An Unexpected Laugh

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Everyone has days that are up, and days that are down. For those of us who struggle with mental health issues, the down days can be particularly difficult to manage. Recently, I experienced a few consecutive down days that were challenging me in ways that led me to question why I even keep a doll collection at all.

On the third of those consecutive down days I got to the point of telling people close to me that I’d had enough, and I would soon sell off all my dolls. Even when I said it, I knew this was really merely my current down mood talking. My down moods often vilify my doll collection as the source of my emotional distress. That isn’t actually the case though, and once I am out of the down mood, I always eventually come around and find that I am able to acknowledge that the doll collection itself really is not the source of my mood dyregulation.

The day I was telling people that I was going to sell all my dolls I was engaged in moving a lot of them around and yes, preparing to sell some. I had too many dolls here to effectively tell stories with all of them, so I was busy that week in downsizing my collection. I am at a place in my life now when I feel I have moved from having the act of acquiring new dolls as the focus of my having a collection to primarily allowing them to act as muses for my storytelling. Having too many dolls makes it difficult to decide who to feature in stories.

So, I was moving dolls around, and downsizing dolls. The days I was working on this project each day became more stressful than the last, and I became triggered in my mental illness traits. Just after getting to the point when I was telling loved ones that I was going to sell them all I noticed something in the room that made ma laugh out loud.

The photo above is what I captured to share that stopped me in my tracks, and effectively diffused my dysregulated mood. I had been moving dolls around in the room a lot that day, and in the process the little boy doll seated behind the little girl doll pictured above happened to land in the position you see, where it looks like he’s either trying to take her hat, trying to knock the hat off her head, or perhaps he may even be trying to save the hat from falling off her head. I noticed the possibilities in that chance hand positioning from my shifting things around in the room, and I stopped being frustrated and angry, and I just allowed myself to laugh.

That laughter helped me reset my down mood. I gave myself time to take in that scene, and all the possibilities it was giving me for creating a story. Then I thanked the dolls for that gift. Yes, out loud. I expressed gratitude to my doll collection for being the inspiration that they are to me, for being the inspiration they  have always  been. That chance hand positioning which enabled me to change my mood from frustrated and angry to laughing, and even expressing gratitude. That photo above is a perfect physical representation of why I maintain my doll collection. My dolls inspire me, and they remind me of why I’m both collecting them, and why I keep persisting in my efforts to be as healthy and happy as I can possibly be, even though I am continually battling  mental health issues.

Days that are down can be very difficult. They can be difficult, but I find that there are little things that can happen during those down days that help me to always be able to move on to the next day, which nine times out of ten, is not as much of down day as the previous day was. An unexpected laugh saved that day for me, and I feel happy and proud to report that it did. I feel grateful to myself for all the hard work I keep doing to promote my mental health wellness. And yes, I feel grateful to my doll collection for being here to support and inspire me along the way. Those little things that get me through the difficult down days I have, it turns out, really those aren’t merely little things at all.

Not with that attitude, you won’t!

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In the years since I was diagnosed with the first mental illness condition I discovered I am living with as a challenge to enjoying this life I have been given, I have been doing my best to maintain a steady course as a writer. My steering hasn’t always been steady, constant, or successful, but I have always felt driven to write. Obviously I’ve also felt a very clear desire to keep company with dolls, hence the creation of this blogging website. Since I was very young I have found my dolls to be muses of sorts for me in my nearly lifelong writing endeavors. However, I didn’t fully realize that my doll collection was a source of significant inspiration until relatively recently.

One thing that has unfortunately been nearly constant in my writing journey has been a pernicious habit of people I encounter, people who don’t write, to quickly offer discouragement when I expressed my desire and drive to make a life for myself through my writing. Like many other people who live with mental illnesses, I was for much of my life very easily influenced by the ideas and opinions of others. I eventually learned that this tendency of mine to care too much about what other people thought was actually symptomatic, and as such it also contained the potential to be altered.

Initially, when someone would urge me to reconsider my vocational choice because they felt the writing life must be too challenging, particularly with someone facing challenges like mine, and probably not nearly profitable enough to be worth the effort anyway, I admit I often felt swayed to believe the discouraging things those nay-sayers were nay-saying.

