Thursday, May 25, 2017

In the Pink. Ish.

To be honest I'm not always a fan of pink. Of course, I love pink spring blossoms like the ones on our flowering crabapple tree below. I almost missed the blossoms this year because both this tree, and our other apple trees, bloomed while I was away down east. So, yeah, I love pink apple blossoms. And pink tulips; I love pink tulips. And hyacinths. And lilacs.

Pink spring blossoms on our flowering crabapple tree.
Our old flowering crabapple tree
But pink on me... as in true pink, pale pink, blush, or coral... blouses, scarves, or sweaters... not so much. It's because of my colouring. I have my grandmother's redhead complexion, without the red hair. I always thought I should look good in peaches, and soft pinks, but I just never did. Then I was told years ago by my hair stylist at the time that my colouring was that of a "cool redhead." Meaning that the undertones in my skin are cool, blue-y tones. As opposed to warm, peachy tones. Huh. That made perfect sense. And explained why the new lovely, peachy sweater I had bought looked dreadful on me when I got it home, while my old burgundy sweatshirt made me feel like a million bucks. So I guess I can say that I don't necessarily feel in the pink, when I'm in pink. But pink-ish. That I can do. As long as it's a pink-ish with a blue-y undertone. Like this summer sweater from Vince that I bought a few weeks ago. 

close-up woman in a lilac sweater
Love my new pink-ish sweater
I was looking for a sweater to go with my new black and white striped skirt. And I found this lilac (or is it violet?) cashmere crewneck pullover at Nordstrom. I love, love the colour. Especially with the black and white stripe. I can wear it over a short-sleeve black tee. Or just drape it around my shoulders, like this. 

woman in striped midi-skirt, black flats, and tee shirt with pink sweater over her shoulders

The colour is lovely. And the shape is... well... perfect. Perfect to wear with this skirt. Loose enough to cover upper body lumps and bumps, without being too slouchy. Boxy enough that it skims my hips, but narrow enough that it doesn't add bulk, or make me look bigger than I am. Sigh. The exact cut I was hoping to find when I began my journey to move on style-wise. Don't you love it when that happens? 

woman in striped midi-skirt, pink sweater, and black flats, holding arms up in the air        woman in striped midi-skirt, pink sweater, and black flats, looking over one shoulder

I should mention that I tried it with the black tee shirt initially, but after a few minutes the sweater began to feel too bulky with the shirt under it. And I find I prefer the sweater on its own. The cashmere is really light. And soft. And not at all itchy. I checked out the Vince sweaters on-line at Nordstrom, and this one is 40% off. So, if you're inclined to shop, here's the link. I was kind of appalled at the way Nordstrom has the sweater styled on its website. I'd never have bought it if I hadn't seen it in real life. Mine is a size small by the way. And I am most definitely NOT a size small, so beware. 

woman in striped mid-skirt, pink sweater, and black flats, with her hands in her pockets
Hands in my pockets, feeling soooo comfortable in this outfit.
After my mini-fashion show, yesterday, I was heading out to do some shopping. Not clothes shopping, I should add... I have spent my limit for spring. Just errand running. And since I would be in and out of the car a lot, I thought pants would be a better choice than my skirt. I like these black Rag and Bone cropped pants with my new pink-ish sweater. It's the high waist that clinches the deal, I think. And despite not liking the black tee under the sweater, I still wanted a touch of black around the neck. So I opted for my black racer-back sports bra. Now, I don't normally use my bra straps to accessorize. Ha. But... in this case... I thought the glimpse of black strap looked kind of good. Now, a word about these black, suede Paul Green flats. I can tell already that they are going to get out and about a lot this summer. If I can just figure out how to keep the black laces from dying my ankles black. Anyone have any ideas about that?

woman in black pants, pink sweater, black flats and grey tote bag.    woman in black pants, pink sweater, black flats and grey tote bag.

