Monday, December 31, 2012

Celebrity Makeover

Right before Christmas, I received a celebrity makeover. "Yay!" you're thinking. But no. Not "yay" at all.

I should be clear from the get-go that I hate getting my hair cut, which is why I only do it about twice a year when things get really unfortunate looking. I feel the same way about getting my haircut that I imagine many people feel about going to the dentist: uncertainty, fear, suspicion.

It usually starts off badly when the stylist begins with the dreaded question, "So what do you want to do this time?" a query which I find myself completely incapable of answering in a way that elicits any approximation of what I believe I've described, as if English words and phrases such as "take it in here" or "layers" or "lighten up" take on some coded meaning inside the hair salon, the cipher for which no one has ever bothered to teach me.*

Also, as a type-A person, I feel suspicious of any scenario in which I must release complete creative control to someone I don't know personally in a familial or lived-through-some-period-of-great-joy-or-trauma kind of way. The hairdresser's chair, as most women are likely aware, is the home of dangerous hierarchy: violate the unspoken code that her opinion is paramount and you may find yourself in a world of hurt.

My most recent beauty trauma started with a conversation that went something like this:

Me: So my hair grew out too much and now I need to get it cut.
HD: Great. So what are you wanting to do?
Me: Well, I'd like to get rid of this shaggy part in the back here where it looks like I just woke up all the time...
HD: Oh no, see I really like that part. It's just that it doesn't make sense with what's going on in the front. 
(This is where the wheels begin to fall off, because I'm not quite sure what about hair could make sense or not make sense. However, if forced, I would put sheep-like shag in the "doesn't make sense" category, which is what I was trying to say, but I don't want to appear completely ignorant or go against her opinion so I say...)
Me: Mmmhmmm....
HD:  See we could take this up a bit...
Me: Mmmmhmm....
HD: without losing too much length.
(They always seem to say this, "not losing too much length" even if you really are, some sort of beauty reverse psychology, I think.)
Me: Mmmmhmmmm...
(And then she goes in for the kill.....)
HD: Something like, you know, Jennifer Aniston.
 (Now, you show me a woman in this country that does not dream of looking like Jennifer Aniston and I'll show you a liar, which is why this is a really evil trick. Because I start thinking that I just might end up looking like Jennifer Aniston if I go with this "not too much length loss, leave the shag in the back" plan. And maybe it wouldn't matter that I would also have to lose about half my body weight, get daily spray tanning, plastic surgery and a make-up artist to make this possible. A new life suddenly seems possible. And so I say that which I will regret for the next 4-6 months:)
Me: Um. Okay.

And the snipping begins. And I am fantasizing about my new look and how it will probably change everything about my life, when I realize something totally inexplicable and somewhat terrifying is happening with the scissors that doesn't seem right, even to me, the hairdo-know-nothing. I try to keep my fear in check and say nothing, as the snipping continues, but I can feel the panic rising in my throat. I try to go back to picturing my new life as Jennifer Aniston Doppleganger when, all of the sudden in a flash, it comes to me: we're talking about two different Jennifer Anistons. The stylist was imagining the Friends, innocent-looking, pre-Brad Pitt, 90s version Jennifer Aniston, back when she was still Rachel Green:

who of course was still very beautiful, if not quite as hot as the angry-sexy-post-Brad-breakup-woman-in-her-40s that she is today. If I had known this was in the stylist's mind, however, I would have warned her that I do not have the same type of hair texture as the 90s Jennifer had. What I do happen to have is thick, puffy hair and incredibly strange sideburns that pouf out, making even this late 90s do an impossibility. But it was too late to turn back. So I waited and watched, and tried not to scream or cry or in any other way let on my despair.

When all was said and done, I did get a celebrity haircut. Unfortunately, it did not resemble Jennifer Aniston of any era, but instead ended as a close approximation of a do made popular by another 80s/90s star:
Yes. My haircut was and is a precise imitation of Jon Bon Jovi. Just look at the photos and see how easy this mistake could be. In answer to your lingering questions, no, I am not kidding. and yes I was filled with shame and fled the salon afterward and cried all the way home, vowing that I would never cut my hair again, and hoping that the sweeping bangs which look so good on this rocker but rather silly on me, will grow back soon enough.

Until then, I think it's hairbands, hats, and the avoidance of US Weekly for a while. Why, oh why do I get douped every time?!

