Noise Dysregulation and Running Regulation

Saturday evening started out rough for me.

Our neighbors had a party and we could hear their music in our house. And I know that people are allowed to have parties. And even though I think that after you reach a certain age, you are supposed to have parties where the music only lives inside your own house, I know that people have parties with loud music.

Unfortunately, music seeping into my house from the outside is one of my biggest sensory nightmares. It completely dysregulates me. I have to wear headphones with my own music blasting, but I still can’t do much that is functional. I get agitated and stressed and a rock drops into my chest and I have to escape.

It’s pretty horrible, honestly.

Fortunately, on Saturday, I had someplace to go.

I had signed up for an 8K race that started at 8:45 at night. I was an early arrival thanks to my fleeing the house, but at least I had plenty of time to decompress.

The bummer of the whole thing, however, is that I had absolutely no desire to run five miles, especially after my rough early evening. Adding to that is the fact that running has been really tough for me lately. There are a lot of reasons for that, chief among them being that I barely ran at all in May and June because of everything that was going on in my life. In addition, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is damn hot out there. And humid. And generally horrible.

Saturday night was cool and dry though. And two of my running friends who were running the race also met me at there. They are super fun to be with and by 8:45, I was relaxed again.

Sadly, I still didn’t want to run five miles.

Happily, I didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, as I was lined up in the race corral wearing a number and my running shoes, plus my friends probably would have been confused if I’d just sat on the ground instead of moving forward.

So move forward I did.

Step step step step/breath. Step step step step/breath.

I started to run and with each quartet of steps and each breath, I felt better. My body loosened and relaxed and I settled in for the next hour of steps and breathing. Because when you really look at it, that’s all running is—steps and breathing.

As it turns out, everything I needed after getting away from my house that night was steps and breathing.

I returned to my house late Saturday night, happy, tired, and (thank god) to a neighbor who had turned off his music.

Mile Zero, Smile Eight Million

I’m determined to write a post about Alex and my trip to Key West (Mile 0 of US Highway 1, as every trinket for sale in the area points out), even as day after day passes and our vacation gets further away. We went there to celebrate our 15th anniversary, even though said anniversary was at the end of May, otherwise known as the Moving Freakout Era.

My mom came into town to watch our kids for us. I suggested that she take notes on how her week with the munchkins went so I could make it a post, but she didn’t do that so instead of a hilarious post about what it’s like to take care of Team Stimey Junior, this post about enjoying five days away from Team Stimey Junior will have to do.

If you are on Facebook and you are so inclined, you can see my annotated photo album of pictures from our trip on my Stimeyland page. Please don’t judge me if you see repeats of jokes from this post over there. I only have so much humor in me.

Alex and I flew into Ft. Lauderdale on a Monday morning. We had a long day driving south from there and all the way out to the keys, a drive made longer by a traffic jam caused by a car accident on literally the only road in or out of the area. We didn’t get to our hotel and settled in until nearly dinnertime, so we eagerly jumped in a hotel shuttle to the downtown area to find a restaurant.

Before dinner, however, there was something I had to do. I needed to try to fit in with all the other tourist ladies by immediately purchasing a large sun hat.

Photo of me wearing large sunglasses and a big green sunhat.

It seemed the thing to do.

I was pretty sure I was supposed to buy a hat, but I was worried that I would buy the wrong hat. I told Alex that I shouldn’t just buy the first hat I saw. But then I saw this hat and I like that color green and it cost a mere twelve dollars and I was all, “How can you go wrong with a twelve-dollar hat?”

It turns out that twelve-dollar hats will rapidly start to disintegrate and shed parts and you really can go wrong with a twelve-dollar hat, but it served its purpose in that it kept the sun off of my face and I was able to talk to Alex ad nauseum about my hat, so I guess in the final tally, I didn’t really go wrong.

Our trip rapidly turned into punctuating our long, leisurely meals with sightseeing and wandering up and down Duval Street. We set the tone with our first night dinner at nine one 5, a very delicious and fun restaurant that we sort of randomly picked. Alex ordered some sort of snapper dish and the waiter told him that the snappers were small that day, so he’d get two instead of just one. We, naturally, imagined two small fish on a plate.

