Next Week, It May Be Pink

So, i’m in Ulta killing time while my son shops for comic books. I notice they are having a great deal on some Urban Decay lip glitter, so i am trying the testers to find some colors for my oldest daughter who embodies that Urban Decay look. When i see one that i can’t find the tester for, i ask the salesperson. She points out one that would look good on me. So i explain that these are for my daughter… I am far too long in the tooth to be wearing that kind of statement lip color.

“But, ma’am…” She says, with a duh look on her face and a rather pronounced eye roll that you could almost hear, “You have purple hair.”

Ok, yes, i have purple hair. This week. It was blue last week. But that’s beside the point. My ultra-short funky-colored hair isn’t as noticeable as full-on silver glitter lips. Is it? I mean, wouldn’t that put it WAY over the top? I’d look like some sad woman trying to recapture her youth.

Right?

It’s a fine line between being a silver-age woman with independent and funky style à la Iris Apfel… And being a joke.

I’d prefer to be the former.

But truth be told, i am a bit of a joke. Case in point:

My son and i are watching his new favorite show, Designated Survivor. An ad comes on for some new drug, and as expected, at the end a bland male voice lists the common side effects: Fungal infections, false test results, elevated liver enzymes… And my son and i start adding on our own…

Excessive flatulence

Bad breath

Suspicious hoof growth

Elevated gas prices

Hermaphroditical tendencies (I swear he made that word up)

Lack of Christmas spirit

Inexplicable craving for hockey and cottage cheese

You can imagine the rest. We have so much fun with things like that, as nuts as that may seem. I know it is more expected to have a kind of Tom Hanks humor (Which we love, don’t get me wrong…), but in reality, my family is more Coen brothers and Eddie Izzard. Smart, dysfunctional, sometimes daft, sometimes sick. It’s the liquid in the glue that holds us together. Not surprising, i suppose, to anyone who reads me regularly. And probably adds credence to the purple hair and glitter gloss.

Or maybe not.

Maybe there is nothing that explains a 51 year old woman with purple hair. Glitter gloss or not. One who takes up tap dancing instead of joining a gym like normal people. One who, after raising three amazing weedlings, makes an effort to live life unapologetically. One who writes a blog saying a bunch of stuff that probably would better off if left in my head.

But then, the few of you who get it might not know you aren’t alone.

Besides, my head might explode from holding all this in.

And my weedlings, just like their Ma, aren’t the best at cleaning… I can’t leave them with that kind of mess.

 

 

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The System Went Live, And All I Got Was This Pay Check

It has been a hell of a couple of weeks.

The new career culminated in a system GoLive that was on par with the day after a county fair chili eating contest. In other words, a shit show. Apparently, that is normal. Being a clinical medical person up til now, i am not used to that. Because we had patients on the line, it wasn’t a shit show unless the patient actually, you know, shit. Basically, no matter how bad things got with computer issues or patient condition, you were running on adrenaline. You’d adjust and move on, with no time to think about it til later.

Without a patient to distract my brain squirrels, the big day was a lot different than a patient with an active heart attack. First off, instead of adrenaline, i was running on string cheese and hummus… Neither of which are a good idea in excessive quantity. Second, it was hard to drum up appropriate panic for the user who couldn’t find the exact study they wanted because it was listed under “cardiac” and not “heart”. (Most “critical issues” actually were, but sometimes these eye-roll kinds slip thru, and you have to hope against hope that the user is just having an off day.) Third, the level of noise when you cram nearly 300 people into a giant cubby farm meant for 125 is enough to disturb the zen of the Dalai Lama himself. Fourth, it is a painful irony that when you most need a day off / a walk in the woods / a visit with your therapist, you don’t have time for it.

I was cranky. I was frustrated. I was exhausted. And i lost count of how many times i talked myself out of ceremoniously exiting the building with a straight back and a one fingered salute on each hand.

But even in the midst of all that, there were moments that warmed my soul.

I came home one evening to find that my oldest weedling had folded the clothes in my dryer, even knowing that i am level 10 particular about laundry. I could tell she worked hard to mimic my OCD folding requirements. And i damned near cried when i read the note on top that said, “Love you, Ma. I tried my best.”

My son uttered nary a complaint, and required no extra requests, to get chores done. He even did some of my chores so i could roll into bed when i got home. And he did it all with virtually none of the snarkiness implicit in a 15 year old boy.

I received an after-hours voicemail from a user whom i had helped. It was a genuine and sweet thank you. It’s a simple thing, but the fact that she took the time after her own long workday to make a phone call meant more to me than she could ever know.

