Hair Drama

Let me try to explain this to you. I’ve been trying to explain this my entire life. My hair is really curly. I mean really curly. It dries naturally in frizzy ringlets. I have tried EVERYTHING under the sun to love my curls. My bathroom cabinet looks like a beauty supply store with so many lotions and potions to try to love curly hair. One called “Be Curly” made my mom laugh when she saw it.

I’ve been to curly hair “specialists” to cut my hair in strategic ways and sell me products that were supposed to change my life and make me love my curly hair. Never worked and took as long to do the friggin’ process of putting all the goop on the hair, hanging forward to squish the hair as it air dried as it does to blow dry the damn stuff straight!

Once a year something weird happens and I don’t know what it is and my hair dries naturally and it looks phenomenal. That’s the photo you see on my blog….It only happens once a year so I CANNOT depend on it.

Okay, anyway, I know I have new followers and BY THE WAY THANKS TO YOU NEW FOLLOWERS! But you don’t know that I am a Pickle Ball player! Yes sirree! I’m 58 years old, I was a tennis player for 25 or 30 years and then my husband found pickle ball for me after I had back surgery because he was scared I wouldn’t be able to play tennis again. My mom calls my husband a “peach” and he is. I’ve been married 20 years and I’m madly in love. But I digress.

Pickle ball is a combo of tennis and badminton, and some say ping pong. I said in an earlier post I don’t get the ping pong connection except that we are playing with a paddle instead of a racquet. We play in a gym on a badminton size court and it is a fast, aggressive game that gets us sweating in minutes. It is so fun and so addicting. I play 4 to 5 times a week for two to three hours a day. I’m blessed I have that kind of time for recreation. I’m also really good at it, an advanced player.

Oh, has anyone ever told you about Dallas weather? Air conditioner one day, heater the next. Humid usually then suddenly dry. Ice storm then heat wave. I’m not kidding, it’s the weirdest weather I’ve ever seen in my life. Luckily my sport is played in a gym!

But, back to my hair. Women in Dallas use hairpieces. This has never occurred to me. I was intrigued and bought a thing that plops on a high short ponytail I create on top of my head. It’s the EXACT same color of my highlighted hair. I just pull my own hair up, rubber band it, stick the hairpiece on, pin it secure with bobby pins and I’m looking good and set to go. No humidity worries (it’s synthetic hair so it doesn’t frizz) It changed my life in terms of how long I spend on my hair and I’ve since bought a couple other styles of hair pieces!

I was at pickle ball one day playing hard and confidently. I made a great shot and turned to go retrieve the ball because I was the server. As I stepped to the baseline to serve the ball, my friend who was on the opposing team bowed her head toward something. There is the middle of the court was my hairpiece. I had forgotten to pin it in!

“Scary, Andie!” someone from the stands yelled.

“Rug rat!” someone else shouted.

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Beetle

My grandmother called me “My precious Annie.”  For some unknown reason, my grandfather called me “Beetle” which was short for “Annie Beetle Bum.”  All my aunts, uncles and cousins on the maternal side of my family still call me Beetle.  Cute and strange.  I had an Aunt-in-Law whose name was Kioko.  She was Japanese and not fluent in English.  After 15 years she found out my real name was Andrea and not Beetle.  She was shocked. She didn’t know what sounded right or not right for an American woman’s name and Beetle was all she’d ever heard.

One time, 20 years ago at my sister’s wedding shortly after I had married, one of my drunk uncles came up to my husband Steve and blurted “You got the Beetle!”  Steve now calls me Beetle most of the time.  So sweet how things like that stick and perpetuate over so many years.

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“OUCH!!”

“Ouch, oh god!” I exclaimed.  “OW!”  Helen made consoling sounds but kept on working.

I was born with several congenital abnormalities and as a result I’ve had more surgeries than the average person and maybe a few more aches and pains.  Big areas are my hips, low back and since taking up pickle ball my shoulder and elbow.  I probably play more pickle ball than I should although who is to say?  (Is 14 hours a week too much?)

She calls it “Korean Massage” but what Helen does is outrageously deep tissue muscular therapy.  It keeps all my parts working and I see her twice a month.  She is a master at her craft and if the issue is muscular, she can fix it.  It might take a while but she will do it.  Her Christmas card to me said, “Thank you for letting me keep your body updated.  Happy Christmas.”  I supplement her work with regular stretching so I can joyfully and addictfully continue playing my sport.  (I take the creative license on my own blog to make up words!)

