Embracing My Inner Weirdness

Published April 27, 2013 by Malia

I had an interesting moment this week.  I was standing at work, looking at a cup with an amputated toe in it.

That’s right.

A toe.

From a human.

Now, being a vet tech, I’ve been present for plenty of surgeries.  Working in a medical lab I see blood, and other things (I’ll call them sunshine, butterflies, and daises, to try to keep you all from completely losing your lunch).  However, this was the first time I had ever seen an actual body part that was separate from the body.

Standing there, looking at the toe, I found myself feeling overwhelmed with love for my job.  Seriously.  By far, that toe sighting was the coolest things that happened this week at work.

Now, “normal” people would not find this to be cool.  They wouldn’t think that it was a highlight of their week.  In fact, they would look at me and think, “What a freaky weirdo.”  And, you know what?  They’re probably right.

I’ve reached this point, though, where I’ve pretty much stopped caring what people think about me.  It’s too time consuming.  Besides, I like that I’m a weirdo.

As if loving my gross job, and being obsessed with geeky things doesn’t make me weird enough, I’m turning into the Crazy Puppet Lady.  

My mom started working with puppets before I was born, so I can honestly say I was born into this life.  When I was six, she and dad went to Sunday School Convention in Peoria, and they came home with my first puppet.  She was the ugliest little girl I had ever seen, and I loved her dearly.  I named her Jill, and she was the first puppet I used the first time I stepped behind the stage curtain to perform.  From there on, I spent my entire childhood and teen years puppeteering.  Sometimes we had big teams, and sometimes our teams were just made up of mom, dad, and I.

When I graduated from high school, I thought my days of working with puppets had come to an end.  It was one of those things that had been fun for the time that I had done it, but I just put it down as a part of my childhood.  For a while, it was the end of it.  I had a break for a few years.

Then, in early 2009 our church seriously approached our family about starting up a team.  So, we did, and even though the changes a bit every few months, it’s consistently a fantastic group.

I’ve noticed a change in me, since we started team again back in ’09.  When I left home back in 2003 and went to school, I really didn’t miss team or miss being a puppeteer.  When I moved away in 2011, I missed team and puppeteering almost more than anything else.  It really had become an intricate part of me, and not being able to do it every week was a misery.

When I moved back home last December, I had not job and no clue about what was next for me in life, but I had team and I had my puppets and somehow I knew it was going to be okay.  In fact, the first weekend I was home, my parents helped me make the videos I posted at Christmas:

Now, the girl in the video is Penny, and she’s my girl.  She came into my life back in 2009, and I couldn’t quite figure out what to do with her, and what was worse was that I had no clue how to give her a voice.  It may sound silly, but there’s a lot more to giving a voice.   You have to figure out the personality and create this whole other person.  So, it was exciting  when Penny started finding her voice.  (Side note: Yes, I realize that Penny is a puppet, and this is not a delusional thing.  However, she’s become a part of me.  Hence, I refer to her as a separate individual.  It’s hard to explain without sounding slightly insane, which I’m pretty sure I’m not.)  Last December was the first time that voice really started to make an appearance.  Last weekend, though, that voice got put to the test.

Last weekend was Creative Ministry Festival.  We go every year and take our team members.  Since Creative Ministry Festival is all about Creative Ministry (Puppetry, Clowning, Illusion, Dowel Rod, etc…  for more info check out http://www.creativemin.com), I took Penny with me.  Last year was the first year I took her, and I had this adorable 1950’s poodle skirt outfit on her.  Well, a week before this year’s  festival, I realized that I couldn’t take her wearing the same outfit this year.  That’s when my Pinterest addiction kicked in (you may remember me referring to this addiction a few weeks ago in reference to a cake tragedy).  I remembered seeing a tutorial on Pinterest about taking a superhero emblem t-shirt and making a matching tutu for it.  The instructions for the tutu didn’t seem to difficult, so mom and I went on a last minute hunt for t-shirts and correctly colored tulle.  We found a Superman t-shirt and a Batman t-shirt.  Then, we found sparkly tulle in red, yellow, and black, and regular tulle in blue.

Thanks to my dad, I didn’t have to spend days cutting out 3 inch strips of tulle.  He has this really cool circular knife and quilting mat that I used to cut the tulle.  What should have taken me days took approximately an hour.

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As you can see, I had a lovely pile of red and blue, and black and yellow.  I then had to turn these piles into tutu skirts.  Since I’m not the world’s greatest at finishing craft projects, this was it’s own challenge.  However, by the day of the festival, I had created two unique tutus:

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Friday night, I took Penny in her Superman outfit:

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And on Saturday, it was time for Batman:

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The cool thing was, because she had these unique outfits, people were more inclined to come talk to me (which is good because I’m not exactly good at socializing with strangers).  Not only did people talk to me, but Penny was able to talk to them.  She had finally found her voice, and started getting pretty comfortable with it.

Then came Sunday.

Since this Sunday (April 28th) is our team’s spring performance, I asked the pastors if Penny could do the announcement.  I was given permission, and immediately freaked out.  It was one thing to talk to strangers, it was something completely different to interact with people I know.  What would they think?  Would I just make an idiot out of myself?

Well, when church started, Penny and I went into the sanctuary (and yes, she was still in her Batman outfit).  Even though I pretended I couldn’t tell, I could sense all the people staring.  It was the first time  that any of our puppet had been seen outside of the stage.  Now, the number one rule about manipulating a puppet in public is that the puppet has to stay alive.  This meant that I couldn’t put my arm down to my side, and Penny had to keep reacting like an actual person would.  We got through the first song without problem, and then came the meet and greet time (basically 3 minutes where people can wander around and say a quick hello to each other).  This is when something completely unexpected took place.

Penny and I were standing with mom, and I saw this little girl and her mom come walking over.  The little girl wanted to meet Penny, and so Penny and she talked.  Then, after she left, her dad brought her older sister over (these girls were about 5 and 7), and Penny talked with her.  Then, after she left, two little boys drug their Grandmas over.  One little boy reached out and started shaking Penny’s hand (thankfully, I had the quick reaction to grab the arm rod so Penny could actually shake hands with him).  What shocked me was watching these kids interact with Penny.

I can’t talk to kids.  I grew up and only child, and I had to exist in an adult’s world from birth.  Yes, I had a childhood, but I don’t think my brain was ever truly a kid.  Sure I liked to play and hang with friends, but I didn’t think like a kid.  This has made interacting with children a huge challenge for me.  I don’t want to talk down to them, but I never know what to say.  However, with Penny, I could talk to kids, and they talked to her.  It was my Grinch moment.  It was the moment my heart grew two sizes.  Each kid made me cry (which is next to impossible.  I almost never cry, unless I’m watching some manipulative movie or commercial).  It was the moment that I knew that I really have become the crazy puppet lady, and I’m completely okay with it.

Oh yeah, the announcement went well.  I think it’s the only time the statement, “You can’t say no to someone in a Batman t-shirt and tutu.” has ever been uttered in a church.

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