*I tend to have this same sensation whenever I go wine tasting where the use of phrases such as "chewy" and "fruity in the nose" and "full-bodied" are mostly meaningless to me and give me the giggles.

Beach Rules

Mr. L and I just returned from a very-much-needed-post-Advent/Christmas vacation at the Oregon coast. My grandfather built a cabin there in 1950 and it has always been a special retreat for our family. It is a bit rustic (at least compared to the multi-million dollar homes that have cropped up all around it in the past 60 years), but I believe that aspect only serves to reinforce what I see as the inviolable rules of beach cabin vacations:

#1 No less than 70% of one's time at the beach cabin shall be taken up with the following three activities: reading, eating, and napping. The other 30% may be spent: watching cable (after 3pm only), playing board games/assembling puzzles, staring at the ocean.

#2 Walks on the beach are encouraged. All other type of physical activity is to be kept to an absolute minimum. Jogging or other types of fitness nonsense are forbidden.

#3 Delicious meals are to prepared at any time one chooses, and unhealthful snacks of all varieties shall be accessible at all times throughout the day.

#4 The consumption of libations may begin any time after 12:01 pm and should be mainly in service to making more naps possible per day.

#5 Going to bed at 8 pm is completely reasonable as is getting up after 10.

#6 Daily showering is considered optional.  

#7 The first person up in the morning in winter is responsible for starting the woodstove. Those who wake after this are responsible for refilling the wood bin. 

#8 The wearing of various types of pajamas throughout the day is completely acceptable.

#9 Trips into town to survey coastal souvenirs such as sand dollars and "Life is Good" t-shirts are acceptable, though an extra afternoon nap may be required afterwards.

#10 All parties--spouses, pets, visitors--are required to abide by these rules while at the Beach Cabin. The only exceptions are children under 10.

And follow them we did!

Top Five Reasons Not to Adopt Cats at Christmas

This is Lena.
 When we arrived at Petsmart the week before Christmas innocently seeking food for the LIOLI hound, we were greeted by an unexpected holiday morality play: a wall of homeless kittens. Their cages were all stacked right at the entrance so that one could not pass into the bowels of pet supplies without directly confronting their furry little faces peeking out and silently screaming for you to free them from their misery. The cats were surrounded by the saavy volunteers of the coastal humane society from whence they came, workers who had apparently received special expert training in the arts of manipulating the soul, spotting the suckers and separating them from the pack of other holiday shoppers. These volunteers, I'm sure, are part of some sort of pet adoption ninja order that trains them to lure you in with casual conversation and then nonchalantly take the kittens out of the cage so you can pet them. The secret is that the cage is actually a Pandora's box; the kittens can never go back in it. Once you've met them and realized that while your favorite dog will receive a candy-cane shaped bone for Christmas these little sleepy, fuzzy critters will receive a one way ticket to the gas chamber, you are forced to act, unless of course, you have no soul. (Thinking about it now, I think I will go down to the humane society and sign up for said ninja-training which would prove quite useful in my recruitment of church volunteers. But I digress.)

Needless to say, we left the store with the dog food...and two three month old kittens.

I should stop at this point and say that I have never had a cat before. I am mildly allergic and really am a dog person at heart. Thus being completely naive, I had no idea that adopting a cat--or two for that matter--at Christmas may be the worst idea ever. Why, you say? I'll tell you why.

#1 Christmas Trees. Christmas trees are to cats as Las Vegas is to those with substance abuse issues: tempting, dangerous, maddeningly omnipresent. Apparently, cats love nothing more than to tear around underneath Christmas trees, chewing the needles, pulling down the strings of lights, and creating a constant clanging from the ornaments placed thereon banging into one another. This is cute of course unless you would like to a) get anything in your life accomplished during the Christmas season, b) have your Christmas ornaments remain intact and/or c) prevent your cats from being electrocuted. I estimate that I spent about 46% of my time over the following two weeks crawling under the tree to haul them back out, given that my chosen punishment method, the spray bottle, was useless against the defense of greenery naturally provided by our Noble Fir.

#2 Wrapping and Ribbon. If trees are like Las Vegas for cats, ribbon is like meth. Its bouncy nature gives them so much pleasure, hours of kitty delight. But, like methamphetamines, eating ribbon can lead to serious and irreversible internal damage for cats. Allegedly, it can wrap its way around their tiny good. So instead of having our presents under the tree, they ended up stacked 5 high on the washer/dryer in the laundry room until the moment of Christmas arrived.