Helen is Korean and trained in her country and in the US.  She is soft-spoken, subtle, graceful, highly intelligent and respectful.  When I enter her space she performs a slight bow.  I return the gesture.  Her English is coming along but isn’t fluent.  We have a wonderful time together.  I am very good at understanding accents and I’m very patient and persistent in trying to understand what she is saying and we’ve made huge strides in in our communication.  She tells me I’m “opened mind” so she feels comfortable as we go back and forth until we understand what the other is saying.  We do all this while she is expertly finding any and all areas on my body where my muscles might be sore, tight or utterly killing me.

I look forward to seeing Helen every other week but I don’t look forward to the pain.  As I drive away however, I am pain free so it’s worth it.  Today as she worked on me I was saying “Ouch!! and OW!”  At these times she models a deep breathing technique and I can hear her and begin doing it myself.  Sort of like Lamaze for childbirth.

Then this gentle soul quietly said, “You say ouch and ow, some people I work on say son-of-a-bitch or mother fucker.  I know what son-of-a-bitch means but what about mother fucker?”


No Parking!

I was waiting in the car while my husband ran into a store and I looked across the street at a business called “The Mattress Firm.”  I’m pretty sure it’s a national chain.  We were in a very busy and rather chic part of Dallas where parking is at a premium.  I saw a sign at the entrance of their parking lot.  It was clearly a very professionally made sign.  It read No parking except for Mattress Firm customers.  All others will be towed at the owners expence!  I was shocked!  My fellow writers, notice anything downright wrong here?  I wish I had thought to take a photo!


My Hero

The below photo is, of course, Jane Goodall probably in the sixties. She lived alone in a hut in Africa studying chimpanzees. She is the first person on the planet to observe/discover that any animal other than humans use tools; a gigantic discovery and disconcerting to say the least to the very conservative christians.  We now know that all the other great apes are also tool discoverers and tool users.  That includes Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bonobos, Orangutans, and of course humans.  Yes, we are one of the great apes.  Probably not the best one because we are the number one problem for the rest of them in terms of endangered numbers.  These guys, chimps and gorillas are SO highly endangered that if things go on the way they are they will be GONE in the wild in 20 to 30 years.

Please recycle your electronics.  Cell phones, lap tops, etc. have a mineral in them called Coltrane which they mine in Africa where these apes live.  Their habitat is being destroyed and their areas to live diminishing because of this mining.  Not the only problem but one of the the big ones.

Jane is in her 80’s and still working tirelessly for the great apes. I saw a speaker at the zoo where I volunteer as an amateur expert on the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Chimpanzee and Jane is his boss.  He was UNBELIEVABLE.  His commitment to this effort was so complete and his guts were even more impressive. He lives in Africa working against extinction.  This guy is doing scary stuff.  AND he said sometimes he’s very scared. He said it’s worth it. I get that, if my life ever changed radically, I could see myself going and doing something that scared me to death, might be good. When I shook his hand and made eye contact all I said was “Wow,” and he locked eyes with me.

Look at Jane making contact with that baby Chimp!  She is the first person EVER to give animals NAMES while studying them. Before her it was xj2 and x78 and completely not allowable to designate them personally.  With Jane it was Flo, Fifi, Fin and Freud and many more adorable names. She shook up the scientific community like you can’t believe which I utterly love. Chimps can be very aggressive and everyone knows that the worst comes out in any mother animal when they feel their offspring is threatened.  I would estimate the baby in this photo is about 6 months old which means his mother was very nearby watching this and trusted Jane implicitly. Look at this photo and allow yourself to cry!

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Getting Older

“Maybe this young lady will know…” he said, as an embarrassed looking shopper sped away.

People in Texas are very polite and it always makes me chuckle when they refer to me as a young lady. I mean, c’mon, I’m 58. However, this man was clearly in his late eighties or early nineties so to him, I suppose I’m a spring chicken.

Something that makes me feel sad is when someone like that shopper is embarrassed by another person who needs help and speeds away.

