Originally written April 12, 2003

I'm pretty cheap and low-maintenance - when it comes to my hair anyway. I want something easy and I don't want to have to pay a lot just to keep my style.

Therefore, I get a lot of bad haircuts. I'd been going to SmartCuts, one in a franchise where you just walk in and get your hair cut by the first availabe stylist. It's cheap, but terribly inconsistent. You never can tell the quality of style you're going to end up with because you never know which stylist you're going to get stuck with. The prices had kept me coming back even after disastrous results, but I'd been keeping my eyes open for something else.

Then I found a coupon in the phone book for a $5.95 haircut. So I called and made an appointment. The stylist was a man and very friendly on the phone. I drove over, picturing a well-dressed, flamboyant man who was finally going to give me something great at a price I could pay without choking.

I walked in the door, and was met by an old man. This wasn't a stylist, this was a barber. True to barber form, he had little hair himself. I wanted to walk right back out then, but the place was small and that would've been pretty noticeable. So I calmed myself while I waited for my turn, telling myself that I couldn't judge by appearances, that this may turn out to be the fabulous hair establishment I'd been looking for. I forced myself to stay focused on that glimmer of hope.

When it was my turn, I showed him a picture of the kind of style I wanted. And then there was this wild frenzy of scissors, like he was just randomly cutting into my hair with his eyes closed. Patience, I thought, give him a chance. He snipped like crazy. He might have been sweating after the exertion, though he did take a break to try and sell me some expensive shampoo.

At the end of it all, I wanted to cry. The guy was very nice, but he was used to cutting old man hair, and frankly, comb-overs are not my biggest hair problem. (After today, making the right side of my head look like the left is my biggest problem.) He was quite proud of the fact that he'd removed a lot of weight from my head, like I'd walked in with my head bowed, staggering from the weight of my chin-length bob. "Please, you must help me, my head...it's just too heavy! Can't...go...on..."

I tried to leave quickly. I'm not one of those aggressive people that can stay until they cut it right. I tend to leave and then just be miserable for six weeks. Sensing he was not going to see me again, he tried to offer me a flannel shirt. He was giving it to me, saying someone had given it to him and it was too small. It was sweet, but I would've never worn it. I hated hurting his feelings and all; maybe he can't help it he's rotten.

I'm pretty sick of bad haircuts. I'm almost to the point where I'm willing to pay more to get something I don't hate. (Who am I kidding, I'll be at SmartCuts next month.) But tonight I will mourn my lost hair, lying in a heap in that guy's trashcan, mixed in with the grey hairs of his other customers.

Hair is best mourned with a pint of expensive ice cream.


after the beep.

3:14 pm
Hey, it's me. Um, listen, I'm going to be in town this evening. I've got an appointment, but afterwards, I was thinking we could, I dunno, hang out or something. I don't have to work tomorrow, so I could just drive back real late or maybe stay in town somewhere. Um, call me when you get this and let me know if you're not doing anything. If you are, that's cool, I know that this is short notice. I'll have my cell on. Okay. Bye.

5:21 pm
Hey, it's me again. I accidentally cut my phone off and I was just checking to see if you had called, but I guess not. Uh, I'm done with my appointment now and I'm kinda hungry. I might drive around and see if I can't find something to eat somewhere. I don't really know what's good here, but hopefully I'll find something. Uh, I dunno, give me a call whenever. Okay. Bye.

8:39 pm
Hey, it's me. It's like twenty minutes til nine right now and I'm still in town. I was thinking there might be a good show somewhere tonight around here, but I don't know where one would be. I'm sorry I keep leaving you all these messages, I'm just like wandering around here with no idea where I'm going or anything. Give me a call. Okay. Bye.

10:02 pm
Hey, it's me. Listen, I guess you had something to do tonight or whatever. I dunno, maybe you're at work or something. I tried to find that place you told me you were working at, but I think I went to the wrong place. I asked for you and they said nobody by that named worked there. So I must've gotten the name wrong or something, or it could have been a chain and I went to the wrong one. Oh well. Um, I guess I'm just going to go on home now. It's getting kinda late and it'll be really late by the time I get back home. I'm sorry about all these messages. I just thought-

10:04 pm
Hey, it's me. Sorry, the voice mail cut me off. Anyway, I'm sorry this didn't work out, ya know. I guess I should have called and told you before today that I was going to be in town, but I didn't even really think about it until this afternoon. But anyway, I hope you're having fun at whatever it is that you're doing, and I'll just see you next time I'm around or whatever. Call me back if you want, or you don't have to since it's getting kinda late. Okay. Well, bye.


eighty-eight cents a pound.

