Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Haircut Song

Are any of you familiar with Ray Stevens' The Haircut Song? It's a classic from the great era of story-songs and one of OG's all-time favorites. We listened to it a few weeks ago while crossing the wide open spaces of Utah (or maybe Nevada, I forget which--they all blended together after a while). To give you a taste, here's the chorus:

When you get a haircut, be sure to go back home
When you get a haircut, get a barber you have known
Since you were a little bitty boy sittin' in a booster chair
Or you might look like Larry, Moe or Curly if a stranger cuts your hair

If you've been following this blog, you know that finding a new barber has been one of OG's main concerns in our relocation to California. So far, he's avoided dealing with the issue. He's getting bushier by the day but told me he plans to try to go another week or two before facing the inevitable.

I, on the other hand (being the bolder), dove right in. The lady in the condo across from us owns a salon in the shopping center a couple of blocks away, so last week I stopped by and made an appointment. Friday afternoon I had my hair cut by someone new for the first time in more than fifteen years. What do you think?

I've worn my hair basically the same way for more than twenty years and never this short, but I love it. I've even managed to style it by myself with reasonable success. It's quick and easy, and OG thinks it compliments my gamine personality. Ha!

Of all the changes I've embraced in the last few months, a new hairstyle seems the least frightening. After all, it's only hair. If I hate it, it will grow back. But I don't hate it. Like so many of the other changes, I find my new hair liberating. 

Let's keep our fingers crossed for OG.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

I used to be a very serious person. I was an executive in a serious business, drove a serious Japanese luxury sedan, and wore serious business clothes. Even my writing was serious. In my first two books, Harvest of Dreams and A Man Like That, my characters faced serious problems and dealt with them in serious ways.

Then something changed.

It started even before the disintegration of my old career. It might have been brought on by my father’s final illness and the realization that life is too short to be wasted on meaningless, unsatisfying pursuits.  Perhaps it was the natural culmination of an overload of serious life events. Or maybe just the arrival of wisdom that comes with age. For whatever reason, I began to chafe under the constraints of my serious life. I wanted to find ways to have fun.

I know this will surprise some of you, but I did not choose to take up heavy drinking, wild parties, and cabana boys. I wanted to express my sense of whimsy, not end up on Middle Aged Women Gone Wild. Instead, I started buying fun socks.

Sitting in my father’s hospital room with my mother and sister, I was surprised when I showed them my cheetah socks and my mother said she was glad to see them because she’d thought I’d become very stuffy. Now, I never thought of myself as stuffy—reserved maybe, but not stuffy. I always knew that inside I was still fun. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear a pronouncement like that from one’s own parent. Her comment increased my determination to liberate my whimsical self. I bought more socks with monkeys, cats, and chipmunks. My brother even bought me a pair featuring Van Gogh’s Starry Night as a retirement present.  Here are a few of my favorite designs:

And it didn’t stop there. When we decided to move to Carmel, I knew I didn’t want to bring my ten-year-old car. The new me needed a new car. It had to be small, economical, and above all—fun.  Well, a car can’t get much more fun than this. Except for the speed bumps in the grocery store parking lot, I’m having a great time bombing around the hills and valleys of the Central Coast in my new red Fiat 500.

Even my writing voice has changed. My western novella, The Treasure of Como Bluff, is snappy and funny with only the merest hint of angst. And my next book, a contemporary romance about a female bodyguard entitled Unwritten Rules, features a cantankerous Chinese grandmother and a neighbor who leaves pennies in the freezer.

Here’s to having more fun in The Second Half!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Too Good to Be True?

I don’t know about you, but these days I’m counting my blessings. The world is a scary place, and every day we make it through unscathed is a triumph. My niece is a student in Boston and could easily have been a participant or spectator at the Marathon on Monday. Thankfully, she wasn’t, but so many others had family and friends injured or killed that it’s impossible not to feel there but for the grace of God...

Meanwhile, OG and I are settling into paradise. Every day seems to bring another reminder of how lucky we’ve been throughout the whole process of uprooting our lives and relocating half-way across the country. So far, not a single thing that could have gone wrong has. How often does that happen? It can only be considered miraculous.

First came the sale of our Minnesota house for a very good price and without ever going on the market. Since the buyer was a remodeling contractor making the purchase on behalf of a client, we had none of the usual worries about condition. I didn’t even have to leave it particularly clean since the place was about to become a construction zone. When the sale closed on Monday and the money arrived by wire, we breathed a sigh of relief. (I think OG had been waiting for the other shoe to drop, but honestly, so many things have gone well that I’m almost starting to get used to it.)

We had perfect weather for our long drive to California, but as soon as we arrived a huge storm hit the very highways we’d just traversed. I-80 was closed through Wyoming, thirty inches of snow fell in Rapid City, and Sioux Falls declared a state of emergency. We could so easily have been stranded in the middle of that. I can’t even count the number of times it has snowed in Minnesota since we left three weeks ago. It’s as if nature is telling us we did the right thing.