#3 Decorations of the table-top variety. As I indicated previously, this was the Christmas in which we went hog wild with decorating the LIOLI home, expressing our pent-up-from-city-living-holiday passions,   meaning most flat surfaces in our home were adorned with some sort of yuletide trinket: silver angels, illuminated snowmen, Santa statues carved from driftwood. This seemed like a great pre-cat idea. But in a post-catpocalyptic world, it turned out to be most unwise. Apparently a really fun game for cats is to climb on top of things--tables, shelves, dressers--and then push items of all kinds off the edge. (I'm not blaming them...that sounds kind of fun actually.) The practical side-effect of this feline extra-curricular was that every 3 hours or so, a crash-bang could be heard throughout the house and we would come running to find--fill in the blank--a Christmas angel, a painted Russian Christmas egg, or a mantle-top stocking holder, forced form its perch and was now lying on the floor, hopefully still in one piece.
This is Loomis.
#4 Poinsettias. Poinsettias, as you are likely aware, are beautiful plants whose gorgeous foliage does wonders for your holiday decorating.* We bought 6 of them and spread them throughout the house to help brighten up our living space for holiday parties. Poinsettias are also, apparently, deadly to cats. So what do cats do? They try to eat them all day long. So into the laundry room the poinsettias also went, making that space look like a holiday episode of hoarders.

#5 Holiday Entertaining Speaking of holiday parties, we had a few. The cats were not invited, because they are furry escapist devils whose bones do not appeared to be connected to one another. You grab for them as they streak by you out the door and you might as well be trying to grasp smoke. They are tiny pinballs running amuck amidst guests feet and acting out gladiator battles on the dining room table. Ultimately, they had to be quarantined into the guest bedroom which has left a mild odor of cat litter and mischief there.

The good news, if there is any, is that these two are finding a place in our home and hearts now that Christmas is done, and it seems the primary animal member of our home is adjusting fine to their presence. Next time though, I'll aim for a mid-summer adoption program and remember to steer clear of the pet store during December.

*I just read on Wikipedia that the star-shaped leaves of the poinsettia symbolize the Star of Bethlehem while the red color represents the blood sacrifice through the crucifixion of Jesus. Now that is some BS if I ever heard any, though a genius use of religious propaganda to boost sales. Cats, though, I think are very religious. They seem to constantly be chasing demons, or so I've chosen to see their periodic inexplicable outbursts during which they chase invisible things and punch at the air.

**KK, if you are reading this, greetings to Simon and Fiona, our cat sibling role models!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Following Suit

When I was in seminary, being marginalized was really in. If you were part of a marginalized group, it was as if you had some sort of unspoken prestige in the community of religious studies. Unfortunately, I wasn't very marginalized at that time, except one incident involving a crowd, a poem and a very famous biblical scholar. But that is a story for another time.

I almost forgot all about being marginalized until I recently went to a big department store, walked through the men's section--in which I observed 3,000 suits hanging on racks there--and then asked about the women's suit section. I was led by a distracted employee to a rack with approximately 3 suits on it: one white in size 2, one brown with ruffled edges in size 16 and a few black separates. And then I thought, "Why the hell is the fashion industry marginalizing me right now?!?"

But really, men of the world, do you realize how easy you have it? Your suit section has suits of every color and style, in every size imaginable, adjustable for measurements as specific as the SIZE OF YOUR NECK, available all year round. And we have a size 2, a 16 and ruffles. Women have been in the work force for what, 50 years now? Why the hell hasn't fashion caught up?

I'm going to start a women's suit revolution: every style in every size, all year round. And maybe a few more colorful sweaters for men, too. Fair's fair, right?

I could go online, I guess, where I would find gems like this (perfect for Sunday service, don't you think?):

Christmas These Days

What's this? A complete Dickens Village with tiny people in a tiny carriage? Yes. Yes it is.

When Mr. L woke up the day after Thanksgiving and proclaimed "I can't wait to put up the Christmas lights" I knew that the shred of our city lifestyle to which I had believed I was clinging had officially slipped from my grip. We are in suburbia. It feels good just to admit it. Again, perhaps. "I am LIOLI. And I live in the suburbs." (Not sure why this didn't occur to me 6 months ago when we tried to go out for dinner after 9pm and found the only thing open in the entire city was Dairy Queen, but what gives?)