Sandra fun fact #24 : my favorite fruit is the nectarine.

As some foolish people may believe (like me prior to some research for this entry), the nectarine is not a hybrid between the peach and the plum. The nectarine is just the peach's sweeter and less hairy cousin; I have one of those myself. The name of course comes from the word "nectar" and refers to the nectarine's sweetness. California now grows over 95% of the nectarines grown in the United States.

Nectarines found in the store are usually about 2 or 3 days away from prime ripeness. To slow ripening, refrigerate. To hasten it, put in a closed paper bag. To let nature take its course, put in a decorative bowl and enjoy the fruit as a natural fresh scent-maker. You could even paint a pretty picture of the bowl with the fruit and call it "Lunch, in 2-3 Days."

Nectarines are right where peaches went wrong. Peaches are okay, but they taste a little funky to me. Some people eat them with sugar, a thing that would never ever be necessary with a nectarine. And that fuzz, it just bothers me. Plus, when you eat a peach, there is just juice running all over the place. I find it distracting. A nectarine would never dribble all over your chin like that.

Food Lion had the most excellent sale a couple of weeks ago. I buy nectarines whenever the price goes below a dollar a pound (or if I am just really depressed). It usually runs about twice that during the summertime. I don't even bother looking in the winter. However, Food Lion was nice enough to provide nectarines for the lovely price of $0.88 a pound. Just so you know, I went to Food Lion three times that week, for completely unrelated things. But each time, I came home with a couple pounds of nectarines in my clutches.

There was a young guy at Food Lion squeezing the nectarines. I came up and began doing the same. Actually, I got a bag first and followed my squeezing by putting some fruit in bags, something he seemed unsure about. Sensing that I was not a nectarine virgin, he asked me, "How do you tell a good nectarine?" I immediately wanted to correct him, saying, "Okay, first of all: every nectarine is a good nectarine," as if I were some sort of optimistic social worker for delinquent fruit. But I resisted the urge, and instead told him I was just squeezing for ripeness. He said he was trying to do the same thing, but that nectarines "don't squeeze the same as peaches." Well, obviously. They squeeze better. Again, I had to hold myself back, because I did want to start a lecture on picking fruit of varying amounts of ripeness so that one could enjoy the nectarines over a period of time. Or I could have told him the ripening tips above, had I known them at the time. Then the young man would be afraid of nectarines for the rest of his life, because of the zealous girl at the grocery store. He would never buy them again.

Not even at $0.88 a pound.


kansas revisited: two-b or not two-b.

Sandra is not a common name for people of my age. I've never been crazy about the name, but at least I didn't have fifteen other Sandras everywhere like some unfortunate Jessicas and Ashleys I know. Most of the Sandras that I know are people's mothers. Actually, I think there were at least three volleyball mothers named Sandra when I played in high school.

However, it seemed to be a name that my mother's family likes quite a lot. I am named after my mother, so that's two, plus I have a cousin named Sandra as well. (As a confusing item of interest, the other Sandra's mother's name is Rita, and my mother Sandra has a daughter named Rita.) So at the recent family reunion in Great Bend, Kansas, there were no less than three Sandras in attendance. This led to a joke that if you couldn't remember someone's name, just call them Sandra and your chances of being right were good.

I've met my cousin Sandra twice, including the recent reunion. The first time was when I was twelve and she came to visit my family (meaning my siblings and their families) in North Carolina. There is a picture of her, my sister, and me doing the can-can. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Sandra is a lot of fun in an offbeat kind of way, the offbeat kind of way that most of my mother's family is. And she is ridiculously tall. She is about 6'2", and I don't like standing next to her. At 5'10", I am used to being the tallest girl around, and being near taller women makes me stand up straight and be a little sulky. The competitive thing again.

I mentioned to my friend Ashley that I had a cousin named Sandra who was "like six feet tall and kinda weird." Ashley looked at me and said, "I think you just described yourself."

Sandra has two doe-eyed children. The report was that when the first was born, Sandra claimed that she had just given birth to the cutest child in the world. And they are both decidedly adorable. The girl was especially cute as she dog-paddled across the pool, a big grin on her face, her eyes even wider than usual, her breath gasping, and her floaties flying. However, my children will be much cuter, no problem.