Friends and family have been generous with their patience. It isn’t easy to stay connected with someone who is socially running on fumes. But there has been no chiding for non-response. No nagging to answer the phone. Only the random supportive message or funny meme. It helped to know that i was forgiven without question. I couldn’t ask for better people in my circle.

There is still a lot of work to do. But i am better prepared for this than i was for the job in the beginning. I have learned a lot and acquired some great co-workers. And i survived the biggest hurdle of this new career: The not-real-shit show.

As things start to settle down and we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel, where we get to work normal hours and have a bit of life outside of the cubby farm, I am reminded of something… Tho wading thru the last week felt like The Great Molasses Flood   (It’s a real thing. Click on the link if you don’t believe me) – An onslaught of unexpected stickiness and suffocating waves coming at a fast pace… Setting everyone back in shock and disbelief that this is actually happening for real… It’s everywhere and you can’t escape it… Oh-my-god-does-this-mean-there-won’t-be-any-rum??… Oh no! What a mess!  – In the path of the cleanup, it leaves a lingering sweet scent of a job well done.

Unfortunately, it also leaves sticky spots and bugs.

But at least it ensures continued employment.

Distinctive Similarity

Sitting on the front porch, cup of Lapsang Souchong, messaging a Brit friend of mine, and watching the remnants of Nate pass thru… Siri had been at my side, but then she saw a chipmunk and took off. I messaged this to my Brit friend, and then i got to thinking. A few Google clicks later, i discover that there are no chipmunks in England. Seriously. Zero. But i’ll bet they still have rodents that dig up the bulbs in their garden. He bet that his cats, familiar with chipmunks or not, would chase and eat one.

They don’t have groundhogs in the U.K. either.  But i’m sure they have some other kind of cute-but-destructive whistle pig.

I have friends in Australia… If i went there and saw a Tasmanian Devil, i’d be awed, even tho we have our own version of the “Trash Panda”, the American Raccoon.

I suppose it is natural to assume that all places and people are both the same and different. Parents work, kids learn, and politicians make rules that they don’t follow. But not all parents work an eight hour day and come home for supper. Not all children get to go to school. Not all politicians are criminals. All cultures have music, but each has it’s own melodic sound. We all eat bread, but indigenous grains make it taste different in different cultures. And we all tolerate idiots, regardless of what language we speak. Same in principle, different in detail.

Let me tell you a story:

During the Gulf War, i spent time in the Middle East. Even having a full schedule with my Navy duties, i still occasionally had time to explore. For example, a friend and i had heard about this great hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant on the edge of the city where we were temporarily stationed, and ventured out one night to go there. Now, the city wasn’t a large place, but somehow we still got lost. We ended up in an outskirt neighborhood after dark, and one of the local kids came over to us.

“My mom says this isn’t a good place for you to be. Why are you here?”

“We were looking for a place to eat that we heard was very good, but we got lost.”

He runs to his mom and tells her. She motions us over. She is stirring a big pot over a fire in what could essentially be considered a dirt floor garage. There are other women around her, and a whole mess of kids running around playing. Thru her son, who is maybe 8 or 9, she tells us we were nowhere near where we were headed, will never get to the restaurant on time and were welcome to eat with them instead.

We take her up on her hospitality. Some of the kids stick close by to translate. I ask about her recipes, her husband, her family. She asks about our children and what it is like to be a woman in the military. Someone starts playing music… Unfamiliar to me, but upbeat and pop-ish. Periodically, a young weedling will come tug at skirts. I can’t understand the words per se, but i’m sure it is something like, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYY!” Sometimes, after this, i see Mom’s eyes roll, and then she looks at me and laughs. She knows i know what it’s like.

We shared a delicious, if humble, meal of lentils and flatbread. More talking and laughing and friendship afterwards because, tho of different backgrounds, the concepts of “Family” and “Meal” are universal. Tho literally on the other side of the globe, as women, as mothers, we are sisters.

As we got up to leave, we handed the woman money. She vehemently refused. Her son let us know that she would not take money from our children’s mouths. Hospitality was part of their culture, and the exchange of money wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t til we explained that we had been given this stipend by our government specifically for eating, and that it was not taking anything from our family, that she relented. We reasoned that our experience that evening was something every government should encourage. And then we laughed and hugged, and her son gave us directions back to our hotel.