So, off I went yesterday. Most definitely feeling in the pink, as well as being in pink. Or pink-ish. Or lilac, if you prefer. I'd been looking everywhere for blooming lilac trees for days, whenever I was out driving around, to no avail. Then on my way home... I drove past this lovely lane of lilac trees. Just the perfect colour to match my new perfect sweater. Huh. A serendipitous day all around. 

Lane of lilac trees.
This lovely lane of lilacs is just up the road from us.
And speaking of serendipitous, Hubby just came into the den to tell me that it was a very good thing I got all my blossom shots when I did. Because they are long gone now. And sure enough when I looked out my window, I saw that the lashing rain and strong winds had made quick work of most of the remaining apple blossoms. But the pink tulips are hanging in there. 

I love tulips. Especially pink ones. So that's one good thing about a cool spring, folks. More time to look at the tulips. Even if we're not tiptoeing through them. Ha. Anyone else remember Tiny Tim? Gad. Now I'm going to have that song and his warbling voice in my head for the rest of the day. 

By  the way... that link to Nordstrom is simply information from me to you. Nordstrom is not part of the deal. I shop there because I find what I like there. And because my friend Liz works there. Not because they provide me with remuneration. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

So, how about you my friends? What are your views on pink. Or pink-ish? Does wearing it make you feel "in the pink?" Any colours that you can't abide? 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Sleep Deprived

I'm feeling a bit loopy today, my first day back home from New Brunswick. Probably because I slept for almost twelve hours last night. Combined with the two-hour nap I had when we first arrived home from the airport, that makes for a whole lot of sleep in the past 24 hours. All that shut-eye was the result of my body not being happy with a virtually sleepless night, followed by a second night with three hours sleep since I had to leave for the airport before dawn to catch my early morning flight home.

Yes, I know, compared to the sleep schedule of some of you, that's nothing. I know. Busy people are sleep deprived. I know. It's just accepted as a part of our modern 24/7 world. People have work, and worries, and sometimes physical pain, and way too many episodes of whatever on Netflix to keep them awake. Not to mention those of you who are parents of small children; you deserve a category of sleep deprivation all your own. 

I understand that many, many people have trouble getting enough sleep. Much more trouble than I have. It's just that I've never operated well on too little sleep. Even when I was young and supposedly invincible, and cramming for exams, or pulling an all-nighter to finish a university paper, or simply staying out on the town until all hours. Or later when worries about work, reliving a stressful day, or going over and over a confrontation with a student or a parent kept me awake to the wee hours, a sleep deprived night was almost always followed by an early-to-bed night and, when possible, a late-to-rise morning. I have always been unable to function on too little sleep. I'm not sure what kind of a disastrous mother I would have made, considering the impact of parenthood on parental sleep schedules. Or how I would have been able to manage a teaching career with small children at home. Probably not well. 

Man and cat napping together.
Hubby and Doc having a well-deserved afternoon nap. 1986
We all know the effects that sleep deprivation can have on us. Without sleep our immune system becomes depressed, and we are more susceptible to colds and flu. With too little sleep our body has less chance of fighting off disease, and is less able to help us get well again. When we are sleep deprived we are more at risk of developing any number of health issues like cardiovascular disease. Harvard Medical School says that "one night without adequate sleep can elevate one's blood pressure" for the entire next day. Sleep is the time when our body repairs damage caused by our daily activities, and our brain rests. And too little of it affects our motor skills, our emotions, memory, mood, decision making, and impulse control. 

Sleep and the lack of it has been linked to weight gain and obesity. This article on the Harvard Medical School website explains why. Apparently sleep deprivation causes elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. As well, it lowers the level of leptin, a hormone which tells our brain we've had enough to eat, and raises levels of a biochemical called ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant. According to the article, this leaves us craving more food when we've actually had enough, and "feeling too tired to burn off extra calories with exercise." And on top of that, sleep deprivation leads to increased levels of insulin, promoting fat storage, and making us more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact the article on the Harvard website concludes that getting fewer than five hours of sleep per night can increase our "mortality risk from all causes by about 15%."