Last year at this time, we were enjoying the last of the big city's exploits: having cocktails at wood-paneled steak house lounges, traipsing through the giant ice-sculpture garden in the city park...this year, we're doing Christmas suburban style. We've hung Christmas lights (enough, certainly, for our house to be considered as a landing strip for any passing Alien vessels), we put up a tree*, we dusted off boxes of ornaments that had been in storage, and we set up all the random accoutrements of the season (advent calendars, flying elves, table-top santas and yes, a complete Dickens village replete with tiny people, some of whom are even skating with their tiny skates on a tiny ice-skating rink, a set-up which I feel compelled to point out came from Mr. L's side of the family.)

And I have to admit--though I am really more of an Advent type girl**--that all this stuff is pretty delightful. Maybe it's just that absence makes the heart grow fonder and next year all this will feel like a big pain in the ass and we'll go on a tropical vacation instead. But for now, I'm ready for Christmas. Wreaths and angels and things that smell like cinnamon in a kind of nauseating way...for all its consumerist undertones, it still feels pretty special.

Why is this? What is it about lights and trees and stockings and elves that sit on shelves that make you feel like a kid again? I've been thinking a lot recently about how it is exactly that we choose the life we want. And I realize I could choose to be disappointed that we traded in our urban jet-setting for a 60s ranch in a sea of 60s ranches and some strings of icicles.  But the gift I'm giving myself for Christmas is trying to love the life I have; to pour myself some eggnog, kick back, try not to think about our January electric bill and enjoy my little patch of Christmas in suburbia.***

*I wanted to go to a you-cut lot and fulfill my family tradition of wandering around in the cold for hours vetoing each other's suggestions until we all hate each other and ride home in silence with the tree we had to lay on the cold ground for an hour to cut down.....but Mr. L didn't believe that was a family tradition we needed to take on. Yet.....
**Yes, I am that type of pastor that would prefer not to have a Christmas carol pass my lips until Christmas Eve (as you will note Jesus has not yet born, yet we want to have shepherds visiting him as early as December 2? A theologically untenable position, at best.), but we all learn to compromise, right?
***Would some country artist please get started working on this song right now? Christmas in Suburbia?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas as Clergy

I especially like the impression here that Joseph, Mary and Jesus may have halos or may be getting struck by lightening. Difficult to say.

There are many things that I would do if I had more time and didn't have so many episodes of Rules of Engagement to watch. One of them would be creating some religious Christmas cards that do not make me throw up in my mouth.

As a clergyperson, I always begin the season believing that I should show my integrity as a Christian person by sending Christmas cards that at least tangentially reference the spiritual foundation of the holiday which we are celebrating. But then I go to the store and notice that, yet again, absolutely every single religious Christmas card is either a) hideously ugly, like a colorized version of a poorly animated Children's bible or b) theologically inappropriate or ambiguous or c) HILARIOUS but not appropriate for all audiences.*

Is there not a single theologically aware Hallmark employee in the world who might provide us with something better than the cheeseball crap currently available at our country's finest retailers?

*This one made me chuckle aloud:

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Enough about death, though. Let's talk food. Thankgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays, because it doesn't involve last minute, anxiety inducing gift buying trips to Target but instead involves eating foods that don't make sense in any other context, like stuffing which, to be honest, who the hell eats stuffing except for at Thanksgiving.

This year we had the culinary joy of having two thanksgivings: a traditional feast with all the fixins' with Mr. L's family on Thanksgiving day and a non-traditional gastronomic festival at our home for my family on Black Friday. We decided to forgo all the traditional eats for our second meal--we thought everyone would already have overdoxed on tryptophan--and instead went for an Italian spread. On the menu:
Pear-Rosemary Cocktails
Roquefort Grapes
Peppered Pecans
Raw Tuscan Kale Salad
Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans, Pears and Gorgonzola
Pumpkin Manicotti
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Brow Butter and Pine Nuts
Parmesean Twists
Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Sea Salt
Zucotto with Raspberry Sauce (from my favorite cookbook of ALL TIME: Cooking with Spirit.)
and Pumpkin Pie (okay, it's not Italian, but you really couldn't have thanksgiving without it, could you?)

Somehow, we managed to fit 12 around our dining table and didn't get up for hours.A wonderful feast.