Monday, January 30, 2017

The Best Haircut I Ever Had

A few days ago, I posted about the worst thing I ever did to my hair. Perhaps now it might be worth mentioning the best haircut I ever had.

Sometime at the end of high school, I was at a baby shower for a friend of my parents. We were on the west side of town on someone's farm. The people were really nice and I knew not a soul. Being the youngest there, I mostly listened to conversations instead of partaking in them.

A man spoke about picking up some lunch at "the Pumpkin Center," apparently it was really tasty. Someone else mentioned that they popped over to "the Pumpkin Center" to pick up a few groceries. An older woman mentioned something about how "the Pumpkin Center" just repainted the sign.

I ask, "Is this place a real pumpkin patch?"

No- it's the only place to shop on this side of town between here and Thomson.

Okay, fair enough. Place to shop. Got it.

It seems like "the Pumpkin Center" was a central hub to this side of town. I wonder if they have a Blockbuster there?

Turns out, that nope- no Blockbuster, but someone did check out a video over there and had to pay a $2 late fee. Allegedly, the people at "the Pumpkin Center" really gouged on late fees. Another woman mentioned that the gas station at "the Pumpkin Center" dropped the price fifteen cents and she filled up both her car and her husband's truck.

"The Pumpkin Center" sounded like a hopping place and was certainly the center of life. Amongst all these people and conversation, there was a woman there who had the very best haircut I had ever seen. It was cropped, layered with a little Jennifer Aniston shag, and a wispy bangs.

It was beautiful.

And I'm always in the market for a new haircut.

Ever shy, I asked her when she walked away from the conversation, "Where did you get your hair cut? I love it!"

"Actually, my partner cut it for me. We have a beauty parlor over at "the Pumpkin Center."


I get the name of her salon and make a plan to get my hair bobbed in the coming days.

Thumbing through the yellow pages a few later, her salon is listed with the address "Pkn Ctr" -- I called her and asked to make an appointment. She said they weren't busy right now and I could head on over. A pencil in hand, directions on paper-- my car is hitting I-20 heading back to the west side of town and looking for exit 189.

Off I-20 at exit 189 and a left turn, I am on a two lane road with cracked asphalt and no site of man's imprint on this green earth. Trees for miles. I drive.


I fly past a tin roofed gas station on the left side without a second glance. A few miles later, I start to think about that gas station. Maybe I should turn around and ask for directions. I do not want to be late, nor do I want to miss this haircut. Someone might get there before me and take it.

A U-turn on a dirt road and a few miles backtrack, I pull into the back side of the gas station. Rounding to the front, I pull into a makeshift parking spot and step out.

On the windows were signs painted for "Fresh Bait" and "Best Fried Chicken Livers" and "Back Room Movie Rental."

There were four pumps with inexpensive gas and cashiers behind the yellow counter with 40 teeth between the two of them and coordinating shade to the counter. One had a cigarette dangling from her chapped lips and the other had blush from her nose to her ears.

Cars zipped by this forgotten gas station and upon closer examination, there was a beautiful orange pumpkin freshly painted on that tin roof. Somewhere in the distance, a banjo was being tuned.

"The Pumpkin Center" was not a shopping center that thrived on this side of town. It was a gas station in the middle of nowhere- and I was there in the middle of it.

To get my hair cut.

Most people would have turned around at this moment, but y'all-- you should have seen this haircut. It was perfect.

To the right of the convenience store was Betty Lou's Barber and Up Do's.

Okay, the name is an exaggeration. I think.

$15 on fried chicken
$12 on a haircut
$11 to fill my gas tank

I have spent less than $40 and got more compliments on that cut than I ever have before. When asked which fancy, overpriced salon I went to, not a lie was shed from my lips:

"Don't you know? I have to go out of town to find a girl who can help me with my hair."

Friday, January 27, 2017

First Reconciliation

Years ago, back when my grandfather was still living and had the majority of his faculties and my brother was still a Catholic, the Bishop came to town. Brother took BigDad to the Mass that evening. At the end, the man in the funny hat announced that if anyone wanted to make confession, there would be priests stationed around the church to receive and give penance. My grandfather, fast as lightening on that walker with tennis balls on the end made his way third in line with the Bishop before Brother could even get out of the pew. Brother, sheepishly, stood in line- perhaps ten or twelve back from BigDad. The line drew down by two and my grandfather was next.

