To Dye or Not to Dye: How I Hate this Question

When I was in my mid-teen years, I began to study photos of my parents. My mom was and is a serious scrapbooker, so our family’s photos are well organized. I specifically took note of my father’s hair.

He was born with black hair, which I think is just the best. There are numerous heroines in novels with blue eyes and black hair–so black it gleamed blue in the sunlight (seriously, is that a real thing?)–and I wish I would’ve been blessed with the same. What I noticed, though, was how my father’s black hair quickly shifted from black to salt-and-pepper to gray.

Now, what was most disconcerting to me was how that shift seemed to speed along once his beautiful baby girl came onto the scene. Something about children causing stress? Surely that wasn’t the case!

My mother has always been a brunette, but also started seeing gray at a fairly young age. (Sorry to throw you under the bus here, Ma!)

So, needless to say, my non-gray days were going to end at a very young age.

I realize this is bizarre, but I clearly remember the first gray hair I discovered attached to my own head. I was 19, and I believe it was Christmastime during my sophomore year of college. My mom and I went to see the Disney movie “Enchanted,” and in the bathroom after the movie, I stood at the sink and squinted real hard at my reflection.

“Is that a gray hair?!” I asked both my reflected deteriorating facade of youth and my mother.

Mom comes over to inspect. “No, it’s just a blonde hair.”

But the expression on her face told the truth more than her white-lie-telling words.

I was on the downhill slide toward senior-adulthood. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Fast-forward 13 years.

Now I’m the one with the two small children who are figuratively (literally?) sucking the energy/color from my very existence. (OK, they’re really not that bad. This is called exaggeration for the sake of entertainment.)

This is what happens when you yank out gray hairs. They come back WITH A VENGENCE!

At one point, my mother mentioned how she plucked out gray hairs when they first appeared (again, sorry, Mom!). So, this is what I did for a long time. But at some point…it would take too much time (and pain) to remove the hairs than to simply let them be. Besides, those wiry gray hairs grow at bizarre angles when they reappear.

And I’ve run into that question I’ve been dodging for so long…

To dye or not to dye?

I took my husband’s opinion into consideration first. He says it’s “beautiful the way it is! Leave it natural!” Well, of course he would. The man literally has one gray hair, which I discovered when I gave him the dreaded Covid-cut a few months back. (What Fountain of Youth did he discover?!) Also, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to listen to me whine about the hassle of coloring my hair, so he’s voting for the gray.

Even though I’m not super observant, I have the feeling most every woman in her 30s is dying her hair. Is that right? Am I in the minority here?

But I don’t want a new color! I have what my cosmetologist sister-in-law calls “ash-colored hair.” And I think it’s awesome. I used to think, “Blah. It’s brown and boring.” But it’s not boring (though it is brown). I have zero blonde or red hairs. I have a lot of wavy browns, then periodically, a crazy, curly black hair emerges. Like, what is that? Are those my dad’s black-haired genes peeking through? I should ask my geneticist husband…(y’all remind me).

So if I start dying it, I won’t be able to stop! Also, it’ll get all monochrome, as I’m too cheap to pay for highlights. That makes me sad.

But sad enough to let the gray win? Because let’s be real, the gray is winning both the battle and the war.

Got any encouragement before I take the plunge? Commiseration? Advice? Warnings?

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Currently Reading:
Firebringer by Elle Katharine White – So, this is the conclusion of a trilogy beginning with Heartstone. I adored Heartstone. Like, I read it in two late nights, then reread my favorite parts (about half the book) on a third very late night. I then scrambled to find the two subsequent books at my local library. Heartstone is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but with strong fantasy ties. The Darcy character is a dragon rider who comes to save the Elizabeth character’s town from gryffons, etc. I loved it.

Well, it truly pains me to report how I didn’t enjoy the second book, and I’m not enjoying the third. I’m trying to get through it so I can move onto Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People before I have to return it to the library. The exact same thing happened after I read Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s also an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but with a hint of magic. I love, love, loved it. But then when I read the sequel…meh.

I guess I love the P&P storyline, but once Elizabeth and Darcy get married, the stories seem to lose their purpose and magic for me. (This is NOT a comment about life after marriage!) I just think authors kind of lose their way and get distracted by other things. In Flamebringer’s case, we’re hip-deep in fantasy, as we lose sight of what’s wonderful about Austen’s books–the relationships.

How I Backpacked Europe and Discovered Vampires

Picture it.

Europe, January 2009.

After enduring two harrowing weeks of Art and Theater Appreciation class in London, four American college kids–three guys and a gal–strike out on their own for a 10-day romp across the continent.

Side note: This is the same trip in which we planned our route from a tiny room in the basement of a library. It’s how we made big plans in a small room.

