Megan Carter, with a hand-crocheted flower in her hair, sat at her sewing machine.
She was nervous. She fiddled with round knobs, consulted the manual, then instructions on her laptop and took a breath. She flipped off a sandal and crept her foot slowly to the pedal.
"This part always scares me," she said. "The first pedal stroke."
She is not Megan now, though. She is Lucia. Lucia would not be scared.
She pressed down, sending a needle plunging through fabric.
• • •
Let me explain.
Megan Carter is 26. She has a husband, Joe, and a new baby, Liam. Megan stays home with the baby in Seminole Heights. She is a devoted Christian, polite, sweetly shy with hair in big, brown waves. When you walk in her house, she has cookies baking. When you talk, she widens her brown eyes and nods.
Megan is not naturally creative. Or fashionable. Or risky. She made her mother-in-law a mosaic vase for Christmas once, but it looked terrible. Later, she spotted the vase in the garage. She hates high heels and causing trouble. The most spontaneous thing she ever did was toilet-paper a house.
It wasn't lost on her. She felt dull. Common. Boring.
"That's sort of the sad point."
Was she doomed to be ordinary?
It was an interesting question. Can people change their essential nature just because they want to? Are creative people creative because they make an effort to be, or because they can't help it?
Maybe Megan could learn wild creativity like she learned math. She always got straight A's in math.
"I never got algebra, but one day, it just clicked," she said.
Her arsenal of skills would have to grow. As a child, she took voice and piano lessons, never art. She fell asleep listening to barbershop quartet songs. Her bright yellow room had exactly one poster — MacGyver. It fascinated her, the way he made things.
At school, she people-watched breathlessly. She tried to mimic them, clipping a blue extension into her hair, wearing a long dress unbuttoned as a coat.
She was too shy to join a sorority at the University of South Florida, but she took a mission trip to Egypt. She admired the women there, and brought back beautiful fabrics. She tattooed two tiny stars on her ankles, a reminder of a Bible verse that says to shine like a star.
When she got pregnant last year, something shifted. The insecurity faded, and Megan felt strong. She walked into the bathroom and clipped her bangs in a Bettie Page sausage curl. She went on Facebook.
That's right, world. I can do things.
Joe was skeptical that she could change. People are the way they are, he thought. But after Liam was born, Megan signed up for a free blog and started writing.
Blogging to me was a sort of mystery; something that other people did, articulate people, artsy people. I was content watching from afar, admiringly. I watched as they created and spoke, bringing beauty to the masses with the stroke of a key. It was inspiring and beautiful and surely beyond me.
She thought of the name her Spanish father had wanted to give her but never did. Lucia.
When she was little, she hated the name. Now, she longed for it. Lucia, she imagined, was a tall, beautiful Spaniard full of passion whom everyone wanted to be around. Lucia was well-spoken and spicy, with a brain bursting with ideas.
This is my journey. My transformation from Megan the stander-by, to Lucia the creator. As Lucia I will learn what it means to re-purpose and design, I will forge my own unique style, and by golly I will be able to decorate a shoebox like nobody's business.
She would wake Lucia.
• • •
Two small plants frame the door to Megan's home. One is limp and gasping, one is perky and snaking toward the sun.
Inside, Megan spends her days with Liam (dressed sometimes in a Metallica onesie, other times in a preppy polo) while Joe works as a computer programmer at the St. Petersburg Times. She doesn't get cable, on purpose. Cable is distracting.
She works a few hours a week at Berean Academy, where she taught before the baby. The rest of the time, she scours other blogs for pictures, songs, recipes. Antique keys fashioned into picture frames. Geometric prints. Glamorous hotels. Messy French hair twists. Old men in pink shirts on bicycles.
"In my head, I have these little tidbits of ideas, but I don't know what to do with them," she said.
When her neighbor got a screen printing machine, she asked him a million questions. Her husband bought her a small screen printer for her birthday, and she made her first shirt based on someone else's design — a stick of butter and the word "Smooth."
When ideas come, she jots them in a little notebook. Red lipstick. Eyeliner. Wallpaper.
A third-grader at school taught Megan to crochet. She made a heart for Joe that looked lumpy and accidentally X-rated. But a flower she made turned out perfectly. She attached it to a headband and nestled it in her long curls.
She approached Lucia like school.
As I begin my journey to waking Lucia, I feel the need to be very goal oriented and to publish these goals for accountability. As my husband can attest, I tend to be quite the procrastinator as well as one who likes to begin things and then drop them at the sight of something shiny. Perhaps you can imagine, this habit leaves me feeling very unfulfilled and unaccomplished. The time has come to reverse this pattern.
In September, she attempted her first big project — a breast-feeding apron. She ripped her seams and dropped her pins everywhere. When she finished, she spotted a little gold ring left on the table. It was supposed to be in the apron.
But Lucia does not get flustered.
There's nothing that can't either be undone or redone.
"She's so patient now," said Joe. "She does a lot of research on the stuff that she's doing. I think that's why it's flowing out of her so well right now. She's spent so much time learning. It's really sincere. This is very genuine."
If given the choice of exotic Lucia or sweet Megan, he would still choose Megan, he said.
Megan now, that is. She's not the same.
• • •
A few people started finding her blog.
great site. i'll be following :-)
WAYYY creative!! Loving this find! I'm happy to be your newest follower
Megan made two body pillows for babies. She spray-painted a cookie sheet bright red and lined it with blue wallpaper.
In October, she ripped a Ring Pop off its base, and covered the base in batting and fabric. She pierced it with pink sewing pins and slid the pincushion over her fingernails, painted slick black.
She told people how to do it.
This part takes a little patience to get the shape you want; but don't worry, you'll get it!
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8857.