Oh. Not so.

Photo of two giant fish on a plate along with Chester, my stuffed mouse.

Chester is there for scale.

The best thing though is that not only did I laugh uproariously when Alex’s giant dinner arrived, but an adjacent table of four men also laughed hysterically at Alex, causing Alex to protest that, “No! I swear! I didn’t order two giant fish! The waiter brought them! It wasn’t me!”

Maybe you had to be there, but when strangers join you in mercilessly mocking your husband, it totally makes your night. At least it made mine. It was great.

It was even better when Chester got drunk and wore one of the fishes as a hat.

Chester with one of the fish heads resting on top of his head.

Chester is so embarrassing.

We then boarded the shuttle back to the hotel just as the young people were arriving in town to party for the night. Alex and I both slept eleven hours that night. I don’t think that has happened for…ever.

Tuesday was our heavy sightseeing day. We started by going to the Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway lived in the 1930s. Obviously we went because Hemingway was an amazing writer and it was very cool to visit his home, learn about him, and see where he wrote his most famous books.

Two photos: one is me standing in front of a small building surrounded by people; the second is the interior of the building. A room with a table, chairs, and typewriter at the center. There is a taxidermied gazelle head mounted on the wall and various other decorations.

Here is me standing in front of Hemingway’s writing studio, followed by a photo of the studio itself. That must be why I haven’t written the great American novel yet—not enough dead animals on my walls.

Let’s be honest here though. The real reason we went to the Hemingway House is because of the cats. Evidently Hemingway was big into cats, specifically polydactyl (more toes than normal) cats. He kept a bunch of them in the ’30s and they still have a whole lot of them (48!) there now.

There were cats everywhere. There was a cat on Hemingway’s bed. There was a cat in Hemingway’s studio. There was even a cat hanging out in the ladies bathroom, which I presume was never Hemingway’s.

A brown, orange, and white cat sitting on a brick pathway surrounded by greenery.

Cats like this one. Hello, cat.

Fortunately, I do have a lot of cats, so maybe that great book is in me somewhere. We made a point of telling our tour guide that we used to have a polydactyl cat, as did every other person on the property who had ever owned, petted, or heard of a many-toed feline.

The tour guide was unimpressed with our cat story.

We wandered around some more and did more touristy things. We saw a lighthouse, so naturally we paid $10 each to climb to the top. Because why wouldn’t we pay good American money to climb 88 tiny, metal, spiral steps in billion-degree heat and humidity? At least the view was pretty.

We rewarded ourselves with more food, drinks, and Chester shenanigans.

Four photos: Chester sitting on a drink served in a pineapple, with paper umbreallas and chunks of pineapples sticking out of it; Chester sitting with a shrimp tail on each hand; Chester drinking a margarita out of a straw, Chester on his back near a margarita.

There is nothing more absurd than Chester on a bender.

We had such a lovely day. Probably every half hour or so, Alex or I would say, “Wow! We could never do this if our kids were here!” We missed the hell out of our munchkins, but seriously, we would have walked five feet in the heat and Quinn would have fallen to the ground in agony, Jack would have taken off after one of the wild chickens, and Sam would have tried to micromanage his brothers until a fist fight broke out in the streets.

We could have had a great trip with our kids, but, damn, it would have been different. We never get to just walk around and wander in and out of shops and attractions. We left the hotel that morning with no set plan. I cannot remember the last time we did that. It was so fun.

We ended our evening at a restaurant called Better Than Sex that only featured dessert, each dish served with a double entendre. It was hilarious and fun for us, especially when a mom, dad, and their two kids came in and read the menu. “Look, white and sticky,” the mom read off the drinks menu as the dad shot her a look. Alex and I ate our Jungle Fever and Cookie Nookie and giggled.