There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly about aging. Not so thrilled with sagging skin, wrinkles, aches and pains, doctors’ appointments, etc. But there are some up sides and one I’ve been keenly aware of lately is our tendency to take care of one another, people we don’t even know, a lot better than we did when we were younger. Having the time and not being in such a huge rush all the time surely has something to do with it. But also, life experience, illness, surgery, loss and vulnerability create intense compassion.

I have a new friend named Kelly who I met at pickle ball. I don’t know her well but her sense of humor is infectious and for those of you who don’t know me, that is right up my alley. When Kelly and I are together much of the time is spent laughing. One day at Pickle ball when I first met her, Kelly fell down and hit her head on the gym floor. I rushed over to help her up, as did many people. I told her to sit and drink water and listen to her body and if anything felt weird, I would immediately take her to the emergency room. She said she was fine but would do what I said. Twenty minutes later she came to me and said she was feeling a little light headed. I said, “let’s go!!” I wanted my exercise and my fun that day at Pickle ball but this was more important.

Recently, Kelly blew out her Achilles and had to have surgery. She is on one of those scooter things to keep all weight off her leg. The other day I took lunch to her house. We talked and laughed and I helped her fill dog dishes with water, feed the fish, replace toilet paper in bathrooms and play with her adorable dog.

Today I was at Walgreens looking for beauty products for 58 year olds. (HAHA!) Suddenly I heard, “Maybe this young lady will know…..” I turned and saw a very old man with a shopping cart containing his folded up walker and some items he had chosen as he shopped. (The shopping cart provides the same support as a walker as I well remember from after my hip surgery.)

I did not hesitate. I walked right up to him. “What do you hope I know, sir?”

“Do you know where the hair gel is?” he said without hesitation.

“We are in the right aisle,” I replied, “this is the hair section. Are you looking for men’s or women’s hair gel?

“It doesn’t matter!!” he said sort of grouchily, which made me laugh because he reminded me of the character playing Winston Churchill on Netflix “The Crown”.

“Okay, let’s figure this out,” I said, “Is it for you or someone else?”

“Me,” he said, “I’ve got to control this hair when I’m at the office!”

“Okay, fine and by the way your hair looks great,” I said. “Now let’s look at some of these products. Here, let’s sneaky open this one, does this feel right?” I said as I put some of the product on his fingers.

He shook his head and looked somewhat annoyed. (Just like the cantankerous Winston Churchill.)

“My wife knows what it is, she bought it for me!”

“You should have brought the empty container then this would have been easy,” I said.

“I should have brought my wife!”

I laughed out loud.

Suddenly he said, “Here it is! This is it!” It was Suave $1.99 hair gel.

“Great!” I said, “I’m so happy you found it!”

He then proceeded to talk to me for about 15 minutes about his life. He is 90 years old, a molecular biologist who owns several small companies creating products I really didn’t understand. (A dressing for wounds which knows when to come off your body so that ripping the thing off doesn’t damage tissue, etc.) He has turned the company over to his granddaughter but still goes into the office every day. (Which is why his full head of hair needs to look so awesome.) I stood with him patiently and listened to him happily.

Out at my car, I worried a little about him getting his purchases and walker to his car. He was mentally completely there but he was fragile physically. I watched as he came out. It wasn’t good. He had the shopping cart in front of the walker and was trying to finagle both. I guess outside he felt he needed the walker and not just the walker folded into the shopping cart like he was doing inside.  I was about to park my car to get out and help when a woman my age saw what was happening and stepped over to help him. He immediately gave her the shopping cart and clutched his walker more tightly while pointing to his car. This woman stayed with him, with her own shopping bags in her hands, while he slowly got his stuff into his car and told her his life story. I stayed in the parking lot to watch. When he finally got into his car and the woman went on her way to her car, I pulled around to her.

“I saw that whole thing,” I said, “and so did God. Good for you!”

She smiled, put her hand to her chest and blushed.

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Orlando

 

I have a sister who may well become a brother. Seriously. My sister is what she/he calls “transgender.” She/he felt like a man in a woman’s body. She/he shaved her head and started taking man hormones. She/he pumps iron. She/he is actually very good looking as a man. She/he used to go by the name Siobhan (pronounced Shavahn) but she/he changed her/his name to Orlando…..something to do with Shakespeare I think she/he said.

