beta blues.

My company is on a yearly release cycle. So from May to December, we work on features for the year. In January, we tie up the loose ends and release a beta version of the new version of our product to certain users. They use it and give us feedback. We fix things and release another beta a few weeks later. They use that one and give us more feedback. Finally, we release the final product in the spring sometime, and the whole thing starts all over again.

The nice thing about this sort of schedule is that you can sort of predict what work is going to be like at any given time of the year. In November and December, it's very busy and tense and stressed as people try to finish up features in time. Some of that leaks into January, though not for everybody. During the summer, when you've just been assigned your features and you got like six whole months to finish them, it's very relaxed.

If you've been paying attention and are good with calendars, you'll realize that right now we are in beta. This can be a stressful period as well, but in a different way.

First of all, the software has bugs. All software has bugs. Some of them are incredibly obscure and may never get found. At my old job, we found a bug where if you were using the program, then just happened to change your screensaver and then just happened to try to close the application after that, it crashed and burned. A crash is something to avoid, but seriously, how many people are likely to change their screensaver at the moment they're using the program?

We do test our software here. But we could never come up with every single possible usage of the application, just because it's a pretty complex one. So we rely on the beta period to shake out some of the common things our users will run into. We also take suggestions for improvement, for instance in the way something looks or behaves. We get feedback mostly from our user forum. Users who are using the beta log on and create a topic for a bug or suggestion. We respond, asking for clarification or telling them that we were able to reproduce the bug ourselves and will fix it.

Of course, the first day we release the beta, there is a floodgate effect. We release, we have a couple of hours of peace, and then all of a sudden users are adding bugs left and right. This user has a problem with this feature on UNIX, and this one thinks this tool is hard to use, and another one thinks we should add an option for something or other. What is stressful, for me at least, is the way I get pulled in several different directions. I only have to really respond to reports that deal with something that I worked on in the first place, but I might have half a dozen of those come in within a couple of hours. I read a bug report, I see if I can reproduce it, I respond to the user, I enter a ticket in our bug tracking system, and finally I get down to fixing the problem. By then, several more might have come in. I just need to focus, is all.

The nice thing about beta is that it sort of allows you to polish your features. After a couple of weeks, the reports from users starts to slow down a little, and you can catch up. You might even finish with all the stuff those nagging users asked for and have time to add a little polish of your own. There are always things that were required to be finished before the feature could be called "done." And then there are the other things you might have thought of along the way that fell into the "nice to have" category. I suppose it's sort of closure.

So that's your day in the life of a programmer. At least this particular programmer in January.


egg-battered toast.

Remember when we were "boycotting France" by calling cut up and fried potatoes "freedom fries" instead of "french fries"? Man, that was stupid*. I think we could hear the French rolling their eyes from here. Anyway, at the restaurant where I worked at the time, we happened to be reworking our breakfast menu at the time. My boss wanted to be patriotic and rename the french toast. His idea was "egg-battered toast." I managed to talk him down from this idea, mostly from the fact that no one would know what the heck it was. Then the servers would all have to tell the people that it was just french toast, which would completely defeat the purpose.

Sunday morning, my mother came to visit. Instead of going out, I made french toast, because I'm trying to save money. I was telling a coworker about our nice little brunch, and she asked me a question that totally threw me off.

"Did you make it from scratch?"

I'm sure that face reflected my confusion. "I, uh, what, uh, from, uh, I'm just not sure how else you could make french toast."

"Well, there are those freezer things."

I tried to conceal my horror at the idea of serving my dear, sweet mother microwave french toast. I mean, I could have really splurged and taken her to Burger King to have the french toast sticks there. Instead, I just replied, "French toast is so easy to make."

"Those freezer ones are really convenient."

"Bread, eggs, and milk are convenient."

I will not go into a rant about convenience foods. Because then if I ever am caught using one, which will happen, I will be forced to microwave a frozen crow dinner and eat it. But in general, I am not a fan. When given the option to spend a little extra time to create something that is better for me and tastes a million times better, I'm going to pick that one. I wonder if people just don't know how easy it is to make stuff from scratch.

