Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bond Girl

I recently went on a vacation. A fantastic adventure-yet-relaxing vacation. One of my closest friends is from Montana and every year she goes to visit her family around Flathead Lake. She invited me and another of her friends to come up and stay for a week. We rented a lovely 3 BR cabin between Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park and it was fabulous! We had adventures through the day and then spent our evenings with her family around a campfire.

This is no ordinary camping. Her family has lovely homes right on the lake. After a long day my friends and I would LAZILY (as in barely allow the chairs to prop us up kinda sorta vertically) sit around the campfire. A child would appear and put a glass of ice water in our hand. An uncle would appear and put a fresh Crown and 7 in our other hand. A cousin would appear and play his guitar and sing. Another child would appear and ask us how we would like our marshmallows toasted (light, medium, or charcoal?) before putting them into a smores. Really? But yes, this is how we rolled, VIP style, all week. 

 You might be thinking, “What does this have to do with grey hair?” but I’ll tell you- very little. That’s because my grey hair is really not much of an issue and something I forget about most of the time. However I do credit my anime piggytails for a bit of courage. 

 As a girl that almost drowned when very little, I have always been a little afraid of water. I do not think that this is an excuse to coast through life in avoidance so I took swim lessons from a talented swimmer friend when I lived in DC and I was determined to squelch my fear when with my friends in Montana. Day 2 and the jet skis are brought out *gulp*. I put my hair in piggytails for courage. One of the uncles taught me (very patiently, I might add) as I slightly increased speed and stopped, sped and stopped. Eventually I worked up to speed at a slow/creep but still, I was out there.  

As I dropped the uncle off to go for a solo spin, I started speeding up. I could feel a whisper of my mom there (more terrified than I of water); telling me that life is too short to be afraid of everything. I became acutely aware that I was speeding over very deep water and I accelerated: 25… 32… 37… 41… It was exhilarating! My friends said I looked like a silver streaked Bond girl zipping through the water. The jet skis were my gateway drug to more and more adventure. Alpine lift? Awesome! Luge down the mountain? Of course! White water rafting? Bring it on! I really couldn’t get enough.

I decided that this courage in the face of fear needed to apply to all levels of my life. I mean, why should I live paralyzed by a bunch of what-if moments? Even though risk does not necessarily equal reward, it does equal progress. So in relationships I’m putting myself wholly out there and I will allow myself to be vulnerable. I will take risks and stare fear right in the face. I will still be petrified but I will accelerate nonetheless because I know that ultimately this will lead to a full life. And THAT is the reward.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Peach Fuzzy

Are you experiencing a significant increase in the hair clogging your drain? The answer may be in coloring your hair. I, like my Sheltie, have always shed massive amounts of hair. I once had a landlord furiously hand me a drain trap for my bathtub because my hair had so badly clogged the pipes. Personally I think it was probably on the outs and I just sped up his repair time by a few years, but still.

When my mom came to live with me we had a running joke that I would sweep up daily masses of my hair and scold her (a pixied silver who never shed) about the amount of cleanup I had to do after she brushed her hair. "Good heavens, Mom! Could you PLEASE try not to shed buckets of long red hair?!" It never occurred to me that this amount of shedding wasn’t normal. And it really never occurred to me that it was because of I dyed my hair.

This also never concerned me because I have immense amounts of thick, coarse hair. But what about women who are thinning or have very fine hair? I notice this a lot, especially the elder women at church. Those that spend major bucks at the salon still have nice coiffed, two-dimensional hair. Those that have DIY kits have matte, coarse, and brittle hair. I don’t say this to be cruel but it is markedly different.

I also see the ELDER elders (women in their 70s +) and it’s not good. There really is a point where you should stop coloring your hair. Yeah, I’m all about rocking what makes you feel good, but it thins their hair sooo much. And then these dark colors only enhance their thinning hair. On top of that, too many decades and it doesn’t matter how much you spend on hair color it will look wiry and deep fried.

Now these pics I am showing highlight some NEW growth since I stopped coloring my hair. Yes! This is all new growth. I immediately had wisps like a halo all around my hairline and also several new other hairs cropping up all over. These “others” I like to call my wild little forest children because it took them a long time to tame and they really had no idea which direction to grow so they just grew straight up. We’ve come to peace with each other and now they rebel infrequently.

This last pic is a massive chunk of new hair growth. It is my current cowlick conundrum. It’s a mass of silky white hair that has changed my hairline completely. Since there’s so much of it… well… it organized. It formed a coup and doesn’t want to behave according to my wishes. It has its own ideas and I’m not liking ‘emWhen I hold a summit and get this chunk of hair to fall in line, I will post those secrets. But until then, the jury is out.

So if you are looking for another reason to let your grey come out, look at all the new hair you will be welcoming into the world! Since I stopped the dye my hair texture is so much softer, there’s more of it, and I shed very little. I can soak in the tub, scrub my hair, brush, blow dry, flat iron… and all I lose is about 4-6 hairs. My plumbing is finally safe and secure!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cafe Gray - It Can Change Your Life

Let's face it, to transition to grey you need a support team; cheerleaders who are going to get excited about your progress. That's where the Silver Sisters' forum (better known as Cafe Gray) comes in.

I'm going to go a few steps back in time. A little over two years ago my mom (a beautiful silver sister) was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. One would think that year was the worst of my life but in that year I got to live with her for three months while she received treatment, we took day trips together every weekend, I saw her more than I have in years (me living in different time zones than my family), and she felt good most of the time. I had a daily checklist to make sure she had taken her medications and laughter was always a mandatory to be checked off.