Alex and I had spent a lot of time on Tuesday debating whether we should go on a snorkeling boat trip. Our pros list included items such as, I bet it would be fun! and Fish are cool! and We might feel like bad tourists if we don’t at least touch the water! Our cons list mostly included one item: Goddamn, going snorkeling sure does seem like a lot of work.

It turns out that going snorkeling mostly involved putting on a swimsuit and paying $39 each to get a boat ticket, so that is what we did on Wednesday.

First though, we had to eat a lot of food, wander through a bunch of shops, and visit the Key West aquarium where I took this awesome photo.

Photo of Alex looking into an iguana enclosure with his hands hooked into the wires. There is an iguana to his left looking out of the enclosure with his feet hooked into the wire. Their poses mirror each other.

The greatest thing is that even though Alex is totally mirroring the iguana to his left, he didn’t even see that guy until I pointed him out.

We were going on an afternoon snorkel trip, so we headed out at about 3:30 on a boat headed to a reef.

Selfie of Alex and me. I'm wearing my hat.

Who is that rocking the awesome sun hat?

In case you haven’t figured this out about me yet, I like to take photos. So, after we had checked in for our boat ride, I took a special interest in the disposable waterproof cameras at the shop next door. The only problem was that they used, ugh, you know, actual film, which involves something like thirty steps to actually develop, look at, and share, leading me to believe that I would never actually successfully utilize those photos. Thinking this way led me to shift my gaze six inches to the left where the shop was selling $20 waterproof cases for iPhones.

What could be the harm in putting an extremely expensive piece of electronic equipment in an untested plastic bag and tossing it into the ocean?

No harm! I decided.

Happily, not only did the case work perfectly, but it helped me capture such important and flattering memories such as this one:

Selfie of Alex and I wearing our snorkel masks and breathing thingies. Alex's eyes are closed and my forehead is wrinkled and I look extremely concerned.

YOU try to take a selfie while floating in the ocean with a tube in your mouth and a sheet of plastic over your face, why don’t you?

Happily, my very first test shot captured something better. I don’t even think I was aiming the camera when I took this one.

Photo of the boat silhouetted against the sky. The sun is centered exactly behind the mast of the boat.

It almost looks intentionally framed.

We spent about 45 minutes in the water looking at fish and swimming around the reef. I saw some sort of ray (stingray? manta ray? bat ray? who knows?), which was very cool. Alex swallowed some seawater, making him barf a little, and then he got to watch all the little yellow fish who came swarming up to eat it.

What? We are Team Stimey. Do you think no one threw up on this trip?

Our boat ride back coincided with both the sunset and a storm rolling in. Even the boat crew was impressed by the sky.

Photo of the sunset behind boats floating on the water. The setting sun is at the left of the photo with a big cloud bank piling up on the right.

If I actually knew how to take sunset photos, this one would have been amazing.

On Thursday, we were driving north out of the keys so we could visit the Everglades on Friday before we got on our plane home, but before we drove off-island, we tooled around a part of Key West we hadn’t explored before, including the southernmost point on the continental United States.

Alex and I standing on opposite sides of a large marker declaring us at the southernmost point in the continental United States. The ocean is behind us. Cuba is 90 miles away.

We also went to the southernmost gift shop. Where I bought a toothpick holder.

We visited a wildlife refuge, waded in the water a little bit, walked through the Key West AIDS Memorial, and checked out a botanical garden housed in an old Civil War fort.

We found the wildlife refuge because I was attracted by a cluster of wild chickens in a parking lot. Did I mention the wild chickens? There are wild chickens walking all over Key West. It is charming as hell. I kind of wish there were chickens everywhere. Although the cluster of chickens in the wildlife refuge parking lot were actually gathered around the corpse of one of their own. That is, I suppose, the downside of wild chicken herds.

Also seen at the wildlife refuge:

A bird stands outside an open door. There is a chalkboard on the door  that says, "Please knock. If you need help call xxx-xxx-xxxx."

Seems like kind of a dick move to ask the bird to call for help when he doesn’t even have a dialing finger.

