February 27, 2016

Only Your Hairdresser Knows For Sure?

     When it comes to my hair color, I've done it all. I've been a blond and a brunette. I've been as red as a Crayola crayon and as black as night.

Myself and my youngest sister

     I came into the world with hair a shade of blonde that my mother called, "dishwater". Hair color companies call it "ash blonde". It can be a dreary color and although it got beautifully highlighted by the California sunshine and surf, in the winter months it would grow out like dishwater again. Once I moved away from the ocean and beaches to the east coast it only got drearier.

     When I was a kid my mom always kept our hair short. I'm sure it had something to do with trying to maintain the heads of six children and no time or patience for tangled wiggle worms. She kept hers long for most of her life and she would tell me I was lucky not to have to spend night after night at bedtime having long tresses wound onto rags to make the fat sausage curls that were popular when she was young. As soon as I got my way I grew it long, very long. Before I cut it in 1973, it was long enough to sit on. I have never had it quite that long since.

Summer of 1970

     I took the first hair coloring plunge in 1984 as an anniversary surprise for my husband. I had always wondered what I'd look like as a brunette and so I dyed my hair dark. Really dark. It was fun and exciting, I liked it and he loved it. But, after a while the rush wore off and I missed being blonde. Since "dishwater" wasn't a very cool shade of blonde I tried something lighter. Then darker again, then eventually red. Every time I poured on hair color it was a thrilling experience. Sometimes it was beautiful and other times a catastrophe, like the time I bleached it all out and it came up the color of a yellow Easter peep. Now and again it would ruin my hair and I would opt for cutting it all off and try to convince myself it looked cool and perky. It never worked. 

Dark brown

     But, after a while, it wasn't fun anymore.Over time I needed to color my hair constantly. I really liked the shades of red, but they were even harder to maintain than my natural blonde. What started out as something fun like a pretty new outfit, became a necessity. I went from coloring for kicks to coloring for maintenance. At first it had to be done every six weeks, then every four. Eventually it seemed like it looked good for about seven days and turned drab again. It also began turning very flat. So I went more vivid. That was fine when it was freshly colored.

Right after coloring

The following week

     Then the real damage started. I knew it was happening but I didn't want to face the facts. I was pouring chemicals on my head far too often. Little nagging thoughts began creeping into my mind. What if I was turning grey underneath? Oh no! That would mean I would have to color even more. I began to wonder what color my hair really was. Then it happened. Someone took my picture at a baseball game one night and it was plain to me. My hair looked very unnatural and dyed. I couldn't help but ask myself, who was I fooling? The more color I added the more artificial it looked. It was fake. I wasn't twenty-one anymore, or even fifty. Did I think I looked young? I'm not that young so why should I expect to look that way? 

The picture that changed my mind

     I began to look at the women around me in a new light. I have many friends my own age that I love and admire. Several of them were going grey. I looked at strangers. Here and there I saw women caught in the conundrum of dying or not dying their hair. Some had put their toe in the water and were letting their color grow out. Now they had to face the dreaded "skunk stripe" until their hair was long enough to cut away the dyed part. I knew I wasn't excited about doing that. Since I'm a hands-on kind of gal, I made the choice to take a stand. I chopped it all off.

All gone!

     Gasp! I had done it. There was no turning back! I'd gone hair dye cold turkey and I threw out my stash of hair color. I vowed to never look back. Then I waited for it to grow.

My husband and I while I was growing out my hair and outgrowing my coloring addiction.

     It wasn't always easy. Sometimes it was really depressing. When I felt like I was losing my resolve I looked back at old photographs and looked at the women around me that I admired. I saw beautiful, silver-haired ladies every day that inspired me. They were genuine and all learning how to grow their hair out gracefully. That's what I wanted to do. 

     My husband was the best. He encouraged me by saying that he admired how I was always a woman who had a handle on the world and that I was not afraid to be myself. That helped immensely, whether or not it is entirely true. Then it began to grow out and my virgin hair was thick and beautifully healthy. Had I kept covering it up any trying to fool myself I would have never known. 

     Do I think that everyone should toss out their hair color? Certainly not. This was a very personal choice and the right one for me and it was not easy. All hail to every women who looks in the mirror and tries to find their best self. I just realized that my best self was not in a bottle of dye. I'm not entirely grey, in fact, as my hair grew out I realized it wasn't all that grey at all. Sometimes I wish it was. It will be one day and I hope I'm around to enjoy every silvery strand. For right now it is what it is. A little dishwater, a little silver, incredibly healthy and me. It is a part of growing old and growing up and I'm very glad I didn't wait to know what I looked like under all of that dye until it was too late.

Thank you for visiting. Please come again!

