Monthly Archives: Jun 2015

Random Musings
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Haircuts and Life

Haircuts and Life

For the first time in nearly 15 years, I’ve got a haircut I don’t love.

No, I didn’t freak out at the salon and demand my money back. I’m not wearing a bag over my head to hide my shame. I simply shrugged my shoulders and pulled my hair back into it’s typical ponytail.

So why is my not-awesome-slightly-embarrassing haircut even noteworthy?

Because for the first time in a long time, I tried something, realized my mistake the moment the scissors snipped off too much hair, and didn’t  meltdown or freak out. Actually, I realized that the arc of my life, the way I’ve grown and changed as a person, can be seen from how my visits to the salon have changed.

As a kid, my hair – length and style – was dictated by my parents. I was rocking the Pocahontas look with ram-rod straight black hair with the part down the middle (I’m 35, and that damn part is still there.) I also had the straight bangs cut right over my eyebrows.

I was probably eight or nine when I went to a salon for the first time. My dad had always trimmed my hair. This time, all he could do was pace outside, hating that someone was touching his baby’s hair.

When my hair became too thick to wrap my hand around – and I was plagued with awful headaches, my mother took over. The J.C. Penney’s salon was the most glamorous place I’d ever been. Even then, my hair style wasn’t my decision, not at first. I was only 10, after all. Several inches of hair came off that day. I felt 10 pounds lighter.

I kept my hair shoulder-length – sometimes a little shorter, sometimes longer – throughout high school. My dad was adamant that I wasn’t going to have short hair. How ironic, as my mother has had short hair for much of my life.

Towards the end of high school, I had money to burn, and I experimented with color. The fiery, orange-y, red thing I did to my hair was not my most flattering moment. When I sat down in the salon chair, I didn’t think about skin tone. I didn’t ask questions. I pointed to what looked like the “coolest” color and away we went.

I immediately regretted it but had too much pride to say anything. After all, I was the one to blame. The god-awful color was my own choice.

By the time college came around, I was supposedly fully in control of my hair-style decisions. But I was also an insecure kid. To avoid making another mistake, I simply didn’t get haircuts. Once I got engaged to the now ex-husband, I justified my decision by saying I wanted to grow my hair out for the wedding.

That was partly true, but I didn’t want to make decisions about my own hair. It was too scary. Mistakes were too easily made. I went with tried and true – the same reason I said yes to the ex. He was comforting, and I didn’t have to learn anyone else, face rejection, or change much about my life.

A day after we were married, and a week after I graduated college, I found myself back in the salon chair. All that hair had to go. I went short. Boy short. Between the woman cutting my hair and my inability to explain what I wanted (about hair or anything else), it was a bad haircut that I had fixed a week later.

The shitty cut wasn’t significant. The length was.

My reasons were many.

I wanted a no-fuss, no-muss style. I’d spent three years with insanely long hair and the aggravation that comes with it – shedding, tangles, and broken brushes (true story).

My father had just died, and this was in part a rebellion against my grief, a new moment in life, something different. Long hair was a reminder of him, and I was tired of hurting.

It was not lost on me that my very new husband told me he loved long hair, and I chopped it off without even telling him my plan.

I kept the style for a few years. My mother brought me to the salon once a month or it probably wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t care about my hair in those days. For a while, I cared about very little.  The loss of a parent and the realization (quickly tamped down never to be considered or admitted again) that I might have made a mistake in spouses can do that to you.

When the ex and I moved away to Florida, I stopped worrying about my hair. I was pregnant, broke, and very stressed out. My hair was the least of my worries. I let the short cut grow out and tried to remember to get a cut every several months or so. I cannot tell you how many times a random stylist has asked, “So…when was your last cut?” and I’ve struggled to remember.

Just before I realized my marriage was over (which was long before I told anyone else), I chopped off all my hair again. This time, sitting in the stylist’s chair felt like freedom. A new direction. A change. I wasn’t afraid to do something bold with my hair – or my life.

After the divorce and my new found realization of what single motherhood was all about (including a deadbeat ex-husband), I stopped caring as much about my own appearance. I let my hair grow out. The next few men I dated, culminating with my relationship with John, loved long hair on a woman. For the first time in my life I was spending time with men I genuinely respected and enjoyed as human beings…and men. I was happy to let my hair grow out and wear it long for them.

