Thursday, April 25, 2013

Studies in Masochism of the Ren-Fest Variety

This is how I predict that I'll look every weekend of the show this year. Haphazard, sweltering hot in a literal way....looking vaguely like I'm hauling around an awkwardly shaped pummelo strapped to my front side, as it nestles in amongst my love handles, socializing, fraternizing, and basically making me appear as though I had made love to several Dominos Pasta Bread Bowls, as opposed to my husband. 
         "Oh, boy. You can do this, Michelle. You're a fighter! You will be a ravishing success! Think of the fame! The adoring fans!! It can all be  yours!! "  Oh, flip! Who am I kidding? I can't talk myself into victory.... I've been REALLY down for the last few days, thinking about the formidable month of May. You would think that after I had done this for 7 years that I would be a polished prolific professional. I'm not.    I hesitate to comment on anything, for fear of becoming my own self-fulfilling prophesy, yet I do feel some sort of narcissistic, selfish need to articulate my woes here on a public page, in a vague hope of defeating them.
HOly FACE! I look so young! I'm just a kid! I can't believe I had a company....AND  kids! This  is me, wrangling babies at the end of a long hot day in 2006. The little red-head  is my niece, Maggie, and the one next to me is Brynn. 
          I have never ending amount of admiration and outright jealousy for the people who do ren-fests as a way of life, and keep such smiles on their faces.  Whether they're vendors, performers, royalty, organizers, volunteers or any of the hundreds of pieces to the puzzle, I know so many tenacious people that make me look like a whining hormonal teenager that doesn't want to clean her room in order to go to a friend's house. I QUITE literally cannot fathom how these super powered human beings keep up the love, devotion, and dedication to these festivals. What do they have that I don't have??
         Perhaps it's just that I'm not used to working Sundays. I strongly believe in sabbath day observance (Isn't it sad that God had to designate a day TO MAKE us slow down, in our fast-paced world?) no matter what your believe system is! Without a day to refocus, reset, meditate, and slow down, I think it's easy to turn into the worst version of yourself. I HATE that we live in a world where there is this constant need to be entertained, absorbing information, but there is not a time set carefully aside to process this information. I feel a deep weight in my heart when I'm standing in line for a ride at Disneyland, and there is whole entire families, slump shouldered, blank eyed, rapidly dancing thumbs over their phones, and not talking to each other. People don't know how to be bored anymore. It's actually an art....but perhaps "bored" is the wrong word. Also, it's entirely possible that I'm being judgemental and harsh on these innocent people. Perhaps I caught them at the ONE time that week when they were checking their facebook, and the rest of the time, they've been having genuine face-to-face interactions with the people they love, having engaging, revealing communication. But, back to the "time set aside/sabbath" thing.   I greatly cherish the time that I'm able to take to process...cogitate...delve right into WHY that post on facebook pissed me off so much and what it reveals about me, as far as weaknesses and pre-programmed responses. REALLY meditate on what is going on with my character when I allow anonymous passive aggression from the internet to influence the way I think and behave.
The words under this picture that got cut off when I photographed my scrapbook say, "Okay, look at my face in the picture over there! Brynn looks exactly like me. You kind folks can just look at the picture of me above, and the resemblance is striking.  Note Brynn's little cotton peasant dress. It was always covered in dirt and festival food at the end of the day. 
          So, bringing it back around the Renaissance Festivals, (sorry about the tirade there) I want SO badly to have a permanent better attitude, so that I can flourish and serve my customers with the compassion, cheer, and love which they deserve. I did have a vague breakthrough last year, after the Month of May was over. I realized that doing these shows could  not be about the money, because it would make me greedy, dissatisfied, and a slave to a very harsh, unyielding master. I decided that if the shows were solely for the purpose of meeting staggeringly fascinating people and helping them to love their bodies, then the positive effects would spread on over to me, and the worry about making enough money would be replaced with a sweet well of calm and contentment.  It sounds easy. It's actually gut-wrenching. I ignorantly believed that this mental breakthrough would carry me on through the rest of my days, where I would work hard, sacrifice, and take joy in the ease and comfort of showing love instead of greed, and service instead of selfishness. Seriously, Michelle? One revelation could change you THAT much? How charmingly idiotic of me.
