Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Continuing Beauty Challenge #1: Hair Color

Dear Friends,

I hope that you won’t consider this too self-indulgent, but I wanted to blend the more serious (like the reasons I read books) to something more personal and light-hearted. At my age, you might think that beauty challenges would be a thing of the past, especially if you’re mature enough to realize that outer beauty shouldn’t count for much. If, however, you were born in the south, as I was, or if you had a beautiful mother, which I did, or if you were observant enough to catch the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that beauty mattered, then you might have started (as I did) to do the best you could with what you had been given.

My Mother

Let me acknowledge that it’s a losing game (especially later in life) and congratulate those of you refused to play – you have my greatest admiration, or you were born so beautiful that you had already won.

The clues that I got that I wasn’t so blessed included an offhand remark about my clumsiness from my mother, frequent observations from my dad (at my early attempts at makeup) that I “looked like I dipped my face in a flour barrel”, questions from friends and strangers about the birthmark on my face, hearing that my little sister was a beautiful baby and little girl, and the suggestion from a boy in my class that I might want to read the ad in the back of a magazine that guaranteed breast enlargement. Let me say now (especially since I know that my sister will read this) that everything I’ve mentioned here is accurate and true (Susie was a beautiful baby and child and is still beautiful), but things like this have a way of staying with you.

I’ll also mention that I’ve had a few beauty triumphs along the way, too – something just clicked at one point and I started feeling better about myself and the way I looked. I’ll share some of those triumphs in a later posting.

Back to the hair color: I used to be a redhead. It’s hard to be a redhead in grade school, when children will pick out anything different about you for teasing purposes. I also used to get perms that left me looking like Little Orphan Annie, while my two best friends, Connie and Jackie, had long, wavy blond and brown hair.

By the time I reached college age, I had “grown into my hair color” and actually saw the advantage of being different. (I had also mastered makeup by that time, thanks to Merle Norman.) College years were fine for hair color and later, when the first gray hairs started coming in, it looked like my hair had been frosted! That was wonderful for about fifteen years – best hair color years of my life. I went to a high school class reunion and friends asked me when I went blond – I had done nothing to my hair color.

Then, about ten years ago, things started going downhill. The grays were overtaking the reds so I decided that color was in order. I started with “low lights”, which worked for a while, and then experimented with different colors to get a subtle effect without spending a fortune. I also tried coloring my own hair, but my husband suggested that I should go back to the beauty shop. (This wasn’t entirely a criticism of my efforts – he saw how frustrated I got trying to do it myself, to the point where I would put it off and then gripe about how it looked. Some of my friends have great success coloring their own hair, but I just don’t have that knack.)

Now I am trying to find the right color, single process (I am too cheap to pay $100 a month on my hair) that doesn’t look “flat” or dull and doesn’t fade. It has to look right (natural) with my pinkish skin that is also showing some wear.

One of my favorite people is my Aunt Sister (my dad’s sister), who will be 100 next Halloween. She had red hair, too, and has let hers fade into a beautiful soft, pinkish white color. I’m sure that I’ll do the same, eventually. Not yet, though. I’ll probably put that off for a few more years. If any of you have any suggestions or comments in the meantime, I would love to hear them!


Annie Joy

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why I Read Books: The Addiction I Embrace

I don’t (and never will) attend “Readers Anonymous” meetings. Reading is one addiction shared with enthusiasm and society’s stamp of approval. Studies have now proven that reading is one activity that can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and it is now understood that “too much reading” (an oxymoronic phrase?) won’t ruin your eyes. Those of us who are committed readers have found ways to combine reading with other activities, including exercise and travel (books on tape can substitute for page-turning when we’re driving or on the treadmill).

You will find that books and reading will be an important subject for my blog-posting, so I thought it only fair to write a bit about why I read and how I choose what to read. I understand that there are other reasons for reading than my own, but that’s an opening for a discussion, isn’t it? Here are my own reasons for reading books:

• Books are a great escape! They take me to another place or another time, sometimes offering me a needed break from my own.

• Books can provide me with a different perspective on my life and the lives of others. This can lead to greater self-knowledge and greater understanding of others’ values and beliefs.

• Reading books can be a wonderful incentive or reward. I can do almost anything for a given amount of time if I know that I can read when I finish.

• I want to be informed and many issues deserve more in-depth attention than TV, newspaper, or Internet coverage can offer. Books can provide the information I need to make good decisions in the marketplace, in the election booth, or in relationships.

• Books are an inexpensive form of entertainment, especially if I borrow them from the library. They can provide hours of relaxation or stimulation (depending on my mood) and can be passed on to a friend or family member for their enjoyment.

• Reading books can help keep me young! Recent research shows that lifelong learning can boost longevity. Zorba Paster, M.D., author of The Longevity Code, recommends reading for pleasure, reading to stay informed about the medical problems you have or are predisposed to, and reading for your job. Learning through reading can prepare us for many of the challenges and opportunities that aging presents.