Over the past three years, my relationship with the salon has been a strange one. When I’ve gone, I wanted bare minimum. “Just a trim!”

I didn’t want to rock a boat, do anything drastic, or screw anything up.

Then, just after Christmas, January in fact, my mother had enough of listening to me bitch about all the silver in my hair (it’s a stripe down that blasted part…I look like a skunk!). I visited her in Mississippi, and one of my belated Christmas presents was a trip to the salon.

As a kid, she had a say over my hair. When I was in my 20s, she was still in mom-mode, so while I technically had a say, she also shared her opinion of my choices – good or bad. Now, in my 30s, she was happy to give me the gift of a few child-free hours in a salon and a new look, whatever I wanted.

The gates opened wide. I was a new freelancer just figuring out that I really do have some control over my destiny. I was finally out of a corporate-esque world where appearances sometimes matter most. I could do what I wanted.

Freedom!

Purple hair, y’all. I went purple. But I still didn’t change my hair style. Sure, the easy answer is that I prefer this style. And I do. But in life, as with my hair, I can be lazy. I’ll do the same tried and true thing forever simply to avoid making a mistake.

Until a few days ago.

I was tired of the Pocahontas look that has evolved in the past three years – ramrod straight and very flat hair. No body, no lift. Ugh.

I tossed caution to the wind and tried a new style. From the front, it’s kind of cute. From the back? Grown out mullet are the only words I can use to describe it.

The point isn’t the awful haircut. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I’ve been avoiding eye contact in the mirror so I might have forgotten.

The point is that for the first time in a long time I tried something new, daring, bold, and without three months of pre-planning or getting a million other opinions first. One could say that maybe this time I should have. (Cynical!) But on the other hand, as I take chances, try new things, and sometimes fail miserably in every other aspect of life, it’s only fitting it happened at the salon, too. My own reaction to it is probably the best sign of how far I’ve come…no freak out, no tears, no talking about it incessantly to everyone around me. I’m rocking the ponytail and waiting for it to grow out. It is, after all, only hair.

 

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You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad.

Aldous Huxley
300 Prompts
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What is Your Favorite Way to Spend a Lazy Day?

I’m embarking on a new project based on a writing prompt book I picked up at a book store. The book contains 300 writing prompts. Based on the lines included with each one, you’re supposed to jot down a few thoughts in the book. I like to do things a bit different. I don’t know how long it will take me, but I’m going to go through the entire book and do each prompt. I’m calling it 300 Prompts. If anyone wants to join me, feel free!

There will be little editing done. I’m using this as a very public writing exercise.

Writing Prompt 1

What’s my favorite way to spend a lazy day?

First, I need to figure out what a lazy day is anymore. Motherhood, work, relationships, family – none of those pieces of life are conducive to lazy days. But, if I pretend, for just a moment, that everything else is done, caught up, or at a point where I’m okay leaving it unfinished, I guess a lazy day would look something like this…

No waking up early. A 9 o’clock wake up time or later sounds good to me.

I may or may not shower, but I’m definitely staying in pajamas.

Brushed hair, brushed teeth, washed face? Probably not.

A cup of hot tea, my phone, tablet, and/or book should be in my hands or next to me as I curl up in the recliner.

When I get bored with reading or playing games, let’s find food. No, I’m not cooking it. It should be safe to eat cold or be delivered.

I’ll want to sit at the couch and pig out. No dining room table on my lazy day.

Put the TV on – Netflix, maybe? Let’s start a new series and watch a few episodes back to back.

By then, it’ll be time to eat or read again, maybe both.

With a full tummy, I’ll probably need a nap. A long one. The kind that makes you wonder what day it is when you wake up.

If I leave, it’ll be to run through drive through somewhere because I have a craving that won’t quit.

My book will call my name again. I just know it. Must. Read. Must. Finish.

Leftovers from the earlier take-out meal will work for dinner.

I’ll stay up too late – reading, watching TV, talking to people on Facebook. No doubt I’ll be shocked at just how tired I am considering it was a lazy day.