           Here's the deal. When you do the right thing, you don't immediately get drenched in the glorious, invigorating rewards. I felt that if I changed my attitude, trying to love everyone I met, instead of viewing them as possible corset purchasers, that the money would inevitably come flowing into my company and I wouldn't be burdened with worry and stress. Wrong.   It IS better to endeavor to genuinely care, listen to, and serve other people. However, when the evil forces in the world know you're trying to be something greater than yourself, they perk right up. "Oh, you want to make a woman rediscover her beauty, Michelle?  How do you feel about doing it while you're VOMITING? *evil, EVIL laugh* How would you like to help a woman get over her insecurities while  your tent is being literally blown down around you?  How about a 400 pound clothing rack smashing into your cheekbone and then into your shoulder and breast? How do you like helping people NOW????"  These are, sadly, all very true stories of what has happened to me just recently. I'm being tested.  I know it. I accept it.  I hate it.
This is how it feels. Every. Dang. Time.   OH, and a quick, fun, side note here. See the lovely lass with her head sunken to the table? That's my beloved sister-in-law, Jill (otherwise known as the woman who sews all of the custom orders from the website, with just as much or more skill as me!)  and both Jill AND I were in our first trimesters of pregnancy at this show. We literally just took turns going behind the booth and throwing up all day long. One time we sent our husbands out to get subway sandwiches, because that's all that sounded good.....they must have gotten lost and took several hours to return. By that time we were so sick and hungry that we grabbed the sandwiches and inhaled them. Unfortunately, we both exhaled them a few minutes later, this time, side by side, in a sweet sisterly union, behind the booth. 
            Now, friends, I KNOW that the moral of the story is that you  have to do the right thing, ESPECIALLY when everything is going wrong and you're getting a serious lack of rewards. It's sort of like the people that are nice to a-holes, and not just kind to those that are kind to them. How impressive are you if you only get along with your friends? Not so much.  How awesome are you when you forgive, overcome, and conquer your feelings for someone you loathe, and then go on to become friends? Totally awesome!  Yet, once again, as with all things...easier said than done!  It's so simple to look at others and think, "Well, heck, if they would JUST do this, then (fill in blank here)."  but how often do I really look at myself and "just" do what I need to do?  I know. I JUST need to stop complaining in my brain about how hard this 5 weekend long festival is. I JUST need to be grateful that I even have a job, in a very complicated country where so many people desperately yearn for work. I JUST need to ........yeah, I know.
I think I've actually showed you guys these pictures before, but I LOVE seeing our tiny little setup in Wichita, Kansas.  Friends, I KNOW you want me to come back to that festival, but there's only so many times that you can stand having your tent blown down in 70 mph winds. Call me a weenie. It's true. You are made of tougher stuff than me!
        Even after all of this, I'm grasping at any overlying themes that will help me spell out my feelings of trepidation as the time for this festival to start approaches. I don't want to resort of self-flagellation and loathing where I tell myself vicious things like, "You are weak. Weaker than everyone else. Everyone else here is doing FINE with the heat and the hours. Why are you so tired? What a loser. Pathetic!" Yet I'm  not very good at pumping myself up with motivational affirmations. They always sound so sarcastic in my head, as if David Spade were narrating them.
Several things to take careful note of here. I NEVER knew how to accessorize when I started this company. See how I'm not wearing any jewelry, hats, cool shoes....ANYTHING?  This is the part where I strongly admonish you to accessories. My costume pieces make fantastic BASE pieces, but I want to see what  YOU do with them, when you add your personality in.  Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, ACCESSORIZE!!!  hECK, The most interesting part of my costume is the little owl pouch on my strange black lace-up belt. My sister, Emma has a matching one. We had one of our only fights EVER over these pouches. See, my genius sister is the one who designed it and came up with it. I liked it so much that I brazenly made me own and showed it to her one day when she got home from school, declaring that I was going to make and sell them. She was super annoyed at me for stealing the idea, butchering it, and bastardizing it. 
         In the end, I suppose I just need to commit to some manner of game plan, along with a few cognitive therapy type sayings that I'll have to glue to the wall in my booth.

