Tag Archives: retirement




That’s this blog. It is enough to curl your toes. Fry your brain. Crimp your resolve. Its roots go deep into our psyches . . . and it ends with . . . well, it ends with split ends. Yes, dear reader. This is about home permanents.

Who on earth invented these? And why-oh-why did they ever call them permanents? Any woman who has ever suffered through these will tell you that home perms are actually “home temps.” Enough said. Every woman was deluded into thinking that she could achieve beauty shop results with this box of chemicals. What we dreamed about and the reality of the “do” is nicely illustrated below.

Better yet, which twin is Lily Tomlin’s mother?


I’ve alluded more than once to my mother’s proclivity for the Miss Toni permanents that she forced upon me during my grade school years. THE formative years, I might add. No wonder. This explains a lot about my growing up into an unsure woman, always paranoid about my looks. Too fat, too freckled, too toothy, too red-haired, too brown-eyed all the way to not enough eyelashes, not enough neck, not enough boobs (the early years anyway), not enough, not enough, not enough. And I lay it all at the altar of the dreaded, punitive Miss Toni. In researching for this blog, I discovered that I have mistakenly called this “Miss Toni” when it was actually a “Tonette” perm . . . which was a kid’s version of the adult “Toni” perm. It sat on the shelf next to the Party Curl and the Richard Hudnet (a cousin to Richard Wingnut).


Tonette sounds French, oui? Or perhaps like a member of a backup group for the Shirelles. French, my eye! If anything, I felt tribal in an African-sort of way. And speaking of international issues, another finding during my research phase is the realization that this trend was not limited to the United States. Behold the product from the Land Down Under!


Curly Pet? Really? And I thought Tonette was demeaning. My mother, who actually had a diploma from beauty school, deserves my forgiveness. After all, she was only trying to get me to look more like Shirley Temple. I think the only term that could describe my transformation into a Shirley Temple look-alike could be epic failure. The Terri Lee doll that was so popular in the Fifties had a mop of curls and could get a new perm right alongside her “mommy.” Of course I had a Terri Lee. I suppose this was also intended to make the child feel more inclined to “lean in” to the permanent (thank you, Sheryl Sandberg, although this is probably nowhere in your best-seller). But the perms persisted.

How much did mom pay that boy to be in that picture with all those Terri Lee dolls?

Hope dies hard in the hearts of mothers who are hoping to mold their unlikely daughters into beauty queens. One advantage: I am easily spotted in all my grade school pictures. I was usually one of the tallest kids in class AND I had that mop of hair. [Yes, Mother. Wherever you are, I forgive you. Sort of.]


In addition to the hair, my mother bought clothes for me called “Chubbies” and “Chubbettes,” another a la Francaise attempt to put glitter on a turd. (Phrase I’m borrowing from my daughter since it truly describes this like nothing else I can dream up.) This would be another entire blog.

Chubettes                  Chubbies

Truthfully, I’m not sure how I can even hold my mother mildly accountable when I perpetuated the torture by giving my daughter a home perm right before Junior Camp at Romoca (campground located in Palmer Lake, Colorado). She was angry and humiliated, with good reason. Her head was the size of a regulation basketball with all that fluff flying out from the roots. She reluctantly went to camp, knowing she would be the target of a number of jokes, many of those revolving around disparaging comments regarding the Fiji Islands. She was even more distressed when she discovered that the president of our church (Wallace B. Smith) would be paying a visit to the camp. Stacy still claims to be scarred from this entire debacle.

1989, The Summer of Her Discontent. Pictured with her sleek-haired cousins, Amy and Tyler
Stacy’s First Permanent (and my nomination for 1983 Mommie Dearest)

One final note. I seem to be an equal opportunity family member. “Back in the day” when Bob and I were newly married, everyone-but-everyone wanted an Afro hair-do. Bob and I were no exception to that cultural nuance and both succumbed to the chemical home perms to achieve the look. A canny friend (who was herself a beautician) gave Bob a perm and thoughtfully (tee-hee) took his picture which she presented in a sweet little frame. She gave me a perm as well.

You know this is a beautician’s house by the handy broom. Thanks, Sue Cox!

If the family that perms together stays together has merit, then we are the poster children. After forty years, I believe I can state with some certainty that Bob and I are permanent, like peanut butter and jelly, England and the Beatles, love and kisses, and of course, glamour and Tonette. Sigh. Those WERE the good old days, huh sweetheart?

