Archive for September, 2008

The Strange, Sad Tale of a Beauty Shop Washout

September 25, 2008

So, I finally did it.  I went to the beauty shop to get my hair done.  It was about time, I’d say.  It’d been a full year and a half since I’d visited Jane at the Classic Image Beauty Salon—a year and a half since I’d been anywhere at all with beauty as my objective.  Okay, maybe actual “beauty” has never been my objective—let’s just call it “image enhancement” or…“lipstick on a pig,” if you like.  

Whatever you want to call it, it costs an arm and a leg, which is one reason I hadn’t been in so long.  Plus, you know how it is when you move to a new place—it’s not easy to find someone you can trust to come at you with a big pair of scissors.  I liked Jane.  We had an understanding.  She knew that I liked a little hair feathered around my high forehead, she knew how to perform the equivalent of a comb-over to make up for the hair I was losing, and she didn’t complain when I dragged my raggedy self in every 14 months or so and asked her to perform a miracle.  I mean, if I was a house, you’d probably call me a real fixer-upper.   She also never mentioned that my curly perm made me look like some refugee from the eighties.

So I put off going until my hair in front that I’d been curling back off my face with a curling iron just wouldn’t stay in anymore without about spraying half a can of Aqua Net on it, no doubt causing considerable widening of that hole in the ozone layer.

I’d noticed one of those chain places near where I buy groceries, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I showed up early, trying to beat the crowds.  The little bell rang cheerfully as I walked in.  There was one person there sweeping, and she looked up, frowning.  I could see it in her face.  She was thinking, Dear God, please don’t let this old lady with gray hair halfway down her back be my customer.   I smiled apologetically and a little obsequiously, like, I know I’m a mess and I’m sorry but can you please help me?

I sat down.  She swept slowly and carefully, obviously stalling for time, looking out in the parking lot eagerly every time a car passed, hoping she could foist me off to one of the other stylists.  But it was Monday, and apparently no one was eager to come in early for work.  So finally, she sighed audibly and resigning herself to the arduous task ahead, motioned me into the chair. 

It wasn’t long, though, after we’d chatted a bit and she realized that I didn’t expect miracles that she began to relax.  She was really quite nice.  I, however, was not so relaxed.  In fact, I was gritting my teeth in pain.  She (we’ll call her Rhonda) obviously believed that the only good perm was a tight perm.  With every roller she rolled, she’d give this little yank at the end, just to make sure there was not one iota of slackness in that curl.  It hurt so much that tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes, but I just bit my lip and thought about how sometimes, we must suffer for our beauty.  And, really, all that tautness had the effect of smoothing out my wrinkles.  Why, my face hadn’t looked that tight in years!  My first facelift!

Two excruciating hours later, she was done and it was time for the big reveal.  As she started pulling out more and more of the little rollers, it became apparent to us both that something had gone terribly wrong.  There was no curl…no, not a bit.  Neither one of us said a word.  All I could think was—I do not care, just let the nerve endings in my head recuperate.  And she was probably thinking—If I don’t say anything, maybe she won’t notice. 

But there was just no denying it.  Rhonda took out the last curler and stared bleakly at my reflection in the mirror.  My hair hung lank and limp.  Finally, she spoke. “You,” she said sadly, “are curl resistant.” 

She called over the other stylists and they stood in a circle around me, shaking their heads mournfully, as though observing the scene of an accident.  “I just can’t understand it,” said Rhonda.  “I’ve never had this happen before.”

They all cast sympathetic looks her way and some of them looked accusingly at me, as though if I wanted it badly enough and if only I had lived a good life, my hair would have curled.  “Curl resistant,” they all repeated, like a chorus in some really bad opera.  “She is curl resistant.”

Finally, Rhonda turned to me and said, “Okay, well…you go on home and see what happens overnight, and if it doesn’t curl, you can come back tomorrow and I’ll do it again for free.”

I couldn’t help it—I laughed.  Partly in relief, that I could get the heck out of there and partly at the idea that my hair might magically curl itself overnight, as I slept.  Rhonda was not amused.  There was nothing funny about curl resistance.

