The Most Awkward Thing

I know I’m a bit of a freak, but there aren’t many things in life that I find more awkward than getting my hair cut.  Awkward.  Awkward.  Awkward.

I went last week to get it cut.  It had been 19 months since I’d been to the hairdresser.  That’s over a year and a half.  I know, because (well, obviously, my hair looked horrible) I hadn’t been since my third child was born.  She’s walking now.  And pulling long hair.  It was time.  (But give me credit for putting off what I didn’t want to do for so long that I didn’t even remember how to make an appointment.  That’s some majorly talented avoidance skills you’re looking at.)

So my question is, how do all the normal people out there handle all this hair cutting?  Here are my problems with it and I’d really like some advice on how to get through it a little more non-challantly and a little more often than every year and a half.

1. The big huge mirror you’re forced to look at the whole time.  First of all, I hate looking at myself in public.  I have a fairly short memory. (What was I talking about just now?) So I can generally be out among humanity with no recollection of the image I’m portraying to the crowds around me.  Good thing.  But that mirror there, making me look wider and older than my nice mirror at home, stinks. The wet head isn’t too flattering either.  And am I supposed to keep looking?  Check out all the other things in the salon through the reflection?  Watch how the cutting is going with a critical eye?

2. The washing and drying.  These both feel so good that I just want to close my eyes and fall asleep.  Probably not acceptable, right?  It’s so relaxing, which makes it even more awkward.  I’m about to fall asleep while this stranger rinses the shampoo out of my own hair for me.  “Thanks, buddy.  Can you get the sock lint out of my toes after you massage them, too?  Appreciate it.  Just wake me up when you’re done.”

3. The “what I want done” discussion.  I think long and hard, scour the internet, and fold my hair under to visualize different cuts before I go in. This is my big chance (because it comes only every other year or so) to change my identity, my image.  Well, half the time, they don’t even ask what I’d like, and the other half of the time I chicken out and don’t tell them much because I don’t want to be bossy.  I know, it’s my hair.  But it’s their job.  They are the experts.  But I have to live with it.  I go back and forth.  Who’s in charge of my hair?

4. The conversation.  Oh, I would love to be chatty.  It takes just the right combination of weather, sleep, and traffic for me to be chatty.  And I’ve been told (many times) that my natural face devoid of expression looks intense/angry/snobby. (I am none of these, just in case you see me and I’m not laughing.) So I have to keep my face animated but I don’t know how to chat.  What do you chat with the hairdresser about?  In Czech?

5. The hair in the face.  Sometimes in the process some hair gets thrown in your face to be out of the way for a few minutes.  That’s clear.  What’s not clear is what I’m supposed to do while the hair is in my face.  Shut my eyes?  Peer through the wet locks to keep watching every snip or staring at my awkward face in the mirror?  Talk through the wall of hair?

6. Hands under the drape.  Or whatever that big thing they throw around you is called.  Are your hands supposed to stay under there, protected, out of the way?  What if you have an itch on your nose?  A drop of water tickling your ear?  I usually suffer in silence, determined not to be the hairdresser’s story over dinner at home, “Then today I had The. Squirmiest.Lady.Ever.  She just kept taking her hands out to adjust and getting in my way.  It was so annoying.  Serves her right that she got her own hair all over her shirt.”  This last time I was in, I had something in my eye.  It was watering and I could barely keep my eye open.  It hurt like crazy and then the watering turned into teardrops that slowly trickled down my cheek.  But oh, I sat so still.

7. The after-cut “How’s My Cutting” routine.  The stylist just spent all this time working on something and now you’re supposed to have a look and see if you approve.  Maybe I’m too much of a people-pleaser, but I have a hard time saying anything except, “Wow, that’s an improvement!” (Which after a year and a half, pretty much any hack job is going to be.)

