Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied*…

It’s just hair.

Why have so many of us bought into the marketing myth that the perfect hair style, or hair product, will absolutely revolutionize our lives? We consider stylists to be magicians – that they can wave magic scissors and completely transform all that is rotten in our lives into goodness and light.

We all want to look good. To be attractive. That’s human. A flattering hairstyle is part of that… but it seems we look to “The Haircut” as the Big Momma of Transformation! i see dozens of photos of friends and acquaintances as they leave the stylists chair – “I did something! Look! It’s a New Me!” The modern, mysterious phenomenon that drives millions of people to take selfies in their cars** seems, in part, based on people feeling that they’re having a “good hair day”.

i’ll say it again – It’s just hair.

i’ve been sucked into this myth as much as anyone. i’ve kept long hair since childhood. i couldn’t imagine having short hair. A response to medication made most of my hair fall out about 20 years ago, and i was mortified! Hairpieces, products… you name it, i bought it! During the recovery phase, as my hair grew back, i felt that i looked terrible with short hair, and believed that it mattered.

Genetically predisposed to white hair, mine would have lost all color by the time i was 40, if i hadn’t intervened. Keeping some of the white for a few years, i spent a lot of money getting my hairs professionally painted. i played with bright red, purple and blue for the past few years, sorting out what i might want to do with all that white some day.

But this year, something snapped. Not sure whether it was triggered by retirement, or the time i’ve spent living outdoors, but the hair became a liability. A nuisance. It was thinning anyway, and i had to spend a lot more time to get it to look ok. Never ‘good’, just ok.

Without giving it too much thought, i told my hairdresser to just shave it all off. And she did. No more color, either. Cold turkey, it was just gone.

hairs2

From a maintenance point of view? i absolutely love it! i wake up with a funky mohawked, bed-headed look, but a quick swat with a brush and it’s fine. My neck gets cold, but i have a gazillion scarves.

hairs1

Appearance-wise? Still not totally used to it. Deeply ingrained in my personal body dysmorphic disorder is that i must have long hair to be attractive. Sexy? Maybe with some more piercings and a bit of leather.

i think that will come with time… Perhaps a bit less frequent than in my 40’s, the quality of sex in my life is delicious, and i’m happy.

Form follows function. It’s just hair. Most importantly? It aligns with the life i choose to live – on the road, off the beaten path. The very definition of simplicity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 * No googling – anyone know the referenced lyrics?  

** i don’t understand it. Maybe it’s the natural light? If someone knows the answer, please enlighten me. As a friend says “I don’t just get in my car and say ‘damn, I think I look good in my car! Better capture this moment!”

 

 

Just plane fun…

What would you do if you had: A plane, free time, and a desire to be useful?

Studley has all of the above. For the past two months, he’s shared a gig with me that may be the most delightful volunteer job imaginable.

The network of animal rescue organizations is robust and highly organized. Large or small, the people involved are devoted to saving animals from terrible circumstances, and finding loving, safe, permanent homes.

Since becoming a foster dog momma, i’ve learned just how extensive this network is… Frantic pleas go up: “I need someone to drive to Carbunkle, Kentucky to pick up a new mom and her puppies.” “Is there anyone in Fleahaven, Connecticut that can pull this beauty from a kill-shelter before Monday?” “Can someone pick up a transport leg between Hoarkston, Indiana and Fartknocker, Illinois on Saturday?”

It turns out, there are also volunteer pilots who do specialty transport for animals that can’t tolerate ground transport – through Pilots and Paws. Studley decided that this was the definition of an exceptionally good reason to fly!

He checked the mission board for locations, and checked our calendar for availability. Weather was a factor, even though he’s rated to fly in crappy weather, it’s not as much fun. Complex multi-leg transport missions required coordination with other pilots. It took some work on his part, but it finally came together.

First mission in October was to pick up a Lab and her nine puppies. They were about 2 months old, and as squiggly as a bucket of octopii! And adorable!