BigDad stepped out of line, turned around, extended his skeletal arm and pointed to my brother. The wrist flipped over and that long pointer finger pointed to Brother and beckoned him forward. Brother turned around to see if BigDad might have been pointing at someone else, perhaps his equally elderly sister or, maybe the postman.

Anyone else? No? No? Oh... okay... he must mean Brother.

Brad stepped out of line, walked forward and BigDad, in his not-so-quiet whisper said, "SON! You need to go ahead of me. This is Confession and you need to be absolved of your sins."

"BigDad, I'm happy to wai--"

He stamps his walker on the marble, reverberating through the crowd. "Son. Don't argue with me on this. You're a single, young man and surely there are sins you need forgiving."

You know what Brother did? He didn't argue and stood in line before his 91 year old grandfather. You know what else? No one in line argued with him that he had allowed a twenty-something man to cut in front of ten other people.

You didn't argue with BigDad when it came to his Church or his Grandchildren.

The Bishop was receiving Confession on the main altar of the church, under the bright lights, surrounded by ironed lace and marble, three stairs above everyone else. The altar is the stage of the church and everyone could see who was giving their confession. Good lip readers might even get a hint of the scandalous behavior of fellow parishioners.

And it was Brother's turn.

It is in this moment that I was counting those little Catholic blessings that I was not in his shoes.

Brother walks up the steps and sits down next to the Bishop, stumbles through the opening prayers and acknowledges in his head that he is about to confess high school, college, and most of his twenties.

These are the sins that priests live for; the good ones. The sins they probably retell at the annual priest Christmas party while serving red wine and wafers.

The Bishop looks at Brother.
Brother looks at the Bishop.

"Son, are you ready to confess your sins?"

"I am."

"And what are your sins?"

Brother swallows. The perspiration from the heat of the lights is upon him. He speaks:

"You know... the usual."

Brother had a way of executing one liners with such perfection that you had to accept them for what they were: the truth.

The Bishop chuckles, nods, and looks back at him.

"Fair enough. Your penance is four Hail Marys."

"Bishop, you better make it five... just in case."

That's Brother.


Parochial is serious about being, well, a parochial school. Birdie made her First Reconciliation the other day. When I was a kid- this happened at school, during school, behind those screens where you can hear the priest and the priest can hear you, but there was no eye to eye contact.


Fortunately or unfortunately, things are different today. There is a little more pomp and circumstance to the affair. Mama gets to make a confession before Birdie is presented to make hers. Upon learning this, I call my fellow mother friend of a second grader and say something to the effect of "Woah woah woah... ain't NOBODY told me about this when I signed her up for Parochial three years ago. Gammit."

Time to start a list.

#1: I said Gammit on the phone while complaining about having to make my confession.

I asked Husband if he would rather go and I'll keep the kids so that he can spend quality time with Birdie before this great day.

He said he isn't Catholic yet so that doesn't make sense.


#2 I tried to get out of Confession by guilting my husband.


#3 I said "Hell"

In jest, Husband asked me if I remembered the Act of Contrition prayer. I said I did....

O My God I am heartfully sorry for what I have done and what I have failed to do...umm... something something sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin, AMEN!

It was then I learned that "heartfully" isn't a word. It is "heartily" and that those something somethings were only about 8 more words.

Homerun parenting.

Birdie didn't have homework last night because of First Reconciliation and I cheered.

#4 Laziness. Laziness in regards to my daughter's education and, let's be honest...
#5 Laziness in regards to her Catholic Sacraments

We get to church and I am not being prayerful, rather I am texting on my phone

#6 Texting in church

and Birdie is being a 7 year old girl. She gets corrected.

#7 Not being that nice to my kid

This list is getting long and I've only been counting for the past six hours.