So today I'm going to do my part to put the frozen french toast makers out of business. It's criminally easy to make the real stuff, and it won't taste like public school food. Make some for your mother.

Take a couple eggs. Beat 'em up. Pour some milk into the eggs and whisk that all together. Throw in some cinnamon or vanilla or nutmeg or whatever you want. Dip a slice of bread in, making sure to coat both sides with the mixture. Put the piece of bread in a frying pan over medium heat and let it grill. Flip it over to get the other side.

There. French toast without a freezer or a microwave or a toaster. Now I'm going to tell you how to make the best french toast ever.

There is a restaurant in Brooklyn which serves french toast that does not need syrup. Think about that for a second. Can you even imagine something that delicious? I think they had secret ingredients in their batter, some magic spice mix. According to the menu, they also used Challah.

So when I came home, I decided to make Challah. This is not a required step in making french toast from scratch. The Amish would say that store-bought bread is a convenience food, but that's something I'm willing to deal with. Baking bread isn't particularly difficult, especially if you have a mixer of some kind, but it's time-consuming. The wee yeasty beasties do all the work, but you have to give them time to do it. You can make it in the bread machine, too, but then it won't be pretty and braided.

Once I had made Challah, I made french toast with it. And I think that New York restaurant is on to something, because using Challah is a big step in french toast improvement. I found Challah to be very absorbent (a feature which makes it great for dipping in soups as well). Maybe it's the same with any fresh homemade bread. Perhaps I should conduct a great french toast experiment, in which I make lots of different kinds of homemade bread and see which yields the best french toast. That sounds like delicious science.

Now that you have your french toast, do not put Mrs. Butterworth's on it. Don't even put real maple syrup on it. Get some fruit syrup. Not fruit-flavored syrup, but stuff that tastes like fruit jam, but is much runnier. You might could even just use jam. Then, pour some cream on top. Whipping cream, half and half, whatever. My British friend taught me that trick, and I'll never go back to syrup.

And that is how I make french toast. Even if you can't get a hold of some Challah, try the fruit and cream trick. And if you can't do that, please just make french toast "from scratch." Don't buy the frozen things. Bread, eggs, and milk are very convenient.

*Stupid, but not unprecedented. There was a lot of renaming going around during the World Wars. One particularly silly one was the renaming of German measles to liberty measles. We're so angry at the Germans that we will refuse to name our diseases after them.


nice things.

It was after 11pm and everyone else had gone to sleep. With his parents gone, Josh and I felt free to snuggle a little closer on the couch and watch TV shows with mild adult language. I'm TV-starved, as I don't have any channels on my set at home. And while that never bothers me when I'm there, I always find myself fascinated with the tube whenever I find myself near one. But then I get sick of the commercials after a half hour.

During the first commercial break (Have they always been so loud? And idiotic? And frequent?), I decided to go raid the fridge, full of Thanksgiving leftovers. I started poking around, opening various containers and sniffing the contents. I settled on some pecan pie and started hunting for the silverware drawer. I hate having to find eating utensils in a strange house, checking every drawer and wondering what sort of backwards organization system is in use. It's a very minor, yet very irritating form of impotence.

After only two tries, I pulled open a drawer to see sets of gold gleaming knives, forks, and spoons. They glittered like the lost treasure of a pirate who had an Oneida penchant. This might tell you something about both my upbringing and my current household, but I was shocked to see that they all matched.

I have matching silverware, eight of each utensil. When I was in college, I noticed that my roommates and I kept running out of forks. So I bought a bunch more at the thrift store for a dime apiece. Then we kept running out of spoons, and I added to that collection. And finally the knives had to keep up with all the forks and spoons. I'm not sure if the people who manage to live with a matching set of silverware have bigger sets or if they do their dishes more frequently.