My husband and I are updating our Will and Last Testament because things have changed in the last couple years. We’ve sold a couple properties, moved to a different house in Dallas and my sister seems to be transitioning into a man.

I have a brother, two sisters and Orlando. I didn’t know whether to have Orlando on my Will as “sister” or “brother” so I called to ask.

“Well, thanks for including me in your Will,” Orlando said, “but I hope you and Steve are around for years and years to come.”

“Thanks,” I said. “What do you think?”

“Well,” Orlando said, “I have not changed my gender marker yet (I don’t know what this means) so is “sibling” an option? That’s completely gender neutral.”

“Great idea!” I exclaimed, “I’m going to change everyone to “sibling” just in case anyone else decides to transition!”

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The Bike

 

I’ve always been generous and sort of acted affluent, even when I had close to nothing!! So weird. My stepfather put a roof over our head and gave mom a menial amount of money to feed us and that was about it. I’m grateful to both of them. They were doing the best they could. But if I wanted hair conditioner, chapstick, skin lotion or anything other than the utter basics, I was on my own. I started babysitting at 12 so that I could buy myself those things. I had major experience and credentials because I had a baby brother and sister born 8 and 12 years after I was who I helped raise so I was a successful babysitter from the start.

REALITY CHECK: In those days, I babysat for 50 cents an hour!! If a mother was gone for two hours, she would give me four quarters! And then I’d go buy my hair conditioner from Gemco!

When my brother Sean was 12, I was 21 waitressing making pretty good money for a young girl and it occurred to me that no one had ever bought him a bike. I paid my rent, my bills, my college tuition and my books by myself but I thought every young boy needs a bike. And if his parents aren’t doing it for him, I will! I thought.

So, I did. I went to Gemco, bought a gorgeous bike perfect for a young boy, the right size the right color and it cost me about $175. Big bucks in those days. I snuck it in on Christmas eve after the “kids” had gone to bed, put a huge bow on it with a card that said “Merry Christmas Sean!”

In the morning, Sean’s father (my step father) was very excited about this and took a little credit for it. This was a long time ago and memory is a weird thing but I remember Russ giving me credit but also taking some himself which struck me as soooo strange.

Sean never rode that bike once. He wasn’t a bike kid. I saw it rot on the side of the house. Maybe my Mom and stepdad knew something about Sean that I obviously didn’t. He wasn’t a bike guy!

Years went by but one time Sean said to me, “Yeah, but I remember when you bought that young kid that bike and wow, what that meant to that young kid!”

Even though he never rode it, the gesture made him happy and he never forgot it and that makes it all worthwhile.


Fun (And Funny) With Tim

“He’s going to have to close to perfect,” I told the owner of a dog walking service when I first moved to Dallas and was looking for help with my dogs.  “I mean, I’m going to have to be comfortable with him in my house, having a key and caring for my dogs.  I believe it is going to take a long time for me to find the right person, but you can send him over and I will meet with him, but don’t hold your breath.  Also, I hate hurting people’s feelings so when I call you to tell you he’s not right, please make something up so his feelings are not hurt.”

What I didn’t know is that Tim, a retired non-profit high level executive who had taken a part time job caring for dogs for pocket change, would be going on his very first meeting with a client.  He was brand new with the company.

The doorbell rang and I hesitantly opened the door.  The person who stood in front of me was obviously gay, had beautiful, piercing blue eyes, had amazing eye contact and I trusted him before he even said a word.  He was wonderful with my dogs and by the time he left, he had my house key.

Fast forward 2 and a half years or so….I stole Tim from the dog walking company to work for me and my husband at our home.  He is my best friend in Dallas and he does all our landscaping, helps with the dogs, schedules service people, stays here when Steve and I travel and much more.  In fact, he took care of me after my back surgery because Steve had to go on a business trip.  I wish I had on video the scene of him trying to get compression stockings on me in the morning and off me at night.  OMG!  I told him back then that it’s perfect that he’s gay because I am so Ir-friggin-resistible.  (hehe, I’m no spring chicken and I looked horrid after my surgery.)

So, anyway, last week we had a problem with the thermostat/AC in the master bedroom.  Yes, it’s still warm here but the humidity is really why you need the air on.  Tim was worried he couldn’t get the AC repair guy out fast enough and said, “Are you sure you’ll be comfortable this weekend?”  I said, “Yes, because I will be in a hotel in Houston and you’ll be staying here.  Will you be comfortable?”