Lazy days are few and far between. Probably for good reason.

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Music
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Short Skirt/Long Jacket #goals #FridayJams

I can remember riding around in the car my senior year of college blasting this. Windows down, wind in hair, awful singing. I was going to be this girl. I still am…all I need is the short skirt and long jacket.

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Politics
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Politics, Religion, and Family Debates

Politics, Religion, and Family Debates

The first lesson I remember my father teaching me was pretty simple.

“Never discuss politics and religion in mixed company. Ever.”

As a child, I took this to mean anyone. Even family. It was such an ingrained lesson that I didn’t even know my own mother’s politics until the 2008 election cycle when I learned she was as excited by Barack Obama as any 20-something.

I have very clear political and religious opinions. I don’t share them often because my father’s voice (deceased for 13 years) still lingers in my mind.

But, sometimes, even I can get dragged into a conversation. For the record, my own comfort with a person is an indication of how much I’m willing to share. To my surprise, my stepfather is often the one to draw me out. Of course, he also raises my blood pressure in the process.

He’s mellowed over the years. What used to be an inflammatory statement made about a group of people, any group of people, simply to get a reaction from me has now become a question of, “What do you think…?” “How do you feel…?”

The good thing about these debates is that my opinion becomes more concrete. I’m able to voice my thoughts clearly. Sure, I’m willing to change my mind, but as a staunch liberal, I have a clear point of view.

The last debate was Father’s Day. My blood pressure went through the roof as I mentally and physically prepared to go to verbal war with a man who is firm in his own outlook on the world. (I sweated through my shirt and thought I must be very agitated – turns out, our air conditioner was crapping out.)

At the end, we agreed to disagree, which is how it should be. Neither of us spoke with the goal of changing the other person’s mind. (That’s a recipe for disaster).

After it was all said and done, I realized I’m pretty clear on a few points:

On Religion

Believe whatever religion you want but don’t expect me to join in. If I, as a questioning person, can respect your beliefs, surely others can respect my own – or lack there of. Unless you’re a follower of Thor and Odin who went around making war on everyone, the deities of the day preach love in some form or fashion. But that seems to be the first attribute forgotten once people are ready to defend their beliefs.

The Bible is a fascinating piece of literature and history but I don’t believe it should be taken literally. The principles are sound – love thy fellow man, don’t kill, don’t steal. That being said, while I don’t understand or agree, I will fight for someone’s right to choose their religious beliefs and texts.

On Immigration

Illegal immigrants are not the enemy. In many cases, they should be admired. They battle deserts, oceans, starvation, bigotry, and hatred to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families. They accept back-breaking work for low wages when they may have been highly educated people in their home countries.

Most are law-abiding (outside of the immigration part) people. How are they any different from the English and French who arrived on America’s shores a few hundred years ago or those who arrived on Ellis Island less than a century ago? They aren’t. Every time I hear a white person tell a Hispanic person to “Go home,” regardless of their immigration status (known or unknown), one of my Native American ancestors rolls over in their grave.

On Race

The Charleston shooting was absolutely racism at it’s worse, no matter what some media outlets say. Let’s call a spade a spade and stop with all the crap. A white guy, fueled on paranoia and racism, sat with church parishioners for an hour, listened to them pray, and killed them in cold blood. He’s not a lone madman, he’s a terrorist.

I’m a Southerner, born and raised. No, I don’t like the Confederate flag, and I definitely don’t think it should be flying over government buildings. When I was growing up, it wasn’t used as a reminder of heritage or history – it was typically worn and flown by people who thought the races shouldn’t mix and segregation was a good idea. But they’d usually only say that if the group they were in was all white.

White privilege exists, and while I don’t always recognize it (as someone who benefits from it daily), when I do, I’m willing to admit that’s exactly what it is. I’m not worried that other groups are demanding equal and fair treatment and the same benefits I’ve experienced my whole life. I find nothing threatening in it – it’s only right. No one is “taking over” my country. They’re simply standing up and demanding recognition and a voice. (Yes, I recognize that as a woman, I’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination, but my life as a white woman has still been much different – and better – than that of many minority women.)