They fly from London to Rome, then utilize the legendary Eurail pass to traverse Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. They’d also spent a test weekend in Paris…just because they wanted to try out their ability to travel together before setting out on their whirlwind tour.

french pastry
Paris knows its way around a pastry.

The girl, a sassy, brunette English major from sunny Florida, decided the book she’d tucked into her backpack (Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) was boring, so she needed to find a substitute.

Even though Twilight had debuted four years prior, the vampire books were still all the rage, even on an international scale. She’d heretofore ignored such…common…offerings, but decided to embrace the hype and secure a copy. After all, she’d only be this young once!

And, of course, she decided to track down a new novel in countries that don’t speak her native tongue. Therefore, she had zero luck through many cities, and, unfortunately, wasted valuable time asking for cheesy fantasy novels in posh foreign bookstores. Yes, she could feel the “Americans!” and the exaggerated eye rolls as she left each store empty handed.

Then the foursome arrived in Berlin. Did she see the Berlin Wall? Yes! Did she take a picture of the Brandenberg Gate without knowing what it was? Of course! Did she watch Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural address surrounded by excited Germans? Well, that goes without saying!

pisa
Yup. It really does lean.

“But what about the vampire book?!” you’re probably not asking yourself.

Hark! Late one night, she stumbled across a two-story, well-lit bookstore that just had to have an English section. She fumbled through some pretend German when asking a clerk for guidance. And then, she found herself gripping that black novel with the bright, red apple. She clutched it to her chest, which was covered by a sweater, pea coat, and scarf, because goshdarnit! Europe is freezing in January.

And then she read the novel twice in a row.

Because…sometimes, when you spend 10 straight days with three friends you only kinda know (or even 10 straight days with people you deeply love), you need a break. And you’re going to delight in spending that break in the mind of a girl obsessed with a vampire.

Yes, I did go home to buy the three remaining books in the saga. (I hope to write a saga someday.) And I generally enjoyed them. The movies…not so much, but the books were generally enjoyable.

So, those 400-plus words you just endured now bring us to present time.

Picture it.

South Carolina, 2020.

A 30-ish-year-old mom with small children in tow patrons her local library. Even though she’s already on the waitlist for Stephenie Meyer’s newest vampire novel, Midnight Sun, at an adjacent county’s library, she sheepishly asks the librarian if she can get on this library’s waitlist. The librarian nods understandingly and compassionately.

wp-1598751879570.jpgShe then goes on vacation and sends her unsuspecting husband to obtain his own library card in order to check out her now-waiting copy of Midnight Sun so it’ll be ready for her when she gets home.

Will she feel the same about the vampires? She’s heard Midnight Sun is simply a retelling of Twilight, but from the vampire’s–not the human girl’s–perspective. But will that be enough to keep her attention? After all, she’s 12 years older now. Is she also 12 years wiser?

Apparently not. OK, here’s Mama’s nitty-gritty review of Stephenie Meyer’s newest book.

I loved the concept. It wasn’t gender-bending or even a rewrite. It was an honest-to-goodness perspective change from Bella to Edward. Frankly, I think Meyer is brave to reuse what she wrote 15 years ago to make something new. Surely, there were times when she read her old Twilight dialogue and cringed. Like, “Dang, why didn’t someone make this better back then?”

She did a good job making Edward likable, because, I don’t know if you remember, but he was kind of a cold, demanding jerkwad. And that’s coming from someone who was 100% #TeamEdward.

We have 650 pages of the why. Why did Edward react in such jerkwaddy ways? Apparently, he had very good reasons. Well, the main reason we learn so much about Edward was because Meyer became a much better writer in 15 years. She gave her hero a solid backstory and motivations.

Here’s my main beef.

Have you ever watched a movie, then read the book? It’s the same reason I didn’t read Pride & Prejudice for many years. I’d seen every version of the movie, so I didn’t think there’d be much left to discover in the book.

OK, obviously, I was wrong about P&P, which is a beautifully crafted book.

With the vampires, though, I already knew what was going to happen. I spent many, many pages wading through Edward’s internal drama, all the while waiting for the next thing to happen.

Mostly…when are we getting to the meadow, amirite?

And I got bored.

So, for those of you who unabashedly loved Edward, Bella, and their coven of angsty vampires, I’d say go for it. Yes, all 650 pages. They probably could’ve been edited to 550 without much loss, but who am I to question a NYT best-selling author and her editing team?

Notable notes:
1. Alice. She’s delightful, especially when she meets her vampire family for the first time.
2. Charlie. We all know Edward can’t read Bella’s mind, but his issues with Charlie’s thoughts were a nice touch.
3. Jasper. The extent of his powers were something special to see.
4. I still don’t understand Bella’s appeal, especially when compared to Edward’s obsession.
5. Emmett. I was never a big fan of the big lug until he decided Bella had joined the family.
6. Rosalie. Meh. Gorgeous, petty mean girl. More could’ve been done here.

