Friday, November 27, 2009

Living inside the Box

Today was Fashion Disaster Day at Kindergarten. The children were supposed to dress in a funny way, with mixed up colours, mismatched socks and have fun doing it.

My daughter was a wee badger this morning and wanted no part of anything but going back to sleep. She's been living up to her Vampira, Mistress of the Dark nickname, again. I pulled some clothes out of her closet and tried to make her a fashion disaster.

Problem was, coordinating outfits in an acceptable manner has been drilled into me since I was my daughter's age. Colours HAD to match, outfits HAD to be appropriate to the occasion, and my mother didn't care a tinker's damn if everyone else was wearing it, her daughter wasn't. Period. End of conversation and turn around, go upstairs and change. I'm 46, and she still checked to make sure I would be dressed appropriately for my aunt's funeral last year. Socks must match. Colours must coordinate. Clothes must fit properly and be appropriate. What would people think otherwise?

I had a real struggle with letting go of that. It's Kindergarten, not Christmas Dinner with my mom. It was supposed to be a fashion disaster. And yet, even though my daughter went off to school decked out in multi-coloured tights, a purple skirt, an orange Halloween top, purple and lime hoodie and purple hair...all the colours were in the tights and worked. The purple hair was essential to "disasterfy" it. I couldn't get away from coordinating, even though I was aware of my weakness and tried hard not to conform.

My whole life is about structure. I need to know what I'm doing, when I'm doing it and how long I am doing it for. I can be spontaneous...just warn me and I'll mark it on the calendar. The only time I have ever been spontaneous in my life was on our honeymoon and that was because Hurricane George crashed it and we were tossed off Sanibel Island and HAD to improvise.  I didn't like it. Part of it probably stems from life as a teen with an alcoholic father when I could never predict what I would be walking into when I got home.

I write stories following an outline. I start at the beginning and write to the end. The ultimate in daring for me would be to write a scene in the middle before I got to it. I haven't actually tried it yet but I think it would be terrifying but liberating. The most adventurous thing I wear are brightly coloured, handknit socks, but only with my jeans. Everything else will match. I think I once did the radical move of wearing blue socks with black pants, but I was in a hurry and they were dark blue.

I've always played by the rules, dressed the way my momma told me to dress and conformed. I have questioned stupid rules but followed them nonetheless. I will stick up for someone being mistreated, sometimes longer than a smart person would do. The most dramatic things I have ever done in my life were to quit a full time job at Customs (that was sucking the life out of me) to go back to school to do my MA(on full scholarship, in 8 months) and venture into freelance writing so I could stay home with the wee badger in the orange Halloween shirt. My ears are pierced exactly once, I have never ridden a motorcycle, and I have no tattoos (although I secretly covet one). I hate rollercoasters, spicy food and am quite happy to stay home. I envy people who have let their hair go naturally grey or dye their hair wonderful, wild colours. I don't have their courage (and as far as the hair goes, I'm 46 with a 4 year old. I don't want to be mistaken for her grandmother.)

I need to shake things up a bit. I need to get out of this rut that I find myself in, find out who I am again and take some risks. Darn it, I'm going to write the final scene for my YA novel, even though I'm only at the beginning of crafting it. If JK Rowlings can do it, so can I. But first, I need to go put on a different shirt because I'm wearing a sweatshirt, taking my mom shopping and it's not an appropriate thing to wear out of the house. To my mother's horror, I lived in jeans and sweatshirts for 4 years at university, but that was then...

Baby steps...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tearing my hair out.

There's few things more beneficial to my soul than time spent getting a good haircut. It was one of the few luxuries I have kept when acrylic nails, salon highlights and massages fell by the wayside. Granted, sometimes the good haircut comes courtesy of my mother's pocketbook, but few things make me feel better than going in looking like I'd been dragged through a thicket backwards, and come out an hour later coifed, cosseted and feeling great.

One of the luxuries I gave up was having someone else colour my hair. I've been a box brunette for 20 years, and for at least half of that, I've been colouring it myself, with a great deal of success. I even custom blend 2 shades to make one that I like. I've learned how to adapt the colour to get what I want, and I've always been happy. Until yesterday.

I decided to forego the Amber/Golden variations of my hair colour this time, and go back to basic brown. I haven't liked how it's looking, so I thought I'd go with a plain slate and then paint in some highlights. I chose basic, Medium Brown, L'Oreal Excellence, a brand I've been using since Clairol discontinued Hydrience.

I mixed the formula and it looked like a light blonde colour. No worries, it darkens as it processes-I know this from years of experience. I started applying the colour with the professional brush I bought a while ago that makes it much easier to banish the grays.  That's when odd things started happening. As the colour started processing, instead of the rich brown I was expecting, it looked more like wet charcoal. I checked the box. I checked the labels on the colour and the activator. Yep, Medium Brown. I kept applying, but became more and more alarmed as the colour started to process because it did not look like any medium brown I've ever seen (or used). I know from experience that the colour when it's curing doesn't usually look like the final result so I took a deep breath and waited and rinsed.

