Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I was 21 when my dad died. I think, if someone had said that sentence to me when I still had a dad, I would have thought, "Well, at least you're grown, at least it wasn't while you were still a kid..." In reality, though, I don't think we ever stop being kids. There's this strange dynamic where our parents age and slow as we grow into adulthood, and the roles begin to shift, but even as it is happening, there's an inner struggle to still be the kid, to still be walking in the safety of their shadow. I don't think you, or I, anyway, can ever fully settle into the new reality of being the stronger one.

He died almost a year past the atomic bomb that was the birth of my first baby. You can read that whole story, if you don't already know it, but that baby (R2) was 4 months early and he taught me about joy in suffering. But back to my dad. His heart attack and death was a total shock. He was 52 years old.

I usually write about him today, April 30th. Today marks 14 years I have lived without my father. I was at my parent's house every day, I worked with my dad at his graphic design/animation business. The day before his heart attack, I was there, trying on a bridesmaid dress for my friend's wedding. "You look beee-yooo-tiful," he told me, the last words he said to me in person. The next day he called me on the phone to come see his new computer, but I was busy with life and the baby, so I told him I'd see it later. I did see it later, but he was gone. My last words to him were on the phone, "Love you, see you tomorrow."

It's easy to immortalize someone who dies young, especially if they were important to you. I don't want to do that with my dad, or Daddy, as I called him every day of his life. He was normal, human, flawed and so very, very good to me. He taught me how to laugh at myself, how to take my heart seriously but my circumstances and my pride lightly. He taught me what it means to have someone in your corner, the safety of a big hand to hold in scary places, how it is never as dark as it seems.

I carry him with me, when I teach my children to laugh. I am flawed and inadequate, but I hope that the canopy of my acceptance and my deep love is something that they can find shelter under all of their life, regardless of where I am.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's hard to really have a nemesis in this day and age. When you're a grownup and a relatively nice person, you don't get much wiggle room for enemies. "Friend you avoid at the store", maybe. "Nail Salon Lady who always cuts you"... now, she's a contender. But in general, you don't get a human nemesis when you're a normal-ish person.

My archenemy is less tangible. Every day I fight a chaotic force and every day it is beyond me. Before you pick up the phone, let me clarify: I do not answer the phone. But ALSO, I am not talking about a real paranormal or psychological force. I speak of the innate ability of my home to generate messes.

I have to own it somewhat. I have never been a neat person. I just don't naturally clean up after myself. "How," you are maybe thinking, "do you not SEE the bread left out and the peanut butter sitting open and the naked toddler cutting the checkbook with scissors?" If so, you might be my husband, or just another person that thinks like him, that personality type he commonly refers to as "everyone, all people." I don't see it, because I am looking at something else. Once someone starts slamming cabinet doors, I remember.

Some days, I wake up with a plan. Today, I think, I am going to clean the house. I have that thought silently, but it sends a bat-signal to my children, and then they think, today, I am going to break this house into a thousand pieces. Today, they think, this house will bow to me.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Science.

I make an attempt to mop the kitchen floor and somehow a glass container of spaghetti sauce is hurled from a great height, causing not only glass shards in a 3 mile radius, but also a CSI-worthy sauce field. "Why," I start to ask, and then decide not to, because there is no acceptable answer to why a child was standing on the counter with a jar of red sauce at 9 am. If I did not try to mop the floor, the sauce would never have made the climb, I know that. Science.

Once that is handled, I move to the next room. I put all the shoes away, vacuum the rug, straighten the paintings. As I turn my back to a child, the unmistakeable sound of a toy basket being upended while another child loses their grip on the milk carton.

Like a superhero walking away from an explosion, I move on.

I will sweep the stairs, I think. I will clean the toilet. I will fold all the laundry. I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE GOD. And like Lucifer, I am thrown down like lightning. I will read a book, I think. I will eat cheese puffs.

I acknowledge defeat and retreat. There is no evidence of my hours-long struggle, no clean window, no unsullied dish. The world is as it was before me. I pick up my book, and suddenly the world is still. My children fall into an easy camaraderie, quietly playing in another room. No one throws sauce, no one pours cheerios in the air vent, no one puts peanut butter on the cat. All is calm in our chaos of shoes and electric-bill-snowflakes.

Into this scene he walks. "Uh," he says, attempting to phrase it carefully, "so... what did you do today?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

As a rock and roll girlfriend, I used to follow my man into Guitar Center or Xtreme Music Mporium or Shady Grove Retirement Center for Vintage Claptons, whatever. We went to music stores and I'd find some drum throne or amplifier without too many dials to sit on, and I would perch in the LOUD ZONE and listen to excerpts from Metallica, Nirvana and sometimes Kent Henry. 

It's not comfortable sitting in a guitar store when you are not a guitar player. People have loud conversations about pearl inlays and humbucker pickups and I would mostly wonder if there is any food in the forecast and also how to sit on an amplifier in a skirt, because as a girlfriend, you still wear skirts on dates. No one talks to girlfriends at the guitar store, not even other girlfriends, because there would be no point in talking, since you are in the LOUD ZONE.