I relay this story because even tho from two different worlds, the woman and i were the same. Different language, culture, lifestyle… Everything that, on first glance, would make you think we had nothing in common. And yet, we were both “Mom”, both curious, both building a bridge with a total stranger. Our children were dressed differently, would be educated in a completely different way, and certainly had different opportunities… But our kids were all loved, raised, and taught to be kind. She had likely never seen a chipmunk, and i have never seen a jerboa, but we both know a rodent when we see one.

Differently the same. Similarly different. All of us. Everywhere. We all have blessings. We all have problems. We all know friends and family and music. We all know bills and illness and assholes. We all seek the pleasure in little things. We all seek the occasional epic event. We all cope with politicians. We all deal with rodents.

But maybe those last two are the same thing.

51

At this age, the main thrill you get from a birthday is that you are still alive and enjoying it. Tho some birthdays are benchmarks, like turning 50, the noteworthy numbers are fewer and farther between at this time of life. It doesn’t mean that the date is bad. It’s just harder to muster enthusiasm for a number of years that doesn’t have a specific relevance attached. So turning 51 yesterday was kind of anti-climactic.

While wondering if this indifference was justified, i had the bright idea to Google the number.

It wasn’t just me.

I mean, there were some very cool references: 51 is the number of Doc Hudson in the Cars movies, it’s the direct dial code to Peru, and it is the source of speculation that is Area 51 (For you non-U.S. citizens: This is a government facility that supposedly is for flight testing but, according to popular tale, also harbors recovered alien aircraft and extraterrestrials).  But for the most part, the references were mathematical: Cyclic Gilbreath Permutations (Which apparently have something to do with the shuffling of cards), Stormer numbers (Which, oddly, do not reflect on the weather), and Perrin numbers (Which have nothing to do with steak sauce). Kind of interesting, if you’re bored enough. But there was nothing in there that was like, “WOW! How did i not know that?!?” Nothing that made me think i should be excited about it. I’ll bet, if i conducted a survey, it wouldn’t even be on anyone’s list of favorite numbers.

Not that it’s bad. It’s just “meh”.

I didn’t really expect this birthday to be exciting. And i didn’t expect it to be particularly depressing. So i shouldn’t be surprised that 51 isn’t a magic astrological number, or the number of calories in a cup of  Häagen-Dazs, or the average number of dates a single, middle-aged woman has in a year. (Tho it is the atomic number of Antimony… Which, if it were the opposite of matrimony like it sounds, would be a great thing…)

I suppose, in the end, i got what i expected… Another year on this Earth to make people smile and laugh. Another year to watch my weedlings grow to become extraordinary people. Another year to try to make a positive difference in my little corner of the world. So even as i find out that 51 has no celestial promise for magnificent mojo, or a free facelift, or a surge in calorie metabolism; i am a lucky woman indeed.  My expectations were fulfilled.

And i have already checked… 52 has promise.

A Knight in Battered Armor

This is where i admit that i’ve a soft spot for people, men and women both, with a bit of grit. I’ve never been one for the pretty boy or the stately beauty. Show me callouses, scars, and the look in their eye that, in spite of all they’ve seen, they still find me worthy.

Those lists – the ones made by fashion and gossip magazines – of the hottest celebrities… Rarely do they show the kind of people i lust after. The millionnaire bachelor with his perfect cheekbones and professionally trained physique hold very little allure for me. Don’t get me wrong, i understand why others carry the torches. The aesthetic of the Hollywood-groomed woman, of the couture-suited man, they beg to be noticed. The ones who have acquired that old-style grace, and the ones with the dry wit… There is a reason they are PR’d that way… Because the masses love it.

The perfect bit of 5 O’clock shadow. The golden skin and curve of a silk and tulle clad breast. We all wish we had it – Either for ourselves or in the form of a lover. But to me, they have always rung as a bit fake. To say you’ve had a man with cut abs and  larger than life junk in his trousers… When i was young, i thought that was a great accomplishment. I thought it proved something about me. And i suppose it did.

It proved the shallowness and short-mindedness of youth.

Physical attraction is important. Yes, scientifically, it ensures the continued population of the species; but more importantly, attraction means sex. And sex is good for our physical and mental health. It’s one of God/Goddess/Universe’s greatest and funnest gifts. It is an affirmation of life. Or should be, when it is done well and with the right person.

Each of us has our own idea of the “right person”. What attracts us, engages us, and keeps us entertained is different for each person. One may like a chiseled face. One may like a muscular ass. Others are all about the hair. More power to them. As for me, i want someone whose face and body tell a story of survival, passion, and depth.

