Monthly Archives: October 2018

What I Learned at the Bounce House

I am utterly convinced that 15 minutes in the Halloween Bounce House will completely prepare you for life.

I’ve just returned from my first-ever Bounce House Referee experience. I was appropriately dressed in flaming orange, as a pumpkin, since it was, well, a Halloween bounce house.  So I signed up to “volunteer,” which apparently means standing next to the door and making sure things don’t get out of control.

I have never been a parent so I can be tentative to work kid events. But I volunteer with children because I love them and want to serve the next generation. So I’m a newbie on bounce house culture.  Friends advised me on a few key things and I forged ahead.

About five minutes in, after witnessing Neil Armstrong attack Woody the Cowboy from Toy Story with a WWE-style hold, and seeing princesses emerge with their tiaras on backwards, I realized this was a microcosm of real life.

  1. If you can’t climb up the ramp to get into the house, then, maybe you’re too small. Or maybe your princess tutu is too puffy. At any rate, at times you must reassess your fitness for the battle ahead and perhaps patronize the baby bounce house next store for a while, to sharpen your skills.
  2. Things will be spilled on the floor. That’s life, it gets messy. One can only hope that it came out of a water bottle instead of a human orifice.  Sometimes as a grownup you just have to get down on your hands and knees and clean up after someone you’re responsible for, before other grownups start complaining. (To the woman who did so this evening, I applaud you, way to “mom up.”)
  3. You will lose stuff. Your ninja hat will come off in the slide and you will lose a sock or two. This will render your costume incomplete, and you’ll be sad.  Get used to it. In life we try to wear masks but the hurly-burly of life rips the mask off. And in the end everyone who truly loves you still thinks you are way cute because they don’t remember what the full getup looked like to begin with.
  4. The bigger kids will take over. But only for a while. Hang out in the corner and they will eventually get bored and leave. There is always somebody bigger, stronger, and higher-bouncing. They make a bunch of waves in the floor but learn to keep your balance and wait it out.
  5. Only dumb-dumbs jump with DumDums in their mouths. Before entering a veritable mosh pit, check your equipment and preparedness.
  6. Remember what shoes you were wearing.  Because when you come out dazed and confused and the sun’s gone down, you have to find your sandals in the pile.  So, take stock of what’s important before you go into the fray so you can find it again when you’re done.

    Actually I had a flashback tonight, seeing the pile of shoes kids shed before entering the bounce house.  I have this recurring dream where I somehow lose my shoes. A few nights ago I dreamed I was down to only one shoe, for every single shoe in my closet. I suspect this is a variant of the “speaking naked in front of a crowd” dream.  Or it’s a dream about feeling hobbled, because there’s a limit to what you can do without shoes. (Too deep for a humor piece?)  Or it may be a memory of visiting Asian temples where you have to remove your shoes and put them in a pile with literally hundreds of guests, and worrying the whole time you’re looking at the amazing jade Buddha from the 15th century that someone is going to steal your $150 Merrills. (Lesson: Don’t wear expensive shoes while temple-visiting in Asia.)

    In any case, I just hope everybody found their own shoes after I left. It would not surprise me if some parents keep spare pairs of shoes in the car.

  7.  Listen to voices of reason.  When you’re curled up in a corner, and you’re too small to see the exit, and someone recognizable says, “Follow my voice,” yeah, that’s a very good time to do what they say. Always remember somebody loves you, especially when you feel like the only one out there who loves you is God himself, and follow that voice.
  8. Smiles go a long way.  To take up the story of Neil Armstrong and Woody, both smiled throughout the throw-down.  I think I know Woody’s grandma but I’ve never met him before. He smiled at me while being pinned and I laughed. He then became my friend for life, relating everything that he experienced. That is the way life should be. Friends made easily with a smile and a shared experience.
  9. Take time to wonder and adventure.  I commented to a friend tonight, “The littlest ones all have the same look on their face as kittens leaving the box for the first time.” I was captivated. I read an article this week about studies on infants following a parent’s gaze, and how important that is to human development.  If the parent looks at it, it’s gotta be important.

    My first-timer bounce house “kittens” would look at the door to the jumping extravaganza, then look at a loving parent, and the parent would look up at the door too, and point with a finger or their chins. The child’s gaze followed the parent’s and fixed on the door. And in an instant they’d decide. “Let’s go.” That, my friends, is the essence of life lived daily, on the edge, trusting in a guide implicitly and going for it, whatever “it” is. Just, be careful who your guide is.

As my shift ended, with no major injuries thankfully, someone I consider to be a super-mom tapped me on the shoulder and said “I’m your relief. What are the rules here?” And I realized that my inexperience was OK, that real-life moms make it up as they go along, that there’s really no cosmic, all-inclusive mom-manual, even if they have kids 24-7. Life moves fast for everybody.  Just make sure you know where you put your shoes.


