A hair affair to remember

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I’m not quite sure what got into me. I’ve very commitment-oriented and have long been satisfied with the way things were going. My own transgression continues to surprise me.

On a Sunday afternoon, with Richard and the two little ones, I perused the aisles at the local Trader Joe’s. There was debate over whose basket got to hold the pasta, an unwillingness to sample the warm spinach and kale pie, and juice testing … I admit it. I’m stalling.

I first saw her selecting tea. I passed. Then glanced back. While I was trying to find the familiar Gruyere and Cheddar melange that I use for mac and cheese, I got a closer look as she perused the goat varieties.

After Richard turned the corner, I had to approach.

“I can’t keep my eyes off your hair,” I said.

“Oh, thank you,” she said. Then she offered the bait. “I get it done at Not Your Salon, Across Town, by Not Gina.”

I didn’t want to be tempted. But I was. The information kept swimming through my head. Her hair WAS fabulous. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. Contemporary. Conservative. Cute and Cool. All the things I dream about. (Her’s was also straight. But I digress.)

But I like my hair, I kept reminding myself every moment the tantalizing thought entered my head. Gina knows my hair. She’s never failed me. But I just kept visiting the idea of the adventure. I couldn’t let it go.

Finally, I told Siri what I wanted. I thought, if Siri can’t find it, it’s just as well. I was actually counting on Siri being the incompetent companion she so often is – so she could save me from myself. Recently, I requested that she find the Father Solanus Casey Center. Instead she delivered to me every salon in the tri-county area. Even after several attempts, she couldn’t find for me that lovely place at which I wanted to pray.

Apparently, however, salons are Siri’s forte. She found Not My Salon in one try. Drat. I’d like to blame her – but only I can take responsibility for what happened next.

Timidly, I clicked that little blue arrow to dial the number. The party on the other end answered, and I did it: I made arrangements to let someone I didn’t even know run their fingers through my hair.

What was I doing? I’m risking too much I thought. How would I tell Gina?

When the day approached, the doubt continued. As I was close to Not My Salon, I received a call that Not Gina was running late. I don’t have time for late, I thought. I should just cancel. This is a sign. My schedule doesn’t accommodate a trip across town, let alone the trip and another half an hour.

I was so close, though. I’d already spent the time. And I saw a cupcake shop on the next block. I disgusted myself at my ability to justify this whole affair. I need a little down time. A few minutes with a cup of coffee and a cupcake will be a nice respite, I thought. I need a respite. Don’t I?

The salon was big and busy. Kind of hip but not too pretentious. At least a dozen chairs. About half of the stylists sported coifs that combined made up the majority of the rainbow. Kind of fun. And between asking myself, “What am I doing here?” I thought, as much as I love green, I sure hope Not Gina isn’t that girl over there with the (faded) verde hair.

She wasn’t.

Not Gina approached. She had on the cutest little Kelly green floral corduroy shirt dress, black opaque tights, knee-high black boots. Her hair was long and naturally wavy. She was fresh-faced and freckled: reminding me of a taller version of my sweet Mary Claire.

I tried to let my doubts go. I relaxed and stopped nagging myself for doing this. “It’s okay.” I justified again. I need a change. Everyone needs a change now and then.

Introductions were bumpy at best. I wasn’t sure if she heard me. I wanted to keep the length in the front for when I wear hats, and I didn’t want my neck shaved. My thoughts went back to Gina, who knew my little quirks. And here I was, starting over with Not Gina. I felt like an awkward teenager.

Next thing I knew, I was on my back. I will admit, the shampoo was a little rough but invigorating.

Once back in the chair she studied me. Slowly combing through my locks.

“You have a lot of cowlicks,” she said.

I know, I replied.

“I mean a lot.”

I inhaled the “yes, I know” to calm the momentary “what-am-I-doing-here?” shot of stomach juice with an “I-can-still-leave” chaser.

I asked her how long she had worked there.

Eight years, she said.

