Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting "Hair" Done ...

I have never had much luck with finding two things which really work for me.  A gynecologist and a good hairdresser.  As any lady will tell you, or maybe not, it's important to have folks who know what they are doing in these two fields.  A bad visit with either one of these professionals can really sour a girl's day.  Since moving to Tennessee, I have not had much luck in with finding professionals in either one of these fields that survived more than one or two visits from me.  That is until today.  Today, I am cautiously optimistic, I may have found a hair stylist!  For years I have suffered through folks who are good at their jobs, but not very good at listening to their clients.  Or sometimes they are so very good at their jobs that they don't feel it necessary to give the client anything of what they ask for.  After all, they know better!  For years now, I have sat in the stylist's chair, told them what I wanted and had to walk out making peace with whatever style they deemed would look best on me.  A few months ago, I wanted a pixie cut, but the stylists shook her head and replied, "I don't see you with something that edgy.  You would look better with soft layers."  The problem was, I had had soft layers for years!  I wanted something different!  What the poor woman didn't know, and couldn't know, was that the twenty stylists before her had said the exact same thing.  Well, with the exception of one who nodded when I explained to her what I wanted done and then simply did what she wanted to do anyway.  Soft layers.  Today, was different.  I walked into the salon armed with a picture of what I wanted done.  To make sure that it would look good on me, I had gone through the trouble of downloading an app that allows you to see what a style or hair color would look like on you before you attempt to wear it.  I confidently pulled out my phone and showed her what I wanted done.  My arguments were neatly lined up and ready to go, my resolve was ... well ... resolute!  She looked at my picture and exclaimed with glee, "Oh yay!  This is going to be so much fun!"  That was NOT the reaction I expected.  Out came the foils and a metric tonne were applied to my head.  Next, it was time for me to bake ... under the dryers I went.  Just when I feared becoming all crispy, I was whisked out and whirled into the comfy chair at the basin where some rather foul smell stuff was smeared on my hair.  Rinse, condition, massage, rinse and pat dry.  Marched to the chair where my stylist seemed to bouncing from one foot to the other in anticipation.  A gleeful giggle and then she got busy.  First the scissors then the razor.  An hour later, I was whirled around again and I almost cried!  Happy tears.  Finally I had exactly what I wanted and it looked GREAT!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Joys of Traveling on a Green Passport

South Africans are a proud lot.  We love our country.  Yes, it's a mess and horribly dysfunctional, but it's our mess and dysfunction.  We can talk bad about it all day long, and we do, but don't let anybody else say anything mean about the place.  Them is fighting words!  We love our flag.  We may not pledge allegiance to it, but we like that we have all the colors of the rainbow in ours.  Okay, I exaggerate, we don't have ALL the colors of the rainbow, but we do have most of the colors of every other flag known to mankind all collated in our little flag.  Our national colors, when competing internationally is green and gold, not to be confused with Australia's gold and green.  And man!!  Are we ever proud of those colors!  Springboks, Proteas, BafanaBafana, it doesn't matter what name you call us, we are proud.  Even when we don't do too well.  We are still proud.  The only time the Green and Gold becomes a real pain in the ... bottom, is when it relates to our passports.  Yes, our passports are dark green with gold emblazed coat of arms.  It actually looks super stylish, however, no one else seems to think so.  Or at least, when traveling, you don't get credit for having a stylish looking passport.  When folks from other countries see our beautiful green and gold passport they immediately tell us to get visas.  It doesn't matter where you might want to travel as a South African, you WILL need a visa.  It started in the Apartheid years as a form of sanctions.  Post apartheid, it hasn't be lifted.  It would appear that we are still not trustworthy.  What I find ironic is that our passports have this little blurb in the front which basically says that the bearer of the passport is granted free travel anywhere and that our passports should be accepted as proof that we are free to travel.  I think an amended blurb needs to be written which says, "Dear Citizen, Yes you have a passport which should enable you to travel, but unless you are traveling on the continent of Africa (and even then), expect to have to get Visas for every place you wish to visit."  I know most Americans and British folk have no idea what the big deal is, because they have passports (albeit slightly less stylish) which truly DO grant them entry into any country they wish to visit.  The exceptions to that rule, are so few, and usually include places that most tourists would rarely want to visit anyway, that they hardly bare mentioning.  However, on a South African passport, I have to buy a visa every time I wish to travel to ANY where.  Yes, I did say buy.  You fill out a long application form and then you have to send in a "processing fee."  These can run the gamut of $80 to a whopping $141 for my recent UK tourist visa application.  Yes, that's $141 for a visa for a visit that is only going to last 7 hours.  Did I mention that South African passports are also subject to the latest fad in travel documentation:  The Transit Visa.  Yes, now even if you are merely traveling through a place, you need a visa.  No, you will not be leaving the airport, merely landing at a place that would normally want you to have a visa if you were going to visit.  However, you won't be visiting because you will be going from one gate to the next to continue on your journey, but you still have to fork out the bucks for a transit visa for the privilege (or inconvenience) of doing this.

I also find it rather interesting that most countries that are subjected to Visa requirements are poor.  Some are also the "black sheep" in the international community.  Although,  I had hoped that South Africa would have made it off the international black list by now, but apparently not.  So no matter how proud I may be of the Green and Gold, when it comes to my passport, it's a drag.  An expensive drag.  And an insulting drag:  I mean, I need a visa to visit Mexico, for Pete's sake!  Really?!