Show me the scar where he got his ass beat getting his best friend’s back. Show me calloused fingers where she worked her way up in a man’s world. But most of all, show me that look in their eye. Those eyes that have seen pain and joy. The ones that hold lust and wisdom. The ones that promise their heart if you can get thru to it. I want someone who has seen a lot, been thru a lot, and respects others who have done the same. THAT is someone who i can open up to and melt for. That is a degree of sexiness that won’t diminish with age, circumstance, or loss of limb.

I’ve always held this view, but it’s been made worse by binge watching Game of Thrones.  Too many sexy scar-bearers in that cast. And me, laid out on a lot of bedrest after some surgery… Filling my time by ogling them and getting wrapped up in the drama. (You think you’ve found the perfect fantasy character… Then they either get killed or do something terribly evil…. It’s a tease of volcanic proportions.) (If you think about volcanoes for a second… The waxing and waning of smoke, and the lava overflowing or not, depending on the whim of the gods… It makes even more sense.) 

Friends have told me for a long time now that i would love this show. It is the kind of epic fantasy that i devoured as a kid, but have less time for as an adult. After watching this series, tho, i think i need to start making time for it. No, i won’t get to ogle the sexy people as easily in a book; but a good writer brings that sense of duty, honor, and passion out in a way that is even more sexy. (And then you get to picture them in your head and make them your own… There is no bigger tease than the one we create in our own mind.)

And why am i writing about this today? A combination of too much rest (I’m not good at “resting”) and post-op narcotics, i suppose. This idea has been sitting in my draft bin for over a week, but i was afraid to publish it til i had been off the pain pills for a bit, lest i regret it in a literary “morning after.” The equivalent of waking up with your best friend’s little brother after a drunken dinner party. Except the brother has armor. And a sword. And a convoluted claim to a crown. And a scar across his cheek. And that look in his eye….

Oh my.

 

 

 

I Am Isis

I miss being a badass.

There was a time when i felt like i was capable of anything. I was strong: physically, mentally, spiritually. I was fearless. I was on a warpath to make things better. An everyday superhero with an invisible goddess cape and Lynda Carter’s boots. Except mine were silver instead of gold. I always did prefer silver.

I knew what was right. And what was best. I was powerful. And i was a part of the Special Forces that was going to set the world to right. Seriously. Don’t laugh. I was. I really was. I was Chuck Norris with tits.

I’m not sure what happened. One morning i woke up and put on an outfit of mom jeans instead of my kevlar bustier. Left my amulet behind and took my cell phone instead. I got so involved in the boring shit of daily life that i forgot i was supposed to be part of the Justice League.

Over time, i forgot how to deflect bullets. I stopped training. I lost my thirst for a cause. My biceps became bat wings, and the cape and boots moved to the far back corner of the closet.

My weedlings are badasses. My oldest has a searing sword for those who would stomp on the rights of others, especially her sisters. My middle daughter has an internal fire of the type the Navy used to tell us just to push overboard, as it was too fierce to fight; and it burns hottest for those who cannot fight for themselves. My son is still Robin, wanting a cause, but still learning his place in the Real Live Comic Book Realm. They are awesome.

Somewhere along the way i became Alfred.

Not that Alfred is a bad thing to be. The world needs Alfreds. I just miss being a Shero.

I know it is still in there – Hidden in the deep recesses of my mind. I can pull a Molly Weasley and crush any bitch who would threaten my children. (Sorry, you Marvel fans. Molly is a Superhero. End of argument.) I will kick your sorry ass with my sensible penny loafers. I burn your thin skin with my menopausal heat. I will smack you with my bat wings like a bad, bad donkey, til you’re begging for mercy and embarrassed as hell that you got beat by an old broad. I will.

I’m out of practice –  i’m not dead.

But in spite of that, i still miss the presentation, the aesthetic of my badass self. I miss feeling strong and sure and champion. I miss that confidence, that rogue. I need to steel my thighs, center my mind, tighten up my hi-Helen’s, pull my SuperSuit from the closet and duct tape my fluffy self into it. There are things that need doing in this world, or at least in my life, that i can tackle. I can fight. I can win. And i can do it with style. I just keep forgetting, and real life takes over.

Momma Hol is pretty cool, but there used to be a deeper truth. Well, there still is. It has just been slumbering, it isn’t gone. Now that i need it again, it’s time to wake it up.

After all, my friends don’t call me The Mighty Isis for nothing.