Ok. I thought. She’s experienced. That’s good. Then in conversation, she used some choice words describing what she could do for me. Appealing words like modern, swinging, and, yes, even hot. And then she used that one word that fuzzy-headed girls like me only dream about: easy.

Once she got to work, she seemed pretty systematic. Next thing I knew, scissors were down, and she started drying my hair.

That was painless. I thought. And from what I could see, it looked pretty good. But then she picked up a straighter. Outside of a hair dryer, I don’t use appliances. Without discussion, she set to work.

“I’ve never had my hair straightened,” I confessed. “I have a pin head. I rely on my hair to, you know, make me not LOOK like a pin head.”

Not Gina assured me, it was just to check out the cut. Examine my cowlicks. Make sure things were straight.

It actually looked pretty good. Not as pinny as I imagined. Then she looked into my eyes through the mirror and said, “I still have a lot of work to do.”

Before I could utter, “Huh?” Something like this happened. (You don’t need to watch the whole thing – you get the picture.)

It seemed to go on forever. At some point, she angled the section of hair I mentioned I didn’t want cut, and I stopped her just short of cropping the front of my hair right off.

“You don’t want bangs?” I thought we covered that. No bangs. The nervousness came back, but she seemed relaxed while “why am I here?” continued playing on repeat in my head.

Suddenly – with scissors a-blazing – she was chatty.

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer. Wife. Mom.”

“Oh, I write poems,” Not Gina said. “Hundreds of them really.” I nodded with my eyes not moving for fear of the scissors.

“I’m sure they’ll be published someday.” She studied her work. “I’m not sure they are really poems. But they’ll be a book.”

Wait. What am I doing here?

In the next 15 minutes, I learned about the apparent joys of sitting in an empty room with your own energy (which is not the same if there is a picture hanging on a wall), primitive painting using food coloring and frosting, an unfulfilled life due to the squashed ambition to become a dancer (without lessons), and a yearning desire to be a vegetarian – if only she could only stop craving meat.

At one point, she said something that led me to interject information about me  singing at church. She said she was going to go see a jazz band at a church down the road. She asked me about church and what denomination I was.

She told me she was baptized Catholic, then scoffed that her parents weren’t at all religious. She didn’t know the denomination of the jazz-band church.

Then she looked at me, scissored hand to chest, and said, “I believe in God. Completely. I’m just afraid to call myself anything,” she said. “You know: like I am a ‘this.'” Then she added, “I made my First Communion, too.”

At that moment, I knew why I was there. Her sincere eyes – pale and green like my own – locked into my gaze. Searching.

I shared with her the fact that with the Sacrament of Baptism she received an indelible mark on her soul . “It’s always there,” I quietly told her. Again her hand went to her chest, brushing her hair just enough for me to spy a cross among other charms around her neck.

“God made us to seek Him,” I told her. “He’s drawing you, and he made you to be drawn. You just have to choose to respond.”

“Maybe I should make my Confirmation,” she said. I told her that deciding to follow Christ meant making a commitment to pray and to learn about what His church teaches. Maybe she should learn about that Baptismal promise her parents made on her behalf.

“For Catholics, this is the Year of Faith …” I started to explain. Before I could continue, Not Gina surprised  me by saying, “Yes. I know. It starts today.”

After she shaved my neck (sigh), we said our goodbyes. I could see her contemplating our talk. I left her armed with some information to help her on her journey, and I promised I would pray for her. She sweetly and humbly thanked me.

At that moment, my hair looked great, but when upon leaving, when the receptionist asked me if I wanted to make my next appointment or wait to see how it grew out – she confirmed what I suspected – it wasn’t going to last.

It’s only been a handful of days, but every time I look in the mirror and try to tuck my too-short piece of hair behind my ears, I can’t help but recall the whole affair. Just the same, I am always grateful for the opportunity to share with others my faith, and through these experiences I am gently reminded that it is not without sacrifice that we are called to follow and spread Christ’s love.

