Wednesday, June 26, 2013

To Grey or Not To Grey

Without a doubt being a grandmother is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It's one of the things that makes getting older tolerable. However, no matter how excited I am about being Grams. I am not particularly excited about looking like a grandmother.

This past weekend, I celebrated my 59th birthday. The thing is, I don't feel 59 years old. When I think about my own mother at the same age, she seemed much older than I feel. I think part of it may have been the lack of hair coloring.

"There's a reason why forty, fifty, and sixty don't look the way they used to, and it's not because of feminism, or better living through exercise. It's because of hair dye. In the 1950's only 7 percent of American women dyed their hair; today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all.”  ~ Nora Ephron in I Feel Bad About My Neck

As I have reached this age, my hair color has become a dilemma. It's not that I mind coloring my hair. I started coloring it when I was in junior high school, somewhere around the age of 13. Really! Since then, I have always colored my hair.

I started out by going blonde. My natural hair color was a light brown with red undertones. But it was the 60s and, as teenagers on the Texas coast, we practically lived in the sun and on the beach or at the pool. By the end of every summer, my hair would naturally acquire some blonde highlights from sun bleaching and chlorine. I often boosted the effects of the sun by squeezing lemon juice on it while I sat in the sun. It was all very "surfer girl." Although, I've never been on a surfboard in my life, everyone wanted to look like a beach babe.

When the school year started and my blonde started to fade, I tried Sun-In. It seemed like a good idea, but you may not know that, if your hair had naturally red tendencies, it made your hair an appalling shade of orange. At least that's what it did to mine. But, I didn't give up easily, I kept trying it for several weekends thinking it would get lighter and blonder. It did not. It only got more orange. Determined to be blonde, it was then that I bought my first box of Clairol. After all, the question in advertising was "Is it true blondes have more fun?"

For some reason, in my senior year of high school I suddenly decided to go brunette. I think it was the "For Brunettes Only" hair color that had just come out. Me as a brunette was particularly shocking for my friends and classmates. Truth be told, it was probably the closest to my natural hair color most of them had ever seen. It was odd to me too, so I only did it once.

My 17th birthday and one of the last times anyone saw my natural hair color.

Shortly after high school I started frosting my hair. I kept my hair frosted for around ten years. The technique involved using a crochet hook to pull pieces of hair through a plastic cap then applying bleach only to the part that came through the cap. Frosting required the help of another person for the back. Usually, one of my sisters would do the honors, but after marriage, Patrick would lend a hand. I would pull the front and sides and he would do the back. This led to some oddly striped looking designs in the back. The art of subtlety was lost on him. Generally speaking, frosted hair was similar to what they call highlights today, but usually had more contrast.

This is me in 1975 with frosted hair.

By the time I turned thirty, I embraced my inner redhead and went auburn. For many years, L'Oreal made the perfect shade in their Preference line called light reddish brown. But, suddenly a few years ago, they discontinued my preferred color. Since then, I have changed brands and shades many, many times trying to find just the right color again. Most recently, I've been using Olia by Garnier. The color is Light Natural Auburn and I really like the results. It covers the grey better than anything else I've used and the color doesn't fade.
This is my most recent color - Light Natural Auburn.

Anybody who sees me regularly knows that I'm pretty dedicated to keeping my roots done. My niece didn't even realize until recently that I have always colored my hair. Here is where the dilemma comes in. When I first started coloring my hair, I had to touch up my roots every eight weeks or so. In my 40s, as I started to grey, it became every six weeks. But now, I have so much grey, I'm having to color at least every four weeks and it grows so fast that it probably should be every three weeks. It's become very high maintenance.

So, while I'm not working this summer I've been letting my hair grow without coloring it. I'm letting it grow for a couple of reasons. First, I want to see what color it actually is and how much grey I have. Second, I think it's probably time to consider some other kind of hair coloring so I'm not getting so much contrast as it grows out.Third, I'm going to think about letting it go natural although I am afraid that will make me feel old. And, my older sister Bylinda has forbidden me to stop coloring my hair. She says if she's not grey, her younger sister can't be grey.

At this point, it's been less than six weeks since I colored and I already have about an inch of roots showing and there is a significant amount of grey. The rest of them are much darker brown than I remember my natural color.