Gad. So why, oh why, when we know all this, or should know all this, do we still not get enough sleep?

man sleeping
Definitely not sleepless in Lima.
One thing that the Harvard Medical School article mentions is that despite all the studies, and all the information that is available about the importance of sufficient sleep, many people who have sleep difficulties never mention this fact to their doctors. And, even more worrying, many doctors never ask. 

Is this because so many of us just accept that lack of sleep is a normal part of adult life?  Aside from those of us who can't get enough sleep due to illness, anxiety, or crying babies, factors we often can't control... do the rest of us still see sleeplessness as something that proves we are busy, busy people. And that living the dream, getting ahead, climbing the corporate ladder necessarily involves being sleep deprived? Do we still connect too little sleep with success? Seriously? 

Media mogul Arianna Huffington seems to think so. I heard her interviewed a few months ago about her book The Sleep Revolution, and then yesterday I listened to this Ted Talk where she says that getting enough sleep is the way to get ahead. I'm not sure I agree with everything she espouses, especially when she seems to link the idea of "sleep deprivation one-upmanship" with gender, implying that it's mostly men who brag about how little they sleep. But since she is speaking at a women's conference I guess she felt she had to spin her idea that way. Still she has a good point about how society seems to value those who deprive themselves of sleep. And paint those of us who go to bed early, or rise later, as lacking initiative, drive, or ambition. We all know what happens to Macbeth when he lets ambition take over his life, right? He doesn't sleep, can't sleep, in fact. Shakespeare knew a thing or two about life when he wrote in Act II, Scene II of Macbeth that sleep "knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care." And poor Macbeth, with his fear, guilt, and lack of sleep, becomes unravelled that's for sure. 

I had plenty of ambition and initiative when I worked. I worked hard. Four nights a week I'd be at my desk marking for a couple of hours, and one day on the weekend would find me reading, researching and prepping for my classes. I was at school from 8:30 until 5:30 most days. Except those when I had 7:30 AM meetings, or after school parent-teacher interviews. I put in at least 50 hours a week during term time. But I never marked past 9:00 in the evening, making sure I had at least an hour to spend with Hubby before bed. And I had to be in bed by ten if I wanted to be up by 6:00 to make those 7:30 meetings. I usually slept late on Saturdays and Sundays. So... no 80 hour work weeks for me. No marking until midnight, except during exams when papers needed to be graded and final marks calculated in a very short turn around time. I worked hard, but I knew my limits. And then I retired. 

I vowed that when I retired I would wake when my body said I should. These days, six in the morning is my favourite time. The time when, out of habit, I wake up, glance at the clock, sigh, and roll over, until 8:30. I love it when I realize I don't have to get up. I'll never understand how society sees early risers as more virtuous than us non-early morning people. And I wonder if that attitude is not the same attitude that has people thinking that sleep deprivation is a competitive sport. 

Funnily enough part of Huffington's new ethos is that people who get enough sleep are more productive, and make better leaders because, being well rested and on their game, they make better decisions. And more importantly, to me anyway, getting enough sleep is the key to staying well. And being able to have the kind of retirement I want. Not a busy, busy, I'm so busy, kind of retirement. But one where I'm as busy as I want to be. Doing things I love like blogging, and reading. Staying active, making fitness a priority, and finding time, and being fit enough and well enough, for those things that improve our quality of life and for which we'd planned, like travel. 

But it's not all smooth sailing sleep-wise in retirement. As we age getting enough sleep can present new challenges. The National Sleep Foundation website says the idea that we need less sleep as we age is a misconception. We still need the same quantity of sleep as we did when we were younger. But aging means our circadian rhythms are changing, and we may find it harder to fall asleep and harder to stay asleep. As we age we may need to adopt new habits, or techniques, to enable us to get sufficient sleep. And that includes, in my opinion, not just shrugging off sleep deprivation as a necessary part of a modern, busy life.  

