September 24, 2013

Halloween Time at Disneyland

 Last Friday the kids had the day off of school (for "staff development" in the district), so the husband took the day off from work and we spent it at Disneyland.

The park was all decked out for "Halloween Time," with lots of candy-corn colored bunting up and down Main Street, carved pumpkins on ledges and balconies, and a general "Harvest Festival" feel to the air.  The fact that the weather had cooled off from the 90s and it was overcast all day helped make it feel a little (teeny tiny bit) like Fall. (Or at least Fall in SoCal.)

 The next set of pictures were all taken at the "Woody's Round Up" ranch and barbeque area near Frontierland:
 Even the little goats in the petting zoo sported seasonal bandanas.
I love this picture on a whole lot of levels. It just makes me smile:
The lollipops, Donald Duck in costume, the harvest decor, the smiles on my kids...this is  just a lot o' cheesy Disney goodness all in one place.

And these shots were taken near or at the Haunted Mansion, which is all decked out again in a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme until the entire holiday season ends in January.
It was a great day, capped off by our family's first viewing of the Fantasmic! water show. The only disappointment was that a large portion of the seasonal "harvest carnival" area at Woody's Ranch was closed that day. (I really wanted to check out the new "Conjure a Villain" tent.)

On the other hand, for the first time ever, we've bought tickets to attend a night of "Mickey's Halloween Party" in late October. This is special event (that requires an additional ticket), where everyone gets to dress up in costume, kids can trick or treat in different areas, lots of fun mini-events and character stuff, and a themed fireworks show. I'm pretty sure all the specific seasonal displays will be open and running that evening.

In the meantime, go get yourself a pumpkin latte. Or a handful of candy corn. Being at Disney, and looking at these photos again, makes me feel all harvest-y. It may be close to 90 degrees here again today, but it's time to burn that pumpkin candle! 

September 17, 2013

The Last Bookstore

 Way back in another lifetime, I taught a couple of English & writing classes to college students. I was freshly out of grad school myself, and though I was near 30, the fact that I was newly married, immersed in college life, and without any kids made me feel like I was still fairly close in age to the incoming generation of students.

That all abruptly changed when one of my students, a confident young guy, asked as I stood in front of the class what I liked to do in my free time. Or maybe he asked what my husband and I liked to do together. So I told him, and the class, about our favorite kind of date night. (But since we didn't have kids back then, it wasn't "date night." It was just "Friday night.")  I told him that we liked to first go out to dinner, and then while away several hours at our local Borders bookstore, often hanging out until closing time. (Remember Borders?)

The student, and the class in general, was horrified at our idea of "fun." (Although I recall a couple of females defending me, saying that it was "cute.")

Anyway. Maybe you'll think the same about our sole family outing over the 3-day Labor Day weekend. It was crazy-hot out, and humid, and I could not think of anything to do. The beach sounded good, but too adventurous. Our local pool was just too damn hot.  I had a craving to look at some books.  We don't have an independent bookstore here, which is unfortunate, and a true lack. We do have a Barnes & Noble, but I wasn't in the mood to browse in that sort of corporate, pre-selected atmosphere. I could already guess what they would and wouldn't have.

I remembered seeing some photos of The Last Bookstore, and got it in my head to check it out. The Last Bookstore is in downtown Los Angeles, located in an old bank.  It's also about 80 miles from my front door, which is a long way to drive to casually browse through the stacks.   On the other hand, downtown L.A. is only about 20 minutes east of my mom's house, so I was able to bundle in a "trip to grandma's" at the end of our bookstore jaunt.

It was worth the drive. There were books everywhere. Used and new books live happily together on the sorted shelves downstairs.
Books are art, and decoration, and functional: the front cash register is housed behind a counter area made of stacked books. 
As you head upstairs, you pass through a tunnel of books:
Upstairs are used books, and most are only $1.  They're sorted loosely by genre, and also by color:
The old bank vault houses true crime & horror:
The only negative is that it was still crazy-hot and humid in L.A., and the store didn't have air-conditioning. Yikes. Most any other day, that wouldn't be such an issue, but on one of the hottest weekends of the year, it was awfully stuffy and close, and I felt pretty uh, "glowing" by the time we were done. But it was still fun, and we still stayed for a couple of hours, checking everything out, including the artist studios and shops, also on the 2nd floor.

In the end, I bought an armful of books: four for me, three for the kids, and one for the husband, an oldie but goodie from his childhood:
My grand total was less than $25.00. 

I wish that we lived closer, so that The Last Bookstore could be a frequent stop for us, and not a special event.  In any case, I know I'll be back someday, hopefully on a cooler day when I can wear boots and a sweater and feel all cozy surrounded by books and other kindred souls like me, who think whiling away a few hours in a bookstore is a perfect way to spend their day (or date night). 

September 6, 2013

Curly Headed Woman

Be forewarned, this post contains a lot of pictures of me. And most are selfies, too, God help me. Not because I think I'm so gaw-geous or anything, but simply talking about my hair without the accompanying visuals just ain't gonna cut it.