So…to make a long story short, my hair indeed did not curl itself overnight, and I did return, reluctantly, the next day.  The ordeal was repeated, and Rhonda and I both held our breath as she began to remove the curlers.  But, alas, curl resistance is a powerful thing.  We both stared dejectedly at my still lank hair.  Rhonda said nothing, but began to blow dry my hair, perhaps thinking the heat would somehow activate the curl.  But I just ended up looking like a cross between Albert Einstein and Bozo the Clown. 

It was pretty clear that nothing could be done—I was a hopeless case.  Rhonda looked depressed.  I felt sorry for her. “You know,” I said, fingering a few tendrils of limp hair. “I think I definitely see some curl this time.” 

Rhonda brightened and looked again at my reflection in the mirror.  “You know, I think you might be right,” she said, fluffing up my deep-fried frizz.  “Yeah, there is definitely some curl there this time!”

So, I thanked her and made my escape.  Both of us knew it—I looked like Buckwheat on a Bad Hair Day.  But, like I said, she was a nice lady.  At least, she didn’t charge me for the second time.

And, at least the frizz gives body to my thinning hair, though as it grows out, I resemble Bozo more and more.  Maybe I should start a new line of work—buy me some clown shoes and a big red nose.  Maybe I shouldn’t fight it—just go with the flow.

After all, there’s no fighting curl resistance.


When Vegetables Go Bad

September 23, 2008

Yes, this is a peaceful still life of one of the final harvests from our garden.  But don’t be fooled by the serene and tranquil look of these vegetables!  Because little do we know what can occur when we’re not looking,  when we take our eyes off our produce,  when we look away….

Because sometimes, they may look good on the outside, but inside—they are rotten—rotten to the core….

Regard your produce with great wariness, because at any moment, after you’ve turned your back on your vegetables,  you may suffer the consequences of your careless neglect 

And discover,  to your horror,  what happens….


And, sadly, (when vegetables go bad), there may even be a clash, a sudden face-off,  between those who once grew up peaceably together in the garden…

Who, at one time, were just happy little sprouts waving in the warm, spring breeze…

Winter Squash:I’m gonna skin you alive, Tomato!  You’re gonna be sauce!”

Tomato:  “Oh yeah?  Well, I’m gonna squash you, Squash!”

Winter Squash:  “UmmI’m already squash.”

Tomato:  “Oh.  Yeah.”

A Message in the Grass

September 17, 2008

We have, I think, about ten different varieties of grass in our yard.  They grow at different speeds, the upshot of that being that our lawn only looks good for about fifteen minutes after we mow it.  After that, the tall, clumpy, seedy stuff springs up in little clusters about the yard, giving it a disreputable and…well…seedy  look.  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man calls it mongrel grass.

But one of those ten varieties grows in lovely curlicues and elegant swoops—in sort of a paisley pattern.  I love it and wish our whole yard was covered in it.  It looks a bit like a maze or like ancient hieroglyphics.  I study it carefully sometimes as though I might break the code, as if God had sent us messages in that grass that we could decipher. 

That’s why it’s a good thing I’m not God.  I would spend WAY too much time engaged in that sort of thing.  You know—like realigning the stars every night to write messages in the sky from loved ones who have passed to the bereft ones left behind.   Or maybe I’d have the wind blow sand into whimsical animal shapes to delight children on the beach.  Or I’d have a flock of birds suddenly singing in unison the Hallelujah chorus.  Or perhaps, as God, I’d be more petty—planting massive piles of dog poo in front of rich, arrogant types so they’d sink up to the top of their Gucci’s just as they are about to meet an important client for lunch.   Or for those non-handicapped people who park in handicapped spaces?  I’d have all four of their tires go flat, their steering wheels fall off, and for good measure, their car radio start playing “Feelings” nonstop in a continuous loop that they can’t turn off.  Or how about this—every time a politician lies to the American public, I’d make their noses grow longer like Pinocchio.   Right there on national television.