If we won’t categorize all white people (and by we, I mean, other white people) as evil or bad based on the actions of a small few, we shouldn’t do it with any other group – black, Hispanic, Muslim, doesn’t matter. The actions of one black person don’t make them all bad. The actions of one group of Muslims doesn’t make them all terrorists. If white people aren’t a reflection of the actions of our race or religion, neither is anyone else.

On Poverty

This is pretty simple. I don’t have a problem with my tax dollars helping people in need. I don’t mind feeding hungry people. I think the states that refuse to expand Medicaid based on political reasons are awful (my own included). Do I think there’s abuse? Of course – someone will always try to take advantage of a system.

Those in need far outnumber the cheats and thieves.

For those who believe it’s an issue of race, think again. More white people are on food stamps than black people. And the fears that illegal Hispanics are on food stamps and using all our resources just don’t play out – only 19% of food stamp recipients are Hispanic.

What I would rather have is a thriving middle class, an education system that works for all the people – not just those with the most resources in the richest neighborhoods, and a living minimum wage. That’s how you get people off welfare permanently.

The rest of the world doesn’t see the United States the way we see ourselves. This is a great country (the amount of people desperate to come here should prove that point) but that doesn’t mean we always get it right. We’d do better to be honest about that than pretend that we’re superior in every way. I can still love my country and realize there’s room for improvement. I’m no less a patriot for believing it’s okay to try tactics that work in other countries – healthcare, gun control, hell, even Irish voters supported gay marrage. You’re going to tell me the United States couldn’t do that for ourselves? Really??

Oh, and I’m going to be very sad when Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show. Very, very sad. I hope he continues to use his viewpoint and his voice to point out hypocrisy and BS in the media and government.

So why talk about religion and politics when I was taught not to do it, and it’s so easy to get people riled up? Because if more people spoke up and entered the debate, those who feed off of hate and misinformation might finally find themselves outnumbered. Instead of just being shocked during election time, maybe they’d realize that the tide is changing (regardless of the screaming headlines online, in newspapers, and on TV). Those with no voice are finding theirs – and I have no problem lending mine to the mix.

Image via Kozzi (G20 Protest, Toronto, 2010)

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Writer Life
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A Profession for Introverts

The Profession of Introverts

Want to know who a writer is, what we think, how we feel? Asking us directly probably won’t work. Read what we write…that’s a start.

John Green is one of those people who, when he speaks, I listen. He gets this one so right.

 

Image via Pinterest from Writing North Idaho

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It’s not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong.

Jon Krakauer
Music
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Completely Funked #FridayJams

The head bobs. The shoulders move. The walk becomes a strut. It can’t be helped. We all know it happens. Just accept the inevitable when you’re funked.

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Parenting
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The Things My Kids Say, Part 1

I don’t know much about children. An only child myself, I never really did the babysitting thing. I don’t have close cousins – mostly second, third, or fourth removed. (Are they still cousins at the fourth and fifth level?)

Aidan was my first everything – first bottle, first diaper, first poop up the back, first time being peed on. Sean is lucky I practiced on his brother first, that’s all I’m sayin’.

Anyway, I have no point of reference on whether the things my boys say and do are normal. But I know when it’s funny, when it’s insightful, and when it’s straight from my own mouth (oops!).

So here goes, the first of what I imagine to be many, many, MANY posts on the things my kids say…

“Do you remember the time you got pee in my mouth? That was funny!” Funny?! Ewww!

“When I grow up, I think I’ll have my own kids and adopt some. Because all kids should have a home and feel special. It’s not right that some kids don’t.” Oh yeah, I cried and hugged him and ignored his look of confusion.

“Oh yeah, I’m boss.” Huh? What does that even mean??

“Knock, knock!”
“Who’s there?”
“Cow!”
“Cow who?”
“The cow…is…sooo…funneeeeee!”
Their jokes are sooooooooooo bad, y’all. So, so bad

“My bottom burns, Mom! It buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurns!” Swing set, hot day, determination to swing anyway.

“Awwww, damn it!” Oops, uh I mean, I have no idea where that came from.

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Inspiration
14

And Just Like That…Hope #CancerSucks

And Just Like That...Hope

via Flickr

Even in the low moments hope can blossom. This time, it was in the form of an elderly lady with bright pink lipstick and a gleam in her eye.