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19

Postscript: I’m trying to see how long I can make it before I go to Gina, confess and have her fix my indiscretion. Her mom’s a regular reader – so Connie, put on some coffee and save me some maple cookies, and let Gina know I’m in it for the long haul. 😉

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What’s love got to do with it?

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Sunday, I had the honor of attending a wedding of a long-time friend. Our last names started with S – so our lockers were next to each other throughout high school. It was a small girls’ school. Alphabetical was as complex as it needed to be. So with a “Hi my name is,” a friendship was born.

Yes. That’s a prairie blouse and braces. I loved that shirt. I think I took this photo on a self timer. I can vaguely remember us trying to maneuver like that in 7 seconds or something. I know I printed the photo.

I can tell you that like many friendships that begin in adolescence, we had ups, downs and somewhere in-betweens. Sometime after I graduated from college, we lost touch for a stretch.

One New Year’s Day, I was at mass, and the priest made some comments about how and who we love, and asked us who we were missing most in our lives, blah, blah. It’s all a blur. I walked out of there and knew that I had to find her and reach out. So, I did. She reached back. I remain grateful. That was at least a dozen years ago. Time flies.

Over the years – long separated by many miles – we’ve laughed and shed tears. And have been there for each other. There’s been sickness and health, life and loss, grief and joy and a little of everything else that finds its way onto the colorful spectrum of this dramatic comedy we call life.

So, in what seemed like the blink of a very teary eye, 32 years of friendship happily brought me to that moment: witnessing two lovely people recite their carefully planned nuptials, surrounded by the people they love. Together they’ve already faced some trials – the kind that separate the men from the boys – and have emerged victorious. And they are indeed warriors: ready to tackle the world together. Beautifully. Lovingly. Thoughtfully.

I found myself moved to tears countless times. The beauty of the bride. The glowing pride of the groom. The happiness of their families. The joy of friends. Children singing and dancing. Beautiful vows and the groom stepping on a glass. Carefully chosen food. Cake pops and custom cocktails. A serenade by a close friend. Toasts with depth. No detail was missed. It was all so very personal. So very lovely.

I soaked in the surroundings and said a prayer of thanksgiving as I watching my friend thoroughly enjoy her day. And I didn’t – for a split second – take a moment of it for granted. When her youngest brother (who once stood in my kitchen and assured me – only a handful of years ago – that he probably wasn’t the marrying, fathering kind) sat next to me glowing and sharing lovingly about his wife and sweet baby daughter, I was officially a goner. (Especially since we had prayed for him very specifically with that in mind.)

On top of the palpable joy, there was fun. That girl knows how to throw a party. Although I am most often one very upbeat, happy, more-than-slightly goofy woman, I don’t really break loose and have as much fun as I should. (The irony of that statement in this case is that I wanted to dance more at the wedding, but my back is still making me pay for the “fun” I had sitting with my 10-year-old in the front car of wicked roller coaster two weeks earlier. Fun gets those annoying ironic quotes because once the memory of the joy of the ride was more than 10 days old – and my back was still killing me – “fun” officially got pummeled by pain.)

I brought my camera to the wedding but left it in the car. I really didn’t want to see the day through a lens. A few times I uttered that I was going to go out and get it, and Richard looked at me like I was nuts and told me to relax. I snapped a few sweet Instagram shots to share with friends and family. My parents were so pleased to see them – texting me thanks for sharing and cheering her on. My mom called early the next morning to get details, to gush over the beautiful the bride was and tell how handsome her new husband is and how gloriously happy they look.

That’s because they are. It’s the real deal. I can’t wait to see the official photos. The few I’ve seen are really beautiful and clever.

So what’s my point to this rambling? Life is a gift. Time is a treasure. And real friendship is so completely worth hanging on to. So do it – if you don’t already.

And if the question is: What’s love got to do with it?

The answer is: Absolutely everything.

Embrace your inner girl

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My daughters and I were invited to a bridal shower – the first of my college friends with a child getting married. A lovely young woman with an excellent head on her shoulders … and one seriously beautiful head of hair. (She’s a hair-stylist. And obviously a good one. A quarter of the women there had their hair done by her, and there wasn’t a questionable “do” in the bunch.)