Like I said, it’s a good thing I’m not God.

But really, who knows?  Maybe God does this all the time and we just don’t notice.  I like to think that.  Because this week, as I was mowing, I saw this in the grass:


Was it a message from God?  I’m sure many would tell me it was just a random grass growth pattern.  Perhaps.  But I’m going to claim it as a miracle, as a message, as a gift.  Because I needed to see that and be reminded of what really matters. 

And, Lord knows, the world needs it.  Love, sweet love.  Especially now. So now I send it out, knowing that it will reach only the few of you who read my blog, but hoping that message in the grass will somehow touch someone who needs their own small, but wondrous miracle. 

And I hope you’ll keep looking and listening—in the grass, in the sky, in the rustle and whisper of leaves in the wind.  You never know where you’ll find miracles.  You never know where you’ll see the signs that God has passed near. 

But, for certain, if you don’t look up, you’ll never see the realigning of the stars.   If you don’t look down, you’ll miss that message in the grass.  And, if you don’t listen, you’ll never, ever hear those birds singing Hallelujah.    🙂

Further Along the Road to Trust

September 15, 2008

Our stop at St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope left us subdued and pensive, but, I think….cleansed.  But our road trip wasn’t over.  We left Trust, driving further into Madison County to find Max Patch, considered by many to be the most beautiful spot on the Appalachian Trail.  In fact, it is called the “crown jewel of the Appalachian Trail.” The last part of the journey there was on a curvy, rutted dirt road, made lovelier by the red bee balm, daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, and Turk’s Cap lilies blooming beside it.   The good thing about a road like that is that no one can go very fast on it, so it was easy to stop right in the road (there being no shoulder to speak of)  and take pictures.  (Until, to our astonishment, a UPS truck came careening around the curve, putting a quick stop to our picture-taking). 

In the spirit of our subdued and pensive mood that day, I’ll let my photos speak for themselves, though my camera is inadequate to convey the true and breathtaking beauty there.  Just one thing:  if you get a chance to go to Max Patch—go.  By all means, go.

It was well worth the long drive and the dust on our car and feeling a wee bit insignificant in the midst of the sweeping grandeur of Max Patch—to be that much closer to heaven.

The Long and Winding Road to Trust

September 9, 2008

A few weeks ago, before our children left for college, we set out on a journey up the mountain to find Trust.  Nothing unusual about that—seeking Trust has been a constant in my life, whether it’s trust in God or simply learning to trust other people.  But this time, we were looking for Trust, North Carolina.  Specifically, we were looking for St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, appropriately located in Trust.

St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope is no ordinary church—it was built to thank God for a miracle.  In 1981, Beverly Barutio was diagnosed with advanced cancer.  She underwent many rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer progressed rapidly.  So she stopped the chemotherapy and prayed for a miracle.  She prayed to God and St. Jude, the saint of hopeless and impossible causes.

Her prayer was answered.  Later checkups showed no signs of cancer.  In gratitude, after she and her husband moved to Trust, they built St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, which is open to everyone 24 hours a day.  She wanted not only to thank God and St. Jude, but to provide a place where people could meditate and pray for their own miracles.  And, like most folks, I do have my own seemingly hopeless causes. 

After a long and winding journey up the mountain to Trust, we found the tiny, but lovely little cedar chapel.   We were pleased to have it to ourselves as we stepped inside.  The sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows lit the interior with an ethereal glow.   We sat down in front on one of the small pews and left the door open, so we could hear nothing but the sound of the rushing creek outside and birdsong. 

In the front were a cross, an open Bible, and a shrine to St. Jude.  Around the shrine, people had placed various items that obviously had meaning for them—seashells, rocks, pinecones, photographs, and even small toys.  As the four of us sat in silence, I was suddenly and unexpectedly overcome with emotion and began to cry.