February 21, 2016

Good Old Routines

     Patterns, customs, routines - my cats are addicted to them. Heavens knows that when the clock ticks down to lunchtime they are ready for their midday snack and panic sets in if the treats are late. In many ways I'm not all that different. Overall, I like routine myself. There is something satisfying about knowing that when I’m tired at the end of the day, crawling into my warm bed isn’t too far away. My own internal clock gets me up at almost exactly the same time every day as a matter of routine. But, sometimes I like to reset that clock. Some Saturday nights I tell myself that the next day is Sunday and I want more sleep. Some days I don’t want to stop working on a new novel for lunch. If I'm embroiled in a complicated project the last thing I want to do is set aside my creativity to do something more boring or, heaven forbid, more responsible. Over the years I have learned that I can avoid many distractions simply by using, oddly enough, routine.

     I know that keeping up my world makes me happy and I love being orderly. In January I had found a great organizing site that claims you can put in a few minutes a day and in 365 days have a fully organized house. It's a great plan for the big things that tend to accumulate around the house. I signed up to get the calendar and printed it out and put it up on my refrigerator. I was really enjoying the plan completely.

     Then, as happens in life, something comes out of nowhere and suddenly all patterns are thrown into chaos. It got me. Two weeks ago I sprained my ankle. Apparently if you have never done such a thing before, like me, it sounds commonplace and do I have to say it… routine. Lots of people sprain their ankles. Heck, the lovely damsels in the old black and white films did it constantly and still managed to escape certain doom. I am learning that, although it may happen to lots of folks, it is anything but routine. It's terrible. Fourteen days later it's still terrible. It’s painful and terrible and the cold of February has only made it worse. But what is driving me most insane is what it's doing to my routines. My daily patterns have been all shot to hell. Since I have been limited in my activities I have spent a lot of time contemplating my situation. This has been good and bad and so my conclusions over having a sprained ankle have been mixed as well.
     The day the dirty deed befell me was just about the time I had finished a big project in my house. I had been pushing myself for weeks to get my usual things done as well as some heavy jobs. I cannot fathom exactly what happened to my ankle and so I have to wonder if it wasn’t nature’s way of making me slow down. For two days it was a good lesson and I did practically nothing. I looked at it as a mini-vacation. On day three that wore off completely. If it's a lesson to slow down I think it's far too heavy handed. I got the point already.
     I have lamented my daily routines daily. In some ways I have praised them. When I fell, my husband had to take over everything. He did it exceptionally well. My house was clean and the laundry caught up and he could take over easily. He cooked and loaded the dishwasher, and the like, and waited on me as well. I suspect he too got tired of how long the confinement has lasted and he’s been wonderful. But, I’d rather do things on my own, thanks. I keep a regular routine and it made a huge difference. Instead of sitting around in the midst of unfinished jobs and projects, the interruption in my daily routine had a much less negative impact than it might have had. For that I am grateful. Thank you, routines.
     Getting off my ankle has made me pick and choose what I can do. I’ve had to decide what must be done, what I really want to do, and what can wait.  Since I couldn’t do much physically, I made a list instead.  Like an armchair quarterback I laid out my daily plan. I only listed what I ordinarily do most days and each week in general.

     Now, as soon as I’m back to normal I can stop contemplating the list and get the things done instead.  I can go back to my comfortable routine and of course, have some fun. Until the next trial. I sure hope it has nothing to do with a sprained ankle!

Thank you for your visit! Please come again.

February 13, 2016

Love and Life and Friendship

     It's February. A month of snow and Valentine's Day. I have learned from Facebook that the holiday that is supposed to symbolize love and affection is hated by some. That seems odd to me. Is it defined to some as a day that they feel most alone? Is it that they feel they must have a "valentine" in order to embrace the day? Like any other holiday I see it as a marker, a day you can do a little something to show the people around you that you value them. Or not. I believe that Valentine's Day ought to be elective, like many things in life.
      I've been thinking about my life lately, and what a story a lifetime is. As long as I can remember people have told me I ought to write a book. Not a book like the ones I do write, fantasies fed from my experiences and emotions, but a book about my life. I think the same thing now that I always have: the idea sounds interesting. I have had a very interesting life, but it would not be a good idea to write about it. Why? Because I am opinionated. I know that about myself. I have strong ideas about myself and so I have them about others. I'm hard on myself and strive for the best in me and since I am looking at all of the world from inside my own head I tend to think other people should be that same way about themselves. It's a blind spot, I know, and I am opinionated about that as well. But it's alright, you don't have to like that about me. If we all felt exactly the same way about everything wouldn't people be terribly boring? There are plenty of people in the world, some we like and others not so much. That too is elective.
      Now, that is not at all the same as not caring about my fellow man. Whether or not it's Valentine's Day, I care about many people. I have just learned, as I grow older, that I don't have to like them all or be like them or even agree with them. I allow myself that now. I believe it as one of the perks of growing older.
      And so, in the real story of my life the characters are sometimes changing. Friends I had as a child are no longer in the story of my life. Some of them simply grew up and away. That continues to this day. I think that's okay as well. In today's world, especially with social media, when you choose to drop someone from the story of your life it is rather visible. They might have been fading from your story for years, or just no longer belong there, but in this world of the future it looks sudden and suspect. Now it is harder to allow the characters of your life to change naturally and I'm not sure I like that. 