Gracie's puppies

We met the woman with the rescue dogs at a small airport in Tennessee, and she immediately handed us two adorable, squirmy pups! Loading them in the plane presented a small challenge, but the crate full o’wiggle was safely in the back seat.

Pilot with paws

My job? Dog wrangler. Just ride shotgun, keep an eye on the critters, feed Studley snacks and scream “PUPPIES!” every few minutes…

gracie in flight

The little bits howled for the first few minutes of the flight, then settled down for a good snooze… Mom eventually got comfortable on a nest of blankets on the floor.

into the terminal

At the destination airport, our cargo got a good bit of attention. Workers provided a luggage cart to help get the dogs into the terminal. A passing pilot decided mom needed a good scritch behind the ears…

It was another month before the timing worked out for round two.

A momma Beagle and ten week-old puppies! Too small to touch, they were crated from pick up to hand off. As Studley says “about the size of biscuits”, they were all bellies, paws and stayed in a tiny fur ball the entire time.

Ashley and Pups

If you look at the grand challenge of abandoned animals? It’s overwhelming. You can’t save them all. It’s worth an effort to do what you can, though. Human or canine, there are many good creatures out there – and it simply feels good to contribute (even if i’m just ‘meat in a seat’ screaming “PUPPIES!” every ten minutes).

The network is powerful, and politically agnostic – a collection of strangers working together to solve a problem. More of this, please…

 

Not thru*….yet.

After toying with it for about six years, it finally happened – a backpacking/camping trip. In late August i finally hiked in, camped, and hiked out of a wooded area, with no toilets and a lot of bugs.

Studley’s daughter, Pixie, is a supreme badass, hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail (AT) this year. She started walking northward from Georgia in mid-April. 2,190 miles – it takes from five to seven months to complete – and only about 20% of those who start a thru-hike complete it.

Her Dad was cheering madly, tracking her progress, and enjoying her adventure vicariously through intermittent phone calls.  Somewhere in those conversations, the prospect of the two of us joining her for a portion of the trail went from “notional” to “no shit”, and we started our own scaled-down preparations.

We started walking. Just on a flat track at the outset, but had to tackle hills. And we did. Added backpacks with some weight. Quickly realized that we were going to suffer, but just kept at it – while sorting gear lists, deciding which tent to use, meal planning.

In the meantime, Pixie kept walking. Every day, 15-20 miles. Knocking off the states – Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut… As we’d bitch about being hot, sweaty and covered in bugs on our daily walks, we reminded each other that Pixie was doing 4-5 times our mileage, over mountains, and we needed to shutthefuckup and keep walking.

We met her in Massachusetts in late August. Parked the car at a trailhead, grabbed our packs and set out for a 7 mile hike, meeting Pixie at a shelter for the night. Our mantra – “We have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s go!”

Only 7 miles. We’d been doing 3-5 miles, with loaded backpacks nearly every day for the prior two weeks, so how hard could it be? The first few miles we were completely fine – and then there were moments of “i have to adjust the strap, it’s wiggling funny on my shoulder” and calls for “rest stop” became a little more frequent. We had another hiker take this shot – for possible use on the cover of “Search and Rescue” magazine.

AT1

Pixie caught up with us about a mile short of our stop for the night. “I thought I was going to catch you a few miles back! You guys are moving right along!” Encouraging words for a couple of out of shape old farts…

Tucked into our tents shortly after dark, we were awakened to a bit of a rainstorm somewhere around 3am. The tent started leaking pretty hard. And we got seriously soaked…  But we packed up, hiked out, and — perhaps most surprisingly — didn’t die!

We have no idea what we’re doing. Let’s go!” — continues as the mantra for damn near everything we’ve been doing for the past couple of months! We are stretching. We are well outside our comfort zone! And we still have no idea what we’re doing!

S'more you do it

*i am not a fan of this spelling, with a strong preference for proper spelling “through”. This spelling is the norm for “thru-hiking” the Appalachian Trail, so i decided to go that route.