Possible Ideas for Helping Me Not Go Crazy
*Installing more fans in my booth. I know they're not period-correct. However, if someone comes in and tells me to take them down, I strongly fear I might have some kind of crazy, pregnancy breakdown.  I will just have to try to hide them.
*Whole cooler full of ice. I seem to do fine if I shove constant piles of ice down into my breasts. I always end up soggy and gross, but maybe it will be better than heat stroke.
*Telling myself that it's TOTALLY okay to eat strips of elk wrapped in bacon (holy CRAP, that food from the Pauper's Eatery is good. Trust me. Go down to the Castleton Harbor area, in the lower food court. Walk along the decks by the swamp. Ask for Debbie. Tell her Michelle sent you.)
*Bags of chocolate, although if those damn little Dove wrappers patronize me and tell me to "take a bubble bath" I'm going to smash something.
*Remembering how much love and support I have from my customers, as much as I don't deserve it and don't merit it. If they can love a dramatically flawed, ill-tempered, tyrant, then certainly I can love them right back.

         Certainly, if any of you have brilliant things that you've figured out, let me know. I'm wide open to suggestions, because I clearly don't have many solutions that I've figured for myself.   And lastly, I want to make it clear that I AM grateful for this job and all of the people who support our company.  If this blog smacks of actual ingratitude for my customers, I will need to immediately delete the whole dang thing.  This is an honest-to-goodness plea for help. I'm not a super-woman, by any stretch of the imagination, and even though I feel brazen for asking for advice and help when I already receive so much, I do honestly have to make changes in order to not crack under the pressure.  Thanks again to all of the women and men who make this company what it is today. It's not about me, or even the corsets. It's about you.


  1. Get yourself a bodice chiller. You can do something period like blown glass, or something cheap and practical like a cigar tube or medicine bottle. Fill with ice and it helps with the soggy since you can dump out the water and refill. Also, we usually hid our booth fans by putting fabric over the boxes or hiding them under tables and that worked

  2. Hire a couple cute boys , girls or both to stand inside your tent with big feather fans and fan you all day long and fetch you water and mist you with water. I also highly recommend the occasional ice cube in the corset.

    I've never been pregnant at Ren Faire but I have been awfully hot!!!


  3. You are awesome as ever!! After meeting you in Denver (I was the gal who drove until 2 am from Kansas City just to come to your booth for one day), I wanted to buy from you in person again and be able to tel you how awesome you are, that I have cajoled an old friend to go to Oklahoma with me since the my boyfriend won't! You are just a person, so don't fret the naysayers. Keep doing what you love while you love doing it!

    1. OH, hey! I'm contacting the festival there to beg them to let me come and do a guest spot weekend, because RIGHT ON their website, they state that they do guest vendors! I"m doing it just for you!!!!!!!

  4. Find a metal chest, like an army foot locker (try army-navy surplus stores) and fill it with those large ice blocks..then sit on it!
    Use a pewter (the safe kind) tankard for iced drinks. They stay REALLY cold, and are great for holding to your skin to cool off.
    Portable air conditioners can work really well in a closed in tent-and are easier to camouflage than fans. Quiet, too. Check out places like BEST BUY.
    Rubbing alcohol on the soles of your feet drastically lowers body temperature.