It rained on and off Thursday morning, which was good timing for us. Not only were we not doing anything that required clear skies, but the rain turned the ocean all kinds of amazing colors.

Photo of a palm tree in front of the ocean, striped with different colors of blues, browns, and greens.

We won’t discuss the smell of the ocean and sea grass and what not.

On our way out of the keys, we stopped at a state park to eat the Cuban sandwiches we’d bought for lunch. Because we were there, we decided to take a swim in water that turned out to be SO nice and SO warm that we never wanted to leave.

Another selfie of Alex and Jean, this time in the ocean.

This is a photo of happy.

Friday morning we were scheduled for a trip to the Everglades before heading back to Ft. Lauderdale to catch our flight home. I had been to the Everglades briefly in 1998 and had always wanted to go back. We took a fan boat tour, learned a little bit about alligators, and saw some local wildlife (turtles! fish! alligators! dragonflies!). I still want to go back and see some more.

Photo of the Everglades. There is water with the sky mirrored in it separated by grass and a hummock with trees on it.

If you wonder why I still want to go back, just look at this photo.

There is something about the Everglades that I just really think is super appealing. Also, I got to hold a baby alligator named Snappy, and that was pretty cool.

Me holding a small alligator in my hands.

I was expressly instructed not to kiss the alligator, which was fortunate, as once he was in my hands, all I wanted to do was kiss him and snuggle him.

In the van on the way to our tour, we saw an alligator in a canal by the side of the road. It was upside down and kind of puffy looking. “It’s sunning itself!” said our tour guide.

I don’t think it was sunning itself.

We had woken up at the ungodly hour of seven-something (Can you imagine? Before 8? Waking up with an alarm clock?) to go on our Everglades tour, so naturally we requested a late checkout and took a nap before we checked out of our hotel and went the airport.

We had such a wonderful time. I think my mom is lucky we came home at all. Although, frankly, we did miss our kids. Our trip was the perfect amount and type of time away.

When Alex had originally suggested this trip, I did what I always do when someone suggests I leave my house, be it for an evening out or an extended trip away from home and responsibility: I internally panicked and then started listing reasons why it would be impossible to make it happen.

I’m so glad that this time I listened to Alex and to other people who were encouraging about my going. When we originally made the plans, we weren’t planning on buying a house. When we got on the plane, we had moved and were mere days away from putting our old house on the market. If ever there were a vacation where my lists of reasons I couldn’t leave home were valid, it was this one.

But we went. And it was so necessary. Having five days with no responsibilities was exactly what both Alex and I needed after all the stress we’d endured for the prior two months. Thanks to my mom for watching my kids in such a spectacular fashion and thanks to Alex for forcing me out of my comfort zone into a wonderful week that was sorely needed.

I’m a lucky girl.

Photo of Alex and Jean on their snorkel boat in front of the sunset.

Happy 15th anniversary, Alex! I love you!

I Think I’m Sick, But I Can’t Really Tell

I woke up on Saturday not feeling well. I had a really bad sore throat and was sniffly and sneezy. I was all, “Aleeexxxx, I’m siiiiiick!” but he countered with, “No, you have allergies.”

He spoke with such authority that I decided he was probably right.

See, with the exception of a few sneezes and sniffles last year, I’ve never had allergies, so I don’t have a lot of experience with them except to hear other people complain about them. I’ve always felt vaguely sorry for them, but, you know, it was never my problem, so I didn’t ask a lot of questions about headaches vs. ague-like symptoms and whatnot.

Suddenly, such questions are of huge interest  to me.

I have spent the last three days asking Alex if my symptoms are those of allergies or illness.

Me: “Is a headache a sign of allergies?”

Alex: “Sometimes.”

*hours later*

Me: “Is fatigue a sign of allergies?”

Alex: “Sometimes.”

*hours later*

Me: “Are body aches a sign of allergies?”

Alex: “Sometimes.”

*hours later*

Me: “Are chills a sign of allergies?”

Alex: “Sometimes.”