 

Poof!

For the past five years, i’ve had a spreadsheet (compliments of the ever-enterprising Excel-pert, Studley). A spreadsheet that can be poked, prodded and tweaked in all sorts of ways, playing with expenses and income. It was my retirement planning tool.

Through a combination of planning, luck, early breeding and conservative financial management, i was surprised to find myself in a position to comfortably retire with a pension, after working for the same entity from the age of 19. i just had to wait until my 55th birthday to pull the chain.

i didn’t believe it. i worked and re-worked those numbers. Studley included important expense categories such as “entertainment” and “booze”* and most importantly travel. Even throwing in a ridiculous budget for such luxuries, it was still manageable.

i turned 55 in early June. i cleaned out my office and walked out the door and have no intention of ever working again.

Poof.

Just like that, i was no longer employed.  From the age of 16, i’ve always had a job with income. Self-sufficiency required that, and i worked my way through university through a combination of a co-operative engineering job, and admin/teaching assistant positions. i have always worked – driven by the need to be self-sufficient.

And now that comes without the need to work.

Turns out, this is a pretty serious transition – even though i absolutely recognize the privilege that comes with this particular transition. Unlike divorce, a cancer diagnosis or becoming an empty-nester, this one is without question a GOOD TRANSITION. Not only that, i had ample time to prepare for this one.

i’ve been asking retired people the same question for the past few years – “what was your biggest surprise after retirement?” The answers were all over the map… “How expensive health care costs are” to “How busy I am! How did I ever manage to do all this with a full time job?” One response that stuck with me was “How important the calendar becomes.”

i’ve always been pretty tight with my work calendar. It also had personal appointments and extracurricular activities on it, but the work day was the foundation. When every day feels like Saturday how do you know what day it is? How do you know that the Tuesday night patio party at your favorite venue is happening if you don’t realize it’s Tuesday?

Only two months in, here are a few other observations –

Getting dressed? Different. i don’t put on make up in the morning. Morning lingers longer than it used to. One day i had a volunteer meeting at 0800. The dog even glared at me as i walked him at 0700 – “what is this shit? why are we out of bed? why are you dressed?” Clothes off of a hangar, not out of the laundry bin after a sniff. Hair brushed, and not stuffed under a baseball cap…

Speaking of hair…

i’ve been having mine painted for 20 years. Thanks to genetics, my hair would have turned shock white by the time i was forty without chemical intervention. A couple of years ago, i started playing with that white – i let a chunk underneath go white, then hit it with some funky color. It’s been blue for about a year, and while i like it, i don’t like the maintenance. So i’m working through a process to let my hair revert to its natural color.

Brain function? A bit befuddled – more forgetful than usual, not able to find words, and carrying a general fog every now and then. Still carrying five different volunteer jobs, i have responsibilities that require thought. We are continuing to push the envelope on life skills and experiences, in part to keep the brains working…

But those are details for a future post… i’ve exceeded my word count for today! Time to go pack a suitcase!

huey suitcase

* i like to throw parties. My friends appreciate good food and good booze, as do i. That shit ain’t cheap…

Road hard

Three weeks of nearly continuous business travel. Given the run of frigid weather in February, i did gain some time in sunny, relatively warm California. Sure, i got to enjoy it a bit, walking to and from the rental car, and a few days spent dining al fresco for conference luncheons… but mostly, i was in meetings from 7am until 7pm or later.

Jacked up flights, due to weather.  i missed a connection at O’Hare by fivefuckingminutes, which led to a complete re-route to an airport near my destination, requiring a rental car and about six extra hours of travel time.  Missed a half day of work as a result, but made it. And didn’t get particularly stressed out.

IMG_20150317_213114

Similar jackage the next trip. i was halfway through a cardio workout in a hotel fitness center, when my phone lit up – 800 number.  i knew immediately that it was from the airline, likely delivering shitty news regarding my scheduled flight home the next afternoon. Rather than take the call, i finished my workout, then hauled my sweaty arse back to my room to deal with it.