      Someone told me that online friends are not like real friends. How confusing. I have many online friends whom I consider real friends. As well, I have online friends who are people I have never met face to face. Are they the ones who are not real? How do I define the difference? Are real friends the ones who pick up the phone or see you face to face? Then the rest fall into some kind of friend limbo? It's confusing and I suspect it is a question I might spend far too much time pondering and still never be able to solve.
      So, instead of trying to answer another of life's impossible questions, I'll do this instead. I will take Valentine's Day and spend a moment appreciating all of those people who are the current characters in the story of my life. Those friends and family who I see often, the ones I look forward to embracing and those I know I can reach out to, right now, today, and share my love and appreciation. Tomorrow the cast might change. But right now, they are the characters in the story of my life. One thing I do know, every one of them is indeed a character.

Happy Valentine's Day, please come again!

February 6, 2016

What Happened When I Sat Down (Part Four)

Part Four
 Previously on this journey:

      Alright, I admit it. I thought I had finished my lovely living room, and I liked it, I really did. I even poured tea there several times and sat and enjoyed it immensely. I got a neat DVD with a blazing fire and very soothing classical music and I dozed in the chair.

      Then I was bitten by the tweaking bug.

      Once I didn't feel overwhelmed by all of the decorating juices that had taken over my mind and sat down to relax, I decided the room needed a couple of finishing touches. And so I was at it again.

      One thing I wanted to change was that I really missed my coffee table. For a little while I tried substituting a kind of a hassock for a table. It was all right, and I liked that it had storage inside for pillows and throw blankets and such, and it did invite one to put up their feet, but it wasn't right. There was no spot for your teacup and nowhere to put a pretty coffee table book. No, there was just an empty place where a coffee table ought to be. And so, my search for the perfect one began. Since the space is tight it couldn't be too large. The one I had when I began all of this wasn't all that big, but still it was too much. I also began to think it shouldn't even be square or rectangular. Round would leave space to move. I liked the walnut furniture I had added and thought it should match as well. So, with those rules in mind,  I found a nice little 30" table I love.

My perfect little coffee table!

     Now that I have nice things to hold up my new television and a lovely new sofa table behind the couch, and the perfect coffee table, I took a hard look at my old end tables. What could I do with them? They are a curb find from many years ago. My son had rescued them and he used them in his room for years. At the time the tables were clean and sturdy and great for a household full of children.. They would not be ruined much more by markers and crayons and sticky hands. Over time they migrated into the living room but they looked lousy. Yet, I didn't really want to let them go. They were once expensive. I'm sure, all solid wood with dovetailed drawers, which I love. Instead of replacing them it was time for a makeover.

One of the two tables before

The furniture maker's mark inside the drawer.


Ready to finish
I put the hardware in ketchup to soak. It's great for removing tarnish from brass and copper.

     I decided on a gel stain. A thick, water based, gel stain can be put over an existing stain with great success, especially if you want to make something darker. That would not only make cleanup easier but since I was doing this job in February, and indoors, I did not want to die from fumes. I cleaned the tables well with denatured alcohol and sanded any spots where the finish was rough or ruined. Then I stained and applied a water based poly finish.

     Mission accomplished! They were done in one day and with no fumes!

      I didn't like the tissue box I had so I made a new one from a quart canning jar. You can see it two pictures above.

I also finished a new afghan this week. The design is called, "Picket Fences" and I think it's perfect in my English garden living room.

    So, dear reader, my living room is really done. Even better, I am content. I love the room and look forward to my time in there. Instead of an ordinary coffee table book I have chosen a large and lovely journal. I am a writer after all and so that is part of what I will do in the room. That, and drink tea. And I will do that with dear family and friends. In these, the months of winter, I draw the drapes and the room is cozy and warm and I will grow drowsy there. Come spring, I will throw open the draperies and the French doors and let in the scent of fresh spring rain and the chattering of the birds as they visit my feeders on their way north. I will listen to the wind chimes on the porch and fill a tray on my coffee table with tall glasses of iced tea. I'll take them out to enjoy on the porch, and when the summer heat returns I will retreat to the shade of my cool and relaxing living room. And, I will be glad it is done!

     Thank you to all of you who have followed me on this journey and those who visit every week. I hope, as always, you will come visit again!