Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All the cool kids are doing it...

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Harrowing hair tales

Look what I got in the mail from the lovely Laura Bowers recently:

It's a handy (pun intended) emery board advertising her forthcoming YA novel, Beauty Shop for Rent. (I even used it to file my nails within moments after opening the envelope, since I really needed to do so at the time, though I only used the plain side!) Very nifty.

Laura is also having a contest right now to win a galley copy of her book. See her blog for details. Two of the ways to enter are to share a bad salon experience, or a photo of a bad hairstyle you've had. You can get another entry by posting a link to her contest on your blog. I'm going for broke by doing ALL of these things. I've suffered enough from bad hair to deserve a few entries! ;-)

I've had many bad salon experiences over the years, but one stands out as the worst because it was bad in several shudder-worthy ways. I was in 9th grade, which was still in junior high instead of high school in my town. My hair was flat and limp and wouldn't hold a curl--or more importantly in 1980, couldn't be shaped into properly feathered bangs. Obviously, something had to be done. My grandmother decided to help me out by getting me my first perm--a body wave just to help my hair hold curls. For some reason, even though she usually didn't mind paying for quality and this was a very vulnerable age in my life, she took me to get the perm at a small, hole-in-the-wall sort of beauty college. Here the horrors begain. First, my student hairdresser, Lawanda, was smoking while doing my hair, dropping ashes on me as she worked! Second, she didn't cover my clothes well, and spilled some sort of perm fluid on my favorite t-shirt, leaving a big white stain where the color was apparently bleached out of my shirt. But worst of all...she left the perm solution on too long, and burned a section of hair off the top of my scalp. I'm not sure how big the burned spot was now--maybe the size of a nickel or quarter--but it might as well have been the size of a silver dollar when I was in 9th grade!

As the hair grew in, it stuck straight up, which was very obvious. My solution to this was to keep cutting that section of hair back to crewcut length every time it grew to a quarter or half an inch. I did that for months of the school year. Finally, I decided I had to let it grow out sometime, and so I did. It probably grew to an inch high standing straight up, before it finally started laying flat like the rest of my hair. Meanwhile, throughout that time, a couple of guys at school called me "Mohawk"! At the end of the year, when one of them signed my yearbook, he drew a picture of a man with a Mohawk, and I was so mortified I actually colored the rest of the man's hair in later, so no one would see that in there & figure out what he was referring to. (And I just found my yearbook and scanned it in here!) I never thought much about it after that, and if you'd asked me, I would have said it wasn't that least, the guys who made fun of me were teasing me in a friendly way, rather than a malicious one. However, when preparing to write this up, I realized that in my YA novel draft, written more than 20 years later, one of the traumatic & formative experiences in the protagonist's past was dyeing her hair bright red in junior high and getting harassed and made fun of about it the rest of the year, with kids calling her Raggedy Ann and Painthead. I guess my "Mohawk" problem stuck with me longer than I thought! (But strangely, I continued getting perms for years after that, and even went to a beauty school for some later haircuts--and not all those experiences were trauma-free, either--but I never again got a perm at a beauty school, and only braved an upscale one for the haircuts!)

I don't have a photo of my mini-Mohawk look, but I still have quite a few bad hair pictures from my past. So, with a bit of humiliation, I present to you a small sampling of Alison's bad hair history. As I said in a humor piece I wrote once: "Bad hair--for some, it's just a phase. For me, it's a way of life!" (This was brought back home at Cynthia Leitich Smith's launch party for her book Tantalize this week, when my bangs were so horribly in my face I had to resort to pulling them back with a headband that made me feel 11 years old all night!) I guess I really need the help of Laura Bowers' protagonist!