Countries can have whatever excuse they want for requiring visas:  security being the biggest argument.  Another one being trying to deter folks from illegally immigrating.  You know, overstay your visa.  Problem is, desperate folks still do that.  I know that is one of the reasons why Britain insists on South Africans having visas. Why not have a rigorous passport application processes that guarantees that people that are issued with passports are "good" citizens and trustworthy and therefore can be trusted to travel abroad to any country they want without requiring the extra expense and stress of visas.  What I find ridiculous about the whole process at the moment is that at some point I will be applying for American Citizenship.  At that point I get issued with a Navy blue passport, and "poof" suddenly I go from being untrustworthy and suspicious to being completely trustworthy.  I haven't changed.  I am the same person.  Just the travel document I use is different.  That's how ridiculous the whole thing is!  There has got to be a better way to do these things that isn't financially crippling, ridiculously invasive (I had to send in copies of pay stubs for my UK visitor's visa) and time consuming (processing times can be ridiculous depending on where you are applying from and where you want to go).  I understand countries want to make a little bit of money off of tourists, but then be honest about it and charge a entry tax and levy it on EVERYONE.  That seems more fair.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Review: The Magic of Belle Isle

I had seen a trailer for this movie a while back and had thought it looked "kinda interesting". It seemed to have all the elements needed to be a sweet, safe, family movie. Three adorable sisters, ranging in age from teen to Kindergartener; a creative and wise mom, trying to pick up the pieces of her life, post divorce; a sweet young man, who is mentally delayed and likes to bunny hop everywhere and his eccentric mother, who also is an accountant. Throw in an alcoholic author with writer's block and a vocabulary that made me envious, and you have the makings of a story that runs the gamut of coming of age, to comeback story, to love story, to "THEY CAN NEVER TAKE AWAY OUR FRRREEDOM!" motivational story.

I learnt the importance of seeing what's NOT there as a writer. To be fearless when telling a story. Incorporate from your experience, but make it something different. It reminded me how hard it was to understand my mother as a teen. How hard I was on her and what a powerful impact the realization that she too was a girl once, had on me. Just how we never truly know, or understand, the effect we have on others lives when we simply live ours. Regardless of how sad and low or empty we may see ourselves.

So many times we focus on what we don't have, didn't achieve, couldn't or can't do and attach our worth and "usefulness" to that. We measure the space we consume here in this life based on that. Oprah deserves so much because look at how large her life is. I'm not as important, so I'll just stick to my sofa. She can touch lives and change situations because she's Oprah. I 'm just poor little me. No money, no influence, no life. We forget that the Oprah's of the world didn't start big and powerful. They became that way over time. No, I don't believe we are all destined for fame and fortune, but I do believe that we ALL have something to offer in life. Something that makes us different and can help others in meaningful ways. Sometimes a smile affects more powerful change in a person's heart than a million dollars ever could. Sometimes the right word spoken at the right time can launch people into brand new adventures and life trajectories. Those things are just as important and meaningful. Being brave enough to be who you are, courageous enough to touch other lives just through our daily "living life" routines, brings color to people's lives as well as meaning to our own. And that is the message I heard from "The Magic of Belle Isle".

Well worth the time ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Mommy Strikes ...

So I found an interesting article today that I wanted to share with everyone.  It's interesting because I have similarly tried this experiment, to much the same result.  The progeny (and sometimes, the spouse) are all good for a while, and then slowly but surely everyone reverts back to their "forgetful" ways.    I was lucky enough to have a cleaning service for a few months, which helped to give me a day off during the week.  But not everyone can afford that, even for a little while.  Which means, that for us moms to have the respect we deserve from our families, we have to regularly insist on it.  No nagging necessary.  Just gentle reminders followed by natural consequences (no breakfast cereal bowls available for breakfast if no-one takes their dishes to the kitchen).  I like my home to be clean and organized, but part of being a parent is that I teach my children how to be responsible for themselves as well.  Cleaning up after yourself, whether it be taking a dish to the kitchen, cleaning up the bathroom after you used it, bringing down towels to be washed so that you have towels to dry yourself with again, are all part of that learning process.  It also teaches you to have respect for those you share space with.  Whether we are work outside the home moms, or work in the home moms, we all deserve to have at least ONE day where we don't have to be responsible for cleaning up after someone else.  It's okay to have a day off.  To relax and let others take care of us.  It doesn't mean we are failures or weak or wimps.  It means that we, like everyone else on this planet, function best when we have had time to rest.  Enjoy the article .... and make some time for yourself!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Working for the Weekend

Weekends, for most of us, are equated with "down" time. Let your hair down, calm down, get down (or up) or chill time. It means we try do the things we weren't able to (or couldn't be bothered to) do during the week, preferably with people we don't always get to see that much of, or simply enjoy having around a lot. In our home, weekends have become sacred. It's the one time when we can truly reconnect as a family. Like so many families in the US at the moment, our family is split up during the week. Livings have to be made, and sadly, it cannot always happen where you live. So, weekends have become the most looked forward to time in our home. Not only that, but to ensure that everyone gets the time they need with "Dad", weekends are scheduled to some degree. So when the grown ups can some unscheduled time alone, we enjoy it for the gift it is. This past weekend it took the form of "work". We are preparing for a big family trip and there is "giftage" that needs to be acquired to ensure I have a good time (because let's face it, giving someone else a gift is ALL about me!). A pilgrimage to Opry Mills was made, and every shop perused (but only few chosen for gifting purposes). Sunday, was spent staining the beautiful coffee table my hubby made me AND doing a photo shoot for some friends of ours. We may have been busy, but we were busy together. Working together. Needless to say, everything felt less like work or responsibility or "to do listy" and more like fun! We capped of our impromptu weekend hang-out by watching our favorite Sunday night shows together (can I hear a woot woot for my favorite serial killer). All in all, a PERFECT weekend, spent with the one person I love to hang out with the most. Next weekend, we return to the tight scheduling as usual: birthdays, projects, friends. How lucky am I to have such a full life!