The last time Tim and I took Haley to the vet we pointed out a weird growth she has on her head about the size of a pencil eraser.  They were all analytical and Tim was asking all these questions and then I said, “Hey you guys, about a year ago after 3 glasses of wine I pinched that thing right off with my fingernails and threw it in the bushes. She didn’t even wince so I know it didn’t hurt.   My mom did that to some wierd growth on the back of my neck years ago which is how I learned this technique.  Mine never came back, Haley’s has after a year but if you don’t want to complicate things, I’ll have 3 glasses of wine tonight and take it off again.”  Tim was hysterical with laughter, the vet and tech were kinda dear in the headlights.

A while back, Tim and I were talking and I mentioned a woman Steve and I know who Tim has also met.  “She’s gay, you know, Tim,” I said.  “Oh, she is?”  he asked surprised.  “Yes, Tim, everyone’s gay” I joked.  “Oh right, they just don’t know it yet…..” he replied.  We roared.

Tim and I have so much fun and he adds so much to my life and I’m so grateful for him.

Kona Died

“This was the hardest one,” an ape keeper named Tara at the Dallas zoo told me today, “the hardest one ever.”

Anyone who works in any capacity with the apes had sunglasses on today and were carrying much needed tissue.

Last night as I sat at dinner with my husband I kept hearing my phone tones for email and text.  I don’t work (I volunteer) so I don’t get as much activity on my phone as most people and the rate at which these sounds were coming in alarmed me a little.  “Excuse me please, let me check that,” I said to my husband.

I am an amateur expert on the Western Lowland Gorilla and the Chimpanzee and I volunteer at the Dallas zoo two days a week speaking about behaviors and personalities of the apes.  I have come to know each ape intimately and some know and recognize me.  I love them deeply.

Andrea, it’s Julie at the zoo.  I know this is going to hit you hard and I’m so sorry.  I sent you several emails and I think Tracy did, too.  We lost Kona today, I read on text.  I burst into tears.  My husband was frantically asking what happened of course and I told him we lost Kona.

“Oh, the one who got his toe bit off by Juba?” my husband asked anxiously.

“NO!” I said, “those are the gorillas, Kona was the 7 year old Chimp!” I said as I sobbed.  I cried myself to sleep.

Driving to the zoo today was horrible.  I was so scared to see the keepers but even more scared to see the Chimpanzee troupe.  Cindy did a good job faking it at the Chimp Keeper Talk and then I saw Annie.  We embraced and I started to cry and she hugged me even harder.  Sweet thing, she’s only 28.

I am good friends with Kona’s main keeper whose name is Will.  Will is an emergency medical technician and is in Vietnam right now on a doctors without borders type mission with his father who is a surgeon.  I was so shaken up that I texted Will and just said OMFG and he responded and was an absolute wreck. Annie is his girlfriend and he asked me to take care of her until he could get back.  I told Will she’s a lot stronger than either of us, which is true.  Annie is not unemotional, she just controls it well.  When I told Annie Will texted me to take care of her she chuckled with tears in her eyes.

Later in the day I saw many other ape keepers and it was emotional.  Kona was one of a kind.  He was a rebel, a clown, a strategizer, a risk taker and his two and a half year old little brother Mshindi loved him to pieces.  In fact, at the zoo when an ape dies, they let the other apes in the troupe see the deceased body so they can process what has happened.  Little Mshindi was slapping Kona’s dead body trying to wake him up.  Gut wrenching.

No one knows exactly what killed Kona.  He had been a little lethargic and not eating well for a week.  When they brought him in and put him under anesthesia to try and figure out what was wrong, he just died.  Blood work and autopsy in progress but who cares, it won’t bring him back.

This morning when the keepers got to work there was poop spread on every wall, floor and ceiling of the indoor Chimp bedrooms.  Last night, the chimps protested.  It was the only way they knew how.  Today the Chimps were despondent and little Mshindi was trying to play the games on the ropes and climbing structures all by himself that he used to play 0n with Kona.  Gut wrenching.

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Sweet Kona

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Mshindi is going to miss Kona

So am I