Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hair, hair, everywhere

The things we women do to be beautiful. I’m not a frou frou girl, by any means. I don’t do my nails, no facials or hours at the spa, but my hair, that is another matter. Through the years, I have had every hair style imaginable. From Farrah Fawcett to Dorothy Hamill to Katie Couric to Kelly Ripa, I’ve copied them all. And now, along with the rest of the nation, I boast Sarah Palin side-swept bangs.

I’ve gone from spiral perms to a straightening rod. And I won’t even mention the products that I use. Today I spent two hours and 15 minutes with my head wrapped in aluminum foil, so I could look “natural.” My hair has now been hand painted. Every 4th strand is blonde, and I must admit, it’s beautiful.

Yet, sometimes, I can’t help but ask, “Who are we doing this for?” I mean, do men ever comment on it other than to ask, “How much did that cost?” If he does, ladies, he is a keeper—or gay. You decide.

Changes in style can lead to changes in hairdressers, but only a few. Although most women dream of greener pastures, they are reluctant to change. Running into your old hairdresser with a fresh new do is just too awkward. I mean, how do you explain it? Not to mention the guilt!

Fortunately for me, my hairdresser is also a good friend of mine. She tells me when I need a cut, when I should change my color, and when I should just trust her. It works out great—as long as I am not late for an appointment. Otherwise, all bets are off.

Monday, October 27, 2008

God's speed, beloved trees

It’s a sad day for my home town. The big water oak trees that have provided shade for our court square for over 100 years are being chopped down. The arborists proclaim that they are dangerous, said they are a threat to the sidewalk and possibly folks passing by should a limb fall. The experts say the oaks are at the end of their natural life, so the local powers-that-be are doing what people are apt to do when that time approaches—get rid of them.

These majestic trees have faithfully guarded each corner of our 1904 courthouse, witnessing it become a hospital for Civil War soldiers, watching the streets change from dirt roads to paved, overseeing murder trials, and swaying in the wind as generations of citizens played checkers under its branches.

Today, my children and I are mourning the trees untimely demise. My kids loved playing under them after we had dinner on the square. Our favorite tree had a knoll that looked like a face—it was the first to go. By the end of the week, they’ll all be gone.

My children said they wanted to start a petition, but, honestly, there’s not enough time. I thought of chaining myself to one of the trees, like I’ve read about what I considered crazy people doing. Of course, that’s not practical, but now I see those people aren’t so crazy after all. I guess all that's left to say is God's speed, beloved trees.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rip Van Winkle

“Mom, look at the Christmas tree!” my son exclaimed as we walked into a store lobby today. I felt like Rip Van Winkle. Did I sleep through Halloween and Thanksgiving?

I understand that retailers are encouraging an early shopping season. I suppose the theory is to get people to spend what little money they have now before the economy takes a nose dive. Maybe all the decorations work on some people, but it makes me feel anxious and want to stay far, far away from stores full of frantic shoppers.

I’m not an early shopper anyway, although I do admit I’ve picked up a few things already. Where I’ve put them is another matter, however. My theory is we should forget spending all of our money on items from China that we don’t really need. If things get that bad, we just have to get creative.

Goodness knows, I’ve been there before. One Christmas I re-gifted all my childhood stuffed animals and dolls to my daughter. She was the first (and only one) of her friends to receive an original Cabbage Patch doll and Miss Piggy puppet. Fortunately, my mom had gotten rid of my Betsy Wetsy.

Another Christmas, while I was in college with very little money, I carefully picked out gifts for my family. They were quite delighted and made a fuss over each present, telling me what a great job I did choosing it. I was so pleased with myself that I blurted, “Can you believe I got them all at the Dollar Store?”

They dropped them like hot potatoes. So much for it’s the thought that counts.

Seriously, though, I hate to see retailers rush the season. Thanksgiving doesn’t even get a nod anymore, which is a shame because it’s really the best holiday. Family, food, football, parades and no silly gift exchange.

Forget Santa. Maybe we should go back to sleep and wake up in, say, March. You know, come to think of it, St. Patrick's Day isn't such a bad holiday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dealing with dumbbells

I walked into the gym today and saw a wimpy, skinny guy, trying hard to stick out his chest. Nothing unusual, it is a gym, right? Well, he was telling a very muscular, obviously physically-fit woman what exercises she should be doing.

What’s wrong with this picture? I thought.

