyond sixty I have aged, especially now that, after more than twenty years spent not celebrating birthdays as a nominal Jehovah’s Witness, I am now no longer associated with prohibitions from God due to the arbitrary rules of religion.  It was a stupid act based on the fact that I have been avoiding wasting money on my doll-collecting hoarding disorder for a matter of months.  It could be like an alcoholic taking a drink after months of being sober.  But the doll is pretty in a magical sort of way and provides me with someone else to talk to when I am brooding about being stupid. 

It may seem like, since I am writing this while still stupid, that I am saying that being stupid is, by definition, a bad thing.  If I am saying that, it is only because I am currently stupid.

If you look at the smiles on the faces of the gentleman with the brown cap and Scraggles the mouser, you can easily see that being happy is a simple thing.  And it is the province of simple people, not complicated and extremely smart people.  I can testify from hard experience that being too smart is a barrier to being simply happy.  So, I benefit emotionally from being stupid this Sunday.

As to being stupid today and what caused it, well, it may have something to do with the fact that I am currently editing The Baby Werewolf, the most complex and potentially controversial novel I have ever written.  Horror stories often mine and expose the author’s own traumas and fundamental fears.  And I am trying to publish it as the fourth novel I have published in 2018.  Is that biting off more than I can chew with my old teeth?  I don’t know the answer.  I am currently pretty stupid.

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Filed under action figures, autobiography, collecting, doll collecting, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, novel writing, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Being Excessively Creative

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It is an unusual position to be in as a kid in the school room to be the creative kid.  First and foremost because you will forever be known as the weirdo, the spaceman, the egghead.

How do I know that?  Because I was that kid.  And I grew up to teach that kid.  And now that I am retired as a teacher, I am still that kid.

If there was a problem to be solved, a picture to be drawn, a group assignment that required somebody to actually think, I was the kid that everybody wanted to be in their group or be their partner.  (That time that Reggie and I blew up the test tube of copper sulfate in Mr. Wilson’s chemistry lab doesn’t count because, although I am the one who dropped it, he’s the one who heated up my fingers with the blowtorch.  Honest, Mr. Wilson, it is true.) But if it was picking teams on the playground, I was the last loser to be called, even though I was pretty good at softball, pretty good at dodgeball, great at volleyball, and usually the leading scorer in soccer (of course we are talking an Iowa schoolyard in the 60’s where soccer was a sport from Mars.)  And as an adult, I enjoyed teaching the creative kids more than the rest because I actually understood them when they explained what they were doing and why, and I was even able to laugh at their knit-witty jokes (yes, I am including those jokes made of yarn with that pun).   Creative kids speak a language from another world.  If you are creative too, you already know that.  And if you aren’t creative… well, how foo-foo-metric for you.

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And another unfortunate side effect of the creative life is that you make stuff.  You don’t have to be seriously infected by bites from the cartoon bug or the art bug to be like that.  My daughter is making a suit of armor for herself from a flat sheet of aluminum that she is pounding out by hand, painting with spray paint and painter’s tape, and edging with felt.  After she’s done with it this Halloween, it will go on one of the piles of collections and models and dolls and stuffed toys and… Of course, sooner or later one of those piles is going to come to life and eat the house.  There is no place left to display stuff and store stuff and keep stuff that is far enough away from potential radioactive spider bites.  I have scars on my fingers from exactor knife accidents, oil paint, and acrylic paint and enamel permanently under my fingernails.  Shelves full of dolls rescued and restored from Goodwill toy bins, dolls collected from sale bins at Walmart, Toys-R-Us, and Kaybee, and action figures saved even from childhood in the 60’s are taking over the house and in an uproar, demanding to be played with rather than ignored.  (Didn’t know dolls can actually talk?  Haven’t you learned anything from John Lasseter?)

Anyway, it is tough to go through life being excessively creative.  I have art projects growing out of my ears.  And book publishers are calling me because my award-winning book is not generating sales in spite of two awards, 5-star reviews, and generally good quality, but the only solutions they have cost ME money I don’t have.  Oh, well, at least it isn’t boring to be me.

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Dealing With Downers

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“If it weren’t fer bad luck, I’d have no luck at all… Gloom!  Despair! And Agony on Me!”  I often think of that old Hee-Haw! song when bad luck continues to pile up on me in waves… err… waves of bad luck crest over me in piles… or some other gol’ danged mixed

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Some of my tip money, artfully backlit so you might not notice they are all ones.

metaphor.

After the tax man took all my spare change and dollars I didn’t have to spare, we woke up Monday morning to the Princess still down with flu and me with no more doctor-bill money.  Fortunately there are a few things I can still do about it.  I mean besides eat chocolate and play with dolls.

I have been able to earn extra money by driving for Uber.  I have been mostly delivering meals for restaurants who use Uber Eats, but I have also delivered folks to the airport, taken non-car-owners to work, and occasionally delivered drinkers to liquor stores. (You wouldn’t believe some of the rationalizations and excuses and made-up stories I have heard from people who regret being sober.)  This last week I made $102 on 11 fares plus the cash you can see in my hand.  It may not seem like a lot to you, but for someone who feels sick 95% of the time, it is miraculously helpful to have a job that won’t fire you if you are repeatedly too sick to work.  And I don’t drive if there’s any hint of not being well enough.  I can’t afford an accident caused for any reason.  And you get to talk to people.  Most of them just want to quietly ride and look at their phones.  But some of them ask me questions and strike up story-telling liars’ duels.   (Yes, I know I don’t have to lie to come up with a funny story about being a teacher, but lying, especially exaggerating, is a required part of a teacher’s job.  And that goes for any other kind of story-teller too, so they lie to me more than I lie to them.)  Three straight weeks I have made $100 or more a week.  (Not a lie OR an exaggeration). And that helps.

