Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ms. Stark Goes to Washington

Will my career be over if I go grey?

I used to have these concerns and when I told my sister 21 months ago that I was giving up the dye she asked this very question. But I just refused to believe that I had to make personal choices such as hair color to fit the needs of everyone else. This went with dating and every other aspect in my life.

I've been in my current position for 8 years and over 10 years with the same agency. It's had its ups and downs (as does everything) but I felt like my life was in a rut. Because it was. I never bought a home here and when I looked into it I realised that Raleigh was not meant to be a permanent resting place for me. As soon as I had awareness of this I started job searching.

Many things happened to tell me it was not the right time to move: my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer- she came to live with me and received the best treatment in the world at Duke Cancer. I panicked about a job offer 6 months after my mom passed- I needed stability after losing my mom and a move would not have healed me. The job market dried up- I needed to be clearer about my goals and visions and open myself to possibilities.

This all sounds so positive when I write about it but I was unhappy for a lot of the time. Something switched this year and I FELT different; I felt like everything in my life was about to change. Sure enough some great opportunities in my field came up. At that time my Supervisor gave me advice on how to improve my resume (she was a tremendous help) and I made the cut for a record (a record for me) 6 jobs! Then I had an interview for a promotion in Headquarters and after that I was in wait mode.

Out of the hundreds that applied to this position, 26 made the cut. The Supervisor took the top 10 and I felt lucky to just make that interview cut. I have worked with several of the people in this office (as all the interview candidates have) and I didn't think I would get the job... BUT I DID!! I am moving to Washington DC in May!!!

What does this have to do with grey hair?
There are people on this team in Washington that have seen me and know I'm growing out my grey. The last time they saw me I had a 3 inch skunk stripe. Grey hair didn't make a damn bit of difference (even in that horrid grow-out stage) and doesn't make a damn bit of difference now. I just got the promotion of a lifetime- I could retire on this, and I have grey hair. Don't ever let anyone tell you that in order to (insert bizarre demand here) you must adhere to any rule. Life is too short to be dependent on everyone else's definition of "shoulds."

So as I felt a month ago when I said I was in the calm before the storm, I am now in the storm: moving, seeing friends before I go, house hunting, finishing up work... try not to take it in all at once! Well, I'll be off to new adventures soon. A whole new chapter awaits!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Shot Through the Heart

I have a great stitch 'n bitch friend (that's how we knitters can pretend we're cool). We meet up, knit, make snarky and sarcastic jokes, and have a great time. I used to think I was alone in knitting to Iron Maiden's The Trooper but Stephanie shares that slightly odd visual. Stephanie is also a licensed handgun instructor and let's face it, one badass chick.

Wha--?? You're starting to think. What does this have to do with greying and/or dating?? Well for one, it goes to show that you can't put a silver sister in a box. And two, I think I've figured out yet another reason why I might be single. You see, I'm a hell of a shot. My first time holding a real gun and I hit every target I aimed for. Apparently the "heart shot" right in the center of the chest is my best shot. I managed to get 8 out of 10 bullets in exactly the same place. I gotta admit, I feel pretty bad-ass about that.

One thing that I think people misunderstand is that taking a gun safety class isn't about some American stereotype of a gunslinging extremist. It's about gun safety. If you want to hunt, then you should be a hell of a marksman (in order to not make your future meal suffer). If you want to have target practice at the gun range, then you should safely be able to handle a gun. If you will ever be around a gun in the future, you should be intelligent about how to operate a gun so that no one gets hurt in some accident.

I know a lot of people shoot at the range for some sense of empowerment but that really wasn't what I was aiming for. I just wanted to not be scared of guns and to be intelligent around them. And that's where Stephanie really comes in. She's very good about gauging your comfort and expertise level. She goes at a customized pace and really makes sure you understand every sequence. By the time you go through the sit-down education piece, you feel comfortable and ready to go to the range and try target shooting for yourself.

Stephanie also lets you try several of her own guns out: 22 caliber, 9 mm, 380, .357, and 38 caliber. It's a nice range of guns (an arsenal if you will) and you feel what you're comfortable with. She's very relaxed about the whole thing which immediately made me feel more relaxed. Here's a video below, going for the "throat." Within a couple of hours I went from being terrified of having a gun in my presence, to looking and feeling very natural (see video). I credit this ALL to Stephanie. So if you're in the area (or even if you're not), contact Stephanie at Powder Puff Pistol Training (love that name) by email or phone: or (919) 880-7410. She'll answer any questions you may have about gun safety. I now have a new hobby. Thanks, Steph!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Game of Thrones Analogy

My last name is Stark and I've always loved my surname as it means Herculean strength. But now there is a whole culture out there that loves my last name too. They fall into one of two categories: the Iron Man crowd or the Winterfell crowd. The Iron Man crowd liken me to the secret wife of Tony Stark. You mean Robert Downey Jr? Hell yeah!! I can get on board with that. The other group sees me as Winterfell's heroes the Stark family. You mean a royal family with direwolves and Jamie Sives playing Jory to serve me? Hell yeah!! I can get on board with that too.

Season 4 (FINALLY!!) is coming out tonight and since I have to somehow relate this to greying and dating (aside from dating Jamie Sives- yes, I have my OWN fantasy version of the series), I am going to use the Game of Thrones approach to explain how I feel about the greying process.