Our visit was short, but I got to have a feel for what people with common names go through. At the reunion, we had a naming system to cut down on the confusion. Not that there was any actual confusion, we just thought it would be fun. The system was generational, so Mama was "Sandra One." Both Sandra and I are second generation, so she was "Sandra Two-A" and I was "Sandra Two-B," because she was born first. My name, of course, led to a lot of Hamlet jokes which were even funny the second time around.

We took a lot of pictures at the reunion. Ones of the whole family, some of individual families, some of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So many pictures and no one ever had any idea of which camera to look at. And then there was one of the three Sandras. Sandra One, Sandra Two-A, and Sandra Two-B.


the milk drinking contest.

Now I'm a firm believer in milk. My mother raised herself a bunch of milk drinkers, I figure because of the rule that we could never leave the dinner table until we had finished our glass of milk. So you'd think that I would be entirely in favor of such a thing as a "milk drinking contest." Not so.

The rules of the milk drinking contest as are follows. The contestant must drink one gallon of whole milk in an hour. In that hour and another quarter of the hour following, the contestant may not throw up. I'm also thinking that the contestant may not urinate, but I'm not sure on that rule.

I've seen several people try it, all boys. They always throw up. You'd think that with such an obvious pattern here, we'd have a hard time getting new people to try it. Oh no. It's not that hard to find some unsuspecting male and get him to try and impress us with his macho milk drinking skills, even if the new victim knows the history of the game.

I just don't think it's possible. Someone explained to me once how it wasn't possible, something to do with the stomach acids or something. If that explanation couldn't convince you, the long line of veteran contestants could probably do the trick. They've tried pacing themselves, starting off strong, waiting for a second wind. No matter how you put it down, the milk comes back up. But each new boy always thinks he knows the way that has never been tried before.

I hate to generalize here and say that the milk drinkers are all male. I'm sure in the illustrious history of the milk drinking contest, there have been female contestants. I just don't happen to know any.

And boys enjoy the whole contest when they're not the drinker, too. Maybe boys like vomit. Note that while I might call these same people men at other times, it is not when I'm describing how they point and laugh as their friends throw up into the bushes.

I don't enjoy watching the inevitable end of the milk drinking contest. I turn my head, and hope that I can't even hear the sound of a gallon of milk's revenge, not that any of them get the whole gallon down before they start bringing it back up. I do enjoy rolling my eyes with any other females in attendance at the ridiculousness of it all. Once each new boy fails, he becomes part of the team of recruiters, trying desperately not to be the last guy that made a fool of himself by being bested by a measly gallon of milk.

I don't guess I mind it. It's stupid, of course, just another ridiculous thing that we do that makes old people say that youth is wasted on us. But it's cheap entertainment, even given the price of dairy products lately, and even the old would agree that there are a lot worse things we could be drinking on a Saturday night than a gallon of milk, though the end result is pretty much the same. Then again, milk won't give you a hangover the next day or impair your ability to operate heavy machinery, and I've never seen a milk-induced table dance. Drinking milk and then throwing it up? Why, that's downright wholesome.


kansas revisited: my family reunion is better than yours.

Some of you may not know me well, so you may not realize that I have quite a competitive streak. Actually, to not know that about me, I'd say you didn't know me at all. A healthy dose of competitiveness is a good thing. It leads to other good things, like drive, ambition, and determination. But too much is a bad thing, because then failure becomes not a setback or learning experience, but simply not an option. And then not only do other people find you obnoxious, but you're also never really happy because no one wins or is right all the time.

I am too competitive. I didn't realize it for a long time, but it came as a disappointment. Casey had been trying to point it out to me for some time, but I just figured he was a sore loser. Let me give you an example. The titles of valedictorian and salutatorian are determined using a QPA or quality point average. So, if you take honors or college-level classes, you get more points for your grades. Anyway, I spent the better part of the spring semester of my senior year getting over the fact that I wasn't going to be valedictorian, but only salutatorian. I'd done the math, and it turns out that I hadn't taken enough college-level classes to be #1. Finally, I consoled myself that my salutatory speech would be a heck of a lot better than the valedictory speech, thereby making me the winner in public opinion of intelligence, if not in the numbers.

I like to be right, I like to win, I like to have the last word. Getting over that is very, very hard. I'm working on it as part of my lifelong campaign to not be an obnoxious person. I got into an argument about the existence of a word with a guy whose vocabulary far surpasses mine. True to form, I went home and looked it up. But then when I realized I was wrong, I forced myself to go up to him and admit he was right. Oh. So. Difficult. But he thought it was funny that I had looked it up, and we all had a good laugh, and it was all okay. See? That wasn't so hard. (By the way, the word was "vegetal," and it means of or pertaining to plants. See? It sounds made up.)