Foo Manchu and his favorite squeeze

Jumping the Shark

One Big Happy . . .
One Big Happy . . .

As one considers the many sources of information which are called prophetic or prescient or even psychic, I have to admit that the old 70’s TV show Happy Days may have hit the nail on the head with predictive titles. Indeed, as I look back on my life in the 1950’s and 1960’s I find that it literally reeks with happy! (Take that, Pharrell Williams . . . that’s 20 years of happy!) Although it sounds too good to be real, my memories are filled with lemonade stands, troll dolls and playing-cards affixed to my bike with clothes pins. On a good day, my bike had playing cards AND plastic pop beads on the spokes.

Peace, love and troll dolls

Yes, I was very cool. That was the word for me . . . at least in the 1950’s. OK. I was less than cool; especially with the Miss Toni permanent. In fact, here is total uncool: me with the hair perm AND in a squaw dress. Made by my mother. However, they were cool then. Really. I mean, does it get better than rick-rack?

Cool or uncool

I’m finding that many of the things that would have been easily acceptable in the “Happy Days” are not so acceptable to my seven year old grandson. He sees right through the child psychology that my mother wielded so well. For example, let’s evaluate Pixie’s Delight. I do hope my brother, Steve, reads this blog as he will be the only other person on the earth who would have been hoodwinked by this sham, wrought upon us innocents by our mother.


Whenever my mother wasn’t sure whether or not we would be “down” with consuming a new food, she simply called it Pixie’s Delight. Below are some pictures of Pixie’s Delight.


The name Pixie’s Delight still sounds just, well . . . just delightful! While thinking, “Will I ever learn?” I must admit that the old pull to consume something with that name is just as strong as it was in 1954 when I was seven years old. So, I thought it would be a good ploy to wrest upon Jordan, while getting him to consume what he considered questionable foods. After cooking up a scrumptious-but-possibly-dubious-dinner of butternut squash ravioli with maple cream sauce, I served it to His Royal Highness by introducing it as “Pixie’s Delight.” He frowned at the food and then shot me a most skeptical look. It was, actually, a withering look.

Jordan: “Hmmm. It looks like ravioli to me.”

Gigi:       “Well, yes. But it is Pixie ravioli.” (Truth meter plummets.)

Jordan: “But it is orange. What is WRONG with it?”

Gigi:       “Well, Pixies like their ravioli with butternut sq*@^*&#sh in it.” (Gigi mumbles, knowing the word squash is a possible Pixie downer.)

Jordan: “Butternut what?? What did you say?”

Gigi, coming clean: “Butternut squash. But it has maple cream sauce on it! So yummy!”

Jordan: “Seriously? Maple belongs on waffles. No way.”

Gigi, pleading:   “Won’t you just try one bite? I am sure you will like it.”

Jordan, looking more skeptical than ever: “Why? Because some dumb Pixie likes it? Seriously, Gigi. Pixies are not real. Neither are fairies. Your mother should have told you that.”

Pixies . . .
Fairies . . .
And Trolls, oh my!

Do I dare tell him that if my mother had been so transparent with the Pixie information it would have totally blown the Delight ruse down the drain . . . along with the Brussels sprouts?


In that moment I realized that Pixie’s Delight had aged, just like I. We were part of the over-the-hill gang. Perhaps if I had called them Zombie Pustules they would have been more tempting. Let’s face it. The times have changed.

And that, friends, brings us to the title of this blog: Jumping the Shark. Thanks to my daughter, Stacy, for pointing out the uncanny relationship between Happy Days and Pixie’s Delight. Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that was used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality, signaled by a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of gimmick in an attempt to keep viewers’ interest, and which is taken as a sign of desperation. The phrase is based on a scene from a fifth-season episode of Happy Days when Fonzie jumps over a shark while on water-skis. The usage of “jump the shark” has subsequently broadened beyond television, indicating the moment when a brand, design, franchise or creative effort’s evolution declines.

Does he shower in that leather jacket? If he can water ski, why is he selling reverse mortgages?

So, with that, I must bid a sad adieu to Pixie’s Delight. For all her comely beauty and poetic name, I fear she has jumped the shark as an entrée. Dear Pixie: I shall remember you fondly . . . especially when I eat my asparagus, grapefruit, and Brussels sprouts. However, I must warn you . . . the liver jumped the shark way before you did! Take care, my winged friend.