My hairline and my roots with six weeks of growth. The grey doesn't really show up much in the photos.

So, my fellow grandmothers, do you color, highlight, tint or have you elected to go gracefully grey? I would love to hear from you. Should I stay with the coloring or just let it go grey? Tell me what you think and I'll let you know what I decide.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

First Cousins

These beautiful ladies are first cousins. They were born three months apart in 1979. They spent a lot of time together as they were growing up. Almost every Saturday or Sunday was spent at their grandparent's house with the extended family. They were the best of playmates. One summer I think Katy might have actually moved in with them if I would have let her. She stayed a week, then she called and asked permission to stay another week. Then a week later, same phone call. I made her come home after the third week.

Camey & Katy

Neither of them has a sister, so I always hoped they would grow up to be close. But as they reached their teen years, their lives diverged, and they took very different paths. There is a story here, but the story is not mine to tell so I am going to resist. All I will say is that Camey took a very hard road. For a while, we thought we were going to lose her completely.

Last weekend they were together again. The occasion was a baby shower for Camey. As the two of them sat and talked, my sister-in-law Nancy and I sat on the sofa and watched. I have to say, a few years ago I never expected to ever see that day. I'm pretty sure Nancy felt the same way. Both of us had tears in our eyes as we watched the two of them talk about childbirth and share experiences.

While sitting there watching I remembered this quote from Winston Churchill "Never, never, never give up!" And I will tell you, her parents never gave up. They fought tooth and nail to save this girl. I think she's going to make it this time. Camey's baby girl is due in less than two weeks. I can't wait to welcome her into the family.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Substitute Diaries: A Few Words About Teachers

I'm going to start this post by telling you that I have been suffering from a serious case of writers block, laziness, procrastination, exhaustion, or whatever. I just haven't been in the mood to write. In fact, I've been working on this post for almost two weeks and just can't seem to finish it. I'm determined to power through and finish it this time. If it stinks, you have my apologies.

Now that I have enjoyed my first week of summer vacation, I've had an opportunity to reflect on my third year as a substitute teacher. You probably already know that one of the few things I regret is that I didn't become a teacher back in the 1970s. Seriously, the very first thing I missed when I got my first full-time job was summer vacation. And besides that whole summer vacation thing, I really love teaching kids. It's both challenging and fulfilling. Of course, I realize that if I had the day-to-day responsibilities that teachers have, I would probably be a lot less enchanted with it. Not to mention the fact the teachers are so grossly underpaid.

The reality of teaching as a profession is daunting. Aside from being responsible for the academic success of every student in their class, teachers have so many responsibilities that I was never aware of before I started substituting. In the three years that I've worked in our schools I've learned a few things about teachers that I want to share with you.

I am sure that you already know that teachers spend a great deal of their personal time writing lesson plans, preparing necessary supplies, and grading papers. You may not be aware of how much reporting and record-keeping they must do for each student. This especially applies to special ed teachers who complete detailed reports on goals and attainment on every single student in their class several times a year.

We have all heard about those teachers who went the extra mile in protecting their students from horrific tragedies like those at Sandy Hook Elementary School who took bullets to save their students, and those at Briar Wood and Plaza Towers in Moore, Oklahoma who threw their bodies on top of their students to shield them during tornadoes. Those teachers are definitely heroes; but virtually all teachers do things that I consider extraordinary on a regular basis.

This year I subbed for a kindergarten teacher who brought a snack for her entire class every single day. Well, maybe not every single day. At the beginning of the year there was a schedule for the parents to take turns sending a snack. Each student was assigned to bring the snack on a particular day. But, after a few weeks, most of her students stopped taking their turn. For some of them it was a financial issue and for some it was a lack of interest from the parents. But this teacher knew that her kindergartners did better if they had a mid-morning snack, so she brought one for them. She even made sure they had snacks on the days she wasn't there. One of the days I subbed, she made a special trip to drop off snacks for them.

I often run across teachers who had come in early or stay late to tutor struggling students who want to do better. Almost all teachers do that. At one of the schools where I sub regularly, there were quite a few third graders who were struggling and stressing about being ready for the dreaded STAAR test. The entire third grade staff organized a tutoring program and invited selected students to attend daily tutoring sessions in the morning and the afternoon. The afternoon sessions included a snack, too.

