Thursday, April 24, 2014

Curly Girl...Here I Come!

I've been frustrated with my hair lately.

Wait, let me rephrase that. I've been frustrated with my hair for a long time.

When I was a kid, my hair was straight straight straight. Thick and straight, slippery straight, so straight that ribbons and bands slipped out of my hair. But I knew how to deal with straight hair. I grew up with it.

As I got older, stylists started saying that my hair had "body". Then my hair started getting a little bit wavy. And then really wavy. And now I'd even call it curly. (My Mom had super straight hair and my Dad had very curly hair. I guess his genes kicked in kinda late with me.)

I haven't felt as though I've known what to do with this curly hair. Too short and it shrubs. I had one stylist tell me that cutting my hair was like doing topiary.

Having it longer seemed better, though it still hasn't always behaved the way I wanted it to. There has been frizz. I've had cuts that make it look like I'm trying to be Rosanna Rosanna Danna.

I've tried to tame the curls with flat irons and blow dryers. I've tried to go curly. I've used products for straightening hair. Products for getting rid of frizz. Products for bringing out the curl. None of them seem to make a huge difference in making my hair look decent and not be frizzy.

I've been so tired of having my hair cut and having it not look good. Tired of trying to brush out and flatten and get rid of the curls. Tired of feeling as though I'm spending money on products that don't seem to do anything for my hair.

Isn't there a better way?

Last week I remembered a book I'd seen years ago...CURLY GIRL by Lorraine Massey. I found the website, and wanted to explore further. So I bought the book...


And Curly Girl: The Handbook [With DVD] is great.

Massey has many recommendations that fly in the face of what most stylists recommend. Like not using shampoo. Or at least not using shampoo with certain harsh chemicals in it. Like not using terrycloth towels to dry wet curly hair. Like not using products with silicone or paragons or phthalates or most alcohols. Like using lavender water to revitalize the curls. Like letting the curls be as curly as they can!

In addition, Massey recommends cutting curly hair differently than straight hair. First of all, cutting the hair dry, and then cutting with the curls, which are as individual as the people who have them.

So I'm trying it her way.

I had my hair cut by a Deva curl stylist the other day. I made some lavender water to spritz on my hair. I am trying to work with my curl.

Is my hair perfect? Not yet. I saw the stylist a second time for some more shaping. And according to Massey, it takes time for the hair to get healthy after straightening and using harsh chemical products.

But I'm liking starting the process. My hair already looks and feels better. Healthier.

Curly Girl, here I come!

Clicking on the book cover will take you to Amazon's web page for the book. Clicking on the underlined book title will take you to Powell's page for the book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog (thank you!). Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Getting a Little Help Along the Way

Almost a year ago I left Barnes and Noble where I'd worked for ten years and started a new job at a new company. It's still retail, but now I work in grocery. This has been a huge change for me! Not just the change in product - from books to groceries - but also change in schedule, co-workers, routine, company culture.

I love being with this particular company, and appreciate that they value the happiness and excellence of their employees. Every day I'm there, as I walk down the grocery aisles, I feel glad and grateful to be with this particular company.

With this new company, I started in an entry-level position. Most employees in this company did exactly that, started at the beginning and moved up from there. I like that a lot.

Since I started, I've already moved to a different store and moved onto a different team. Well, I actually split my work time between two positions and two different teams. And just the other day, I applied for another position on yet another team. I am wanting to find a job that is a good match for my interests, skills and experience, and this new position might be pretty close.

This has been a lot of change! Not just leaving Barnes and Noble - I so miss being around lots and lots of books every day - but landing in a position that didn't feel quite like what I ultimately wanted to be doing has been hard. In addition, did I mention the learning of new routines, meeting and developing relationships with new co-workers, learning the culture of the company, and learning the actual jobs? whew!

I would like to say that my emotions have been calm and steady, and that I am glad to just be part of the process. But sometimes that has not been the case. It has been exhilarating and tiring and frustrating and exciting. I KNOW that acclimating and making such a huge change is a process, and I know my own self well enough to know that maybe I could use a little help.

Therapist has been great, giving me pep talks when I've felt down. Other friends and family members have validated that change is hard (it IS!), and also given me kudos for choosing to make such a big change.

In addition, I picked up Andrew Weil's audiobook, Spontaneous Happiness at the library, and have been listening to it on my way to and from work. I respect Weil's work, agreeing with his direction in developing integrative medicine, including mental and emotional health. When I saw Spontaneous Happiness at the library, I thought it might be a good thing for me to listen to.

Turns out I was right. I agree with Weil, that "happiness" isn't necessarily a state of being we should be in constantly, merrily floating about life in a state of euphoria. But raising our emotional setpoint, especially during times of stress or change, can be a good goal. And there may be instances of spontaneous happiness along the way.

He gives a thorough description of his recommendations for how to raise one's emotional setpoint, encouraging readers to incorporate changes into their lives that might be helpful.


One of the changes Weil suggests is using positive psychology, which can be expressed in many forms. One of the forms can be writing down three things that are going well each day. He noted that the benefits of doing this (raised endorphins, lowered cortisol levels), even for just a week, can be felt for up to six months afterwords.