At some point I started to suspect that Alex was just trying to convince me that I wasn’t sick so I couldn’t complain.

Joke’s on him. I complained anyway.

So anyway, I’m either dying of the common cold or I’m dying of allergies. I feel a little bit as if you all could help me (a) with a confirmation that I have a cold so I know it will go away in a few days, or (b) tell me how to make my allergy symptoms stop.

Make this go away. Please.*

* If you could make Alex wrong as you do so, that would be even better.

Call Me Sleepy, the Most Boring of the Dwarves

It turns out that if you shovel copious amounts of caffeine into your system for a period of…decades, your sleep system and levels of tiredness get all sorts of fucked up. And, it seems, the only way to make it even wackier is to quit said caffeine totally cold turkey.

If, in the past decade or so, you have asked me, “How are you?” chances are that I said one of the following:

• “Tired.”

• “Good. But tired.”

• “Hanging in there. Tired. You know.”

• *bursts into tears and runs away*

My dominant fucking emotion is tired.

For a long time I have assumed that all the caffeine I drank made me paradoxically more tired because I am sure it interrupted my sleep cycle and kept me up too late and all sorts of vaguely bad things that I attribute to caffeine.

I also attribute some of my sleepiness to having to share a bed with a man who fucking insists on breathing no matter how often I kick him in the shins and tell him to shut up already. Seriously. All night, every night. Sometimes he snores too.

Since quitting caffeine, however—day nine! can I get a what what!—I spent several days waking up with eyes crawling with sleepiness and the desire to take at least one three-hour nap every day, often beginning at 8:38 am after my last kid gets on his bus.

(Is it a nap if you take it that early or does that count as a less slothful sounding “going back to bed”?)

Problematically, taking long naps during the day makes it harder to go to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night. This is a problem because bedtime is like a race to go to sleep for Alex and me. Well, it’s kind of a one-sided race that Alex doesn’t know or care about. I always want to fall asleep first because that way breathing/snores have to wake me up to bother me instead of keeping me from falling asleep/making me want to murder Alex while he slumbers.

Alex has a job though, so Alex doesn’t nap, so Alex falls asleep almost immediately. Not to mention that lying in bed trying to force your mind to fall asleep will make your mind do almost anything except fall asleep.

I used to set my white noise machine on foghorn at top volume and put it right next to my head to drown out the sounds of quiet breathing. It’s a serious problem.

All of this is to say that I’m tired. And I am tired of being tired. And Alex is tired of being kicked in the shins.

Today is the first day in a long time that I not only haven’t taken a nap, but haven’t felt as if I’ll die without a nap. I sure do hope this is a sign of things to come because, frankly, if ditching caffeine doesn’t make me less tired, methamphetamine use is my next option. Fingers crossed!

Reach the Beach and Why I Hate Past Stimey

About a year ago, Past Stimey’s friend asked her if she wanted to run a 200-mile, 12-person relay race in New Hampshire in September of 2013. Past Stimey thought that sounded like a blast and after all, Past Stimey didn’t really have to worry about actually racing in said relay race (Reach the Beach) because that was Future Stimey’s problem.

Past Stimey can go fuck herself. This comes straight from Present Stimey, who has to run this motherfucking race THIS COMING FRIDAY AND SATURDAY.

Here is how the race works: It is 200(ish) miles. There are a bunch of us on our team. There are 36 legs of varying lengths and intensities. Each of us runs 3 or 4 legs. I will, over the course of 30-something hours, run three legs of almost 7 miles each.

I am freaking out.

I am in an all-day, every-day, full-body panic.

I mean, I’m going for one last run Wednesday, before I fly up to New Hampshire on Thursday, so there is still time for me to sprain an ankle or get hit by a car or something.

As George Costanza said, wishing his fiancée would get in a plane crash before he had to marry her: “It’s something. It’s hope.”

At least I have a buddy.

He's wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.

He’s wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.

You guys. I for reals want to cry or throw up every time I think about it. I know neither of those things are all that much out of character, but it’s still kind of a bummer.

