Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Hair-Raising Experience

Not digging Katie gray.
Or maybe it's the length.
Let's talk about hair. Katie Couric actually did an entire episode about hair last week on her new talk show. The woman went from reporting on the Pentagon, national politics, and international news to talking about hair. Hair is big. Especially in New Jersey. Ha.

I'm a big fan of hair, probably because I'm a Leo. Manes are important to us lions. The length of my mane is not an issue for me, however. In fact, I change up my hairstyle (cut it short) relatively often, at least once a year. That's a lot, considering some women my age are wearing the same style they had in high school. Women often use their man as an excuse for keeping their hair long. "Sam would hate it if I cut my hair." To which I reply, "Tell Sam if he wants to blow dry and style your hair every day, you'll keep it long." Sister, please. When we were given the right to vote, I think we earned a say in how we wear our hair.

I am fascinated by young girls like my daughter who wouldn't dream of cutting their hair short. Abby simply finds short hair "ugly." Especially on girls her age. I think this is a commonly held opinion because one only has to attend a high school football game to see that every twirler and cheerleader has hair long enough to braid. I'm starting to wonder if they allow you on the team if you can't braid your locks. Personally, I find young girls (toddlers to teens) absolutely adorable/beautiful with short hair. The look just screams confidence and maturity, an attitude that says
"I don't care what boys like or what other girls think. I can sleep in an extra 20 minutes every morning AND I look good!"
Recently my friend Kim G. and I went rogue, following in the pioneering footsteps of our friend Theresa.  Theresa got a fun, new, easy-to-do do that we all loved. We had to know: "Where did you get it cut?" The answer rocked me to my very core. "Hair Cuttery." Come again? Yes, Hair Cuttery. For 20 years I travelled back and forth to my home town (an hour-plus each way) to see my old stylist. When I finally decided that this trek was slightly ridiculous, I started picking up Groupons for cut and color deals at fairly upscale salons near my home, figuring I'd eventually find "the one." Despite playing the field for more than a year, however, none of my salon speed dating adventures turned out to be Mr.or Ms. Right. Now, you're telling me Hair Cuttery might be the answer?

Hair snobs are revolted. 

Kim G. went first and received a very nice haircut.

I had thought I was too good for the likes of a walk-in "salon" (if you can even call HC a salon). But one day I was in a mood and decided my hair was weighing me down -- literally and figuratively. In an act of desperation I threw caution to the wind and visited Dawn at Hair Cuttery. I even received a little key chain card to make it quick and easy to sign in the next time I visit. Ack! The badge of shame. I put on my dark glasses and made my way to the chair. I splurged for the blow dry. I didn't like the way she styled it, but I knew it had potential. VoilĂ .

A haircut that cost half of what the fancy salons charge, and looks pretty damn good (in my humble opinion). Those of you who don't like my new haircut are having an "aha" moment and are ridiculing my HC experience. I don't care.

While I like my new do, I LOVE Kim G's second style by Dawn at Hair Cuttery. When I saw her at church on Sunday with this awesome new look, I couldn't stop raving. Kim looks fabulous with this super short cut, don't ya think? Further evidence of just how slammin' short can be. And how good a cut you can get from a cheap walk-in joint.

Let me close by saying this. Despite all the fuss women make over our hair, I've never understood the issue men have with losing theirs. Maybe it's because my dad was nearly bald and still a good looking guy. I, for one, find bald men much more attractive than guys with beer bellies (or I found them attractive back when I noticed other men). So if you have to worry about something related to your appearance, go with your gut. Literally.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Bruce Springsteen Friend Recovery Program

The Alan Parson Project and I have something in common. We're both wondering,
Where do we go from here, now that all of the children are growing up?
It's been a time of big transitions for the MacShimer family. Abby moved to the middle school, Ian started high school, and Mom started wondering what she's supposed to do with the rest of her life. I'm seeing the future through my children's eyes and it's exciting and full of possibilities...for them. Add to the kids' transitions hitting my almost mid-40s and attending my 25th high school reunion and you probably have a sense where I'm coming from.