Fortunately, my desire and drive to write have always been far stronger than my wish to believe things said to me by people who actively rained on my writing parade. I feel proud to state that no matter what challenges I face in my life, I always come back to my writing. One tactic I learned in the past few years that has become essential in aiding me in maintaining belief in myself, instead of in the disheartening words of nay-sayers, came to me by way of an old friend of mine.

This friend of mine used to very patiently, and regularly, endure what had to have been the uncomfortable experience, of listening to me beating myself up verbally in far too many of the conversations we shared. When I would say something self-defeating about how I couldn’t do this or that, demonstrating for my friend just how effectively the doubts of others were seeping into my view of myself, my friend would always firmly tell me this simple rebuttal: Not with that attitude you won’t!

When my friend first challenged my negative views of myself with that statement I laughed, and I didn’t really listen to the words, much less take them to heart. But, as my friend continued to state that same rebuttal, every time I put myself down in conversation, those wise words eventually started sinking in.

Time passed and my friendship with that particularly helpful friend became less of a constant. We drifted apart, as friends often do, but those words remained with me. They haunted me with the persistency of a slow leak in the bottom of a boat. I kept trying to steer my writing craft, and even while I would falter and seem to all but give up, my friend’s words kept leaking into my consciousness, helping me steady my course.

These days, many years later, when I occasionally find myself slipping back into old patterns of being unkind and unsupportive of my own writing ambitions, I feel very grateful to my friend for giving me that suggestion with such regular and reliable predictability. “Not with that attitude, you won’t!”

Many of the upcoming photo stories I will be sharing here at Mini Mansion Memoirs contain within them the trials experienced by dolls working hard to overcome limitations they have placed upon themselves within their own imaginary lives. It is my hope that the dolls living here in the Much Ado About Nothing giant backyard dollhouse will all be able to better succeed in their imaginary endeavors, thanks to the hard work I have been doing on myself all these years which has now enabled me to to reach a place where most of the time, I both believe in myself, and in my ability to share writing that is worth reading.

Emory Corbin, the busy boy pictured organizing doll paperwork above, is my steadfast companion in creating these photo stories to share with you all. He is the doll who I have assigned with that most important job of reminding me, when I slip up and say something self-defeating: Not with that attitude, you won’t!

Thank you so much, my old friend. You know who you are. You made this blog post possible.

Skating the Doxies!

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There was once a doll here in my collection who I named for my own self. She was my mini-me. When she was here she had lots of grand adventures. Her name, like mine, is Iris-Petra. Just recently, Iris Petra has moved away to become my Doll Play Ambassador to Wyoming. (Scary Shirley, my Shirley Temple PlayPal doll is the only individual here now who has her own mini-me. She prefers it that way.) Though she is now off having adventures in the midwest, I am pleased to be able to share some of Iris-Petra’s past adventures with you all here.

When she lived here, Iris-Petra had two great loves. One was teddy bears, a love which we shared. Her other love was dogs. I personally am NOT a dog person, at all. Iris-Petra however loved dogs. She made a couple of trips to the Build-a-Bear  Workshop when she was here, which I will share one of in a future photo story. The other trip she made to the Build-a-Bear Workshop was to create herself a pair of dogs. Iris-Petra named her Doxies, pictured above, Oscar Meyer (the boy) and Honey Dijon (the girl.) When we went to the Build-a-Bear Workshop to acquire Iris-Petra’s dogs she declared that since Doxies have short little legs she thought they would need help getting around with her since her legs are so much longer than theirs. We remedied this problem by getting roller skates for the pair of dogs.

Once she brought her new pets home, Iris-Petra wanted to share them with her teddy bear friends. So, here you see Iris-Petra taking Oscar Meyer and Honey Dijon out for their very first skate with a pair of her teddy bear friends. They all had a lovely time together that day, and the Doxies weren’t at all tired out. In Iris-Petra’s new home in Wyoming she gets to play whenever she likes with a very real dog called Ginger, so I feel certain that she’s loving her new vocation as Doll Play Ambassador to Wyoming!