  5. Michelle! I hope we get a chance to see you at okcastle this year - I have huge amounts of respect for the hard work you do to make us pretty things, and hope the awful weird ok weather doesn't hurt too bad. Its been pretty cool so far - 50's and 60's so here's hoping it will stay cool through may too ;) - Nicole, Paul & Denine

  6. I completely agree with the bodice chiller part as well. Being from Vegas, I know what it is like to be in the heat. I get heat stroke a lot easier due to my heart condition and the bodice chillers will definitely help.

    I will also make sure to keep an eye out for anything else I think might help (or hell if any of my girlfriends can make you anything)

    -Maegan Duboise

  7. I really want to tell you to just say screw it for one season, stay home, and have your helpers work the booth!! BUT, YOU are a major draw for people like me who drive hours and hours to see you. It was great to meet you and get fitted by YOU. You are just as awesome in person as on this silly internet. You are human and your friends and fan-friends will totally understand if you're standing in a bucket of ice while vomiting into another long as you can point out matching outfits in-between heaves. :-)

    Now, certainly, you could create a special garment for yourself out of PUL that would hold ice against your body without getting you wet. Sort of like those cooling vests for people without sweat glands, but sexier. Love you Michelle!!!! You're the best!! (I'm giving one of your catalogs to my Dr. tomorrow. His wife is getting into corsets/costumes for Scarborough. Maybe they'll drive up to Muskogee to see you!!)

  8. I think ye should have a throne that for at least ten minutes in every hour, you get to sit, and direct from. (Wear a Queen-of-Hearts or Elizabeth I inspired outfit and you will have a built-in reason for the ordering about. Then, you can get the grumpies out in a playful way. Stress-release is super important!)

    Also: Keep your hair up. Drink juice not just water, and avoid soda. If you are a caffeine drinker, have that be the prize for the last hour of the day. Don't start out with it. Have three pairs of shoes hiding in your booth and switch whenever your feet start to hurt. Think about getting a fan and putting it discreetly on the floor, angled up so that you can cool yourself easily. Wherever possible, avoid having to bend or reach down. Your back will be hurting enough as it is. (Put the kidlets to work! They are short for a reason. :) )

    If those grumpy voices start to get you down, or the bad moments start piling up, have some sort of ridiculous game (like bingo) that forces you to listen for the positive things - both from others and from yourself. Finally, sing sea shanties. It may very well be physically impossible to be depressed by the third verse of "Blow the Man Down." Very best of luck in OK. May you and your family travel safely.

  9. It sounds silly, but pack extra shoes/underthings in plastic freezer bags inside a cooler (filled with ice packs), then take the time you need to change out of your sweaty layers into pre-cooled CLEAN new layers every couple hours. Just as having clean dry layers helps to keep you warm in bitter cold temps, clean and dry layers help you stay cool in the heat! Make sure they're dry when you put 'em on though - nobody wants soggy undies :P
    I also second the sea shanties suggestion above, and having a positive alternative to negative self-talk can be really helpful. Whenever I'm climbing a crazy hill, or about to attempt a challenging obstacle in a Spartan race, I replace all negative words with "badass." That way phrases like "I feel so fat/out of shape/exhausted," turn into "I feel so BADASS!" (or, "This hill is SO STEEP." to "This hill is BADASS!") Because, honestly, the latter is truer than the former statement!

  10. Don't delete it. It's wonderful when we get to see that you are human and have flaws and worries and struggles just like us. You are Wonderwoman! I'm amazed by all that you do and inspires me to do all I can do. :)

  11. Have a spray bottle that's able to spray a fine mist full of water (cold water is even better and a few drops of lavender and peppermint essential oils in the water are better still) and mist all exposed skin with it frequently and then stand in front of the fan.

    Get something like this and turn most of your water into an electrolyte drink: you'll absorb more of what you drink and have to pee a little less.