It wasn't until she passed away a little over a year later that the worst year of my life occurred. She remains the best friend I ever had- my number one supporter and confidante. I have talked to her every day of my life and to say that I miss her is a tragic understatement. There's a hole that no number of people could fill.

Anyone that has had a great loss understands this and also sees that in the worst year of their lives it is also the greatest growth in their lives as well. You really prioritize what's important and so much becomes unimportant as more and more of your ego evaporates. But in all this growth you're just plain exhausted - you could sleep 15 hours a day. Exercise falls to the wayside, weight increases, and you don't know if the light will be on at the end of the tunnel. This is where I was 10 months ago when I decided to stop coloring my hair. The weight has barely decreased but life is starting to normalize for me once again.

Now I have some pretty fabulous friends (this includes my sister and my step dad who have been my rock through this). Some have been through the loss of a parent or their parent is going through cancer, some have just helped me to try new things and take spur of the moment vacations. Some have been shoulders to cry on and others have tolerated my bad habit of always being late. But there's another set of supporters I want to highlight: the Silver Sisters.

When I decided to go grey I googled and came upon this forum. It's a free membership and most people introduce themselves on the Class of '13 page in the Newbies section. There are countless tips on products, dealing with grey hair and your career, growing your hair out, transitioning from a flat iron to letting your curly hair go natural, etc.  But the most important thing you find there is support.

There are thousands of members from all over the world on that forum. You will get no less than 50 posts a day on just the Class of '13 page alone. And here's the phenomenon: they're all positive and aimed at building up women. Now I've come across less than a handful of negative comments and a few tantrums but it's an anomaly; this site is really about highlighting how beautiful all women are.

This seems somewhat commonplace until you really think about it. In the US we are constantly surrounded by advertising that airbrushes supermodels. We have this perception that it would take every beauty cream, personal trainer, expensive piece of clothing, and makeup option to try to get close to this. But the reality sets in to this unattainable goal and we realise that plastic surgery is the only answer if we want to obtain this photoshopped ideal. I'm not saying we all drink the Kool-aid on every area but we do on quite a few. And who are the best advocates and reinforcers of this advertising? Women. Women will make faces at your skunk stripe, or your clothing a la Target, or your broad hips, or your lack of tan. They scrutinize each other until you can no longer pick out the one compliment in the series of negative comments.

So when you go to a place like Cafe Gray and countless women are commenting on how amazing your silver looks and giving advice and support about how to navigate through the rough patches... well, it's addictive! At first it's addictive to be around all the love and support. Then it becomes addictive to build others up. And then the unthinkable happens: this positive energy spreads throughout other areas in your life.

I've noticed a change occurring in me where I look to the positive aspects of my friends, I compliment strangers on a regular basis, I don't focus as much on the one negative comment thrown my way but look at the 20 positives, and I think I'm just more pleasant to be around. Men approach me a lot more, for one. But maybe my greatest test is how my Sheltie is around me. Dogs are energy sponges and they absorb whatever energy you give out. If I'm depressed, so is my dog; if I'm sick, she worries. Now that I have this positivity she snuggles close and cuddles more than she ever has in eight years. I see this as my own personal measure of inner growth.

I owe a lot of this to the Silver Sisters on Cafe Gray. In the first 7 months of your transition you're on there almost every day. And as you learn this positivity and it becomes a norm in your life, you start to release the daily chats to a few times a week and slowly release the comments to the next batch of newbies, as was once done to you by your predecessors. But I will always have a soft spot for my Silver Sisters and am grateful to them for providing a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Battle of the Exes

What would be the worst thing you can think of? Would it be something like having two-toned hair, a shapeless in-between non-hairstyle, and running into an ex? Ding ding ding! That's right, this is what has happened to me.

But I have to say that even though THIS is what my hair looks like (when I'm too lazy to find a headband or clips), I've gotten past the two-toned dilemma. In the back I have 3" of colored ends and on my bangs about 1/2". But I am content to wait out getting the color cut off in exchange for longer hair. There's a switch that occurs sometime in the 8-10 month range of growing your grey out where you just don't care about the stripe anymore. This is after the breakdown you have (mine occurred in month 8) where you just want to cut off the fried and dyed ends already. You patiently cut a little more dye out but you become more focused on the hairstyle than you are the color. Trust me, I would still LOVE to get rid of these red ends and not have apricot hair, but not at the risk of having short hair and growing out this awkward stage AGAIN.

So back to the original thread. I ran into an ex the other day and you never know how that's going to go- will he stare at the stripe, will he make a rude comment (one of the reasons he remains in the "ex" category), or will he be politely indifferent? After all, this is someone that was attracted to you in all your ginger glory. What happened instead was that he flirted and asked me out. Having no interest in him anymore I did not reciprocate but I did feel pretty damn good that it was yet another point scored for silver hair.

I must say I have a great number of friends and even a few exes on facebook that are my biggest supporters. I post a pic and they all rush to say positive things. I really am lucky to know truly beautiful people inside and out. And I can also see that running into an ex who isn't one of your supporters (and you have very little contact with) could be jarring and derail your confidence. I never anticipated that my hair color made no difference.

This is just another example of confidence and what that can do for you. If you're fine with how you are, the rest of the world will catch on and agree.