It surprised me to be so overwhelmed, but I think it was because I could truly feel the power there…of so many prayers made, so many longings (expressed and unexpressed), so much hope, but so much sadness.   The very air inside felt holy, charged with the sacred spirit of all those who had made their hearts vulnerable there. We all felt it, I think, and sat there, without words, for at least a half hour, lost in thought, in memories, in grief, and in our own supplications to the Saint of Lost Causes and to God.

Perhaps you’re wondering if we’ve seen our own miracles since.  Well, just the usual everyday sort.  You  know, the moon rising over the mountain, the seven bluebirds sitting in a row on the fence, or the daisies that have bloomed nonstop in our fields since April.  But none of the hopeless-cause-variety miracles.  Not that we can see, anyway. 

But still I hope, still I trust, still I believe, and still I struggle to hope and trust and believe.   Like Beverly Barutio, I trust in something greater than myself, something more powerful than we can imagine.  I turn towards the narrow shaft of light streaming in the window and follow it, knowing there is a greater light beyond.  A light that illuminates my pilgrim path in the darkness as I seek and follow it.   A light that gives me hope in what I cannot see.


“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

 Hebrews 11:1

A Year Into the Journey

September 6, 2008

(Socket to Me!  from The  Faces That Launched a Thousand Quips)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since I wrote my first post, A Small Wobbly Step Into  the Blogosphere.   I was quite apprehensive and anxious.  It’s not easy to make yourself so vulnerable.  But here I am, a year later, wobbling along.  I was going to write a post reflecting on what I wrote then and how I feel about blogging now, but I guess I’d like to give that a little more thought.

But, for fun, I thought I’d revisit one of my earlier pieces—one of my favorites, The Faces That Launched A Thousand Quips.   Naturally, it’s from the Silliness category (in case you couldn’t tell from the photo…and the title).   I still remember how much fun I had doing that post, though it took several hours to take all the shots.  Take a look—I’m pretty certain it will make you laugh.

Oddly enough, some of my other favorites fall into the other extreme—the I-think-I-might-be-an-old-cranky-curmudgeon category:  A Friendly Word of Advice to the AARP ,  A Note to the Glib, Gauche Guy in Guccis, and A Passel of Personal Peeves.  I would like to note that the Gauche Guy in Guccis piece was written about men where I used to live–not where I live now.  Why, the other day, at CVS, I even had a fellow with a big ladder in his hands hold the door for me.  🙂

But I’m proudest of the ones I wrote about my son Benjamin’s struggle with autism.  I say his “struggle with autism.”  Really, it was more his struggle with the world and how it so often discounts, dismisses, or rejects those who are different.  I’m proud of these posts because the fact that Benjamin allowed me to post them meant that he was finally moving towards acceptance of his autism and acceptance of who he is.  As I said in the post, Benjamin Raps, he was at last breaking “free of the bondage of believing the ill-conceived and ill-founded opinions of others and learning to see the truth of who he really is.”  If you’d like to read them, click on the Autism category.  I’d be pleased if you did.

Now that I think about it, that was one of the reasons I took my own bold step into the blogosphere.  To break free of my own bondage…of fear, of timidity, of insecurity.   I’d like to be able to say that I’ve become a bold, daring, confident woman.    But I haven’t…yet. 

But even if I haven’t arrived, I’m still out here, stumbling along, looking for grace and striving towards light.  One wobbly step at the time.

So, thanks.  For those of you still walking along with me and for those who have recently joined me—I appreciate you sharing my journey.  I am so grateful for the company.  🙂

Blog Goblins

September 5, 2008

There seem to be pesky little goblins lurking in my blog today.  First thing this morning, I noticed my blogroll had disappeared overnight.  Then, it reappeared, but this time had my own blog on it!  Everything appears to be back to normal now.  As usual, I have no idea where the goblins came from.   But I hope they’re gone for good.   If you see any further bizarre occurences on my blog, please know I had nothing to do with it.

Bad goblins! Bad!