 

 

What To Do When You Find Yourself Accidentally Almost Bald

So, the faux hawk wasn’t growing out well. Because of my cowlicks, it wouldn’t stand straight up without looking like Kid ‘n Play. And if i tried to lay it down, it looked oddly lumpy. Still not time for my next hair appointment. So i grab the clippers that i got to clean up my back hairline. I strap on the #8 guard (Which is an inch and a half). Mind you, the hair on the sides and back is short enough that the blades don’t even touch it. But as i get further up to the top, it starts coming off with a pleasing buzzy sound.

When i get to the front, i don’t push the clippers all the way to my head and instead leave a bit of a forelock.

I look down in the sink, and realize exactly how thick my hair is. Even just this trim has a HUGE ball of hair sitting there, staring at me like something from a Sesame Street sketch. I half expect it to jump out and shout “Mah-na! Mah-na!” I leave the almost-muppets be for the moment and hop in the shower to wash off all the scratchy little hair bits.  Then i break out my makeup mirror so i can see the back of my head better. Oops! there’s a bushy spot. Gotta fix that.

Plug the clippers back in and take them to my head. One stripe. Two.

Ut oh. That wad of hair looks way too big to be what i was aiming for. I mean, it was only a little uneven, and this looks like a granddaddy dust-bunny.

Oh, no. I couldn’t have. I mean, did i? Please, God, no. Hesitantly, i look at the clippers.

I had taken the guard off.

Oh, shit.

Oh, SHIT!

I run back and grab the mirror again. Too hard to see for sure…. Or maybe i just didn’t want to believe it.

Grab my phone and try to take a selfie of the back of my head. After 20 or 30 tries, i finally get something usable.

OH, SHIT!!!!

The back of my head looks like there are two well-used slopes open at Telluride.

To keep myself from hyperventilating, i close my eyes and take a couple deep breaths. I imagine my happy place: A cafe in Palermo, Sicily. Cannoli, Arancia candita, Sigaretti, Cassatelle, Marzipan…. Aaaahhhh. I open my eyes and look in the mirror again.

Any takers on the next word to come out of my mouth?

I allow myself a few seconds to mourn. Then i pull myself together because, really, the only thing i can do now is even it up and paint it purple so it looks somewhat intentional.

I snap the number one guard on and buzz the back of my head and around my ears. Then i jump up to the three guard and do the sides and top, pulling it longer in the front. Back into the shower to rinse off.

My scalp can feel the breeze of the ceiling fan.

A moment of truth as i take a peek at the back of my head again.

The scalp streaks are still there, but not quite as noticeable. There are still a  couple spots that i would like to touch up, but i’m afraid i will make it worse if i keep messing with it. I mean, i’ve only got 1/4″ of hair left on most of my head… I can’t risk cutting off more!

Please, God, let tomorrow be national cowboy day, so i have an excuse to wear a hat.

Pleading for a good response, i take a picture of myself and send it to a couple of select people. They tell me i look like a pixie. Because i only showed them the front. From the back? It’s more like a pixie that went to boot camp, and unfortunately got the new barber…  The day after he graduated from Trump Barber School.  I got some “Whoa”s, and some “Oh, wow”s. My stylist was less than pleased, and i don’t blame her, but even she  came up with some positive remarks. And everyone reminded me that my hair grows really fast.

Then terror sets in, because tomorrow is Friday and i have to work.

I send a note to my closest coworkers and forewarn / threaten them not to laugh.

**********

The next morning, after deciding that it wasn’t work-appropriate for me to show the amount of cleavage it would take to make the hair unnoticeable, i put a little extra effort into my makeup and pick an outfit on the more feminine side (Well, for me, anyway). I practice my casual everything-is-coming-up-roses walk to fake some confidence. I am trying to own it, but i am failing miserably.

I should have gone with the cleavage.

At first, nobody says anything. Then a couple of the women tell me they kind of like it. Not so much praise as to make me think they are lying thru their teeth, but enough to let me know it isn’t stylishly apocalyptic.

Man, i love my coworkers!

**********

Two days later, and the bald spots are starting to fill in. I’ll bet i can #1 guard the back tomorrow and it will at least all be even. This isn’t a style i’m likely to come back to. I mean, i scared the crap out of myself walking past the mirror this morning, because i thought i was a maniac burglar.

But hey, i set out a couple weeks ago to spice things up a bit. A mostly shaved head is the style equivalent of scotch bonnet peppers, so at least i exceeded my goal.

And really, if i can learn to rock the accidental shaved head, i’d be one hell of a badass, now wouldn’t i? Maybe this is God/Goddess/Universe’s way of telling me that i have more strength than i thought. Maybe this is to help me learn to command myself. Maybe she is telling me to worry less about my looks.

Or maybe She’s just trying to tell me to stay away from sharp objects.