8. The tip.  Partly lack of experience (did I mention I don’t do this often?) and partly cultural ignorance here, but I don’t have the faintest clue with this.  I usually round up to the next number I can easily pronounce in Czech or the denomination of bill that I have on hand. This time that ended up being a $9 tip and I got big wide eyes and a “But you only owe me such and such!”  I don’t even know how to say “tip” in Czech so after floundering for a few moments and pushing away the change, I ended the whole thing with the international word, “Stop.” So classy.

Awkward. Awkward. Awkward. And in the end?  I’m not even sure it was worth it.  Oh well, I’ll try again next cut


Yes, Another Christmas Post.

What gifts do you remember?  

I remember my first journal.  My parents gave it to me when I was in about fifth grade.  I was confused at first and said, “Uh, there’s no writing in this book.”  They explained that I could write what I wanted in it.  Stories, poems, thoughts, anything.  I have journaled nearly every single day since that Christmas morning.  It changed my life in that it gave me an outlet for my thoughts.  But it solidified me because I knew that my parents totally understood their little girl.  She was a writer.  They got me.

I remember a pen.  My friend got me a pen.  It’s one of those cheesy ones that don’t write very well from a gift store.  The kind that are in boxes and have all the names engraved on them for people who have no idea what to get someone.  This one that my friend gave me says, “They didn’t have your name.”  I laughed until I cried.  They never have had my name, Andra.  It’s never been on anything except what my mom sewed on to my pillows and clothes.  That’s a little lonely, but it’s special, and I like that.  And that little pen took all of that, all the years of spelling it out for people, all the times I answered to some corrupted version of my name, and grinned.  My friend gave me a big joke for Christmas.  

My four year old daughter gave me a hacked up picture from a coloring book.  Actually, it’s still under the tree but I helped her tape it up so I happen to know what it is.  And with the picture is a quote of something she said.  That part isn’t wrapped under the tree but I wrote it down.  “I’ve got these scissors so if I have a coloring problem, I can cut the coloring problem out of the book.”  

I know you don’t really care what I got, so I’ll stop there.  The best gifts weren’t the expensive ones.  That could be my point, but I’m actually more wondering if I put enough thought into the gifts I give.  Do I observe and love enough to change a life, open a world, make a laugh, fix a hurt, make love swell, and create a precious memory with my giving?  Image

It Takes So Little

We had some young adults visiting the other day and as I held my toddler, one guy held out his big man hand to her and she was enchanted.  They were just touching fingers and my baby kept giggling with joy.  The guy smiled and said, “Kids.  It takes so little to make them happy.”IMG_1229

That really struck me.  Of course, I knew immediately that he was right.  But I hadn’t given it much thought.  We spend a lot of time talking about how demanding raising kids is.  (Probably because it’s true.)  We talk about how expensive kids are.  How they sap our energy (My days of not being a coffee drinker are numbered, I’m afraid.)  How we want to pull out our hair by dinner time.  (Okay, by lunch time.)

But now I’ve been noticing the other side: the great thing about children is their extreme joy at life’s minimalities.  It really takes so little for them to be happy.

Snow.  A pile of leaves.  A water bottle.  A rock.  A hill. Music.  A little sand.  An imaginary friend.  (Yes. Even full of happiness by something that’s not even there, not even real.)


Am I so easily charmed, so quickly brimming with laughter, so swiftly fascinated with life?  (The answer is no.)  Why not?  (Besides the fact that if I had an imaginary friend at this point, most people would consider me crazy.) Can I get back to that state, where everything is new and amazing?

Probably not.  (That state comes with tantrums, remember.)  But I can appreciate that about my kids and try a little to see the world through eyes like theirs.  To be satisfied with love, sleep, food, attention, and sometimes maybe just a leaf.

Months in Czech

I’m fascinated with language (when I’m in active brain mode).  The best thing about learning a foreign language is seeing the world with a new perspective.  (The worst thing is feeling like an idiot most of the time, but we won’t get into that now.)