Even with my average review (and my three-star review on GoodReads, which makes me feel unappreciative), I’m still cheering for Meyer to write the Edward-POV companions to New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. I’m not sure if I’d lay down my Visa for the hardbacks, but I’d jump on that library waitlist on Day One.

Have you read Midnight Sun yet? Thoughts?

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Currently Reading:
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White – Do you love Pride and Prejudice? Do you love fantasy novels? Would you like to see Mr. Darcy as a dragon rider? The answer? Of course, obviously, and HOW HAVE I NOT DISCOVERED THIS BOOK BEFORE?

Seven of Mama’s Favorite (Mostly Foodie) Things

Every time I think about writing a blog post, I’m always tempted to start with “Hi! Remember me?” followed by an elongated apology about how I haven’t written, how I’m feeling uninspired, and how thankful I am you’re reading this.

Well, there, I gave into the temptation. So…moving on!

I keep running into products and “life hacks” (not literally, of course) and thinking, “Man! I wonder if other people know about this…” So, I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Folex Instant Carpet Spot Remover
What is this stuff? Magic? It works SO WELL. When we lived in Florida, I had a wonderful friend (hi, Allison!) who knew her way around cleaning a house. Like, as much as I don’t have a clue, she’s the opposite. For some reason, she mentioned Folex for tough carpet stains. I’ve only seen it for sale at Home Depot/Lowe’s, but it’s worth the extra trip. It took fluorescent purple nail polish out of our white chair! (Yeah, my husband loved handling that while I was on a Zoom call…)

Kellogg’s Mueslix
Is 32 the official age when Lucky Charms just won’t cut it anymore? Sadness. Then again, when I started looking higher in the cereal aisle, I discovered Mueslix. The worst name, right? Sounds gross. But tastes delicious! It’s basically trail mix, but you’re allowed to put milk on it. Yum.

Muscadines
I had never tried a muscadine until I attended college in Alabama. Have you ever tried a grape-flavored candy or soda and wondered, “How in the world did they decide to call this ‘grape,’ as it tastes nothing like grapes?” The answer? That flavoring is muscadines! But no one knows about muscadines, so candy-makers went the safe/wimpy route and stuck with “grapes.” They’re in season right now, so go find some!

In case you’re inexperienced…
1. Wash muscadines.
2. Either cut or use your teeth to make a small slit in the skin.
3. Suck out insides.
4. Discard skin.
5. Chew carefully to avoid seeds.
6. Spit out seeds.
7. Glory in the flavor.

The Bible Project
I can only begin to rave about how fantastic these videos are. Whenever I start reading a new book of the Bible (I’m on track to read the whole Bible in 2020…a first for me!), I watch the corresponding video before I get started. They’re about seven minutes long and do a great job of outlining and organizing each book. I especially love this take on Daniel.

ThirdLove
OK, I feel the need to share about underwear too often. However. ThirdLove was recommended in a moms’ Facebook group as an ideal site for bra-buying, and I decided to take the leap. Ladies, you take this little quiz and get a recommendation. The prediction was nearly right-on. (I should’ve listened to my instinct before hitting “buy.”) Returns are free. Actually, if you need a different size, they’ll send the new one even before they receive your return. And since shopping in person is…challenging…these days, what better reason to order online! And that 24/7 Classic T-Shirt Bra? Two thumbs up.

Mayonnaise on grilled cheese
I discovered this yesterday. I’ve always made grilled cheese by smearing butter on the outside. But, NO! I should’ve listened to my father (hi, Dad!) and used mayonnaise! Crisps right up.

Intermittent Fasting
Has anyone not discovered this trend yet? Here’s the concept: Your body needs time to rest, and we eat so often, we don’t give our bodies that time to recuperate (which is yet another reason we’re unhealthy and overweight). Whether you buy into that or not, there are a LOT of success stories using IF.

Basically, you have an eating “window.” I do 16:8, which means I eat during those eight hours and fast during the 16. Realistically, I finish dinner around 6 p.m., then don’t eat anything again until 10 a.m. So, no late-night snacking or early-morning breakfast. It’s not as hard as it sounds. There aren’t technically foods you shouldn’t eat, but if you want to see better results faster, obviously, keep your eating within moderation (even with the occasional mayo-slathered grilled cheese). Drink lots of water. See happy results. Join an IF Facebook group for extra encouragement.

Any of these sound interesting? Got any tips to share? Comment below!

For more Mama, subscribe and follow me!

Currently Reading:
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer – OK, OK, yes! I’m reading a vampire-themed young adult novel. But, dear goodness, this thing clocks in at 658 pages! It’s taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to read. I’ll give my full thoughts at a later date, but here’s the teaser…Edward is obsessed with Bella.

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