Monday, February 26, 2007

A tantalizing weekend

Friday night I had the good fortune to attend a book launch party for Cynthia Leitich Smith's new YA novel, Tantalize. The soiree was hosted by Cynthia and her husband Greg Leitich Smith (who can sing in Italian, by the way) at their amazing 1920s house in the heart of Austin. It was altogether delicious, given the atmosphere, the food, and the company. Cynthia definitely knows how to throw a party. There was a lavish spread of food, there were door prizes related to her book and other local authors' books, and there were even wine servers outfitted in t-shirts from the book's fictional restaurant, Sanguini's. The house had a darkly festive atmosphere, inside and out (I'll have to remember their amusing tactic of blocking off off-limits rooms with crime scene tape!), the weather was perfect for going onto the porch, the house was filled with artsy and literary folks, such as fellow bloggers Jo Whittemore and Liz Garton Scanlon (and many, many books!), and the view could not have been more Austiny--ideal considering that Tantalize is set in Austin. Best of all, every guest received a free hardback copy of Tantalize! I had assumed the book might be for sale at the party. Then when I heard they were free, I expected a paperback advanced reading copy, at best. But we all got gorgeous, autographed hardcover books. It was my first night away from my baby (and my first time to have wine in almost a year!), and all in all was a lovely evening out. The baby...and my husband...even survived without me!

Saturday was the first lazy day we'd had in a while, with absolutely no commitments, so I took the opportunity to lie around reading Tantalize. I read the whole thing that day, despite its being more than 300 pages. I must admit I have never read a vampire or werewolf book before, so I don't know how it compares to others in the genre, but I enjoyed it and cared for the characters, and it certainly kept me reading. I found it suspenseful from beginning to end. And, as a regular YA reader, I loved the way the typical YA elements of the plot blended with the fantasy elements. Of course, living in the Austin area I also loved the Austin-centric nature of the plot (I laughed out loud about the "Bat Anti-Defamation League"), though living north of town, the South Congress area featured in the book is almost as foreign to me as San Antonio. Guess I'll have to go down there soon and see what's what! Cynthia is a talented writer and I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in YA or urban fantasy literature. I could definitely imagine it as a movie, also. Though I am wondering now if I should have really drunk the red wine at Cynthia's house! (I did leave the party with fangs, but only the fake ones I'd brought...I hope!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Heart Day, everyone! For some reason, Valentine's Day always puts a smile on my face, even though it was rarely a romantic day for me when I was single, and even when I don't have plans for it, like today! I guess I have good memories of childhood Valentine treats, classroom parties & card exchanges, etc. It's a hassle to help my kids find valentine cards and address them all, but I still enjoy it somehow. Plus, I just like holidays. (And, I like the candy & flowers my husband gave me this morning!) But my husband actually had lunch with a friend today and we don't want to take 3 kids out to a nice dinner, so we don't have any big plans for the day. But we ordered delivery from Jason's Deli tonight, which is kind of romantic since we met there.

In other news...

  • A week after my baby was born, I was diagnosed with late-onset pre-eclampsia, one symptom of which is very high blood pressure, and readmitted to the hospital for 2 nights. My blood pressure finally stabilized with some medication, but went back up into a nerve-wracking range a few days after I came home from the hospital. The dr told me to stay on the meds another 2 weeks & see how it goes. So far, so good--it seems to have stabilized again. I started being a little more active, after trying to rest a lot at first, and I think it really makes me feel better. (Not that I'm particularly active, but I've at least gone out to the store & stuff instead of just staying in resting.)
  • My baby is 3 weeks old today! It goes so fast. At his 2-week checkup last week, all seemed well. He was finally back up to his birth weight (minus 1 oz.), & had grown an inch longer.
  • Nothing in the world is sweeter than my baby. (Though lots of things are less messy! So far neither one of us can get through the day without at least 1 change of clothes, and usually 3 or 4 in his case!)
  • My 6 & 8-year-olds had trouble getting into the original Star Wars movies enough to stay awake through one. Then, enter the Lego Star Wars 2 video game. Now, they are obsessed. They have watched the whole original trilogy now, plus the first movie of the new trilogy (and don't you think that nearly any episode of Star Trek is better than that movie?!). So, I decided to download & play for them Weird Al Yankovic's "Yoda" song. This may have been a mistake. It gets old to hear kids yelling "Yo, yo, yo, yo, Yoda!" all the time.
  • My husband's dad & stepmother visited us last week from Colorado. It was a nice, laid-back visit.
  • My mother has been sick for a few weeks so my parents haven't been able to meet my baby yet. I hope they can visit while he still looks mostly like a newborn! (Of course, my brother hasn't even met my 6-year-old yet, so who knows?!)