Woman sleeping on bus,oblivious to beautiful mountains and plain out the window
After four very early mornings even the beautiful Peruvian countryside could not keep me awake
Ah well... that's easy for me to say, eh? The odd night of worry or anxiety aside, as an adult, I've never really had many problems falling asleep. I can fall asleep most anywhere. In cars or canoes. On buses or planes... in pretty much any moving vehicle which I'm not driving... or paddling. When we head out for the long drive down east, Hubby says that sometimes he feels as if he's driving all by himself. I can usually stay awake long enough to help him navigate through Montreal, two hours from here... but after that... my head lolls, my eyelids droop, and I'm down for the count. And, on our recent trip to South America, even the beautiful scenery in Peru couldn't keep me awake after four very early mornings in a row. 

Sigh. I guess I'm just a girl who can't say no to sleep when I need it. 

Most of the time, anyway.

So, how about you folks? Do you have a fraught relationship with sleep? How has sleep deprivation affected your life?

Linking up with:  Saturday Share over at Not Dressed as Lamb and Thursday Favourite Things at Katherine's Corner.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hair Management: Learning to Live With Wilful Locks

You know, sometimes when life gets very serious, it's good to stop and stress about something not so serious. Like hair. Wilful, mind of its own, totally misbehaving, unmanageable hair. Like mine. Because as you are no doubt aware, if you stop by here regularly, I do like to stress and obsess about my hair. I seem to write a hair story every few months, starting way back in the spring of 2014 when I first started writing the blog. 

In that post I mention how the writer Natalie Goldberg, in her book Writing Down the Bones, says that if you are casting about for daily writing topics, and nothing springs to mind, "write a hair story." And when I was still teaching, each semester I would suggest "a hair story" as a journal topic. I was always surprised by the clever, funny pieces the students produced. Especially the story written by Jenny (lovely, quiet Jenny, with the long red curls) who felt unable to live up to the fiery personality her hair seemed to promise. Perhaps Jenny thinks she should have been born a cool brunette. With a sleek pageboy cut. Like Donna Parker.

Donna Parker cover art picturing girl with pageboy style hair 
                        I'm sure my hair aspirations harken back to my sister's copy of this Donna Parker book

Sigh. I know just how you feel, Jenny. I so wanted to be Donna Parker. Or Honey Wheeler from the Trixie Belden books. I longed for shiny, frizz-free, sophisticated, manageable hair. I even did my darnedest to have that sleek pageboy for a while when I was fifteen. Now that was a labour intensive look. Especially in the era before good blow-dryers, or straightening irons, or "product" that wasn't Dippity-do. Anyone else remember that sticky, gooey gel that we used to smear on the ends of our hair? At times I resorted to using Mum's hair spray. And not with entirely successful results. See below. Ha. Poor me. What a mop of hair I had.

Curly page boy hair at age 16 
Age 15, Donna Parker wanna be

By the time I was in university, and the seventies were in full swing, I let my curls have their way. And, as you can see from my university I.D. photo below, sported a full on Afro. More or less. My curls were not entirely reliable. Some bits curled more than others, some bits just frizzed. Some bits decided to lay flat and needed major encouragement. This look required washing every day because sleeping on an Afro meant I looked like a free-form hair sculpture come morning. And then there was the fluffing, and the waiting, and more fluffing. Makes me smile to look at my hair in 1975. It's very... uh... round... isn't it? 

Afro hair at age 20 
Age 20, in my Afro phase

The shot below is what my hair looked like for most of the nineties. Short. Blonde-ish. Thick. And curling. Not actually curly, since I tried my hardest to make it go straight, wielding my round brush, and blow-dryer, and any number of hair products. But at some point in the day it would begin to curl and then slowly revert to its natural state. Makes me wonder why I just didn't give up and let it have its way. But although I had out grown my dreams of Donna Parker and Honey Wheeler pageboys, I now had visions of tousled, glossy, piece-y bangs, a la Linda Evangelista. This is my driver's licence photo from 1992. 