I don't know what this is, but it isn't Medium Brown. I had coloured root to tip, combing the colour through half way through the processing time so that the previously coloured roots didn't go too dark and the grey crap had the full benefit of camouflage.  (I always know it's time to do my hair when people start talking to the skunk stripe of gray on the top of my head). I know from long experience how long to leave the colour on for optimum processing and when to comb it through.

Roots, where they took, which isn't everywhere, are a murky, brown with charcoal gray tinges. Middle, variety of shades from old to new, depending on how the colour combed through. Ends, despite my efforts-WAY TOO FREAKING DARK. I'm not happy. I'm not happy at all and I think this is more than a box of highlights will fix.

Before I mucked it up more, I called L'Oreal Canada this morning. A few times. I kept getting caught in a voicemail loop- "appuyez sur le 1, press 2 for English". I kept pressing 2 and getting re-routed back to the "Bienvenue à L'Oreal..." Merde.  I hung up and called back. Same thing. 3rd time, I got put through to Customer Service, only to be advised that "to help to serve me better" the whole freaking customer service department are in training all day and the place is "extraordinarily closed."  Epic Customer service FAIL. There is no way to contact them on their website other than this number and their website has no information. Looks like it's in training too and is "extraordinarily closed."

I had an old box of Hydrience kicking around, and I called the Clairol line a couple of days ago. I got a real person, with real answers who advised that the discount CNE hair colour had expired 3 years ago. (Note to self, don't buy from them next year no matter how cheap it is). That lead me to this current mess on the top of my head.

I understand that I have to wait a few days before trying to fix this. I know that going to a salon to have it fixed is not in my budget. I don't think highlights are going to do it, but now given the fact that there was not one living, breathing body at L'Oreal who could:

A-explain to me why Medium Brown turned soggy charcoal when applied (and others who commiserated with me yesterday noted the same thing. Medium Brown should NOT have dark gray/light black tinges when wiped off the skin. It should be well, Medium Brown)

B-What shade I use to fix this.

C-How long I have to wait until I can fix this,

I don't have much faith in their newly trained customer service department answers. I mean seriously, who closes a whole freaking customer service department right before holiday social season?

I've had a challenging few weeks with my small child because my husband has been working long hours, and she's been acting out because she misses dad. My grey hair makes me feel ugly (and before the fingers fly, that is my personal opinion about only my hair. I know and respect and in some ways envy women who went grey early and went, oh well. I am not one of those women.) and all I wanted to do was restored a modicum of my previous well coifed existence before the advent of small child, work from home and business casual meaning I get dressed in something other than jeans or my pyjamas. I'm not a rookie at colouring my hair. I've been visiting Aunt Clairol, and now Tante L'Oreal every 6 weeks for over 10 years. I can't change the mess currently irritating me on my head. I can only go forward to a salvage operation.

I guess I shall throw myself on the mercy of the cosmetician at the local Shoppers Drug Mart. I shall wait for the Goth, and by-pass the one who argued with me for 10 minutes about a notice that the store itself had sent me about a gift with purchase, even when I had said notice with me but it was different from what the flyer said. (not my problem the flyer was wrong). I shall similarly by-pass the blonde with the cell phone permanently afixed to her hand, even when supposedly helping customers. It is not going to help my present frame of mind to have to wait for her to stop txtg her BFF.

I need to fix this mess because it's making me feel ugly at a time when I don't need any help in that department. I need my hair to look good again. Because I'm worth it. Right, L'Oreal? L'Oreal? L'Oreal?
Hello, aunt Clairol...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kid Friendly Recipes

I've started writing for, and here is my inaugural contribution. I enlisted the help of my 4 year old to whack the candy canes. She had a ball, and it proved the recipes really are kid friendly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kid Friendly Home

I went to lunch at a friend's home the other day.

Her house is lovely. Black ceramic tile floors, white leather couches, classically elegant side chairs, a wrought iron bench in the hall...and not a crayon, marker, lego or Barbie in sight. My friend does not have children.

I must admit a touch of envy at her pristine house that actually had a decorating style to it. Her black and white colour scheme was echoed in the little lamp on the fireplace with the white and black shade, there were throws placed just so on the couch, and even the cat beds blended. She shares her space with 2 cats and a dog, but it was elegant, classic...and in another postal code, no wait, another province, no wait another universe to my home.

Our house is shabby chic, forget the chic. We have a small house and too much stuff. We also have 2 cats and a small child who loves crafts. We are both stackers, although my husband is an uber-stacker. Our living room overflows with colouring books, crayons, markers and paper in my daughter's corner, and yarn, pattern books and works in progress in mine. My husband's domain in the living room features a Whomping Lazyboy  chair and a pile of the latest ads and flyers. We all have our own particular thing.

We have furniture. We don't have a style. I moved into my husband's house from an apartment when we got married and over the 11 years we've been married, we've slowly been moving from yours/mine to ours. We sold both our couches and bought a leather one a few years ago, which now serves to hold the stash of flyers. We sold my antique table and chairs and his kitchen set that had been residing in the basement for 11 years, and bought a kitchen set that fits our kitchen better. I have an antique wing chair that I re-upholstered last year, and then hid in a slip cover so that the cat couldn't destroy this version with his claws. Hubby's Lazy Boy is burgundy, and the kid has a chair in the same colour.