As expected, my Wednesday afternoon flight was bagged, due to ice in Dallas, but they had conveniently re-booked me on the same flight for Thursday. “Well, that’s not gonna work!” A rookie traveler might have lost her shit at this point.

i dialed up my travel agent on one phone, and dialed the airline on my business mobile, while peeling off my sweaty gear. “Due to inclement weather, we are experiencing delays in customer service…” on both lines. Plugged in the phones, set both to speaker, and proceeded to call room service to order dinner…

i knew i’d have to bag the morning meetings and hook an early flight toward the east coast.  i set up my laptop, finished up the work that was required for the next morning. Room service arrived, bringing me a marginally edible flat bread pizza and a glass of wine.

As i emptied the wine glass, my travel office came back on line. Agent was able to wade through a pile of options and get me re-booked for a 6am flight. i finished the pizza. Once confirmed, it was about 9pm local time, meaning i had about 6 hours before my 3am wake up call.

Packed my clothes, sent my work off into the ether, set three alarms and was in bed within fifteen minutes. Was on the road to an airport an hour away by 4am, on a plane at half past five, and headed east around 6am.

Looking out the window. Thinking back on all the years i’ve been doing this. There was a  time when i loved it! Exciting, glamorous and chubb-inducing business action – i was a cog in my small corner of the technology world, and i enjoyed mixing it up with others in the field.

Now? It’s nice to bank all those airline miles and hotel points, but it’s just a longer commute. i try to be good at what i’m doing, but it is no longer my passion. Looking out the window of a plane, i just wanted to get home to my own bed, and my manimals.

And looking forward to the day – not that far away – when i will travel for only for recreation! Retirement lurks, and those airline miles are going to fuel a lot of roadtrips. Dive trips. Backpacking trips abroad – open ended, with no return flights booked.

Studley and i are in the midst of planning three trips between now and September. Uncharted territory – emotionally, mentally and geographically. i will continue to hop planes as a commuter, but i can assure you when i board those planes for uncharted territory, i am going to be one delighted adventurer…

i genuinely believe that a key element to happiness is having things to look forward to… i may be exhausted, but i am incredibly happy at this moment in life!

Entropy

Hanging with friends amongst the Nerd Herd this week, i had a chance to contemplate mid-career directional changes – both voluntary and involuntary.  Slamming beer with two of my all time favorite drunken yabs professional colleagues, we swapped our stories… 

JS, all of 47 years old, is recovering from a near-fatal stroke and was recounting his close brush with the big dirt nap.  JP continues to work and drink himself to death at the helm of his scrappin’ high tech start up.  We joke about the difficulties of the economy, and about being fitted for our “paper hats” so we can retrain to serve burgers at McD’s when it all collapses.

We’re burnt out, frustrated, and getting tired of being in the hamster wheel.  As i stumbled back to my hotel room, i was reminded of a favorite scene from Annie Hall.

Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
Alvy’s Mom: Tell Dr. Flicker.
[Young Alvy sits, his head down – his mother answers for him]
Alvy’s Mom: It’s something he read.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?
Alvy at 9: [his head still down] The universe is expanding.
Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?
Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
Alvy’s Mom: What is that your business?
[she turns back to the doctor]
Alvy’s Mom: He stopped doing his homework!
Alvy at 9: What’s the point?
Alvy’s Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
Doctor in Brooklyn: It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here!

Seriously.  What’s the point?  i know… we’re lucky to be debating optional career change.  Too many folks are facing that involuntarily.  But i’m done.  i just want to tend bar.  That’s it.  Pour drinks.  Laugh along with drunks.  Wipe glasses dry with ratty bar towels.  Go home.  Repeat the next day.

tune-in-turn-on-drop-the-fuck-out

As i prepare to meet with my accountant on Friday to get the taxes filed, we’re going to have a conversation about “what would it take for me to walk away?”.  i really need to figure out how much i need to do what i want to do.  And get outta the wheel… 

Fuck it.