Off the shelves!

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In my chosen life role as a doll photo storyteller I am sometimes asked by curious people how I came up with my idea to create and share photo stories which are inspired and populated by my doll collection as the characters in my stories. It’s a fair question. I haven’t heard of too many other folks choosing to do this particular sort of storytelling as their life’s vocation. To answer those who are curious about this, I can tell you it all began, quite simply, with the photo you see on this page.

A couple of years ago, when I was just becoming newly acquainted with a brand new friend who happens to live next door to my house, she asked me about my doll collection. At the time the few of my dolls that I had out on display mostly sat on shelves. They needed dusting far more regularly than I actually did any dusting. Many of the other dolls in my collection were packed away in storage.

My doll collection wasn’t really getting much attention of any kind back then. This was largely due to the fact that at that time I had recently moved into my  home. So, to be fair to me, I choose to believe that my dolls, if they’d been people instead of dolls, they would have been quite understanding of my need to get settled and moved into my new home, instead of spending much time with them. Dolls, unlike some humans, are amazingly patient that way.

In a series of text messages, my new friend asked me a few questions about the dolls. She asked questions like,  “Where did they come from?” “How long had I maintained these same dolls in my collection?” To answer her queries I brought down the doll pictured above from a shelf. I sent my new friend the photo you see here, and with it, I shared that doll’s story. This bright eyed little doll wearing her smart Panama hat was one of my very first dolls. You can read more about her origin in my life here.

In that text message conversation, I shared the story that I just linked you to above with my new friend, and her comment about that particular doll went something like this:

I think that little doll has such a lively look about her! I bet she’s had adventures she could tell you about. Her face reminds me of the old Kewpie dolls. Wouldn’t it be something if you were to someday use your writing talent to tell her stories?

When she said made that suggestion I thoroughly agreed. I agreed with her when she said it, but I didn’t really think much more about the idea once I put that little doll back on her shelf. I can’t even tell you for sure if I actually dusted her before returning her to her regular spot on the shelf. Dusting is not one of my favorite ways to pass my time in this life.

I have been telling photo stories with dolls for many years. I usually tell stories about one of the other types of dolls in my collection, and ordinarily I share those photo stories exclusively in collector groups for that doll type. Just recently, I decided that since I love to write, and since I so delight in taking whimsical and creative photos of my Cabbage Patch Kid dolls, why not expand the enterprise? Why not take photos of other dolls and tell stories about them too? Why not indeed! No reason not to!

I have been taking photos and making up stories about my Cabbage Patch Kid dolls since I adopted my very first one back in 1983. In 1983 I was ten years old. While I have nearly always wanted to spend my life engaged in creative writing, this is the one type of creative writing which I have never grown tired of and quit doing. I firmly believe this is a very real  accomplishment for me because over the years I have gradually tried my hand at, and grown tired of all of the following:  Short story writing, playwriting, writing memoir, and also novella, and novel writing. While all those other types of creative writing were but passing phases for me, my interest and enthusiasm for creating doll photo stories has never waned in the slightest.

So, thanks to that idea planted in my head by my dear friend next door when I first shared that photo with her, I am now happily creating doll photo stories about all the dolls in my collection, instead of excluding all the others to only tell Cabbage Patch Kid doll stories. I’m feeling very pleased to have made this decision, and I’m also happy that since I have begun taking more photos to share in stories with you lovely readers here that my dolls have not needed dusting nearly as often as they did before. At long last, now the members of my doll collection are able to spend a good lot of time off the shelves!

Tall Tales to Tell!

17273563_1908875939399498_1588221827_oDespite what the name of their house may suggest, the dolls who live in the giant backyard dollhouse known as “Much Ado About Nothing” are always up to something!

This blog aims to chronicle the adventures of my unique family of highly imaginative dolls in an ongoing series of photo stories. The dolls and, I, their photo storyteller, sincerely hope that you enjoy reading their stories here – whether you are very young, or young at heart.

Thank you so much for visiting! Please do come visit our dollhouse again soon. We’ll be sure to keep a lookout for you!