Maybe this is why I
haven't heard from anyone?
Like any intelligent, rational, forward-thinking person, I'm using this time of questioning, renewal, and possibility to productively yearn for yesterday. I've become particularly interested in reconnecting with those individuals who touched my life in some way and with whom I've lost touch, including:

  • My best friend Laura from high school. I went to her wedding back in the early 1990s. She promised she'd come to mine. She didn't. I never heard from her again. So nostalgic stalker Kim tracked her down on the internet. Found real estate records. Mailed a card to her address letting her know I was thinking of her and asking her to be in touch. No response. 
  • My graduate school mentor and friend Susan. I ate dinner with her family, wrote my entire master's thesis at her office computer, and valued her academic and personal guidance. Through LinkedIn I found her husband and he provided me with both her personal and work email addresses. I sent her a message. No response.
  • My Scotch Plains, NJ roommate John. He got in touch with me via LinkedIn, suggested lunch. I replied to him weeks ago. No response.
I'm getting a complex. 

The good news is that since these failed attempts I did have a welcome dose of nostalgia. On Labor Day, my friends Dave and Todd showed up at our door before the Springsteen concert they were attending with Rob. Dave and Todd were two of the sales execs at Oldies 99.9 / Hot 99.9, the radio station where I met Rob in 1991. I spent less than a year there, but it was one of the best times of my life. The entire staff was like family. The business manager suggested I marry Rob (my first day on the job). Rob lived with two of our coworkers. And we all spent most of our time outside of work together. It was a really special group of people and I'll cherish forever the memories from those months. Seeing Todd and Dave brought all that back and warmed the cockles of my heart. Thanks, boys.

The lesson learned here is simple and valuable. If you want to reconnect with old friends, offer them tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert. It's pricey, but it works. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

No Fish, but a More Than Fine Time

On Friday I was peaceful and content. Peaceful and content are a rare state for me that can only be achieved away from home. It's generally not the people at home that mess with my sense of well-being, it's my to do list.

My good feelings began on Thursday night when I sang a 90-minute solo concert en route to Waretown, New Jersey. Sometimes I enjoy driving alone just for the musical performance. When I arrived in Waretown at the B-Hive (a.k.a. the cottage), my parents were happy to see me. My parents are always happy to see me. Visiting my parents is like coming home to a dog without the licking, shedding, and crapping in the yard.

Friday night was a treat because my dad talked to me, and not just about taking the turns more slowly to save tire tread. No, my dad actually opened up and expressed his frustration at the infernal ringing in his ears and losing his hearing and how maddening it is to try to have a conversation with people when you have no idea what they're saying. We talked about a variety of topics and both fell asleep before we saw the Phillies lose. A nice way to spend the evening. [As a side note I'd like to warn you all away from Miracle Ear. You can take $6,000 and throw it away and get the same results my dad has had with Miracle Ear. It's a miracle he hasn't throttled the person who sold them to him.]

On Saturday morning we woke early at the B-Hive and headed to the marina to board the Wakakida, Dad's 22' Grady White. Our objective? Flounder. We slowly made our way through the wake-free zone until we reached Barnegat Bay and discovered complete serenity. The water as smooth as glass. The sun still in the process of rising. A line of non-threatening clounds hovering just above the horizon like a half-open window shade teasing at the treasures that lay beyond. Only a few other boats off in the distance. Boater's perfection.

What could possibly make the morning even better? How about a whale? Yep. A whale less than a mile off Barnegat Light. Breaching, spraying water out of its blowhole. An exciting first for me. You know what else makes a fishing trip memorable? Catching fish. I caught nada. Not a throw back. Not even a skate or a sea robin. Mom and Dad both caught nice 20-inchers, enough for me to bring home to feed my family. Yes, Mom and Dad are good to me.

The highlight of the trip? Clamming with my dad. We anchored the boat in about 3' of not nearly warm enough water in Barnegat Bay and slogged our way about a half mile till we reached the muck. The muck is where you find the clams. I'm not a fan of the muck, but I am a fan of my dad. And as I watched him drag his clamming rack along the bottom of the bay, it struck me that families have been doing just this for hundreds of years. Albeit without my dad's handcrafted stainless steel rake and the pool noodles being used to keep the bushel afloat. And as it occurred to me that this was a moment I'd never forget, my dad said "This is something you can always remember." And he recalled clamming 50+ years ago with his dad down near Beach Haven. They rented a small boat from Snuggery's Dock for $12 a day. It was $14 if you wanted one with a top on it.

My dad and I both have lived too much of our lives in a pretty dark place, but Friday was filled with light, literally and figuratively. My dad laughed and smiled and seemed more genuinely happy than I've seen him in a long, long time. I believe there's something about the wind and the water that breaks through whatever heaviness is weighing you down and blows away the cobwebs and the clouds that sometimes surround our hearts. 