Here’s the thing: I can run the miles. I know I can do that. As far as putting one foot in front of the other, that will happen.

However, there are a number of other things that Past Stimey didn’t consider when she so flippantly agreed to take part in this race. I could list all of these things, but it mostly just comes down to my issues with socializing, with needing downtime, with worrying about letting my teammates down because I am so goddamn slooooow, about being autistic in a little van with a slew of other people and a plethora of what are sure to be interesting smells, about body image issues in a field of fit runners, about (my) control issues, about not knowing what to expect, about…

Well. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I would probably be less stressed if I were supposed to run a marathon this weekend (something I am nowhere near ready to do), because at least if I were doing that, I wouldn’t have eleven other people counting on me. I am not, how you say—a team player. In fact, I have spent most of my life avoiding team situations. I’m really mad that Past Stimey forgot that about us.

Here’s something else though: I know this is going to be good. It is going to be so fucking good. My teammates are good people. My team doesn’t care when we finish, we just care that we finish. I have been mentally preparing myself to put my head down and push through the lack of down time and my social issues, knowing that I can come home and decompress.

I know that this race and the people I do it with are going to be one of my favorite memories. I know that I will come home on Sunday wanting to race again next year. I know all of these things, but that doesn’t stop my anticipatory anxiety.

I have to walk through this anxiety to get to the good part.

Near Future Stimey is going to be really happy. Near Future Stimey is going to have an adventure and a ton of fun this weekend. Near Future Stimey is going to have a million stories.

Present Stimey, however, is going to panic. That’s just the way it is. I know it is going to be great. I really do. Still, if I make it to the start line without puking, it will be a minor miracle.

Humor me, tell me I’m going to be awesome, share a great running song, and make me laugh with a suggestion for a race hashtag? Wish me luck, okay?

photo-2Keep track of my teammates and me on Facebook and Twitter.

The Five Stages of Grief as it Pertains to Luggage Loss

Something terrible happened to me on my way to BlogHer. Southwest Airlines lost my suitcase, something that had never happened to me before. It was extremely devastating to me and threw me off kilter for a solid day and a half, maybe more.

I imagine that it was less traumatizing for Southwest.

Upon realizing that I had arrived in Chicago but my luggage had not, my first instinct was to cancel all my conference plans and immediately board a plane back to DC where I could live in the sweatpants and t-shirts that live in my drawers and were not en route to some undisclosed location.

I spent a chunk of time shuffling back and forth in one place going over the pros and cons of the run-home plan before I began to work my way through the five stages of grief.

The five stages of grief is the common term for the Kübler-Ross model stating that when faced with the reality of an extreme, awful fate, an individual will experience a series of emotional states: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

In case you aren’t familiar with Ms. Kübler-Ross’ work, I will walk you through a simple (extreme, awful) example prior to describing the luggage debacle.

Let’s say your two male gerbils have babies. Let’s go with that extreme, awful example.

Denial: Two boys can’t have babies. Two boys can’t have babies. Two boys can’t have babies. Two boys can’t have babies. Overwhelming visual evidence be dammed.

Anger: The pet store sold me a boy and a girl but told me they were two boys. I should firebomb the pet store, but instead of throwing Molotov cocktails, I will lob hamster balls full of infant gerbils.

Bargaining: If the mother gerbil doesn’t have any more babies, I promise to never put an embarrassing hat on a gerbil again. I’m sorry, gerbil gods. I’m sooooorry.

Depression: I am going to end up with eighty thousand baby gerbils.

Acceptance: I am going to end up with eighty thousand baby gerbils.

Are you clear on the five stages now? Good. Let’s discuss these five stages as they apply to arriving in Chicago for a blogging conference with no clothes but for those on your back and no toothbrush but for those on sale at Walgreen’s.

Denial: Huh, I am the only person standing here at this baggage claim carousel. I’m sure that just means that I’m early. Or late. Don’t worry, Stimey, your bag is going to come. That one suitcase sadly traveling around the carousel wasn’t mine last time it went around, but maybe this time I will be. I should check the luggage tag again. My suitcase isn’t lost. That would be absurd. Airlines specialize in getting luggage to where it is supposed to go. My luggage isn’t lost.