MC couldn’t come, but Helen was able to meet me there from school. It was an hour trip for each of us in opposite directions. I was looking forward to spending a few hours with her while celebrating the upcoming nuptials of this dear bride-to-be.

I was so eager to see my friend – it’s been too long since we’ve been in each other’s presence. (It’s funny – and sad – how an hour away might as well be the moon when life is so jammed-packed.)

I was looking forward to greeting her family and meeting the two little ones who have joined them through foster care. I was glad to share with her husband the story of our friends with five adopted children (soon hopefully six!) all through the foster care system.

When we arrived, it didn’t take long to notice that everything was just so completely perfect. Sparkly. Pink. Coordinated. Thoughtful. The best kind of party.

Every young woman, middle-aged woman and even older-aged woman had perfect hair. (I can admit, I was thankful that I put in a little extra effort on my generally unruly mop.)

The girls were all so fashionable and lovely. (And I’m sorry for saying girls. They are young woman. I know. But most were maybe a year of two older than Helen. I’m not ready to give up saying “girl” just yet. Being PC comes later in motherhood for me, I guess.)

Helen too was also acutely aware of the cute. She (admittedly, like me) is always a little apprehensive to embrace the sparkle – a trait not inherited by either of her younger sisters – they both thoroughly enjoy all that shines and twinkles.

She informed me that she texted her boyfriend and told him about all the pink and all the pretty.

His reply: Have fun and embrace your inner girl.

Smart kid. Good advice. And I can say she did. (And so did I!)

The food was casual and just right. The menu consisted of the Detroit original J.L. Hudson Maurice Salad, rolls, little stuffed pastry appetizers, tasty warm meatballs (turkey), chocolate-dipped this and that, drinks with frozen raspberries and mint leaves, glass jars filled with pink and white candies  and a fabulous array of cupcakes. All was all a very girlish and quite a bridal delight.

We had a lovely time. And I’m sure I looked like a nut job taking photos of the food with my iPhone. But I’m used to that.

And wait, did I say cupcakes? Yum!

Here’s your bag, lady.

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(Insert photo of me. If I had the nerve to actually take a photo of myself today.)

Today I ran into an old friend from high school. I noticed her at the other end of the counter at Starbucks just as the cashier was handing me a bag containing a delicious salted caramel square.

I was all smiles, happy to see her. We chit chatted about the stuff of life. The kind of stuff you can cover while waiting for a grande-non-fat-two-pump-with-whip mocha.

I spoke to her sunglass-covered eyes as she spoke to my progressive lens +2.5 magnified-wrinkled eyes. I’m not gonna lie. The thought that I should suck it up and buy some decent prescription sunglasses did cross my mind. But since I have to change my prescription yearly, that’s not likely to happen. She’s always a welcoming joy. She’s so down to earth. She too now has a son in college. Attending Harvard. She was a smart kid. He’s obviously a chip off the old block.

As I was leaving, I got a glimpse of my reflection in the door.

And I thought: I am not a chip off the old block.

I am a bag lady.

Seriously.

Coat missing a button (I’d like to say it just fell off), hot pink gloves, red plaid hat. Not a stitch of makeup. Nice. Walking to my dirty 11-year-old van that I’m going to drive until it falls apart (because I want to).

My parents would never be so disheveled. Ever. My mother would never consider leaving the house without makeup and her hair done. And she would never not match. If her coat was missing a button, she’d either sew it right on, or wear a different coat. And my dad. He’s pretty close to perfect. He’s no hairspray-using Jim Bob Duggar, but his hair is always in place. (He’s carried the same comb in his pocket since 1957.) And his car would never be dirty. Or old. (Unless of course it was a 1957 Chevy that’s covered and spotless in his garage.)