There were 67 children and 67 adults who had to make their confession. Children were called in a random order and they were able to choose the priest that they want to see. Birdie was in the first group called and she started looking around. Kids started heading towards us and I said, "Birdie, make a decision right now or I'll make it for you. Where are we going?"

She had this deer in the headlight-saucer eyes as she looked. More people started heading towards us and we were going to have to wait... to.wait. I grab her arm and pull her to a door.

#8 forceful and demanding to we could get outta here without having to wait in line.

Winning in parenthood.

I walk in and an old man sat waiting to hear my sinful deeds from the past five years. Birdie sat on the other side of the door, with the fellow sinners- waiting for them to be excised.

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned... it has been four, no wait- five years since my last Confession."

#9 I accidentally lied to the priest... SIX years. It had been six years since my last confession.

{averaging a sin an hour on this day since I started counting and it's been six years x 18 waking hours in a day x 350 sinful days in a year = uh oh. uh. oh.}

Upon completion, he smiles, we talk and he says, "Are you ready for your Penance before I absolve you of your sins?"

"Yes sir."

"One Hail Mary. That's a good prayer for you."

Father, you better make it two. Just to be safe.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Anna and Steve Sanders

Anna and Steve have two beautiful sons and they are great parents. I sat with her this morning before dropping our children off for school and it seems I caught her at a vulnerable moment. Her infertility was on her mind. 

She said, "It's emotional," as I caught the very wisps of tears at the corner of her eyes. 

Anna has healthy children sitting in the backseat and a devoted husband. Anna is beautiful, has a job she loves, and lives in a great house. Anna has all the boxes checked for a care-free life. Foolishly, I thought her infertility was a thing of the past, but it dawned on me that it won't ever be a thing of the past. She will always have this struggle. 

Her church, Reid Presbyterian, where my husband and I were married come ten years ago this March, asked her family to be the host family of the annual race that raises money for a foundation of the host family's choice. 

Here is the article from her church newsletter:


When we got married almost 10 years ago, we both wanted to have a large family - at least three or four children. After several years, however, we were devastated to learn that we would not be able to have children without the help of assisted reproduction. 

As Anna’s physician stated, “This is just how you were made.” We knew that God never makes mistakes, but that the journey to start a family would be a long and difficult one. 

And it was. 

As we began to research and learn more about infertility and assisted reproduction, we realized everything was very expensive and nothing was covered by insurance. There was very little help available, which probably explains why more than half of women with infertility never seek medical assistance.

We decided we would do all we could and put our trust in God with the outcome either way. Regardless of how financially difficult this would be, we knew it would be worth every penny. After several years of multiple tests, uncertain diagnoses, numerous failed treatments, and thousands of dollars, we finally were blessed to have a successful In Vetro fertilization. 

Hamp was born in August 2013.

We then had to go through several additional rounds of treatment before having our second child, Lewis, earlier this year. Aside from the incredible blessing of having children, the process for us became an opportunity to minister to others with similar circumstances. After trying without success to find a faith-based support network, Anna started a blog, InVariablyFaithful (IVF), that chronicled our faith journey and, to our surprise, became a source of inspiration for others.

As we have learned just how common infertility is - 1 in 8 couples is diagnosed – and have seen many of our own friends and neighbors face the same challenges, we have always felt there should be more in the way of support and assistance available, especially for those who may not be as fortunate as us. So when the Children’s Ministry Committee raised the idea of having the 2017 Reid on the Run support this cause, we wanted to do whatever we could to help. The proceeds from this year’s event will help give aspiring parents in our community an opportunity to have a family of their own - a chance they may not otherwise have. 

We hope you will join us and show your support on February 4th.

Steve and Anna Sanders


"This is just how you were made" -- that sat with me when I read it. What tears must have been shed in that paper gown when the diagnosis came down. Having seen her go through the process of having her second child, I can only imagine how it was before I knew her.

And I am thankful to know her. 

Knowing the all-encompassing love that courses through my veins from when the doctor handed me Birdie until the day I stop breathing, it must be ten-fold when you have to work that much harder to create life.

Families struggle to become families and to stay familiesHelping this cause will help another family struggle a little less and laugh a little more. Anything is possible.