Harder still than admitting wrong is just ending the discussion. There are times when two people will never agree and the argument becomes pointless. So I've tried to just finish it by saying, "Look, we're not going to agree, so we should just talk about something else." This statement is always always met with the reply "You just don't want to talk about it anymore because you know I'm right," which has to be the most goading thing I've ever heard it my life. The strength not to reply to that one is really almost more than I have.

I always figured that my need to win came from my upbringing. Youngest of six successful intelligent children? Yeah, that would do it to you. There was pressure to do at least as well as everyone before me. But then, I had to either do it better or do something differently, otherwise I was just another of the six. This was all pressure I put on myself, of course, but that didn't make it any less important. And if my brothers and sisters were competitive, I figured that growing up in this family did it to them, too.

Last week I went to Kansas for a family reunion of my mother's family. And I realized that even without the added bonus of having five older brothers and sisters to compete with, I would've had a mean competitive streak anyway. I realized it while watching a couple of cousins play ping-pong. It was a friendly game, no pressure, but let's not kid ourselves: each one was playing to win. And I realized that throughout the weekend, that was the way it had been. Playing cards, wrestling in the pool, ping-pong, pool, no matter what we played, we wanted to win. I leaned over to another cousin who was watching the game and asked him if he thought a competitive nature was in all of our genes, and he quickly agreed that it was. Apparently, he'd noticed it in his branch of the family, too.

And really, I should've known that it came from my mother. Once she and Daddy got into some argument about the definition of a word, and after the argument had been over for some five minutes, she gets up from the table and leaves the room. It took me a second to realize that she was going for the dictionary. Daddy realized it, too, and laughed. She came back, all of Webster's Unabridged glory in her arms, and read the definition in its entirety to us. Daddy just laughed some more.

It always funny to see your own traits active in others, particularly relatives. It allows you to see what other people see when they look at you. And hey, even if I never completely get over this ridiculously competitive nature of mine, it's nice to know I have company.


a desperate situation.

I have lost my lap desk. This is a concern for me. It's not like losing your lap, because though laps are fickle things, they always come back. I've looked all over for my lap desk. I've even tried looking while in the sitting position, in case finding a lost lap desk is a similar in nature to finding a lost lap. No dice.

I've had my lap desk for at least ten years. It comes to mind that my lap desk was a gift or a hand-me-down from my sister Rita, because I remember her telling me how to use it. My lap, of course, was a gift from God, but he didn't really provide instructions on its use. And though I've had my lap for more than twice that, ten years is still a long time. My lap desk resting on my lap is the Sandra position of choice for doing written work. Experts say that the best way to do written work is at an actual desk, with a hard straight-backed chair, and no television, music, or any other distractions. By "experts," I mean "people who have never ever done written work or they would know better." I have done work, but never like that. The closest I have come is sitting at my desk with my feet propped on an open drawer, my lap desk in my lap. Others include sprawled out on the bed, sitting in a squashy chair, sitting on the couch, lying on the floor. And always with a lap desk, either on my lap or propped up in front of me if I'm lying down and happen to have no lap.

My lap desk was somtimes quite literally where I did written work. I used to work out algebra equations on it, or figure out how to spell words by writing the words on the desk. I used a pencil, and I would periodically take some 409 and wipe it all clean when I ran out of scratch room. Except one time, when I apparently drew a horsey with a pen or a permanent marker. I know that it was in fact a horsey, and not a pony or a mule or a bowl of fruit, because I clearly labeled it, again in pen, as a "horsey."

But now I have a perfectly good lap, and no lap desk. I've been using a book, and it is a poor substitute. It's not big enough or firm enough and it doesn't have a bean bag that conforms to the shape of my lap. And I really should not be drawing horseys on it, because it's a rental.

I cannot live like this. I cannot work under these conditions. I need to buy a new lap desk. There have been times when I almost bought lap desks at yard sales or thrift stores, just in case I ever needed an extra one. But I always stopped myself, because the idea of needing more than one lap desk with only one lap available to me seemed silly. Not so silly now, eh? So desparate is my sitatuion that I'm considering buying a lap desk retail, because you can never know when you'll next see one at a yard sale or thrift store. I console myself with the thought that maybe I can deduct the cost of a new lap desk from my taxes, since it is technically a school supply.

And when I get my new lap desk, maybe I'll draw a horsey on it, in pen or permanent marker, just for old times' sake.