A bit of backstory:

My not-quite sister-in-law (SIL) was diagnosed in the summer of 2014 with stage 4 colon cancer that, by the time they caught it, had metastasized to her liver, lungs, lymph nodes, and blood. She’s only 47, y’all. It was a long scary summer of hospital stays, medications, and family drama (lots of family drama). For the first several months, she had a network of people around her who helped her through her day-to-day activities, allowing John to simply be a caring big brother who checked in from time to time and help as needed.

I think, for both of us, it didn’t seem real at first.

In early 2015, we found ourselves as her main source of transportation and support (mental and emotional). John had already begun the task of shouldering more of the responsibility for helping her, being there for her, and attending a myriad of oncology appointments. There was no question that we’d help when she found herself without help to get to the doctor. He’s the big brother, and, frankly, it’s simply the right thing to do.

What it meant for us was that we had to come face-to-face with the realities of her cancer diagnosis. In the beginning, the medications were working well, and while she certainly wouldn’t be going back to work or driving herself anywhere – possibly ever again – she had a decent quality of life. Could it have been better? Of course.

By Memorial Day, John and I faced a growing reality that her condition was worsening – and fast. A new chemo treatment wasn’t working. She spent most of her waking hours in pain. She needed help. And we were starting to fear the worst.

I won’t lie…we were in low spirits. Her original prognosis from the oncologist had been five years, and one year was already gone. Could the doctor be wrong? Did she have less time?

And Just Like That...Hope

He and I were with her for her most recent appointment. I tend to hang back and wait in lobbies, giving them both the privacy of hard conversations and harder decisions. I’m involved and informed, but I don’t need to be right there.

I tried to work and write watched the elevator for two hours in the lobby of the cancer center, waiting for John to give me the details. Everything I know about cancer, especially stage 4, is awful. Both my grandparents died from cancer – at too young of an age, too quickly. My own father died from a different, but no less devastating, terminal illness. I’m not new to waiting rooms, diagnoses, and family sorrow. This weighed on me, even though it wasn’t happening to me in the same way it was happening to John and, of course, his sister.

Finally, he came downstairs. Back to the old chemo treatment that controlled her tumors – even though the threat of permanent nerve damage in her fingers and toes is very real – and a procedure to drain fluid from her lungs, which is the source of her pain. We breathed a sigh of relief. A small one, but still relief.

He needed to get back to work, and she asked me to sit with her during her chemo. I was surprised. She’s never wanted me with her before. Sure, we spend a lot of time in my car going back and forth to appointments. Some weeks, three or four times a week. And yes, we’ve bonded over the time since this all began – as mothers, as women, as people. But this was a first.

I’ll admit I was unsure. I had the typical reticence of a healthy person surrounded by sick people. Not that I thought it was contagious, just that I didn’t know how I should act. (Duh, of course I should be my normal self but these are the thoughts that crossed my mind.)

I’m glad I did. She napped. We chatted. And of course, we buried our noses in our phones (’cause people do, ya know?). I listened and watched the people around me, loving the good humor of a man who comes three days in a row for chemo every other week and the high spirit of another woman who gets chemo every week, twice a week. And I thought once every other week was a lot. (What do I know?)

Out of nowhere, a woman with a wide smile, bright pink lipstick, and a merry gleam in her eye looked at my not-quite SIL and said, “I like you.”

It was random, but the statement was accepted, and a lively conversation began. They chatted back and forth.

One of the nurses, while taking bright-eyed woman’s blood, commented, “I love your attitude. You seem so cheerful!”

Her response? Priceless, y’all. “The doctors gave me two years to live, 11 years ago. I figure every day is a gift. I can spend it being miserable or I can spend it being happy with the time I have left, however long that is.”

And just like that, the cloud of worry, fear, and stress that was sitting over both our heads as we thought about growing tumors and lungs filled with fluid, drifted away. Oh, sure, the reality of her cancer is still there. But, for right now, there is hope again. Sometimes the thing you need most is hope. This time, it came in the form of a cheerful woman hooked up for her weekly chemo treatment.

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