The sight of the shining spoons reminded me of the previous weekend, when we had helped Josh's dad move. While the guys had been out doing something manly, I helped Josh's stepmom unwrap her crystal. It was all beautiful, and the collection was extensive. It seemed like there was a shape of glass for every kind of alcohol ever invented. I gingerly unwrapped each glass and handed them to her, feeling a lot like a bull inside a china shop, one who is trying not to make a fool of himself in front of people who might be in-laws later. I felt very out of my depth, thinking about the two sets of champagne flutes that made up my mother's crystal collection. At Thanksgiving, we would pour our $4 sparkling wine into those flutes, which were still dripping wet from having the dust of the basement just washed off of them. I drink my $4 sparkling wine in white wine glasses from a set of eight, which are actually pretty nice and from which I've already broken two.

Admiring the silverware and remembering the crystal, I thought about how it would feel to own nice things. I thought about how I could buy matching silverware and I could even start collecting crystal a bit at a time. I began envisioning lovely shelves of differently shaped and sized crystalware, sparkling with cleanliness in neat rows like soldiers in dress uniform. Maybe below them would be a drawer, in a very logical and convenient location, full of the finest silverware, all matching and always enough.

And then I came to my senses and realized that even if I obtained all those nice things, they would not last. The silverware would get tarnished and lost, and new, non-matching members would somehow work their way into the ranks. The crystal would be broken, piece by piece. If something didn't get broken, it was because it was collecting dust, unused and forgotten because of the rarity of my partaking in sherry or cognac or whatever beverage that shape of glass is designed to accentuate.

And I wouldn't even care about the broken crystal or the mismatched silverware, because deep in my heart, I am not a nice things person. Might I become one someday? Sure. It seems sort of unlikely, though. I'd rather have something durable than delicate, functional than flashy. If these things are temporary anyway, they might as well be inexpensive and useful. I don't have anything against people who have nice things, they're just not for me. I just can't summon the will to care about nice things.

And then I realized (I'm still standing over the silverware drawer, are you keeping up?) that just as I had not grown up in a house full of nice things, Josh had. I wondered about the expectations of his future household. Sure, slumming it with a girl with mismatched silverware was fine now, but when he is older, will he wish that the design on his fork matched the design on his knife or that his Scotch was not served out of a juice glass?

I returned to the living room with my pecan pie and golden fork. The commercials were still on.

"Your mom has gold silverware."


"It all matches."


"You know, honey, if you marry me, our silverware is probably not going to match. And we're not going to have a bunch of nice crystal like Susan has."

"That's okay."

"I'm just letting you know, that a life with me is probably not going to be a life full of nice things. I mean, I don't know if that matters to you, because you seemed to grow up with lots of nice things."

He looked at me like I was absolutely crazy then. Then he pulled me closer to him and told me he didn't care about that kind of thing either. I believed him and offered him a bite of pie. Then I thought about how there were too many commercials on TV nowadays.


the kickiest.

Buying used is an act of patience in a lot of ways. For one thing, you have to sort through the crap. Say that you just bought a kicky* wool skirt with little red berries on it. Now you need a kicky** red sweater. When you go to JC Penney's, the sweaters are in one section. Each rack has a different style of sweater, possibly in several different colors. There are several sweaters of the same style and color in each size, and these sizes are organized.

When you go to Goodwill, the sweaters are in one section. They are organized by color. There is only one sweater in each style. It's probably too small for you. If you go to a different thrift store, the sweaters might not be organized by anything at all. They might not even get their own rack in the women's section. They might be in a pile somewhere, possibly even on the floor or in a box. Either way, you need patience to sort through all the sweaters to find the red sweater that is your size and might look okay on you.

Even after all that, there is no guarantee that you will find a red sweater that will match your kicky*** wool skirt. You might have to go to several thrift stores to find the perfect sweater.

What's worse, you might not even find the sweater that day. You spent all day rooting through very unkicky sweaters, and you didn't even find what you wanted. You have two options here. One is to give in and go to JC Penney's. The other is to wait a week and hit the thrift stores again. And that's where the true test of patience is here.