And speaking of snacks, there are a couple of teachers I know who fill some of their student's backpacks with snacks every Friday afternoon. When I asked them about it, they told me it was because those students might not have anything else to eat until they return to school on Monday morning.

I know many teachers who put a great deal of their personal time into sponsoring a club, organization, or activity. True, some of them receive a small stipend from the district for this activity, but I can assure you that it is never enough to cover the time and energy they put into these activities. Not to mention that they spend their own money in support of those activities. I know one teacher who made 300 pickle poppers and sold them to raise money for her students' extra-curricular activities.

I can name at least ten teachers who have bought new shoes or uniforms for students because the parents can't or won't. I also know several teachers who paid field trip fees for some of their students whose parents didn't or couldn't pony up somewhere between $2 to $6.

The teachers and the office staff at both of the primary schools where I work go to great lengths and personal expense to be sure that their students and any siblings have gifts at Christmas.

Not everything teachers do is heroic. It seems like the primary school teachers tie at least one million five hundred thousand shoelaces every single day. And, do you realize that there are NO bathroom breaks built into teacher's schedules. Kindergarten teachers have it easiest when it comes to taking a bathroom break. In our district they have bathrooms attached to their classrooms. But that also means they have to supervise all their students when they go to the bathroom. Let's just say that not all five year olds are mature when it comes to that. And third grade teachers have it the worst. There is no bathroom on their wing at all. They have to dash to the other end of the building while someone else watches their class. In case you don't know, it is not wise to leave approximately 25 third graders without adult supervision for very long. I'm just saying.

Besides academics, teachers teach your kids important life lessons. They give important advice like "if she's not being nice, go play with someone else." They will also try to find the right words when a child tells them that their parents are getting a divorce. Yes, your kids tell their teachers almost everything. They also notice if your kid does not bathe regularly or wears clothes that haven't been washed. Again, I'm just saying, they do notice.

Teachers always expect students to do their best. In fact, sometimes they have to insist on it. If they know the student is capable and that's what it takes, they will make a kid redo a paper over and over again until they do it right. By the way, teachers don't give grades, students earn grades. If your kid just barely fails, that's because he or she got the grade they earned.

When she has to, the teacher will do your job. If you don't make your kid do homework, the teacher will. When everyone else goes outside for recess, your student will go outside with a clipboard, sit on the side of the playground, and do their homework while the other kids play. That's not the teacher being mean. That's the teacher doing your job. You are supposed to make them do their homework.

They will also work hard to make sure your kids learn integrity and citizenship. And if that means they have to walk laps at recess while everyone else plays, that's what they'll make them do. Then, when they've walked all their laps, they will make your kid explain why they had to walk laps, just to make sure they got the lesson.

Teachers are notoriously good sports. They wear costumes on Halloween and spirit shirts every Friday. They take a turn in the dunking booth on play day. They serve the cake you send to celebrate your kid's birthday and clean up afterward. Sometimes they kiss pigs for school fund raisers. They also make sure your kid makes you a card (and sometimes a gift) for Mothers Day.  On an almost daily basis they deal with runny noses, vomit, and otherwise sick kids that are not their own. The first year I subbed, I had a student throw up right at my feet while I was writing a nurses pass. Since then, if a student says they feel like they're going to throw up, I send them running to the nurse's offices without a pass. I have seen teachers walking down the hall holding a trash can in front of a vomiting student as they escort them to the nurse's office. I know a kindergarten teacher who was vomited on twice in the same day by two different students. In my opinion, that's above and beyond the call of duty.

And when the unspeakable happens and disaster strikes a school, whether it's man-made or nature's wrath, teachers will do whatever it takes to make sure your kids are safe. And, when it happens on another campus and your kids learn all about it from the media, they will do their dead-level best to prepare and comfort all the students in their care. Even I, as a substitute, had to explain more than once this year that it is unlikely that someone with a gun would come into our school and start shooting.

Don't let their school t-shirt and khakis fool you. They may not wear a cape, teachers are the real superheroes!