I had to chuckle. Although my parents have had great influence on my personality and my creativity, perhaps media has had an even deeper subconscious influence on me than I ever thought … at least on my sense of style. I was a one-person walking sociology project. Life imitating art. (Even though I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way around.) At least it’s art I love.

Time flies when you’re …

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really busy. It’s hard to believe this much time has gone by since I’ve posted on this site. For those who know me, I have an awesome regular gig writing for a museum I love, so it’s been really busy fitting that into the already insane schedule that we call ours.

But here’s a little run down of some lessons I’ve learned of late:

  1. It’s easier to send your child to college the second year. But her being away has a different feeling of permanence. That, I’m pretty sure, I don’t like. Even though my goal is for each child to be independent, there’s a certain emptiness that goes along with that. But it’s oddly okay.
  2. Sometimes, some major parenting decisions have to be made on the fly. And sometimes, those are the best decisions.
  3. Swimmers swim a lot. There’s no double meaning to that. MC is swimming an average of 4.5 hours a day. What the heck?
  4. Doctors may tell you one thing (like your kid shouldn’t play soccer with a broken finger). And you are free to ignore them completely because you have to live with your kid, and they don’t.
  5. Cancer is a four (okay, six) letter word.
  6. Some young women are brave beyond our wildest imagination.
  7. My baby sister makes a fantastic mother.
  8. Prayer is the real elixir of love.
  9. Befriend a saint. (Living or dead.)
  10. Befriend a sinner. (That includes yourself.)
  11. People are humans. And humans are … human.
  12. Keep singing. Always.

Blessings to all.

Who do you say that I am?

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An acquaintance from church asked if we could babysit her youngest daughter in a pinch.

“Of course,” we say. She’s a spunky, strawberry-blond not-quite-three-year-old.

Said acquaintance drops off said child complete with baby-care paraphernalia. Good-bye acquaintance. Hello strawberry-blond toddler.

The big girls and Lil are going to take her downstairs to play dollhouse.  Then big girl number one asks, “What’s her name?”

Oh no.

It occurs to me. I have no idea. None. Can’t come up with a guess. I know I heard it when she was born. But since? Nope. I don’t have that kind of memory.

So, we ask the nameless child. She’s articulate. We know she wants to play. Her answer does not match the question. Again. And again. She’s cute. But nameless. So for little while, we call her a generic Sweetie. Which isn’t very effective. She doesn’t respond to “Sweetie, don’t throw the blocks.” It would be helpful to actually know her name.

Brainstorm. I remember my dear friend is her godmother. I laugh, because I realize it took this particular friend years to remember my name. This little child is only three. I’m not sure that’s been enough time for it to stick. Even though she’s godmother. (But I am confident she is doing her godmotherly duty and praying daily with all of her wonderful heart for the strawberry-blond nameless child.)

I make the call. No one is home. Call her cell. She answered AND remembered. And we are victorious.

And she is Victoria.

Fostering love

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Last week, we attended a Halloween party hosted by a lovely family. They have five children, seven and under. The house was decorated adorably, games were planned and played, even the food fed the theme.  All of that was great, but one moment made it the best party ever.

Tiffany, Blayne and their beautiful family.

Fostering Love

Our hostess was busy preparing her laptop to show the guests a video clip where her children’s faces were fit into a comical clip of the Monster Mash. As her computer loaded, it revealed a desktop photo of their baby getting baptized.

Her five-year-old son pointed to the photo, “That’s when Itty Bitty got dunked. When he got baptized. Right Mom?”

Through the busyness — waiting for the computer to finish booting up and the website to load — his mother affectionately smiled at him and said, “Yes, it is.”

Then he inquired, “Did the judge say we can keep Itty Bitty yet?”

She looked at him and said, “Not yet. Hopefully soon.”

Other adults in the room inquired about the status of the baby’s adoption. Postponements, future court dates were briefly mentioned. Then, that dear boy looked up at his mother and asked, “The judge said you can keep me, right?”

“Yes. We can keep you.” She reassured him. “The judge said we can keep you.”

He asked a few more times, interjecting his query Continue Reading »