"THIS ONE," he would say over the neighboring 14 year old shredding to selected chords from Stairway to Heaven, "THIS ONE, THE ACTION IS TOO HIGH. I THINK MAYBE I SHOULD LOOK AT.." and then wander off. I'd try to shimmy down from the Marshall stack without flashing anybody, and eventually find him deep in conversation with a guy wearing shiny dress shoes, slacks and a tie while sporting a waist-length matted blonde ponytail. As a girlfriend, I would stand there while he, nodding like "yeah, I play too," and not worrying about how much a guitar cost, because we were 16 years old and we had minimum wage jobs so clearly we could buy guitars. 

I think I still did the rock and roll girlfriend thing for a while as a wife, but once there were kids, I was like, "I've got this kid, see?" and I would stay in the car. Hopefully we don't get a tally of our time usage on That Great Day, but if we do I hope the Lord will chastise the MOG for the approximately 10 years of my life spent in the parking lot of Guitar Center and Ye Elite Guitar Shoppes. 

Listen, his music pays the bills, and I acknowledge the necessity of the proper tools for his craft. It's just that somewhere in the 20 years of music and so.many.children, I think I might have reached saturation and can no longer discern the crunchy grittiness or twangy rattle that I used to. "Yeah," I say, "get that one. It's green." 

A few weeks ago, on a particularly arduous quest for the Perfect Guitar, the children and I accompanied the Maestro into a store. Chaos ensued, and after about 20 minutes of chasing them through various secret doors and under billion-dollar pianos, I decided to once again retreat to the car.  Salesmen with face tattoos and navy 3-piece suits breathed a sigh of relief. 

Seasons, seasons. I figure I've got 5 years before I have to be the Band Mom and re-enter the fray. At least I can wear pants this time. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

I started coloring my hair in junior high. Back then it was just red, always red. All the heroines in the stories I wrote were redheads, redheads with violet eyes, because, realism. Then I discovered blonde and I alternated blondes and reds for years and years. My dad ran his own business and so we were either fabulously wealthy or facing eviction every month, so my mom did my hair at home. She called her kitchen salon "LaVonda Jean's".

Sometimes I went to school with hair that was more green than blonde, more pink than red. Luckily I'm a fairly confident type and still thought I looked cute as a greenhead. She kept doing my hair for years and then I moved away to Kansas City and have been experimenting with box colors ever since, except for several glorious months a friend hairstylist was making me blondish.

The thing with box color is, it's rough on hair. My hair is pretty cooperative and tends to take color well, etc, but shades vary from one brand to another and box color tends to be pretty flat, without dimension. 

So I read about E-salon and how you can custom-design your colors and they'll ship it to you, etc. They're running a promotion now and so I jumped in and ordered a kit. The site is pretty basic, letting you choose skin tone, real hair color, desired hair color, etc. Once you've built a whole profile they put your color together and ship it. It comes in an adorable box with your name on each item. They send a brush in case you want to do a bowl and brush mixture, but I'm used to the squeeze bottles so I went that route. 

If you've ever done color, you know you mix the color with the developer and shake it up. This kit has 2 colors and 2 developers, one that is the basic color and the second is the gloss. My main color was soft black and the gloss was red. I got a little confused in the process, even though there are detailed instructions. You are supposed to put the first mixture on the roots for 15 minutes and then the gloss on the rest, specifically the ends, for 10 minutes. I put the first bottle on and got paranoid about am I reading it wrong and I'm going to have black roots and red middle hair and so I put the black all over, which I think was wrong.

There are two steps, stain blocking cream and two sets of gloves, but I still managed to dye my arms and forehead and also my bathroom looked a lot like a crime scene. I don't know if it was the extra step or what but I got dye all over the place. I expect, knowing that, that next time I'll be able to contain the carnage with planning. 

In the end, the color is really nice. My hair texture feels unchanged, which is different than the plasticky Barbie hair I usually have post-color, and the color is really strong and shiny. I don't really have the red tone I expected, but that's my fault for not using the gloss correctly. 

So overall I recommend this stuff if you can't afford a salon. To me, it is an alternative to box color, but would feel complicated for someone who normally has their hair color done for them. Once the promotion is over I think it'll run about 20 bucks, and totally worth it.

I apologize for the "traditional selfie" nature of this photograph. I needed to show you the color, but I never meant to look fabulous. Accident. 

I think a basic rule of blogging is not talking about blogging. It's one of those meta-fight-club things where the blogger never really references the medium of blogging. Listen, guys, I didn't make it in fight club and I didn't sign anything at blogger club, so I'll talk about it. I'm in a slump.

It's not like there's nothing happening. Life is happening, my kids continue to be hilarious and I'd like to think I'm growing as a person. Somehow none of that is making it into the brain space that is writing. Every time I think about putting life into words, something freezes up and I feel stuck. I don't know if I need an exorcism or a vacation, but I'm working on it. Writing this, celebrating and mourning our shared experiences, it's too much a part of me to stop doing. 

And that is why after nearly a month, I am back, writing about hair color. Because it's in my brain and it's not stuck. Consider it priming the pump for better stories.

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