Some people are amazed that I find so much good stuff used. They went to a thrift store once and didn't find a darn thing, just a bunch of crap that people were right to get rid of. So they think I am magical. I have to explain to them that I spend a lot of time on this hobby.

For example, at my old job, we were about to switch to a business casual dress code. I didn't have any appropriate clothes, so I started checking out the thrift stores. There are four Goodwills in Winston-Salem, and I hit a different one after work every Monday thru Thursday for three weeks. I ended up with a great wardrobe, but most days I didn't buy a thing.

Usually, I don't really need anything specific. However, most of the time, I will have a running list of things that I'd kinda-sorta-like to have. Items might be on the list for a year before I find what I want. But most things pop up eventually, and until I find the thing, I just keep on doing whatever I was doing before I decided I needed it. Sometimes other people ask me to look for things for them. They know that I might not ever find those things, but at least I am keeping an eye out.

Another example - I broke my blender. It was a crappy hand-me-down blender anyway. But it still sorta worked, the pitcher just wouldn't latch properly, so I had to pick up the blender and give it a firm shake if I wanted to make sure the stuff at the top got down to the blades. It was not an ideal situation, but it worked.

I had in my mind the idea of a blender with a lot of buttons and a nice thick glass pitcher. Every time I went to a thrift store or a yard sale, I looked for blenders. I saw one just like my old one (but presumably not broken) for $2, but I resisted. I saw ads for $15 jobbies at Wal-Mart, but I resisted still. And then one day, maybe two months after I broke my old one, I saw the exact kind I wanted at a yard sale, and the woman gave it to me for free. Patience wins.

I think all that waiting is probably good for you. It makes you think about what you want and what you need. It's just stuff, and you can wait to have it. Wear a kicky green sweater that you already have. Pick up the blender and shake it; it's sorta fun, really.

*You know, I heard the word "kicky" used once to describe a scarf, and I've liked it ever since. I have no idea what it means.

** I looked it up: "So unusual or unconventional in character or nature as to provide a thrill."

***I've been thinking, and this word describes everything I've ever truly loved: my kicky zipper earrings, my exceedingly kicky penguin hat, and my boyfriend, who is the kickiest.


snow day.

I am at home, in fleece pants and a long sleeve t-shirt from one of my high school clubs. I am home on a Tuesday, because it snowed three inches in Raleigh, North Carolina last night. Snow days never lose their appeal. Even though I can log into my office remotely, writing code documentation in fleece pants has its benefits.

My laptop is in my lap, and I am streaming CNN because I don't have cable. Josh is sitting behind me with his chin on my shoulder. We watching the inauguration, and we are happy. I was one of the people who a year ago would have said that this country was not ready to elect a black president. Now I'm one of the people filled with hope - totally naive and unassailable hope.

Sometimes the video freezes as my connection tries to catch up with all the history that is being sent through the air in my apartment. But the audio keeps going, and I'm glad that I won't have to watch it on YouTube later. I'm trying to pick up which line will be the sound bite that will be played over and over, both tonight and tomorrow and fifty years from now.

I'm trying to take a mental snapshot of this moment, so that when my kids ask about it, I'll be able to tell them the story. The story about the snow and the fleece pants and the laptop and the hope.


three-legged tenant.

While we had the van at our disposal, I decided to get rid of a three-legged tenant of my apartment that had been ordered to leave months ago. I'm not sure when the leg of my sofa broke. I may have bought it that way. And it wasn't so much broken as loosely attached. If you picked the sofa up and carried it around, the leg was very liable to fall off. But if you put the leg back carefully and left the sofa on the ground, then you couldn't tell a difference.

The sofa was a two-seater with upholstery that was trying really hard to be leather but was clearly made by a man and not a cow. It was a dark vomit green and looked like the kind of thing you'd find in the basement of an old man who was trying to convince himself that he was very learned. It was going to be his reading sofa, except that he ended up falling asleep in the recliner in front of the TV most nights.

