Memoir, Miracle Max, Muse, Musical Monologues

Prom Season Alterations

In April of 2019, our sewing shop had a particularly stressful prom season. My two coworkers and I started this poem as a way to let off steam between dresses. I think we altered about 60 or more prom and wedding dresses in less than a month, and we created the custom gown (pictured above) AND my younger son’s prom suit and accessories! Added to that were all of our non-formal alterations!

The poem was fun and a great stress reliever for all of us to write. I didn’t include some of the more colorful language verses we scribbled down. As it is, it’s a little bittersweet now. Little did we realize that 2019 would be our final prom season together. 2020’s prom season brought us about 10 dresses, little income and all the proms and spring weddings were canceled.

None of us have any regrets–that part is absolutely true. We know that we made a difference in teen lives and in their self images, if only for one night of their high school year. We comped more than one gown to help students in need and donated occasional used gowns to the prom closets at local high schools, along with any needed alterations to make them fit.

I’m thankful for that part of my life. I lived out a dream of fashion on a small scale and we became the best in the area at what we did. We didn’t get rich financially, only in experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m sad for the ending, but satisfied that I did my best and helped a few people along the way. It was truly worth every late night, weird sewing dream and heartache we incurred on the journey.

Prom Season

On caffeine and chocoate drips
Customer service quips
Thanks and compliments
Curling our lips

Around the mannequins
Pinning laps
Atmosphere intense
Missing naps

Visions of sequined seams
Hemming horsehair nightmares
Beads fall and fill my dreams
Yards and yards of mermaid flares

Glamorous dresses
One more Sherri Hill*
Filled with stresses
Our guts will spill

Glamour blurs to silhouette
Colors reduce to numbers
Annual erosion of debts
Until another year pulls us under

Loving our work
How long since we’ve slept
Dancing flowing skirts
Insecurities they forget
We’ve no regrets

(written by Manderley Swain, Zen Lane, Dawn Elwartowski –April 2019 and November 2021)

My younger son in his junior year prom suit. We created his vest, Jacket, tie and boutonniere. His senior prom was canceled so we never got to create that one.

*Sherri Hill is a designer prom dress brand–extremely popular, gorgeous gowns. Well made to a fault and often incredibly challenging to alter.

Madness, Memoir, Miracle Max, Muse, Uncategorized

Welcome To Manderley’s Soapbox


Creativity has infused all aspects of my life since birth. Through all the good and bad times, the accessibility of this wonderful tool has helped to keep me grounded and centered. I feel fortunate that creativity was fostered and nurtured in my life right from the start. It was never in some box, reserved for the “talented few”.  I was never taught to believe there even was a ‘box’ or a ‘talented few’. Without ever stating it directly, my whole family showed me that creativity takes many forms and is accessible to everyone in everything we do.  I have, at many  times in my life, suffered from bouts of low self esteem or self doubt, but I have never once doubted my innate sense of creativity. As long as I remember to seek it, creativity is there inside me, just waiting for my call. Creativity is inside everyone, including YOU.


Humanity is hard-wired to be creative. From basic survival–learning to make fire and tools and clothing–to storytelling and cave painting and then on to writing, languages, numbers, higher math and fine art– humans and creativity seem to have been born together. From the first moments of life, creativity is constant. Every parent knows this to be true. Children creatively challenge us every minute they are awake! And as parents, we meet these challenges with every ounce of creativity we have! Learning is a creative process. Creativity is a learning process.


So many people suffer under the misconception that creativity means one is skilled, gifted or talented at some kind of visual art such as drawing, painting, ceramics or the performing arts. Those are certainly all creative art forms, but they are by no means the only ways to be creative. That would be a narrow definition of creativity indeed!  While creativity is needed and fully realized in all of the arts, the arts themselves are learned skills. Some people may have a greater affinity for or dedication to a particular art. Just like athletes and sports, that dedication leads to more practice time and thus, greater skill. But given time and opportunity, anyone can learn skills necessary to participate in all of the visual and performing arts. In many cases, only basic skills are required in order to simply enjoy the process of creative self expression through arts and crafts. Classes are available in most towns and online.


“But I’m not artsy”, you say. “Crafts bore me” you say. “I’m just not creative” you sigh. It is at this point that my husband sighs and takes a giant step back as I step up onto my soap box. (he is actually afraid of getting hit by stray bits of glitter as I begin to actively help you dig in and find your inner well of creativity–he has seen this happen once or twice).  So, let’s do it–let’s look for it together. Trust me–I have experience.


First, just ask yourself a few questions (have a cup of tea and get comfy-this may take a few minutes).  What is your favorite color? Why is it your favorite color? What are some ways you bring this color (or colors) into your everyday life? How do you feel when you discover new ways to use your favorite color(s)? What is a color you DIS-like? What are some ways you avoid it?  I  know what you’re thinking – “is she for real? What does this have to do with finding my creativity? Is this some trick to get me to make a macaroni duck?” Whoa! I promise it’s no trick, although we could make a macaroni duck if you think that will help. I’ll follow your creativity wherever it leads….but I digress. Stay with me a few more minutes. ok?


The same questions I asked about color could apply to most aspects of your life. What are your favorite and least favorite activities, tasks, sounds, foods, people. The actual answers are not quite as important as how you think of them, the process of answering the questions. There, in the middle of coming up with the answers lies your creativity.


Creativity is in every choice you make. It is in how you see and interpret nearly everything you see and hear and taste. It is in your own unique experience of the world in which you live. You only need to open your mind and expand your perspective. Allow your own creative self to bubble up out of that box you set aside to contain it. Let your crayon wander outside the lines and ask yourself “What if?” a little more. Imagine the possibilities, and choose a few to explore. I promise you’ll be glad you did. Admit to yourself  that you ARE creative. Give yourself permission to wade into your creative river. Then dive  in and keep swimming! Share your experience-it will become more real. I’d love to hear about your creative journey!


And say to yourself  every day —

“There is no wrong way to be creative!”


Let’s repeat that together–