Words, Sweet Words

This week saw a first: the Scripps Spelling Bee had a tie! This happened after the final two contestants each spelled 12 of the championship words without mistake. Then, in a dramatic moment, one of the fellows misspelled his word: CORPSBRUDER (a close comrade). A gasp went up as the bell announced his failure to spell the word. The last man standing then proceeded to misspell his word: ANTEGROPELOS (waterproof leggings). At that point, the judges, who were almost out of championship words, declared the bee a tie and each fellow received a trophy and $33,000.


2014 Scripps Spelling Bee Winners

I always find this interesting because I dearly love words. Some words are more favored over others. For instance I truly love the phrases high jinx and doo-dah, and the word mellifluous. Great words can be found in some unexpected places. For example, my class in medical terminology uncovered such fabulous finds as acetabulum, trichotillomania, myelomeningocele, and on and on. And doesn’t the word proctologist sound just like it should? The amusement over medical terms has created several lists defining these terms. For example, a list from some imaginary “Redneck Medical Dictionary” lists the following definitions, to cite only a few: bacteria = back door of hospital cafeteria; artery = study of art; protein = in favor of youth; rectum = nearly killed ‘em.


I like the sound of the word nebulous for some unknown reason. I used to pepper my sentences with it whenever it fit (which was amazingly quite often). One day a friend instructed me that I was overusing the word and no one knew what it meant anyway . . . and (knife to my heart) it made me appear holier-than-thou when I used it. I suppose it made me sound pseudo-scholarly, which phrase I like for its hissing sounds. It is so much more fun than pseudo-intellectual, which I could never be since I am truly so outrageously intelligent. If you don’t believe me, you should have asked my mother. I really had her fooled.


The Fabulous Crab Nebula

Speaking of pseudo, Starbucks has created an entire vocabulary that has us thinking we have made friends with our inner Italian. We toss such words as macchiato and frappuccino around with such abandon, continuing with our java-Italian by requesting that drink to be “grande . . .  no, no . . . make that venti . . .  no, no . . .  what the heck . . . make it a trenta!” Such moments make me sad that I left my soccer shin guards and my beret at home. Food, in itself is an entire United Nations of terms: vichyssoise, borscht, aperitif, flan, bouillabaisse, schnitzel, and farfalle.

I have always believed that one should never talk down to children. So I spoke to them just like I would have chatted with an adult. This led to a Kodak moment in the grocery store with my three children. The store was crowded with Saturday’s parade of working moms, pushing carts down the aisles like a platoon. My children sped on ahead of me rounding the end of the aisle and moving down into the next. I could hear their voices and whining from one aisle over. Within seconds, Stacy, all of three years old with hands on her hips, came to head of the aisle and shouted, “MOM!” which caused every woman in the aisle to look up. When she found my face she screamed: “Make the brothers quit antagonizing me!” Suddenly all eyes were on me; I’d like to think this was with envy over my toddler’s precocious vocabulary, but a few stares had an edgy look as if they might turn me in to DCFS for child abuse by use of highfalutin’ language. By third grade, her teacher told me in confidence that she had a better vocabulary than most of the parents of her classroom children.


Interestingly enough, it wasn’t Stacy, but Scott, my middle child, who became fascinated with words. He would look words up in one of those HUGE dictionaries that lived in the back of his Latin class. Then he would spring those words on me, much like the kids in the spelling bee. “Use it in a sentence,” I would say, with a confounded look on my face. When his Latin teacher, a jolly and patient Jesuit priest, retired he gave Scott the big old dictionary. I will always love him for being so special to Scott and acknowledging that Scott was, indeed, a sesquipedalian. And that, my friends, is my most favorite word.


What to Do?


During a moment of peace and quiet . . . . No, that’s wrong. Let’s start over here. During a moment of peace, while the car radio played the soundtrack of Frozen at full-speed-ahead, I found myself in muse mood. It was as if after nearly five full months of retirement I suddenly realized that I could take the time to do some things I couldn’t do while a worker bee. As I wrote the above sentence, the absurdity of the phrase “take the time” flew right off the page at me. I no longer have to “take the time” . . .  as if I’ve stolen it from Dr. Who. The days lie ripe and full ahead of me to mold and meld at my pleasure. So, what to do?

My mind began to whir. (See previous blog.) A Technicolor series of short subjects flashed in front of me.