Last September, I wrote about my short (and greying) hair and how I was trying to grow it out.  It took a long time, pretty much the whole year, but my hair is all grown out (and I do mean "out," as in width vs. length). 

This was me last year, at my aunt's pool party:
And this is me now (taking my selfie-taking so seriously!).
 My hair is,  and will still grow "longer" than this, but it's hard to tell, because of shrinkage.  That means my hair is one length when it's wet out of the shower, and about 3" shorter after it dries.  So in the photo above, my hair, when wet, is actually about as long as where my shirt puckers on both sides above my chest, but it's all dried and "shrunk."  My hair is extremely curly, not just a little, and it dries into tight little corkscrews, especially in the back.

 I knew I was going to write here about my hair, because I've had some breakthrough/revelatory feelings about it lately.  So I had the Husband take a few shots of me last week:
I've found that my hair can be just as non-photogenic as the rest of me. While my face gets all fake and tense and my body language stiffens up, my curls are just hard to actually see.  I had the husband take my photo because it was a good hair day, i.e, I had lot of good curl separation and definition. But in the photo above, it just looks like one big dark clump of hair, especially on the left.

Let's try it with a flash, I told him.
The flash does help show more of the tight little curls I have going on back there.  But still, it's hard to get a sense what exactly is going on back there (and under there, too).

So maybe you've read this far and are thinking I feel bad about the whole drama that is my hair. (And maybe or probably, you're feeling bad for me.) But in the last month, after years of cowering under my hair and it's...size, I feel proud of it. Happy that it's mine, and healthy, and even glad that it's so terribly, ridiculously thick.

Last month, I was getting a bit fed up and wanting to hack my hair off again and go back to short. I was trolling images of hair on Pinterest, looking for inspiration. (There's not a lot out there for curlies like me.)  While there, I stumbled upon some of  the graphic cartoons and the blog of "Tall n' Curly."  The woman who writes Tall n' Curly not only has ginormous big curly hair, but she's also 5' 11.5." So she might know a thing or two about never being able to be invisible or disappearing in a crowd. She might know something about wanting to hunker down and just be "normal" looking. 

I'm only 5' 6 1/2", but related to just about everything she had to say.  I spent over an hour clicking through her site, smiling and nodding at so many of the graphic cartoons describing all the stupid things straight-haired people say to curly-heads: "have you ever tried to straighten it?" "don't you ever moisturize?" "oh my god, you look so much BETTER with it straight, you should wear it like that EVERY DAY!"  and especially, "it's SOOOO humid/rainy today I can't do a thing with my hair!"

But I also got a little emotional reading her "About" page, where she talks in length about her evolution of accepting herself and her hair. This part in particular hit me:
Looking for the truth everywhere, I now believe everything happens for a reason. And in “everything”, there is my hair. I was born with this hair. There must be a reason for that too. So although I still – and will always – get angry a lot at it, I now respect my hair for what it is : a part of me.
Actually it’s not that different from who I am. I’m pretty stubborn and rebellious too. What was I expecting from it ? ;)
Well, yeah. What she says.  And it seems so simple, but it really shifted my feelings about my hair. Not to imply that I've always hated my hair, because I don't, and I haven't. On the other hand, I've always felt the need to make apologies and excuses for my hair, like it's my bad monkey-child that I just have to drag along everywhere I go, like it or not.

Most of that guilt and embarrassment comes from my mother, who, in a nutshell, just doesn't like my hair.  And she REALLY doesn't like it when I choose to grow it out.  (Like now.)  That topic is a whole other post, but let me just say: I spent my childhood with her brushing my hair. Daily. (I know it's not her fault that she didn't know how to handle it, but all that fighting with my hair made her actively dislike it, except when it's cut very short.)
 Speaking of humidity, I must be all grown and wised-up these days, because I've (mostly) been able to control my hair in the crazy heat & humidity that's lingered here for the last two weeks. In the past, I'd have been forced to just throw it in a pony-tail every day to deal.  But my hair has been mostly behaving with the products I've been using. (And paying my crazy-expensive Deva stylist is also a big part of it.) Yesterday I did wear it up in a great big, top-of-my-head up-do. (My daughter said it looked like a hair-tsunami!)

After I took it out of the heavy-duty hair elastic, I had some REALLY big hair and volume going on. I tried to capture it at bedtime, but even these shots don't capture the true size of the event happening on top of my head:

My first and middle names have Celtic/Teutonic roots, and my names, respectively, mean "woman warrior" and "famous in battle."  With those kind of names, it's no wonder that so often I go through life fighting everything (especially myself) and making not-so-complicated choices into arduous, drawn out battles.

But I think it's time to stop fighting myself, my hair, and my true nature and declare: you know what, mom world? Life & DNA gave me some really crazy-thick and curly hair. And I actually like it. And my husband loooves it and thinks its sexy.

Deal with it. I'm a woman warrior, and I've got the hair to prove it. ;) 
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