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I had some necessary yard work to do where the pool used to be.  I had thistles growing that needed to be cut down.  So I pitched in and got that done… in the nude.  Be glad I didn’t take any pictures of me doing the actual work.  Thistle cutting naked?  I am not a nudist in order to offend people.  It was just a way of working off stress without working up a sweat.  It was a cool morning.  And the yard in question is in the middle of the city, but fenced in on all sides.  And no one can see in without climbing the outside of the fence or locating an un-patched hole.  That would be their bad, not mine.

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And of course, I have been working on my humor writing.  What other excuse is there for the last paragraph?  And I just published a humor novel, Superchicken, and started working on publishing another, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.

There are many more ways to heal the mind of dark depression than you might imagine.  Of course, I did also buy chocolate covered peanuts again, and played with dolls again this morning.  Old nudist fools with their Cirque du Soleil clown noses rarely learn new tricks.

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Dealing With Falling Apart

2017 was not a good year for me financially. And nuclear winter could also be referred to as, “an unfortunate change in the weather”. I was sued by Bank of America because I had the audacity to try to reduce my debt with the aid of a debt reduction company. The lawyer originally assured me that I would probably get a reduced settlement bill. Instead, I lost the case and had to declare bankruptcy. The city was objecting to the swimming pool needing repair and forced us to have it removed at our own expense at the same time the BoA lawyers were eating my whole pie. And then, when so many were getting at least some tax relief from Trump’s tax cut for rich folk, I had to pay over a thousand dollars because of retroactive accounting errors.
I also got a week’s vacation in the hospital that cost lots of money because it was a an emergency room visit under heart attack conditions, but determined that I wasn’t actually having a heart attack without the added benefit of telling me what went wrong that put me in the hospital in the first place. I am now suffering numerous warning signs of heart attack or stroke without the confidence that I can go to the doctor without another hospital vacation I can’t pay for.
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I deal with it by biting the bullets, paying the bills, and buying myself bargain toys. The Astronaut Barbie play set came from the Walmart post-Christmas Clearance Sale shelves. It cost me less than half of its original price.


The Captain Cassian Andor action figure with barely pose-able inaction joints cost me less than $4 at Ross Dress For Less while I was waiting for my wife to do her shopaholic thing. And Goodwill Barbie got repaired and dressed, even though I had to borrow G.I. Joe pants to keep her from being a bottomless bare semi-nudist. Toys don’t make the headaches go away, but I am a little bit less grumpy and foul-tempered when I play with them. Plastic toys tend to treat you a whole lot better than bankers or Trump or city pool inspectors do.

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Return of the Star Wars Figures

On a previous Saturday I admitted to the crime of using 12-inch action figures to play the Star Wars role-playing game.  The Dungeons and Dragons RPG world was horrified.  You are supposed to use scale-appropriate metal miniatures.  How can you simulate combat without small figures on a grid?  I have to confess.  It was via x’s and dots on graph paper.  But we didn’t use the action figures to represent ranges and lines of site in combat.  And one of my players was my niece, an actual girl.  So, I guess, to be honest, we were actually playing with dolls.

But it helps to have a lot of dolls.

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Emperor Palpatine, Snow Trooper, Obi-Wan, Jar Jar, Quigon, Droid Soldier, and home-made Mace Windu

We started play after the first two movies in the Prequel Trilogy.

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Wicket, Imperial Walker, Astroboy (What’s he doing there?) Darth Vader, Little Anakin, and Boba Fett.

We got creative with stories.

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Jango Fett, General Grievous, and Admiral Akbar

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Anakin Skywalker

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Robot from Lost in Space, R2D2, Slave Girl Leia, and a Green Orion Slave Girl Dancer from Star Trek

So there is evidence available to my offspring to help them have me committed to an institution.  The truth is, these are not even all of my Star Wars Dolls.  So this morning’s confession session is now at an end, though all of the horrible truth is not yet revealed.

 

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Representing Star Wars RPG People

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Traditionally, D&D-type role playing games are played with miniature figures to represent characters and npc’s on the battlefield.  But when the kids were small and we started playing Star Wars RPG I didn’t have the proper figures.  So. to visualize characters, we used what I did have plenty of, dolls… err, action figures.

I told you who the player characters were a couple of Saturdays ago, but let me remind you.

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Princess Moreno, represented by the Barbie dressed in Emperor Palpatine’s robe was the leader of the adventuring group, and the player character of my niece, who was available back then because they lived in the Dallas area too.

Juba Jubajai, Jedi Guardian, was the muscle-brained power of the group.  He was my oldest son’s player character.

 

 

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The sidekicks and NPC’s that rounded out the group were Hrowwuhrr, the Princess’s loyal Wookie companion, and Keebo Kloohorn, the Rodian minstrel, quick of wit and poor at shooting.

 

 

 

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Of course, there were numerous other people you run into in an adventure, like Jedi-trainer Master Link Conn (played by an Abraham Lincoln Presidential action figure) and Barrabas the space pirate.  I customized some.  Luke Skywalker and Han Solo played a lot of them.  And others were only present in our imaginations.  For a brief little while, it was a quaint and happy gaming experience to play Star Wars with dolls and dice.

 

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