short curls in the 1990's 
Age 36, not looking like Linda Evangelista

Then, when I turned forty, I decided to make one last push for that sleek bob that had always eluded me. I grew my hair out, and suffered frustrating curls and whorls for months. Not to mention the comments from colleagues. 
Male Colleague (who shall remain nameless): "I see you are growing your hair, Susan." 
Me: "Yep." 
MC: "Do you want an honest opinion?" 
Me: "Nope." 
Then, when it was long enough, my hairdresser enacted a miracle, one that without myriad layers, "undercutting," "texturizing," and lots of product would not be possible. He gave me a smooth bob. And I was in raptures. Finally. This is my passport photo from 2000 below. I'd had my smooth bob for four years. And I had the arm muscles to prove it. One summer on vacation when Hubby was reading and I was getting ready for dinner, he commented on how many times I sighed and laid down my huge round brush and blowdryer. Then picked them up again and continued with the drying. It took forever; the top layers had to be pinned up so the bottom layers could be dried smooth, then the top bits often had to be dampened because they were dry by the time I got to them. Then everything had to be sprayed to keep the frizz down. Well, you get the idea. And on humid days, it still looked like it had when I was fifteen. That's when I began to resent my smooth bob. Big time. And then as I approached my mid-forties, I began to think the cut was aging. And that was that. 

smooth bob in 2000 
Age 44, and growing tired of this labour intensive bob

It's funny that I longed for a smooth bob for decades, but when, after four years, I cut it off and went back to short hair, I felt much more like me. As if maybe I'd been masquerading as a sleek-haired girl for all those years. Took me some time to settle into a cut I liked. And with a hairdresser I liked. Then I discovered flattening irons, and de-frizzing leave-in conditioners, and hair wax, and suddenly those tousled, piece-y bangs were achievable too. Maybe not Linda Evangelista worthy, but not bad. At least on low humidity days. 

And then last year I had an epiphany  And decided to try to let go of my hair management issues. I had my hair cut very short and eschewed the flattening iron, and the straightening conditioner, in favour letting my curls have a bit more freedom. Not full on, round headed, Afro-style curly. But wavy, letting my natural whoop-de-do flip in the front have more leeway. Some days. At least until it gets too long and I begin to develop Elvis hair. Then I step in with the round brush and the straightening iron. I'm trying to accept my curls, even if they are wilful and don't always behave. 

But this last week and a half at Mum's has been challenging. And I'm not talking about the family worries. I'm talking about my hair. You see, I had it cut very short again the day before I left to fly home. And what with the soft water at Mum's, which always makes my hair curly, and puffy, and the fact that I accidentally packed a bottle of my old Aveda smoothing/conditioning cream, which makes my hair really straight... my poor hair doesn't know whether it's coming or going. If I use the conditioner it goes too straight, and too soft and puffy. Sticking up on the crown like Rod Stewart's hair back in the day. If I don't use the conditioner it's puffy and frizzy. Sigh. Still, it's given me something else to worry about besides my brother. And my mum. 

Until today. Today was a good day, folks. My hair was looking pretty good. No embarrassing Rod Stewart tufts. Bit flyaway. But otherwise it behaved itself. And my mum and I spent the day shopping, something we haven't been able to do since I arrived. We crossed a ton of things off her list. We were able to do that because my sister arrived yesterday. And since she would be at the hospital, Mum felt good about taking a couple of days off.  And then this afternoon my sister texted me from the hospital with good news. They were going to get my brother up out of bed and into his wheelchair for the first time since his surgery in January. Woo hoo. So it's been a good hair day, a good news day. A good day all round. 

woman reading and waiting 
                                                                Ready for shopping, good hair and all

You know, I'm not sure I'll ever settle into a smooth, easy going relationship with my hair. It's too darned stubborn and wilful, and I'm too darned controlling and critical. I guess we need to learn to live with each other the way we are. 

Besides, my hair just wouldn't be my hair if it wasn't doing something it wasn't supposed to do. And I just wouldn't be me if I wasn't whining and obsessing about my hair. And it does give me something not so serious to worry about. 

Makes a change from the real serious stuff, don't you think? 

How about you, my friends? What's your hair management secret? Do you have a good relationship with your locks... wilful or otherwise? 

Linking up with Saturday Share Link-up over at  Not Dressed as Lamb