This is the fun of buying used furniture. You can invent past lives for them.

I bought the sofa for $15 at a yard sale during my last year of college. I loved it, because I empathized with its struggle to be a learned old man's study couch. It was the main piece of living room furniture for me in Boone, in Winston-Salem, and here in Raleigh up until about four months ago. At that point, I came to grips with the fact that for all its charm, it just wasn't a very comfortable place to sit. The sofa got moved into the dining room, where it waited for me to find proper transportation for it to go to Goodwill. A futon was put in the living room, and I hope that the sofa was not too jealous of the fact that we stopped sitting on the floor so much and actually used the futon.

Transportation finally happened Sunday night. Yes, I lived with a sofa in my dining room for four months, what of it? That's the kind of wild and crazy single life I lead. We carried it down the stairs, stopping and picking up the fallen leg on the way. We loaded it up and drove down to Goodwill. As we were unloading it, I cautioned Josh not to let the Goodwill employees see the gimpy leg, because I was afraid that they would not take it.

Is that dishonest? Am I required to give full disclosure on the known limitations of an item if I am giving it to someone for free? We weren't really trying to pull anything. Yes, the leg fell out, but if you left the couch on the floor, you could reattach it very nicely and use it without incident. But even if Goodwill did take it, they would likely discover the defect later, at which point they might just dump it. I wished that I had taken the time to get some wood glue and repair the leg before I battled this ethical debate.

Well, none of that matters, because in route to the donation door, the leg did its thing and gave me away. The Goodwill lady said she could not accept my donation of a sad old man's basement study sofa and I had to put it back in the van. We asked where we might take it, and she recommended the dump. I wished that I could have covered the sofa's ears before she said that so its feelings wouldn't be hurt.

We wouldn't have to take it to the dump. There was a dumpster at my apartment where you could put large items. Many people put stuff there, only to have someone else see it and adopt it. I had saved multiple items myself this way. Every time I did, I griped and shook my fist at the unknown person who threw away a perfectly good item. Even though I was rescuing it, they had no way of knowing that someone would take it, and they'd be much better off taking it to a thrift store where it was sure to get new life.

It was starting to get late, and there were rain clouds overhead. I pictured my three-legged sofa sitting next to the dumpster, maybe with an old Christmas tree to keep it company, in the rain. I knew I couldn't do it, and I waited a few moments before daring to ask Josh how he felt about carrying the sofa back up the stairs to my apartment.

He agreed without even a sigh, because he knows me pretty well. He was probably waiting for me to ask. If I left a functional item out there to sit in the rain and wait for some sympathetic stranger, then I have no right to shake my fist at anyone else who does it. I don't want to be a hypocrite, and I don't want to be wasteful.

We bought the wood glue, we made the repair. We will borrow the van again, carry the couch down the stairs again, and try to give it to a different thrift store. For now, the couch is still in my apartment, probably sniggering to itself because it's managed to mooch off me for another week. Or it's grateful that I care enough to give it new life. Or maybe it's just a sofa and doesn't have feelings at all.


negative nelly.

"Do you know how much it weighs?"


"Well, how big is it?"

"Standard freezer size. Like the size of my fridge."

"How old is it?"

"Kinda old."

"That's going to make it even heavier. You don't know exactly how old?"


A pause.

"Well, where are they keeping it now? In the basement or something?"

"Well, they live in a trailer, so probably not in a basement."

"This is getting better and better. Do you know the name of these people?"

"The lady's name is Stephanie. She said she tried to sell it before, but the people who wanted it wanted to put deer heads in it and the shelves aren't removable, so the deer heads wouldn't fit."

He does not even bother to respond to that one. The giant former church van bumped along the road as we traveled deeper into the redneck underbelly of Cary.

"You think I'm being too impulsive?"

"Yes. But you haven't committed to buying it. You can still say you don't want it and I'll be mean for you."