• Reading books sets a good example! Jim Trelease points out the importance of children observing their parents reading for pleasure in his book, The Read-Aloud Handbook. And David Snowdon, Ph.D., author of Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier and More Meaningful Lives, says that parents have asked him what they can do for their children to build the brain density needed to offer protection about Alzheimer’s. His answer: “Read to your children.” More than playing Mozart to babies, buying them expensive teaching toys, prohibiting television, or getting them started early on the computer; reading to your children pays lifelong dividends. One of those dividends might be having a willing reader when you're unable to read for yourself!

These are just a few reasons I read books. My timer has just gone off and it’s time to get back to my book!  Bye for now,

Annie Joy

p.s.  You may be interested in reading the following books:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Friends

Recently, I took part in an exercise which asked, “What will you never be too old for; what things will you always enjoy?” Others in the group listed good food, laughter, and time spent with friends, family and pets. My own list added holidays, the changing of the seasons and receiving mail.

My mailbox usually contains bills, “junk mail” and other unsolicited items, but the possibility of a new magazine, a card, or a handwritten letter, takes me back to my childhood, when it was a privilege (requiring permission) to bring in the mail. The anticipation of something addressed to me was a daily version of Christmas and I developed a habit of sending off for free brochures and pamphlets, just for the pleasure of receiving them in the mail. I also enjoyed correspondence with pen pals from Australia and Japan and looked forward to the envelopes marked “par avion” and the tissue-thin paper of the letters they held.

The value I place on these items can be determined by their place in my collection of keepsakes. There is the card from one of my best friends, circa 1963, sent from Girls State and one from my boyfriend, sent from Boys State. There are encouraging letters from my parents, written after I left for college and letters from my son written when he was in the Navy.

My feelings of anticipation haven’t changed and I still look forward to the mail. The Internet offers online magazines, e-cards and e-mail, but nothing can replace a magazine that I can hold and read in my easy chair, a greeting card that might actually include a hand-written message, or a long letter written from a friend or relative.

A favorite book is The Gift of a Letter: Giving the Gift of Ourselves by Alexandra Stoddard in which she writes about the importance of letter writing. Written in 1990, the book credits the use of the telephone as one reason for the demise of correspondence. The addition of e-mail and social networking sites such as Facebook to our communication choices makes the handwritten letter even more rare and precious.

Somehow, I can’t imagine taking as much pleasure in saving printed copies of e-mail or Facebook postings, nor would I expect my grandchildren to understand their significance.

My goal, then, is to write the occasional letter (while continuing enjoying e-mail) to my friends and family. Whether or not my letters are seen as “gifts” will be for the receiver to determine. In any case, he or she may write a letter in return and I’ll enjoy receiving it by mail – one of those pleasures I’ll never outgrow.

Annie Joy

p.s.  You may enjoy the following books about letter writing:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

It seems appropriate that I begin my blog close to Valentine’s Day. It’s a day for cards and letters, a day of love and friendship. Some of my favorite memories involve Valentine’s Day at school, when the hand-decorated shoe boxes became depositories for sweet wishes from the multipacks that we had sorted through to find just the card for the special boy we liked or for our best friend. Of course, part of the fun was counting the valentines we received (understanding, of course, that everybody received the same number – thanks to the elementary school rule that nobody should be left out). There was always the scrutinizing of the signature of that special boy to see if any extra message was implied – could the big letters mean that he likes me as a girlfriend; could the smudge before his name be where he wrote “love” and then erased it??

Then came the years of Valentines Days with “real” boyfriends – boxes of chocolates, cards selected individually from the local drugstore – those romantic (and nervous) days when a valentine could mean something, or it could mean nothing.

Among the sweetest valentines are those from children and grandchildren; they remain treasured possessions as testimony of innocence and the love that crayon hearts and glued-on paper doilies can bring.

The bouquet pictured above was not sent to me for Valentine’s Day. My husband celebrated my retirement with me and these glorious flowers were sent to me on my last day at work. His words were “You only retire once and I wanted the arrangement to be very special.” And it was – looking beautiful and smelling heavenly from January into February. Once, years ago, our local newspaper invited readers to submit valentine stories about our spouses. Mine was short and simple: My heart had been bruised by the ending of my first marriage and I had some doubts about my good judgment is choosing a husband. What won me over was an observation about Tom – he was loving and kind to children, to animals, and to old people. Today, twenty-three years later, I know that my observation was true and my choice was right. He is truly my Valentine!

I hope that you have a wonderful day and celebrate all of the love in your life!

Annie Joy

p.s.  I love to use books to decorate.  The beautiful Valentine page above is from Winter Notebook by Carolyne Roehm.


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