In Czech, the words for all the months come from words describing that time of year.  I know this sounds a little elementary, but when you’re struggling along to learn your list of 100 new vocabulary words and you realize that November literally means “Leaves Fall,” because you learned the word for leaf and fall already, the connection (and blessing of not actually having to memorize something completely new) is beautiful.  Leaves Fall was my first of these, so I went through the rest of the months with an ever increasing smile.  January is from the word for ice.  March is for the word “pregnant, heavy with young.”  April is from oak tree.  June is from the root of “red.”  May is from “flower.”  

I love this.  I love that every time they talk about the months, they’re thinking about what that time of life brings, what’s going on in nature.   I would have to google the origin of our English month names to even know what most of them mean.  Actually, I already do know.  (Because I just googled it.) 

Of course, the most natural thing in human nature is to take the most selfish view of everything.  So I run to my birth month.  “Let’s see what get!  What does October mean in Czech?”  I was so excited to find out, since in English, October is for “eighth” in Latin.  Yes, you quick counters.  October is the tenth month.  The Roman calendar started with March.  So October in English is basically three steps from meaning anything to your modern English speaker.  

So what beautiful word picture do I get for October?  When I announce my birthday in Czech, what am I saying?

Well, it’s rut.  As in, the animals get excited and make funky noises.  Then they mate.  

I got rut.  

I’m at this point a little more thankful for October, from eighth in Latin, which was given to the tenth month because March was the first month of the Roman year.  

To Ponder and Treasure

Recently I’ve noticed that my brain has two modes: locomotive or mush.  I rush around at high speed, trying to cross off items from my list, running late to pick up kids and feed my brood, tidying the living room, tidying the living room again, and tidying it again (Am I the only one who follows the toddler around attempting to undo her trail of destruction?).  Then at eight o’clock p.m. when the fuzzy pajamas are under the covers, the musical toys are silenced, and the living room lamps are on, the train crashes.  The locomotive speed of my thoughts, blazing from one task to the next, screeches to a halt and disintegrates into some kind of pumpkin-like puree.  (The kind that jiggles from the can.)  I shut down and the only activities that appeal to me are passive.  Watch television.  Be talked to.  (But not necessarily talk back or even listen much.)  Sleep.

The locomotive state is productive.  That train gets where it needs to go.  The mush state is cozy.  It’s warm and comfortable under the blanket on the sofa.  But at the last minute of the day, when I’m pulling back the covers of my bed, I think back through the day and think, “Was I really there?  Tomorrow I need to read to the kids.  I need to listen to what they’re saying.  I need to be engaged.”  That train doesn’t take in the scenery.  My mind flies across the countryside of time and distractions (like answering questions about what’s for dinner-do I like it-have we had it before-what’s for dessert) that slow the locomotive frustrate me.  Which is why my mind melts to mush at the first opportunity.  It’s exhausting to be frustrated.

But what if I could slow the speed, take one of those scenic train rides through each day?  I’ve seen pictures from my grandparents’ train trip through Canada.  Picture after picture.  Bridges over oblivion.  Forests of untouched land.  Coasts of icy water.  Who thinks, looking at these pictures, of where the train was supposed to go?  When it was supposed to get there?  It’s the view out the window that was the whole point of the trip.

The view out my mind’s window is a little girl coloring to her heart’s content.  A boy wishing for snow.  A baby fascinated with the smallest of life’s objects.  A husband making a warm fire.   A mountain and a sunset.   IMG_7944

It’s Christmas time and this year I’m thinking about Mary’s motherhood.  So many things of such great importance were happening all around her and she saw.  She was looking out the window.  “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51b)  She took it all in, soaked it up, pondered her child’s life.

The day I was convicted of this, convinced to see better, to slow down and soak it in, be engaged, I saw something amazing.  My little treasuring opened up something new about God, which turned into a big treasuring.  (You can read about it here on December 4th.)  So I am getting a window seat on this train, training (unavoidable pun, sorry) my mind to see because I know that what I pass today is only and all treasure from God.