  • Jane studying opera listening, learning everything from Offenbach to Wagner, Puccini to Mozart . . . and singing along in Italian and German (as appropriate).
  • Jane raising orchids, tenderly caring for blooms of pink, purple, white and electric blue . . . while wearing a blue ribbon of Best in Show from the Florida State Fair.
  • Jane digging into her genealogical history, finding those rascals and hardworking folk, including a long past elegant red-haired Irish princess whose throne she should contest.
  • Jane writing the Great American Novel, blithely chatting plot lines and character development with new friends JK Rowling and Stephen King.
  • Jane training her terrier Jack in agility trials with the goal of entering him into the Pet Olympics where he is sure to get the gold.


 Jack’s Current Skill

  • And, Jane fulfilling all those pre-retirement dreams of sitting by the pool reading and reading, cooking beautiful gourmet meals to be eaten by candlelight, organizing my home (this while Jordan sang “For the First Time in Forever”).

My reverie was suddenly brought to a halt by the sweet voice of my six-year-old grandson singing “Let It Go” at the top of his little lungs. And there you have it! Does it get any better than flying down the open road with a sweet little boy sharing the moment? And then I heard him sing this:

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

As Jordan and Princess Elsa sang this, I recalled an earlier tune sung by that little wooden philosopher, Pinocchio:

I’ve got no strings
To hold me down,
To make me fret, or make me frown,
I had strings
But now I’m free!
There are no strings on me.

Thank you, Disney studios. I believe I now have my retirement mantra. Silently I play this little mantra in my brain, all whirring at a standstill . . .

Freedom . . . freedom  . . . freedom . . .  freedom . . . . . . 

Lifelong Yearning

BrainActive_070413_617x416My spell checker doesn’t like this title at all. The default is, of course, lifelong learning. But that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about the yearning from our earliest memories to now: the yearning for someone to really understand us. I want someone to “get me!” For a great many of us, we believe we have found this in a partner, a spouse, a soul mate. Yet, something deep inside of me acknowledges that no one will ever get me like . . . well, like me!

If you are in a new or long-term relationshipwith someone you love, consider this a wee little advice column. I can say this has some teeth in it since we are hurtling toward our 40th wedding anniversary this fall. Here’s my bit of wisdom: you never really figure someone out completely. This is much more idiom than axiom. You may not like that thought, hoping that the day will come (or has arrived?) when you know that special someone inside out. Or you may be like me and feel somewhat titillated by the thought that my sweetie is still somewhat of a mystery. No wonder I dearly loved the story of Pollyanna.

Bob in flight
Bob in flight

This principle was brought home to me recentlythrough an unusual dialogue with my husband. Normally he would rather chew ground glass than get into what I would consider meaningful dialogue. However, the time spent was revealing and furthered ouracceptance (and wry humor?) at each other’s foibles.

For the entire 39-1/2 years of our marriage, I’ve asked Bob the same question. “Hey, honey! What are you thinking?” His reply is always the same two words: “Nothin’ much.” Occasionally I would chide him by saying, “REALLY?” but he insisted ‘twas so. This all came to a head last year when our daughter and grandson were living with us.

pretty brain

For the first time in our marriage we had the opportunity to watch the morning news together, sitting side-by-side on the couch, embracing our morning cup of coffee. With the remote resting between us, I found myself picking it up frequently to pause and make commentary on the current subject. To me, this was what I could only think of as “interactive news.” I loved it. One day Stacy, who probably was feeling great sympathy for her father, made this statement to me: “You know, that remote control pausing drives Dad crazy.” “It does?” I remarked with shock tinged with angst. I decided the grown-up thing to do was to confront Bob with this new-found knowledge.

“Does my pausing of the news to chat drive you nuts?” His response: “I know you can’t help it.” WHAT? And thus began the dialogue. I shared with him that my brain is a like a spinning Rolodex, constantly on the move, whirring with ideas, thoughts, and little nuggets just begging to be shared. He looked at me with stunned silence. We shared what could only be termed a pregnant pause. “That explains so much,” he stated. In the same moment, I was struck with the knowledge that when he says, “Nothin’ much,” there really IS nothing much happening inside his head. That sense of peace and quiet is so foreign to my brain that I had no idea he was sharing his truth. Likewise, he tried to absorb the impact of the crazed circuits crackling and popping in my brain.

Jane’s Brain??

Again I realize the complexities of each of our “selves” and the hard task it is to live harmoniously with another person for years . . . and years . . . and years. And two shall become as one? Heck no! Does he “get me,” yes! And that, friends, makes me happy.