Anger:  My luggage is lost. What’s that, baggage claim lady? You don’t track the luggage? You won’t know where it is until you find it in the wrong place? You have no idea where the suitcase is or how long it will take to get to Chicago? You will deliver my suitcase to my hotel when you find it MAYBE tonight? Look, baggage claim lady, I know you didn’t personally send my luggage to American Samoa or wherever it ended up, but you are making it really hard to not yell at you right now.

The great thing about the Anger stop on the Kübler-Ross scale is that you don’t have to choose just one target. Nor do you have to be rational about it. After Alex was less than supportive about my great loss (i.e. he did not teleport to Chicago to FIND MY LUGGAGE FOR ME FIND IT NOW I CAN’T GO TO BLOGHER WITHOUT MY LUGGAGE FIND IT FIND IT FIND IT FIND IT NOW!), I turned my rage on him in a series of passive aggressive long pauses between hostile texts. It’s an art.

Bargaining: If my suitcase arrives before I go to sleep, I will never ever roll my eyes dramatically when an airline wants to charge me $12 for a small packet of peanuts and two ounces of vodka. Okay. I will still roll my eyes, but I do promise to always give my trash to the flight attendant when she walks through the cabin before landing instead of stuffing it into the seat pocket in front of me. And I promise to stop stealing barf bags and ripping out photos of dogs that look like my dog from the in-flight magazine.

Depression: This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Everything is gray. They will never find my bag. ALL of my cute clothes were in there. My running shoes were in there. I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO RUN AGAIN. I am sure going to miss my favorite hair brush. I WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO BRUSH MY HAIR AGAIN. Whhhhyyyy does everything bad always happen to meeeeeeee?

Acceptance: It is 10pm. Not only is my luggage not at the hotel, but the people at the airline still don’t even know where it is. My luggage is not coming. I will go to the Walgreen’s down the street from my hotel to buy toothpaste, underwear, a new hairbrush (sob!), deodorant, and boxer shorts to sleep in. I will also think that I bought a toothbrush, but will actually not have done so, leaving me to brush my teeth by scrubbing them with a washcloth smeared with toothpaste. I am prepared to wear the same purple shirt and old jeans for the next four days. It will not be okay, but it is happening.

And that’s how you deal with luggage loss.

You will be pleased to know that I was woken at 1 am with a phone call from the airline that woke both me and my roommate from deep sleeps. The woman on the phone told me that my suitcase would be delivered sometime between 1 and 5 am.

“Do I have to be in the lobby to get it?” I asked.

And then the woman laughed at me. “No,” she said. “Go back to sleep. We’ll leave it with the front desk.” Then she laughed some more, no doubt imagining me in my boxer shorts and washcloth-scrubbed teeth sitting forlornly in the lobby at four in the morning.

The airlines taught me a valuable lesson that day. They taught me that I should avoid checking my luggage at all costs. They taught me that if I do have to check my luggage, that I should put my favorite hairbrush, pajamas, and one change of clothes in my carry-on bag. Also, if you have to re-buy your toiletries, double check that a toothbrush makes it into your shopping bag.

That is the lesson the airlines taught me. The lesson I learned is that the airlines lost my suitcase once, which obviously means that I’ve paid my dues and that it will never get lost again, so I should start packing my valuables in checked luggage all the time. It’s how probability works, people.

Sometimes It’s the Little Things—the Shallow, Ridiculous, Little Things

Can we talk about my hair for a minute? Because I really need to talk about my hair.

Growing up, I had very straight hair. My hair was SO straight, in fact, that when I tried to perm it (as every dumb young teen born in the ’70s did), it never held the curl very well. My hair had a hard time holding braids or curl from curling irons. My hair wouldn’t cooperate with teasing to make my bangs stick up (as every dumb young teen born in the ’70s did) nor would they “train” to sweep to one side or the other.