The focal point of the living room should be the fireplace, but the Whomping Chair only fits in one corner. Also, the kid's table and chairs sits in front of the fireplace. The couch looked nice in front of the window, but it blocked too much light. If the Whomping Chair is in THAT corner, then my wing chair can only fit in the OTHER corner...and then of course, there's the television.

The rest of the house does not fair much better...Only my daughter's room has some semblance of style to it, and it's stuffed animal explosion in her room. She likes it that way, even if you can barely see the ballerina bedspread.  I'm not even going to dignify our bedroom with a mention.

I was never much of a house decorator. I've always had to make do with hand-me-downs, cast-offs and what I scrounged from home when I moved out. I bought my first couch after I'd been working a lot of years, and totally messed up on the choice of print. I've never had matching anything, so working with what I had is what I do.

My house is a home. Maybe too much of one. It's gotten out of control, but I don't know where to start. I work from home around my daughter, and if I'm on deadline, crayons and drawing are my best friends. We're slowly teaching her to pick up her toys when she's finished with them, although I would still recommend wearing slippers if you're padding to the bathroom in the dark. Legos hurt when they come in contact with bare feet. 

We have too much stuff. We need to purge. My husband is the king of the packrats, and getting him to part with anything is a challenge. I need an office, which means the spare room needs to get cleared out. I don't know where to start.

I like to watch Colin and Justin's Home Heist, but I don't think there's room enough on the t-shirt for all of our design crimes. They wouldn't know where to start either.

My friend recently described my house as "kid friendly" which translates into the kid took over the living room. It's true. We waited a long time for the kid and she needs a place to play where I can still keep an eye on her while I'm working. Still, a little less kid friendly might be nice.

So I guess my style of decorating is Mommy Chic. And that will have to do for now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 11

I have a red box in my possession. Once upon a time, it held a fruitcake, but for many, many years now, it has held my father's photographs, including many when he was a navigator on the home guard in World War II.

My father never talked about the war. My father really never talked about the past at all. He lost his father at a young age, when his father, a railway man, was crushed between two rail cars. Dad was the eldest, and felt the weight of responsibility for his younger siblings and his mother. My mother said that dad once told her about how he and his brothers would follow a fruit truck during the Depression and steal fruit from the back of it to take home to eat. Dad never talked about it.

The photos in the box tell of a life I never knew. I didn't know the box existed until after his sister's death. She might have been able to identify some of the people in the photos. I would have liked to know who "Ray" was for example, because he certainly figured prominently in photos. Mom thinks he might have been the friend that dad mentioned was killed in the War, but she isn't sure.

There are many pictures of dad's whole squadron from World War II, and the back of some of them is signed by every member.(In the photo above, my father is in 2nd row,  centre 5th from left) Dad never made it overseas during the War, and I think he felt like he didn't contribute as much somehow because of it.

The only story my father would tell, with glee, was of the time that he was chosen to escort Yvonne DeCarlo. Ms. DeCarlo (the original Lily Munster) was a famous movie star, and was filming in Vancouver and decided to do a goodwill visit to the base and the hospital to boost morale. There are photos of her with my dad and a couple of other fellows, and that is the only War related story my father would ever tell.
(My father is in the centre)

Remembrance Day in our house was special and required attendance. We were all home because it was a stat holiday then (and should be again) We sat as a family and watched the ceremony from Ottawa. My mother and father would explain the significance of the day, and what each section of the ceremony meant. A couple of family members were Silver Cross Mothers through the years, my mother's cousin was an Engineer who received the Distinguished Service Order for bridging the Orne River, my uncle was a pilot who flew in D-Day, and was shot down. His plane burst into flames on impact and someone on the ground pulled him out. He became a charter member of the Guinea Pig club, where plastic surgery techniques were pioneered. I don't know how many times they re-built his elbow. My father would occasionally join in the discussion, and he was adamant that we watch it as a family. Mostly, he would sit silent, dealing with his own demons and memories, a faraway, sad look in his eyes.

My daughter is at school for Remembrance Day this year, and my father will be dead 20 years on November 22. I don't want to pull my little girl from school to sit and watch Remembrance Day with me, so I'm counting on the school to start teaching the lessons. One of these days though, I will keep her home, we will watch together, and I will show her some of the contents of Grandpa's red box. No story in a book, no lesson in a classroom can replace first-hand accounts of the sacrifice that people gave.

In the meantime, I have a red box of photos. I may not know the who but they were important to my father, and that makes them important to me. Be at peace, dad. They are safe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stop whining and write

I'm pretty sure I've lost the rest of my mind, but I've signed up to do NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo? It is the National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November, several thousand crazy people around the world will be typing frantically, trying to write $50k words before November 30.

I'm one of them. For the next 30 days, I'm going to try to write my teen curling novel.

I'm tired of whining about my lack of success on Wii, so this is the last post. I'm going to keep doing it, I'm just going to stop kvetching about it.

So ready, set, go.