Where do you find restoration and renewal? 
What brings you joy? 
In whose company do you find peace?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Things that Make You Go "Hmmm" Volume 5

Well, either you still haven't peaked or else you're life has been one big peak and you didn't want to make the rest of us feel bad. Even though I'm disappointed in your lack of response to my last post, A Peek at Peaking, I'm going to treat you to Things that Make You Go "Hmmm" which is always a crowd favorite. (I've really perfected the mom guilt, haven't I?).

For those of you who are new to this series of posts, Things that Make You Go "Hmmm" is a compilation of strange media requests I've found primarily in the daily emails I receive from HARO (Help a Reporter Out). The source of the request is in parentheses. Some of them are real head scratchers. Others are just plain funny when taken out of context. Now, without further ado...

  1. Ways to Be a Happy Mom (iVillage) - I'd say you definitely decreased the possibility of true happiness when you had the kid, but now that you're saddled with them, I recommend wine or boarding school.
  2. What are the Signs You Might be Carjacked? (National publication/news site)  - The guy pointing a gun at your head saying "move over, I'm driving" is a pretty good indicator.
  3. That Lettuce Issue Everyone is Talking About. To Buy Bagged or Bulked? (Frugivore)  - Everyone is talking about this? Clearly I'm being left out of a lot of conversations.  I just knew my friends were keeping secrets from me.
  4. Drunk shopping: How it can pickle your finances (major finance site) - Ya think?
  5. Why do men cry at weddings? (pitch process) (Anonymous) - The same reason women do -- they just realized what they've gotten themselves into.
  6. Does your town have a cat for a mayor? (National pet website) - Any town stupid enough to elect a cat for public office deserves to be disappointed. Everyone knows dogs do a much better job in that position.
  7. And speaking of animals... Can your pet do a cool kitchen-related trick? (Anonymous)  - Maddie, God rest her dog soul, could make an entire shoo fly pie disappear before your very eyes.
  8. Are you afraid that your teenage daughter is too promiscuous for her age? Now Casting (LA Based Talk Show)  - It's fine if she's promiscuous when she gets older.
  9. Do You Have a Healthy Relationship With Your Vagina*? (Frugivore) -  Sure do. I take her to the gym with me, and out to the movies. Sometimes we even share a good book. It feels like we're always together.
  10. And finally, How to improve decision making skills (website)  - I really wasn't sure whether to include this one...
*And speaking of vaginas, did you hear there's a new magazine titled "Fifty Shades of American Women Who Love the Book and Live the Life." Seriously. Check out newstands at Barnes & Noble and Walmart. 

Miss Things that Make You Go "Hmmm" volumes 1-4? Here are links to each:

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Peek at Peaking

When did you peak? Which were your best years? You know what I'm talking about, right? That time in your life when you really had it all going on. You looked good. You felt good. You fit in your own skin. Life seemed full of possibilities.

Were you in your glory during high school? Popular. Beautiful. None of that teenage awkwardness of that 90% of your classmates were feeling? 

Or maybe the college years were it for you. You finally felt free to be you. With hundreds or thousands of potential friends you found a place to belong. You discovered your passion.

Could it be that those young adult years were the best years of your life? The high school school prediction that you were "most likely to succeed" was coming true. Your career took off. You found yourself surrounded by like-minded friends. You joined a gym and lost the freshmen 15. You traded in those college sweats for a personal sense of style.

Or maybe you're one of those for whom marriage and kids came as easily as breathing. You were meant to be a spouse and a parent. You found security, comfort, and contentment in those roles. The PTA, your home, and the community baseball league all offered the sense of fulfillment you'd craved. You attended those high school reunions without a drop of insecurity and gloated noted that the popular kids' glory years were clearly behind them.

Perhaps you blossomed even later. You shook off those clingy kids and rediscovered your spouse. You pursued anew your career or other passion. You started running triathlons. You had an "a ha" moment when you realized you were happy with who you'd become. You attended your high school reunion without feeling the need to gloat over those whose best years were a thing of the past. Or you skipped it altogether because you just didn't see the point.

Is retirement the pinnacle for you? You may have had to wait 70 years for your peak, but now you're living large in newfound freedom from kids, jobs, and mortgage payments. You don't give a crap what the neighbors think and being you has never been easier.

So when did you blossom?

I think for me it was my early-to-mid-30s. I had survived the toddler years. I had settled in to a fulfilling career with a great organization. I was literally kicking ass in Tae Kwon Do. I was surrounded by wonderful friends and my faith was strong. My weirdness had become a natural and somewhat charming part of me. I gave up praying no longer prayed I'd be normal. Occasionally, I even felt content. Good times indeed.