With God, anything is possible. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Best and The Worst

I was thinking today about the very best hair cut I ever had... which was because I was telling the story of the very worst thing I ever did to my hair.

The question that ensued was, "OMG... is this on your blog?"

No.... no it isn't.

Until now.

Since "The Worst" story led to "The Best" story-- let me start there.

The Worst Haircut I ever Had

Mama used to go to Debbie's Hair Cottage on Monte Sano Avenue, pronounced Mahn-Tee-San-Oh. Debbie's Hair Cottage was across the street from the Knights of Columbus building with an aging royal blue awning. That blue awning had, what appeared to be, iron-on letters. The parking was behind the building, with cracked asphalt and faded lines. 

At the time, I was 18- heading to The University in the fall and going through sorority rush. 

These two tidbits are extremely important to note. 

Mama went to Debbie's Hair Cottage because her aunts went to Debbie's Hair Cottage. My mom, at the time, was in her early 40s... let's go with 43. Her father was the youngest of 8 children, making the age of my great aunts range anywhere from 70-113. 

Because women in that box are known for great hairstyles and not for blue hair and helmet head.

Debbie's Hair Cottage, catering to only the finest.

My great aunts all had beautiful hair... for their age. 

When Mama started going to Debbie's, no one really noticed. Her hair never changed. So, it wasn't really something to note where Mama went to for her hair. In hindsight, I think Debbie just followed Mama's haircut until she started losing her sight-- Debbie, that is. Mama can see just fine.

But, Debbie's Hair Cottage had this word-of-mouth deal. If you brought Debbie your own color, she would put it on your hair for $5.

Talk dirty to me.

I can get my hair "done" for $5? Yes, please.

Off to Wal-Mart I head in my convertible, days after graduating from high school. Over to the beauty products and into the hair dye aisle for L'Oreal High Lift Blonde, Number 3. 

Why L'Oreal? Was it because it was known for quality? low-ammonia? Easy application? No... I had a coupon.

It made my total $2.67.

For $7.67 I was going to get my hair "did" at Debbie's Hair Cottage with the royal blue awning and ironed-on letters. This will be the story I share when people compliment me on my hair. It was going to be legendary...

And so it was.

I walk into Debbie's at the appointed time and sit on a naugahyde chair held together with the hopes and dreams of Debbie and the $5 hair treatment.

It turns out that Debbie died years prior and Carol actually owned Debbie's Hair Cottage. Carol, in her skin tight lamé pants and low cut shirt walked over to... wait, that was Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias.

Carol comes over in elastic banded, acid washed jeans, and years of caked makeup on her face. She popped the box open, stuck her cigarette between her yellowed teeth and set to work on my $2.67 box of hair dye.

My great aunts were prim and proper ladies- surely there is a back room to this place where they have their hair set. This was not a place for the meek. 

While she worked with magicians hands, I noticed all the fake plants, lattice work, the drop ceilings and just how dark it was in there. It was in this moment I started thinking that this might not be a good idea. 

But, there is always a constant reminder that something doesn't need to be flashy or expensive for it to be effective.

Hence the $2.67 box of L'Oreal High Lift Blonde, Number 3.

Carol paints the dye on my hair and places me under the dryer. Clearly, this made it an authentic experience. I picked up a Cosmopolitan circa 1991 and read through the whole thing before picking up RedBook from three seasons prior and reading that cover to cover.

Carol smoked her 10th cigarette and worked magic on the hair of my fellow comrades in lung cancer. Carol, as I watched, could do a mean permanent. 

As I finished that second magazine, I started to feel a little tingle on my scalp and I have flashbacks from that Tina Turner movie where she lost her hair. 

"Ummm.... Debb, I mean Carol.... is, uh, is this...."

A pull from her cigarette and a wave her hand, "Shug, the longer it stays on, the better it is."

Well, Carol was a professional. She knew what she was talking about. I trusted her, leaned back and picked up a third magazine, reveling in the decadence that was linoleum and lattice work. 

After about 13 hours, Debbie finally says, "Let's get you over to the sink and wash you out."