Anyone who has read or watched the HBO version of this George R R Martin series knows that there are unpredictable twists and turns, and it has become an epic story. Oh gosh, I am such a nerd. In fact I'm nerdy enough to have superimposed my photo on top of Catelyn Stark's. In fact I'm kind of loving this silver against the pelt and think I need a faux fur version to keep... Here are some main themes I see in common with Game of Thrones and growing out the grey:

Who do you trust?
In GoT (I'm really not going to spell out this series each time) you find from your first betrayal that no one can really trust anyone. So far the direwolves are faithful but who knows what's to come in future books- maybe the wolves will turn after all. Sansa is betrayed by everyone, Eddard is killed early on (how do you kill off the main character??), and even Jon Snow doesn't know whom to trust. This also happens very early on in the greying process- your closest friends and family turn on you when they realise you're serious about this decision. Husbands get surly, parents become condescending, and best friends become flat-out rude. I think I might prefer Jory's sword in the eye to some of these snarky and cutting comments I've received. Fortunately, they have been far fewer than the hundreds of accolades, compliments, and support I've received so I'll live to see another adventure.

The twists and turns
One never knows what to expect next in GoT. Will there be a new religion? Will there be Whitewalkers and Others? Will there be some new sort of shape shifter or beastie? Honestly, I couldn't imagine some of the things that Georgie comes up with. This is also true with grey hair. From month to month I have no idea what to expect. I take a picture on my anniversary each month (the 4th) and when I look at the signature line of all 15 photos I see radically different hair. Some months it looks more taupe, some it looks like two wide silver streaks surrounded by a back of pewter, and still others it looks moonlight. Let us not mention how fluorescent lighting makes it look- ick. I still have no more idea how the ending of my hair will be any more than I know how GoT will end.

Alright, let's end this story already!
There's a point in GoT when you're screaming at George to just get to the friggin' point already! I no longer care about Daenarys and her damn dragons and I sure as hell don't care about any of these new characters in book 5. All I want is for Tyrion to triumph and Arya to snuggle her direwolf (minus my imagined scene of the direwolves going on a human-killing spree). This is also the most essential feeling of the greying process- get to the friggin' end already! My patience is tested time and time again, but lately it's getting downright hostile. I don't want anymore twists and turns, I want to see the final result. Because even when I'm done, there's all this time to adjust, re-evaluate my wardrobe now that I'm a completely different color scheme, and really own my silver as part of my identity.

However, much like GoT, I can't just stop. Even though I'm bored as hell with the greying process and I'm bored as hell with GoT after book 5, I just can't stop. I'm too far in. I'm too invested. And even though I will graduate long before George Martin writes a chapter for book 6, I will still see many more twists, turns, and adventures with my grey. At least I know I have one happy ending to look forward to.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Winter Blues and Target

I am dedicating this post to my friend, Llynn. She is in a dreaded grow out stage. You know when people (i.e. Moi) tell you that after 8 months it's all downhill? Okay that's PARTIALLY true. At the 8-month mark you are less aware of the stripe and it feels easy breezy. And then month 8, week 3 arrives and you find yourself cursing like a sailor which, contrary to popular belief, does not actually help your hair grow.
Now Llynn has been smart to just let her hair grow out. She started out brunette and those ends have since faded revealing some GORGEOUS silver coming in (see pics below- gorgeous!!). She already has soft, (what the Gilmore Girls would call) shiny Harvard hair. So the silver really is smooth and silky.

Llynn is at her 12-month mark and Happy Anniversary!! She is also going through the Winter blues and feeling like her hair is looking more dingy (note din-jee not deen-gee) than fabulous. Let's look at some factors here: we’ve had a long Winter and have all been on a weather rollercoaster for heaven knows how many months. It's April and we're expecting snow again. Where are we, Colorado?? Llynn also identified another enemy to silver hair: indoor fluorescent lighting. If it’s Winter and you only go out to get the shopping done then you only see yourself under these harsh yellowing lights. No wonder we feel sallow!

With Llynn her ends are blonde-to-light-brown so the stripe isn’t as harsh. The downfall is that the blonde casts an overall yellowed effect on her hair. The pic to the right correctly shows how fabulous her silver is (see right) but the wrong lighting will reflect those dyed ends back to the roots. With a higher contrast of dyed to virgin grey (such as black) the hair may look more pewter or more white, with red the hair looks more taupe and peach.

So what do you do to freshen and lighten up the hair a bit? I suggest getting a trim at this point of the process. You don’t have to cut inches upon inches off but even ONE little inch and you’ll reveal a lighter shade. Every new month and every new cut reveals a slightly lighter, slightly more radiant version of silver.

HOWEVER if you're still on the fence of whether grey is right for you, why not do a wash-out rinse? Now I'm not an advocate of dye nor am I against it but I've seen a lot of wobbles and a lot of regrets with hasty decisions. That's why I don't recommend a major cut or permanent hair dye. There are temporary rinses that are supposed to shampoo out with every wash (note that this will not work for you if you are allergic to dye). Roux Fanciful is the one I know of (don't use the mousse but just the rinse). Take a sample of hair and if you don't want to cut a sample of that hard-won silver, take some spare from your hairbrush. Soak the sample in some Roux and let it dry over a couple of days. Also, keep some un-Rouxed hair for a later comparison.

Now shampoo the Rouxed sample- did it totally rinse out? Is it slightly tinted? If you wash it with baking soda or purple shampoo is it still tinted? If you answered yes then put the Roux away. If it washed out, why not try it on your hair and see if you like that better than the silver? Remember to look at yourself on a bright sunny day and compare before or after (pics are a great way to do this). This will direct you in your next decision.

My guess is that you’ll see how the silver plays with your skin tone and compare it to the temporary color-washed look and you’ll determine what you like better. After all, the choices you make should be what you’re comfortable with, not something that you do to make others happy. Llynn is one of my favorite people on CafĂ© Gray (and that says a lot). Her support and cheers have been invaluable through my grow-out process. So next time you see Llynn (you’ll know her, she’s a gorgeous woman and very petite at that) you will see a beautiful advocate for the silver sisters. Make sure to congratulate her on her 1-year anniversary!