Your 30s aren't a bad time to peak, but I think your 40s might be even better. Just imagine hitting your stride when many of us start to think our best days are behind us and there's nothing exciting to look forward to until retirement. Or maybe that's just me.


Rocker and Blogger
at the Top of His Game

Yesterday I had lunch with my friend Jim. Jim isn't someone I really knew back when we went to high school together, but we've been lucky to reconnect via Facebook. I have the sense that Jim is blossoming now (though I guess "blossoming" sounds rather girly and as evidenced by the picture to your right, Jim exhibits no feminine qualities). Jim will be happy to tell you that he graduated from high school 25 years ago with every intention of being a heavy metal rock star. He gave it the old college try. He gave college the old college try. Neither worked out exactly as he planned, but today he's got it going on.

A year or so ago Jim totally copied off of me and started blogging at www.gojimmygo.net. Where I've gone from three posts a week to one, Jim's gone from zero to 60. The guy easily turns out five posts a week, sometimes more than one a day. And he's not just whining about parenthood, writing about his best buddies, or sharing some snarky insights. No, Jim has engaged his passion for music and film by interviewing stars, or former stars. And he doesn't just share his posts on his personal blog. No, Jim's posts frequently appear on GuitarWorld.com. And Jim doesn't just talk about writing a book that he's got in mind. No, Jim writes the book and solicits the advice of a friend who knows publishing. And then Jim tries to encourage said friend to go for the brass ring and accomplish all the great things that are stuck inside her head. But said friend just doesn't have the energy or enthusiasm anymore. Said friend has peaked and is coming down the other side of the mountain.

I'm hoping that it's possible to peak more than once in a lifetime, and that if and when I do, I've got the mojo that Jim's got working.

Now what about you, your prime, your stride, your peak...? Let's hear your stories. Unless of course you're going to tell me that you've always been comfortable in your skin and there was never a time you weren't your best self. Come on now, no one really wants to hear that stuff. I try to keep these posts upbeat, after all...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The School Locker Phenomenon

My friend Emily over at Mothers of Brothers wrote a great post yesterday about the infamous School Supply List that never existed when we were children, but now comes along with our $7,000 a year school and real estate tax bill (don't get me started). Emily touched on most of the head scratchers and general irritants, including trying to find the very scarce, gender-suited 3-hole punched pencil case. We gave up that search at our house and Abby made hers out of duct tape. No surprise there. Emily's reflections on the million dollar calculator also rang true, and brought back painful memories of a certain child telling me the day before some big test that his had been "stolen" months before. We won't go into it.

Since Emily so effectively covered the school supply list, I'd like to address the phenomenon that is the School Locker. While I knew Ian had a locker (and that his new backpack was "stolen" out of it on the second day of 6th grade), my sense was that it was just a place where school work, test results, and winter coats went to die. Now that Abby is off to middle school, however, I'm seeing the locker in a whole new light. Clearly, this is a "girl thing."

A couple weeks ago, as I shopped for school supplies, Abby shopped for locker decor including a mirror and a shelf with which to raise items up off the floor. The floor for which she made a carpet, by the way. Abby didn't stop with the hand-crafted locker carpet. Among her homemade locker accouterments:
  • Bulletin board decorated with splatter paint and a duct tape border 
  • Pencil holder (made out of old duct tape rolls and covered in duct tape)
  • Rose magnets made out of duct tape (we bought magnet tape and a hot glue gun just for this locker decorating project)
  • Monthly calendar
  • Hanging basket
I was glad she stopped before insisting on the locker chandelier. I kid you not.
I had to remind Abby that she wasn't actually going to be living in her locker.
I, for one, have no memories whatsoever of decorating the inside of my locker, but then again I always was out of the loop on what was fashionable. It turns out that Abby is not alone, however. Tween and teen girls across the nation take locker decor very seriously. An informal survey of 600 Facebook friends revealed these critical locker elements, in order of importance:
  1. Cool magnets
  2. Mirror
  3. Lock type and color (don't know that Abby had an option here)
  4. White board and erasable marker
  5. Pen holder
  6. Picture frames
  7. Magnetic clips
  8. Parker Stevenson Teen Beat Cover
While I think all of this locker hoopla is a bit much, ultimately if it brightens up Abby's day, I see no harm it. In fact, as modes of self-expression go, I'd much prefer a tricked out locker to piercings, ink, make up, and hair dye.
Now I'm just hoping she remembers the combination...