I don't think that's ever happened before. My role in the relationship is to be the stable voice of reason, whereas he likes to fly by the seat of his pants. I've never figured out how to sew wings to my pants, but maybe I'm looking at the pants-to-wing-attachment problem the wrong way.

I saw an ad for a freezer for $50, and I wanted it. I was sick of only buying a couple of pounds of sale-priced ground beef and then running out a month later and having to buy it when it wasn't on sale. The lady on the phone sounded very nice, and that was pretty much enough for me. I made sure I could get use of the band's van, and I signed up for a time to pick up my new toy. And now Josh was being all negative about it. I've never bought anything off Craig's List before, but I figured that this was how it worked. You see an ad, you call or email, and then you go check it out. Maybe having a Negative Nelly along is part of it, too.

We drove slowly down a poorly-maintained road, taking in the sights of the mobile homes on either side of us. Some had fences that enclosed various barking mutts and rusting appliances. We pulled up to the one with a freezer on the front porch and a rebel flag in one of the windows. I sighed and held tight in my mind to the sound of the lady's voice on the phone. She did not sound like trailer trash. I am no stranger to trailers, and I've known lots of people who lived in them. Some of them fit the stereotype, and just as many of them don't. Some of them are racist but otherwise very nice. People are complicated.

Stephanie came out on the front porch, and I felt relieved when I saw her. She didn't have the hollow, apathetic look that I associate with trailer trash, people who are ignorant by choice. She looked like a perfectly normal, likable person who just happened to live in a trailer. And her freezer looked like a perfectly acceptable one that just happened to be a little older, not suitable for holding deer heads, but perfectly capable of containing ground beef packed into half pound patties. I gave it a quick inspection, saw that it was clean with minor dents, but in very good condition for its age. I happily forked over $50.

Her husband and two teenage sons (I wondered which one had the room with the rebel flag) carried the freezer to the van and hoisted it in, while I talked to Stephanie about how her driveway flooded when it rained and her dad's upcoming retirement. We thanked them and wished them well, the intersection of our lives likely over forever.

The ride back was very different.

"So they were nice," I said.

"Yeah. I liked them. The guy looked like he knew what he was doing, too. He might have even checked out the freezer, too, to make sure it worked. I could tell that he was handling it really carefully, too." His change in attitude was startling.

I guess I can fly by the seat of my pants sometimes, too.


my ungrateful heart.

I was holding a gallon-sized ziplock bag of frozen chicken soup, standing in front of my open freezer, looking at a gallon-sized ziplock bag of frozen stroganoff and a gallon-sized bag of frozen vegetable beef stew. On the counter sat a gallon-sized ziplock bag of chili. I was struggling to have a grateful heart and it was not working.

Over Christmas break, we went up to Snowshoe Mountain, where Josh's dad rented a condo for the family. I'm no stranger to tagging along with a boyfriend on holidays. Some of them are uncomfortable, some of them are tense. This one is just pretty awesome. We go out in the morning and ski, and then come in for lunch, where Josh's step-mom has prepared us something delicious and hot and homemade. Then we go out and ski again or maybe just take a mid-afternoon nap. At night, we watch movies and play games and eat more home cooking.

Josh's step-mom, Susan, always cooks too much food. I'm not talking about the way that your Grandmother makes three biscuits for every person at Thanksgiving. I'm talking about making enough food that each person could have five meals a day and still take home a doggie bag. It's Too Much Food. Luckily, she has a strategy for getting rid of all the food that doesn't get eaten. That strategy is to give it to her step-sons.

And that's why I suddenly found myself in possession of multiple ziplock bags of frozen food. Don't get me wrong, I love free food. Don't ever offer me free food if you're only being polite, because I will take you up on it. But there just wasn't enough room for all this genuinely-offered food. I only have the small freezer that comes on top of my fridge, and I use every available inch of that. Opening the freezer is an adventure at my apartment, because not only do you not know what you're going to have to move to find the corn you're looking for, you don't know what's going to fall out the second you open the door. If you're lucky, it's the corn you're looking for. If you are unlucky, it's a whole chicken.