She lifted up the helmet from my head, I wiped the sweat off my brow and made eye contact with myself in the mirror. 

My Hair Was Dry.

My hair was dry... and it was yellow.

Carol washed my hair and asked if I wanted a hair cut. Sharp objects were not the best idea for Carol to offer me at that moment.

"Not with those God-Forsaken scissors," I thought. 

"No, I, um, well, yeah. We're gahh... we're good. Yep. Here's your $5. No tip today, I... um... yeah, that's all the money I have on me."

I walk out the door into the blazing May sunshine and quiver in fear as the sun reflects off my hair and into the eyes of cars driving by. Cars swerved into telephone poles as gawkers stared at me.

Before going home and showing my mother the handiwork of Carol at Debbie's, I stop by my best friend's house and knocked on the door, knowing she was home. 

She opened the door and her eyes. Oh, sweet Jesus, until the day I die- those eyes were saucers and her beautiful blonde hair swung back and forth as the first words out of her mouth were: 

We can fix it.

Not, "It's not that bad," not, "I've seen worse," or, "Gosh? You got your hair done." Nope. When the first words are, "We can fix it" you know that you have screwed up.... royally.

Mary Margaret and I run upstairs to her bathtub. We start pouring water in my hair and shampoo. Lots of shampoo. She remembers that her mom uses 'toner.' My 18 year old self did not even know what toner was, nor did I care in this moment. My hair had both the consistency and color of straw. We used the toner six times on my hair and that nest on my head went from yellow to a mustard yellow. We put a notch in the "W" column as I left.

Mama saw my hair and ... her face... it looked just like Mary Margaret's when she first saw it. Had I just gotten used to it? Or was it really that bad?

It was really that bad. 

Mama said, "Listen- you're going to be in the sun all summer. If we try and fix it now, it'll just make it harder to fix it again when you leave for college. You're just going to have to have a good attitude about it and, well, count down the days."

And that I did.

That summer, I went to the lake, the beach, the pool, anything that had water and sunshine-- that's where I was. My brother and I went to my aunt's lake house for several days in the blazing July sun. While there, she fixed us breakfast before we went out on the water for several hours. Upon returning for lunch, my aunt said, "Wife, I swear to God- your hair has changed colors."

Oh, it had. It went from pineapple yellow to phonebook yellow. Those who don't remember, phonebooks used to have yellow pages for businesses. That was the color of my hair.

Fast forward to August, I was counting down the days before my salon appointment and then off to college. The day before we leave, I go into a beautiful, glitzy, well-lit salon and pay an ungodly amount of money to correct my $7.67 mistake. 

My hair was brown, glossy, and beautiful. I felt like a goddess.

Days later, I pledge my first choice sorority and began my college career. My corrective color started to fade and I was too afraid to sit in the chair of another stranger for someone else to correct the problem. It was going to have to grow out with pride.

Now, if you don't know me-- my hair is not naturally blonde. Shocking, I know. It's brown, dark brown- let's be honest. As the color faded, the phonebook yellow came out and all I could do, all I could think to do was let that heinous color grow out and cut it off; it was the only way to rid myself of it. My hair stayed in a pony tail or under a hat. But, you can't hide heinous. And my hair, yeah- it was heinous. 

When I could finally cut it off, I walked into Great Clips and spent $8 because I did not want one soul to see this happen. I had been embarrassed for long enough.

She asked how much I wanted to cut off. I answered: See that blonde? I want it GONE. She started cutting and cutting and cutting and that yellow fell to the floor. It was the shortest hair I had ever had. 

The haircut wasn't that bad, but having the yellow gone made it completely worth it. 

Walking back into that million dollar sorority house, my pledge sisters- whom I had not been that well acquainted with- looked at me and commented on how good my hair looked and what a great decision it was to not do my hair again with the blonde. I looked at them and thought, "Ya think I wanted that blonde hair? I had to let it grow out. Ain't no way I liked walking around with two completely different colors of hair on my head."

But, I just said thanks and moved on.

It traumatized me so much that I refused to color my hair again until I had my streak of gray from my first winter in DC, 2010. But, that's another story.