  12. I will attempt to help you with the chocolate. What kind of chocolate chip cookie do you like? Mint, peanut butter, plain, dark? E-mail me,

  13. Have a rag/bandana/scrap fabric that you can dunk in ice water when needed and drape around your neck, or use to wipe sweat off your face/arms/chest/where ever. Bodice chillers are a fantastic idea! They work great! Be sure to take a break every now and then and take a walk AWAY from the booth. I know that is VERY hard for you to do, but the fresh air, sunshine, stresslessness, will be good for you.

    You're right. We here in Wichita miss you at our faire TONS and really wish you would come to at least one of the two of them!!!

    Stay healthy, keep cool, and take care of you!

  14. I am seconding the Bodice Chiller as well! If not one of those maybe you can use a small ziplock bag with ice in it and stick 'em under the "sistahs."

    I can barely take being just fat and hot at a Renaissance Festival (I am hot natured already so that doesn't help). I can't imagine how it must feel to be pregnant and hot! Hoping you can keep cool!!

  15. I beat myself up mercilessly too, and that drains my own batteries... I am trying to stop. You ARE amazing and talented and wonderful, but you need to believe it yourself. Negative thoughts sap energy fast. Good luck!!! <3

  16. I usually carry a small, hand held fan with me when I go to Ren faires (or any outdoor event, really). You can find some really pretty ones for very cheap, and they become a fun accessory to add to your outfit/persona. Between box fans and a hand held one, you can get a constant flow of air wherever you go.

  17. Michelle,
    I know many on cast are excited to see you again this year at OKRF! My self included! Though ice sounds fantastic when you are sweltering you can shock your system if you put ice on yourself too quickly which will not be good for you or the babe. Bodice Chillers are a must have but put it in earlier in the day.

    Also try the old fashion ice and fan trick. It's a fantastic and easy way to keep cool. It works just as well if you put the ice in a glass jar.

    Best of luck to you and your company this year! May you sell out!

  18. Keep a cloth you can get cold with your ice and put it on the back of your neck. Less messy than ice in your bodice and will help cool you down quickly!

  19. I hope you're eating more than bacon wrapped jerky (...mmmmmmm...) for lunch, especially since you're pregnant this time!! Keep yourself cool, hydrated and munch mercilessly on Frosted Mini Wheats (fiber, folic acid, and non-perishable - what's not to like?) when you can't get away for a proper bite.

  20. Michelle,
    So excited to hear your wonderful news! May will be great! Thank you for mentioning me and the Pauper Eatery, you're the best advertisement we could ask for! See you this week-end~~~

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  22. My good seamstress,

    I live in Denmark. I love the pieces I bought from you. I wish I could go to a fayre and see your stall for real. Several friends of mine have stampeded to your page to buy one of their own just after seeing me in mine.
    It may not make the searing heat in the actual situation any less - but you have a fan base of a whole group of women halfway around the world.

    At viking fayres, what I do when I get hot is take off my shoes and go barefoot. Pure and simple, but it makes a big difference. If your pregnancy makes them swell up a bit, I imagine it will do even more so. Maybe keep a small bowl of water around the back to dip them in once in a while?
    Also, I make a point of wearing my long hair up so the air can get under and around the neck and back.
    You may already do all of these, but that is what I could think of off the top of my head.
    As far as I'm concerned, doing fayres in continental climate summer while pregnant is damn heroic.

    Cool and soothing regards,


  23. If you don't want to end up wet from all the ice maybe you can find a few of those small squishy jell freezer pack made for lunch boxes and just rotate them in and out of the cooler. You could probably even shove one down on your lower back. Mmmmm now that would be nice and cool!

  24. Michelle, if you can go by wickedly charmings booth (across from the castleton bank) at okrf marla might have one of my copper bodice chillers left. If not get my #from her. You and i spoke in norman but we didnt see you at our booth. We also expect to have chrome as well as our popular copper chillers at kcrf this year (seymours of london booth #194). Best wishes and safe travels.

    Melvin Lamb
    Seymours of London

  25. That's a real show stopper of an outfit.