Last week, I hired a small army of landscapers to clear the overgrown and dead trees and shrubs at the new house. When the dust settled, we discovered our view is even more gorgeous than we expected. As an added bonus, we received a booklet from the fire prevention association detailing the best ways to protect your property from wildfires and found we had inadvertently done all the right things.

Some days I have to pinch myself to believe how beautiful everything is here. I joined the local garden club, and the very next day joined them for a tour of several members’ private gardens. I’m sure I’ll never have anything as elaborate, but what a treat. How often do you get the chance to be served lunch on the terrace in an olive grove? Serendipity strikes again. I was so inspired I bought a dwarf orange and a dwarf Meyer lemon tree for our patio. I’ve never grown citrus, but I can’t wait to see how they do.

Whether you believe in divine intervention, karma, or just plain luck, sometimes things simply work out. We still have our huge remodeling project ahead of us, and it’s sure to bring complications and frustrations. But right now, life looks good from every angle, and that’s not always easy to accept.

What about you? Do you expect the best? Are you surprised when it happens? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Chronicle of Our Drive across the West

For those of you have been following the saga of my recent move from the suburbs of Minneapolis to the sunny shores of California, I thought I’d share some of what we saw along the way.

The afternoon of Good Friday, after the movers had finished loading the van, we packed our trusty Honda Pilot and set off on the first leg of our journey, driving to Sioux Falls, SD. Unfortunately, either OG had misread the mileage or Google maps lied, but the trip turned out to be an hour and a half longer than anticipated. The motel room was sweltering, and between the heat and our fatigue, neither of us slept more than a couple of hours. Not an auspicious start. Fortunately, we had a very well-protected breakfast the next morning next to three of Sioux Falls’ Finest at the Denny’s at the Flying J truck stop.

About an hour out of Sioux Falls, we drove into the thickest fog I have ever seen—the kind of fog that causes hundred-car pile-ups. Even OG was moved to caution, and his usual response to poor road visibility is to blast through it at the highest possible speed (in hopes of getting out faster?). I’ve always assumed it to be a guy thing—an INSANE guy thing. At any rate, several hours later, we reached Rapid City in time for a short trip to Mt. Rushmore. Since it was early spring and the day before Easter, we nearly had the place to ourselves except for a few groups of Indian tourists. The sun came out just long enough for OG to snap this picture before we were hit by a wild burst of heavy snow mixed with rain. Thankfully, it stopped by the time we reached our motel in town.

Bright and early the next day, Easter Sunday, we headed for Laramie, WY. The landscape was eerily boring, if that’s possible. However, we were passed on a back country highway by a convoy of six black Porsche Panameras with dark tinted windows and CB radio antennas, all with Georgia plates, traveling at a high rate of speed. I know there’s a story there, but I have no idea what it was. Wyoming rest stops were a real eye-opener for this city girl. The first one didn’t have flush toilets and smelled worse than the latrines at summer camp. Here I am, standing beside it. Don’t I look thrilled?

The second, in the thriving metropolis of Lusk, was buried under a mountain of enormous tumbleweeds. Chicago pales in comparison when it comes to wind velocity. We couldn’t reach Laramie soon enough but were surprised by its small size and lack of amenities considering it is home to the University of Wyoming.

The following day driving across southern Wyoming was dreadful. Enough said. Apparently I am not a high plains kind of girl. As soon as we crossed the Utah line, the scenery changed dramatically. The mountains were gorgeous, although the drive down into Salt Lake City raised every hair on my body. If you’ve never done it, imagine a Formula One car race downhill through the Alps. Yikes.

Sadly, I had the same impression of Nevada that I did of Wyoming. It’s not for me. Vast open spaces of nothingness make me tired and antsy. We spent the night in Reno in an airport motel about ten feet from a teeming interstate. Funny, that detail was not omitted from the hotel’s website. By this time, we were nearly dead on our feet and couldn’t wait to get to California.

The next day was our last. The first part of the drive took us through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which were spectacular, even swathed in fog. We stopped at the Donner Memorial, but were disappointed to find the museum closed. However, we did spy this miraculous
weather prophet rock. If you can read the sign, you’ll see why it caught OG’s fancy.
I won’t dwell on the rest of the drive. The freeway traffic from Sacramento to Carmel was typically brutal, and we were (physically and mentally) running on fumes—particularly OG, who had driven the entire trip. It was a blessing to reach Carmel, and by the next day we were able to appreciate it.

I had never made a trip like this before, and I’m not anxious to do it again, but it served an important purpose. Spending days on the road made the trip a journey in ways a three-hour plane flight never could have. Our discomforts didn’t compare to those of the pioneers, who spent months of hardship in pursuit of the same goal, but like them, each mile took us further from our old life and closer to our new one, and I appreciate where we are and how far we’ve come even more.