To her credit, she put down her 35 lb. dumbbells, smiled and nodded politely. Seemingly satisfied, the young man moved on. I couldn’t help but wonder why do men feel they can approach women and give them unsolicited advice in the gym? Is it too much testosterone? Are they flirting? Or are they really just trying to be helpful?

I grew up a “gym-rat,” surrounded by “weight-woosters” (my baby talk for weightlifters) since before I was old enough to walk. With an Olympic weightlifter for a father, even our family vacations centered around weightlifting meets. I started training at a young age and am by no means an expert, but I can spot a phony, male or female, a mile away, in the gym.

At the local YMCA, there was a guy who continually advised women on what exercises they should be doing, and some of them looked pretty strange. Ladies, if it feels unnatural, it probably is.

When I was eight months pregnant, this same guy approached me and told me about some shoulder exercises that I could do. Was he serious? That’s the last body part pregnant women care about. Finally, enough women complained about his “helpfulness” that he was banned for life from the Y. We later found out he belonged to several gyms and portrayed himself as a guru to many, many women around town.

I can see why women are drawn to ladies’ only gyms. As for myself, I have joined a gym in which the medium age is 75 years. Those men may actually have some advice worth hearing, but they are smart enough to keep it to themselves.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tennis, anyone?

My introduction to tennis began when I was asked to model a tennis skirt in a charity fashion show despite the fact that I had never held a racquet. I was so smitten with the look that I bought the entire ensemble that day and immediately arranged for lessons, so I would have a place to wear it.

Flash forward 15 years, and I am still playing. I love the sport. The only problem is I am at approximately the same level--C--which is average in school and average on the court. I actually worked my way up to B once, then unable to master the drop shot, sat out two seasons, so I could drop back down to my comfort level.

In my own defense, I haven’t played 15 years straight. I’ve done my share of starting and stopping, learning to dread it when a teammate asks, “So, how long have you been playing?”

I can just about chronicle my adult life by my tennis teams. The first was a young party crowd. We celebrated every point with a sip of champagne and topped off every match, win or lose, with a trip to the bar. And that was a Sunday women’s league.

I later played to the tune of eight months pregnant, sporting maternity shorts in place of my once cute tennis outfits. I knew I was addicted to tennis when I didn’t divulge to my ob/gyn that I was playing, justifying it with the fact that doctors recommend continuing the activities that you’ve been doing.

I think the doctor suspected, however, because, with my due date fast approaching, she said, “If you are doing something you shouldn’t be, now’s a good time to stop, unless you want to have this baby early!” She must have seen me on the court. With her warning ringing in my ears, I played my last pregnant match, defeating a younger, fitter team, much to their shock and horror. Then I celebrated with a banana split.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I found a great team. We hired sitters for our children, arranged play dates, luncheons, tennis socials and practiced at least three days a week. Oh, those were the days.

In time, I realized these women considered tennis to be a job, not a hobby. The team increasingly questioned how much time I spent on the court. They even got mad at me because I opted to accompany my son on a kindergarten field trip instead of practicing. Sigh, it was time to bow out for awhile.

The inspiring fact about tennis, however, is that it is a lifelong sport. I once played doubles against a mother/daughter team—the daughter was 60. She wore support hose and stood in the same spot the entire match, strategically placing her shots. The mother was a chain smoker who kept a lit cigarette on the court. They kicked our butts.

Now my daughter is taking lessons and doing quite well. She’s even learning the ever elusive drop shot. I think it’s time for me to get back on the courts, and fast. Perhaps she and I will be the next mother/daughter team, minus the support hose. After all, ultimately it is all about the outfits!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Growing up Green

Despite the fact that I have an English degree, I find myself using expressions that I’m not sure exist. I think it’s because I grew up Green. No, I don’t mean environmentally conscious, although we did dry our clothes on the line. I remember because taking them on and off was my chore, which I didn’t mind until a pop up thunderstorm came, which was practically every afternoon in Georgia. Then I had to run out with the basket and rip the clothes off the line as the thunder clapped, and the first big raindrops began to fall.

But I digress…No, Green is my maiden name, and there are times, usually when I’m tired or annoyed, when crazy words slip from my tongue. My husband has coined these “Greenisms.”