My hair was straight. Straight, straight, straight.

Then I had kids.

With every child—or maybe it was just every year—my hair seemed to get curlier.

See? Curly.

See? Curly.

It’s hard to tell in these not-so-flattering-or-high-quality photographs, but very few people actually take photos of me, so they’re the best I could do. If someone had a photo of the back of my head, you would agree that my hair fell somewhere between very wavy and lightly curly.

I was mad as hell about it too. I had finally seen the joy of straight hair and I was distraught that it had been taken from me. It is the single thing that I am angriest at my kids about. And they’ve broken a lot of my stuff, so that’s saying something.

I inquired at hair salons over the years about various straightening techniques, but no one seemed to think it would work on my hair or the techniques cost $500 and lasted for three months, which was a higher percentage of my family’s yearly income than I was willing to spend on my hair.

I tried to embrace the curls.

Embracing said curls would have been easier had I had better curls. A mix between very wavy and lightly curly isn’t awesome, especially when the hair at the very front of my head, which would probably be my bangs if I had them, was actually mostly straight. (Which is similar to “mostly dead,” but worse.)

I got to thinking about hair straightening again last fall when a friend of mine was posting on Facebook whilst getting a Japanese hair straightening treatment. This is something that she regularly has done. I have seen her hair and it is really pretty. Naturally, I was intrigued.

In addition to re-piquing my interest, she had a guy. This guy would do the straightening for $300 and claimed that it lasted six months.

I did some quick calculations in my head and determined that if I eliminated things like the vegetables I put in front of my kids and then threw away, I would feel comfortable spending $600 annually so that I could feel content about the state of my head again.

I had to drive to Virginia the day after the last presidential election (I remember, because most of the people who wandered through that shop—which was basically a strip mall barber shop but for the amazing guy working on me—were NOT pleased with the election results), but it was worth it. My hair was soft. My hair was beautiful. My hair was straight.

I spent the next several days executing dramatic hair flips whenever possible.

I also spent the next several days not washing my hair or putting it in a ponytail, which made the hair flips less pleasant than they could have been, but MY HAIR WAS STRAIGHT SO WHO CARES?

The first time I washed it, I was afraid that the curls would spring back. The first time I put it in a ponytail, I worried that I would be left with a permanent ponytail elastic bump. After three months, I started to look for signs of returning waves.

Every time, my hair stayed straight.

Eventually six months passed and my hair was still straight. I thought about making an appointment for a touch-up, but that seemed absurd, considering that MY HAIR WAS STRAIGHT.

Through all of this, my hair was getting longer and longer. When I got it cut a couple of weeks ago, I was worried that the removal of the weight of all the hair that I left at the salon would allow latent curls to spring back up.

(I was also worried that the change in my hair would alert my stylist to the fact that I’d cheated on her, but when you only show up every 9-12 months, evidently stylists don’t remember your hair texture.)

You guys. It has been eight months—NovemberDecemberJanuaryFebruary MarchAprilMayJune—eight solid months.

This was my hair this afternoon after I washed it, wet-combed it, and let it air dry:

All the worry about my hair has ironically given me gray hair.

Ironically, all the worry about my hair has given me gray hair.*

People. My hair has been scared straight.

I have no idea what kind of voodoo that guy in Virginia did to my hair follicles, but they produce straight hair now. For all I know, there is a painting of me hanging in an attic over that hair salon and its hair curls more every day. I don’t care.

I know that one day I will wake up and some terrible hair tragedy will have befallen me (Perma-frizz? Curly roots? A comb-over? Bangs?) but that’s cool. Because it will have been worth it.

Also, I completely accept my shallowness (shallowosity?) in re: the hair issue. That’s okay. Sometimes it’s okay to be shallow.

* That is a lie. I have had that streak of gray hair since 1997. Lucky me.

Edited to add: This is the guy: http://www.yelp.com/biz/japanese-hair-straightening-salon-fairfax-3 His name is Jian. He is my favorite person.