Wondrous Webs Well Woven

September 4, 2008

Yesterday, we had one of those misty mornings so common here where fog enshrouds the mountains and lingers well into the day.   One of my favorite times to wander…so I did…marveling at the fine filigree of spider art.  I am in awe of the wondrous work of webs well woven.  🙂 


(Yes, that’s a morning glory in the background)

Just in case you’re wondering…those are clothespins on my clothesline in the background

Warning: Political Post Ahead

September 1, 2008

(You may be surprised at my writing a political post–I’ve never done it before.  Mainly because so many people do it…and they do it so much better than I.  Plus, I get so emotional about the state of things sometimes that I’m unable to write coherently about them. But I’ve been feeling a little peevish lately and worried about political affairs.  And yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers [and a person I respect] wrote a post that got my dander up a bit.  In fact, I surprised MYSELF at my reaction. Hence, my first political post–I hope you’ll forgive and indulge me.)

Back in 2006, before news broke of his affair and $400 haircuts, I was a John Edwards supporter.  But that same year, he gave a speech during his Walmart-bashing campaign that made me shake my head and groan at his cluelessness. Edwards recounted the story of how his six-year-old son Jack had chided a classmate for wearing sneakers from Walmart, telling his little friend that Walmart treats its employees badly.  Edwards was bursting with pride as he said, “If a six-year-old can figure it out, America can figure it out!”  Why did I groan?  Well, for one thing, I found it appalling that he would encourage his son to make another child feel bad because he bought his shoes at Walmart (very likely because he couldn’t afford otherwise).  If my child had said that, it would occasion a good long talk about being kind to those less fortunate.  In addition, this was a prime example of why so many of my fellow blue-collar friends feel alienated from the Democratic Party. 

It is a source of consternation and amazement to me that so many blue-collar people consistently vote for people that don’t have their best interests at heart.  I voted for Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004 and will vote for Obama in 2008.  But so many lower-income people I know voted for Bush, not just one but two times!  There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that Republicans in general have become so skilled at manipulating the minds of the less sophisticated, with emotional appeals designed to exploit that lack of sophistication.  But some of the problem stems from the fact that the Democratic Party has failed to convey to us blue-collar voters that they really care about the things that keep us awake at night—how to pay for health care, how to keep a roof over our heads, how to pay for gas (if we’re lucky enough to have a running car), and how to feed and clothe our children.  Instead, to show their commitment to poor people, they go around bashing Walmart, where most of us shop on a regular basis.

Now I’m no defender of Walmart.  I do think they have some appalling corporate practices…but so do many, many other mega corporations.  But here’s the thing:  they sell things at a price that people like me can afford.  A much better price, in many cases.  Sure, I’d like to be able to buy that fancy organic, free-range chicken at the fancy organic food store.  But I just can’t swing it.  After health insurance and taxes, etc. are taken out, we bring home about $250 a week.  We’re lucky if we even have chicken.

So, my fellow Democrats—don’t lecture me on how my buying choices are a “moral” decision.  The truth is:  I don’t have a lot of choice. Don’t bash the very people you claim to champion for shopping at the one place they can afford. I wish I could always afford to weigh the human costs against the cost to my wallet, but when you make $12.00 an hour, the cost to your wallet is a real and practical consideration.   Get off your high horse in your “noble” campaign against Walmart, and walk the dusty roads with those of us that don’t have a horse.  🙂

And try to get a clue about the realities of being poor.  As the son of a millworker, John Edwards did grow up poor, but I think he forgot what it was like.  Back in 2006, I honestly considered offering myself as his blue-collar advisor because, Lord knows, he needed one.  I have to roll my eyes when the Democratic Party wonders why blue-collar folks think they’re elitist.  Wake up, Democrats.  Stop bashing just Walmart (thereby pandering to the unions) and the people who shop there.  Campaign for ALL corporations to pay a living wage.  Campaign for health care for everyone.   Do something about the huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor.

And do you know what I’d really like to see?  Every lawmaker in Washington being forced to live for a year with their family of four on $12.00 an hour.  Without the fancy homes and cars they already have.  Maybe then we’d see a change we could believe in.