As I was standing, looking at the freezer with all the gallon-sized ziplock bags full of frozen food around me (and a bag of frozen corn on the floor), my grateful heart disappeared. I became angry and resentful that Susan lovingly made all this yummy food and then gave it to me. I was being inconvenienced by her poor planning. I suppose in actuality, she planned very well. She planned to give all the food to us. I began to wonder what the deal was with all the extra food and started to psychoanalyze her need to make Too Much Food. I even complained to Josh, who was not sympathetic and told me that I did not have a grateful heart. I started to resent him, too, even though he had done a good job lobbying to get the mustard (which we were actually almost out of anyway) and making his brother take the light mayonnaise (which I would never, ever use).

So I thawed those bags of food one at a time and then repackaged their contents into quart-sized bags. They fit better in the freezer and would be easy to take out and heat up for one meal for two people. I still did not have a grateful heart, but I stopped complaining and started dealing with it. Actually, I kept complaining, but I did it while I dealt with the food. Once repackaged, it all fit into the freezer, provided I close the door very quickly. I came up with some theories about why someone would feel the need to cook so much food, and I prepared myself to eat a lot of chicken soup in the next couple of months. Then I prepared myself to have to deal with this problem every time I saw Susan.

I did that by looking at freezers on craigslist. And you know, just thinking about getting a freezer made my heart feel much more grateful.


the long and short of it.

I am hoping that I will know when it's time to cut my hair. I was hoping that there would be a gong when I fell in love, so that I would know for sure about that, too. There wasn't. But maybe hair is unimportant enough that the universe will feel it's okay to give me a sure sign. I'm a slow learner.

See, my hair is tremendously long. Sooooo long. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It gets a lot of attention, which I like sometimes and others not. Also, I have learned that in terms of hair, quantity can overcome poor quality. I don't have especially pretty or striking hair, but there is a lot of it, which seems to count for something.

But long hair also requires a lot of maintenance, and to be honest, I don't even maintain the very short hairs on my legs anymore. Get this: with long hair, you have to brush it at least two times a day. Frankly, that's just too much for me. It takes forever and a day to dry and gets in the way all the time, and the only thing that I ever do with it is put it up. I have vivid dreams of cutting it off.

The weirdest thing about all this hair is that I don't believe it's mine. People who have seen it several times still act surprised to see it all coming from my head. I roll my eyes at them, but to be honest, I'm sort of surprised whenever I see it, too. I had short hair for ten years. Sometimes it was short enough that I would get mistaken for a boy with big hips. And I still think of myself that way, as I guess all the people who knew me then think of me. In my heart, I have short hair. There are people who have only known me with long hair, and they have no idea about the short hair in my heart.

Someday, I will cut it off, all of it in one fell swoop. I will send it to a little kid with cancer, and they will be much more grateful than I was about it. They will not complain about how it's the mousiest brown ever. But...not yet. Even as I hate it and battle with it and whine every time I have to tame it into brushability, I am not ready to go back to being a boy with big hips. It took so darn long to get to this point. I didn't do anything but not cut it off, but I did that for four years. And I think that once I do take the plunge, I'll never bother to grow it all back.

Having long hair has really been the only time I've had interesting hair, and that's where my reluctance lies. I know that interesting hair is only a phone call to my stylist away, but I shy away from that because it would make me feel even less like me. I would want to shout out "I have straight, mousy brown hair!" to anyone I met, lest they think I was trying to fool them with that lovely head of burnt auburn #17. I'm not against chemical hair alterations in general, but it's not for me. That might be a stupid way to feel, but there you go.

I am hoping it will be a haircut dream that will tell me when I'm ready to make the big hack. So far, I've always been sad that I cut my hair in the dream. And then I wake up, surrounded by a tangled mass that I was supposed to brush before I went to bed, and I am relieved. But one night, I won't be sad. I'll be glad that what's on my head again matches what's in my heart.