A friend of mine has a blog where she has been chronicling her struggle with cancer. She is a comedian, and she brings humor into an incredibly hard situation, while keeping it real. In every blog post (, she writes Three Positives at the end, three things that are going well, even in the midst of chemo and cancer. I appreciate the Three Positives in her blog. If she can do it in the middle of chemo and cancer, then I sure can.

Some Positives:

1. The sun is shining today, for reals. It lifts my spirits to see actual sunshine.

2. I get to take the dog on an outing - we'll go in the car (she loves the car!) and for a walk (she loves a walk!).

3. Today is my only day off in an 8 day work stretch. Right now I split my work time between two positions, and this week I am working an extra shift in my potentially new department. It feels a little schizophrenic, though it's also pretty fun. AND, I'm glad to have a day off to catch my breath!

4. I'm going to go see a movie. I haven't seen one for a while and I've wanted to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. Going today.

Link to the post about my job change:

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston

I usually think of depression as a cold thing, but in Remember Me Like This, it is oppressive heat.

Set in the fictional town of Southport, Texas, near Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast, Bret Anthony Johnston conveys a languid tension in a family in a small town that has experienced tragedy. A child has disappeared.


The family is broken. Eric and Laura Campbell's oldest son, Justin, has been missing for four years. Eric, Laura, and their other son, Griff, have spent those four years searching for Justin, not knowing whether he is alive or dead. Four years from when he disappeared and they don't know if they should stop what has felt like a fruitless search, or continue, if only to find their son's body.

As well as conveying the brokenness of the family, Johnston seemed to capture each family member's own grief signature - Laura's energy for her family fading into passion for a rescued dolphin, Eric's inability to confront his own lack of strength, and Griff's life in his brother's fractured shadow, trying to be careful not to mention or emulate his missing brother too much.

How does a family live as hope deteriorates?

I loved the atmosphere of the book. Tension and guilt and fear and depression and hope and heat...Johnston makes each character come believably alive. Having never experienced the awful disappearance of a child, as well as the unknowing of the lost child's fate, many times as I was reading I had the thought that "this is what it must feel like".

The book begins with the family four years into Justin's disappearance. About a third of the way into the book I read the back cover, which told a major plot point. I wish I had not seen that plot development before it happened in my own reading. This is one of those books I think it's better not to know too much about. It's a gift to be part of the unfolding.

These characters and this story will be with me for a long time.

This book will be available for purchase on May 13, 2014. We were lucky enough to snag an ERC (Early Reviewer Copy) through library Thank you Librarything!

Clicking on the book cover will take you to Amazon's web page for this book. Clicking on the underlined book cover will take you to Powell's page for this book. Purchasing through these links helps support the blog. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Reason I Jump

I saw an interview Jon Stewart did with David Mitchell. Mitchell wasn't there to talk about his own books, like Cloud Atlas. He was on The Daily Show talking about a book written by a young autistic Japanese student.

Naoki Higashida was 13 years old when he wrote The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, which he wrote using an alphabet grid developed by one of his teachers.


One of the reasons David Mitchell was so enthusiastic about this book was that Naoki was still basically a child when he wrote it. As a parent of an autistic child, Mitchell felt that Naoki's book gave real insight into what it is like to live with autism. I think his enthusiasm was well-founded.

Naoki writes the book as answers to questions. Here is an example...

Why do you need cues and prompts?

People with autism are sometimes unable to move on to their next action without a verbal prompt. For example, even after we ask for a glass of juice and are given it, we won't actually start drinking until someone's said, 'Enjoy', or 'Go ahead and drink, then.' Or even after the person with autism has announced, 'Right, I'll hang the laundry now', he won't get started until someone has said back, 'Okay, that's great'.

I don't really know why some people with autism need these cues, but I do know that I'm one of them. Since we already know what we'll be doing next, surely we should just be able to get on with it unprompted, right? Yes, I think so too! But the fact is, doing the action without the cue can be really, really tough...

I like how Naoki describes the need for the prompt, that he recognizes that it is something he struggles with, and that he recognizes that not all people with autism need cues and prompts.

Naoki clearly explained his thought processes throughout the book. In addition, he explained how he perceives the world, feelings he has, how his body sometimes reacts without him being able to control it, as well as how desperately he wants to be accepted and cared for.

I've seen kids with autism as a teacher in classrooms and in public. This book helped me understand behaviors I've seen like rocking, not making eye contact, and not responding when someone talks to them. Naoki explains these behaviors from his own perspective, how life with autism is from the inside.

In the book, Naoki sometimes answers questions about just himself, and other times he generalizes about everyone with autism. This has caused some controversy.

Mitchell, whose wife is Japanese (which is maybe how they discovered this book?), found Naoki's book and got it translated into English because he felt it was so important. Mitchell wrote the Forward to the book, and had some input in the translation. There has been question surrounding this book around how much of the writing Naoki's, and how much is David Mitchell's.

To me this is similar to the controversy around James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, which was originally billed as a memoir. Oprah outed Frey's sometimes less than accurate fact telling in the book. I didn't care about whether each event or person was factual or not when I read it. I thought it was a brilliantly written book which did, whether all the facts were completely accurate or not, provide an intimate look into a life lived with addiction.

Naoki's book did the same thing for me. Whether Naoki's answers pertain to every single person with autism or not, The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism gave me insight into a life lived with autism. I think this book is a gift.

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