Growing up, if something unlucky happened such as the car breaking down, my dad proclaimed the whole lot of us “snakebit,” and, believe me, with the clunkers we drove, that happened a lot. Broken toys and things we no longer needed ended up in something called the “sump hole,” which I pictured as a big, black, gurgling hole of ooze. Later, I realized it was just the dump.

Whether you call these expressions Greenisms or Southernisms, they are a part of me. And there is no denying them. Recently, when we were on a trip, my husband asked if he could have a sip of my water.

“It’s from the spicket (or is it spigot?)” I replied, referring to the bottle I filled from the hotel sink.

Good heavens, I thought, horrified, could I sound any more country?

Later, someone ran into me on the crowded street, and roughly said, “Excuse me,” to which I promptly replied, “More to you!”

Where did that one come from?

Perhaps my favorite Southern expression is one I learned from a lawyer friend. She was in court in my hometown, standing in the large courtroom surrounded by walls adorned with portraits of great Southern men. The judge looked down at her and said, “Own yew.” She looked around, perplexed.

“I said, own yew!”

Finally it dawned on her, he was saying, “On you,” meaning it was her turn to deliberate. I’ve used this expression time and time again, especially when I'm in a disagreement and feel I've made my point. Try it sometime. Southern or not, you’d be surprised how often this one hits its mark.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What happens in Vegas...

I spent most of Monday alone in a city of over one million. I can’t say I really like being alone nor can I say that I dislike it. Like a lot of moms, I haven’t been alone enough to have an opinion either way. Regardless, that is the situation I found myself in, having tagged along on my husband’s business trip to Las Vegas.

At first, I felt strange wandering through the crowded casinos and shops. It didn’t take me long to get over it, however, as there is not a better people watching place on Earth. Las Vegas is a voyeurs’ paradise.

I wasn’t the only one solo. And I couldn’t help but ask who are these people sitting alone at the slot machines at 9 a.m.? Have they been there all night? All week? Where are their families? My imagination flew--Vegas is great for writer’s block.

As I explored, I couldn’t help but notice the many couples, both old and young, some just married, bright-eyed and excited, and some lifelong partners, comfortable and contented. Of course, there were some that I wouldn’t dare speculate on. They don’t call it Sin City for nothing.

I dined all by myself, too. My teenage daughter used to say that eating alone was only for losers. As I sipped a glass of wine at a 5-star restaurant, waiting on one of three waiters to deliver my appetizer of scallops, I thought one day she’ll realize how wonderful being a loser is!

After lunch, I shopped, did some more sightseeing, and visited the gym and pool, feeling completely invisible and wonderfully alone. My only pang of loneliness came when I happened upon the wax museum in our hotel lobby. I really wanted to have my photo taken with Nicholas Cage but couldn’t bring myself to ask a total stranger to snap a photo of me with a fake celebrity.

As for the rest of the trip, as the saying goes, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” unless, of course, it ends up in my novel.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Big girls don't cry

I’ll admit it; I cry like a girl. Not that I think crying is unhealthy. In fact, I’ve tried to teach my son that it’s okay to cry. Still he’d rather cut off his foot than let anyone, especially his daddy, see tears. I guess it’s a guy thing.

Maybe if I’d been taught from an early age to suck it up, I could control my tears, too. Maybe, but I doubt it. Therein lays the problem. I don’t cry at the appropriate times. I’m dried eyed at funerals, unblinking in emergency rooms and matter-of-fact after car accidents.

The tears come when I least expect them. And once the floodgate is opened, it doesn’t shut off until it’s empty, which may very well be hours later. I handled my grandmother’s battle with cancer and funeral like a rock until All Saints Day at our church. Our preacher’s sermon turned the valve, and I cried and cried and cried. Everyone stared, and still I cried.

Same with my daughter’s graduation. I remember thinking, “Do I cry now or later?” Of course, it really wasn’t up to me. The tears came when they were good and ready, which happened to be a breakfast one morning, much to my family’s bewilderment.

Certain things are known tear-triggers. For example, since the birth of my daughter 18 years ago, I’ve cried every time I heard the song, “Cats in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin, and I do mean every time. When I was pregnant, I watched “The Baby Story” every day for nine months and cried as each baby was born. Those were the sweetest tears.

Once I got called into my boss’ office. He reprimanded me, or I least, I think he did. I’ll never know his true intentions because I started crying. My boss immediately apologized, took it all back, and came around the desk to give me a hug. I left with a box of Kleenex and a raise.

Okay, so, sometimes crying isn’t all bad.