Down Memory Lane: Good/Bad Hair Daze

I have an idea for a new party:  We bring photos of the worst hair we ever had.

An advantage of being in the middle years is you can laugh now — mostly — at what you did when you were younger.

I recently went down memory lane with my stylist, about all the bad things we’d done to our hair over the years.  She is half my age so she has a lot of ground to cover yet. But she is a stylist so she had access to some major hair enhancement chemicals I didn’t, so maybe we’re even.

The Modified Bowl

girl with collar

This is preschool, I think.  I’m really rockin’ that #RBG* collar by the way. I’m not sure what to call the style. We got our hair cut at the local Beauty School in those days.  Which #thanksmom, was a coping mechanism I have pulled out from time to time when I couldn’t afford haircuts.

Remember the late 1960s where the thing was long, straight, blonde Beach-Boy-Song hair? I was out of luck.  This was the decade of Lady Clairol bleach blondes.

But I saw the curls come back in eventually (see 1980s below). Lesson learned: Ha, take that American beauty products industry!

*RBG=Ruth Bader Ginsberg

The Shag


Note the combination here of the “America’s mom” Carol Brady shag and the John Lennon glasses, which by this time had last their “pinko pot-smoking hippie” associations.

The Dorothy Hamel Wedge


Here’s a contest: For those of you who were alive in the late 70s, and have a yearbook, let’s see who has the most wedge hairstyles on their school yearbook page.  They were everywhere.  Remember having to figure out how to get perfectly feathered bangs? I believe this era saw the invention of the round brush.

The Liberal Intellectual Wannabe

IMG_2572 2 copy


The college years. Yes, those years when I experimented with long hair. And I started going gray, actually. For some reason unkempt hair made you cooler. I voted socialist in college once, for someone I knew who I thought would make a pretty good city councilperson. But other than that I was pretty much a pretender.

The Star is Born Poodle Perm

This phase of my life was short and the photo is MIA. I lost an entire decade’s worth of photos in a move and my perm phase was among them.

The “Star is Born” move with Barbra Streisand came out in the mid-70s but hairstyles can take a while to work their way into the middle class.

Perming my coarse, graying, wavy hair left me looking like a poodle. Especially in my new home, San Antonio, where 80% humidity simply elicited comments like, “At least we’re not in Houston.”

Also MIA: My “Lila” Phase

Ah, the struggle of graying hair in your 30s and 40s.  I went red in 1995 as I prepared to move to La Paz, Bolivia, to live on a shoestring salary, because the gray at my part wouldn’t show as much.


I decided to save money by coloring at home, so I went shopping for hair color. That in itself wasn’t hard, hair color is in every store in La Paz. I ended up with a bottle of something that wasn’t exactly the red shade I wanted but hey, let’s adapt to the culture. I picked it from the photo.

The color was called “lila,” which they don’t teach you in Spanish class. (The Spanish speakers among you now know how this story turns out.)  I will say that the box, which because I bought it on the black market ,had undoubtedly crossed into Bolivia over the Chilean border, most likely without having paid the requisite duties. And having ridden into town on the back of a large open truck, most probably, it had seen both water and sun damage. So the picture was pretty darned faded.

A friend I met in language school, who had been in the country precisely as long as I had (that is, one month) helped me put in the color, over my red hair, and we chatted and waited. And then she started gasping as we rinsed.  “Lila” means lavender. Think “lilac.”  I had dyed my hair a wonderful light purple.

She gave me a baseball cap to cover my hair and I made my way downtown to look for a salon. I found one, walked to the desk, dramatically lifted off the cap, and simply said “¡¡¡¡Ayúdameeee!!!!” (Help meeee!).  And several lovely ladies gathered around to hug me and play with my hair and tell me it was OK. It took four hours of scrubbing and I went from a redhead to flat out black because that’s all that would cover the purple. (Ayúdame [Aye-YOU-dah-may] is a really, really helpful Spanish phrase to have in your verbal dictionary, by the way.)

I cut my hair short so it wouldn’t cost so much to color, and found a lady to take care of things in my neighborhood for a reasonable price.  Lesson: Never panic when hair is involved. Lesson two: Women “get it” when you have a bad hair day and will always be there to hug you.

The “They Raised My Rent 15%,” aka the Pepé le Pew


Eventually I went back to red, which involved a lot of scrubbing and frequent haircuts. During my first year in Phoenix, my landlord raised my rent nearly 15%, #rentalbubble. Something had to give in the budget so I finally said, screw it, it’s time to go gray.

So yeah, I went about eight months with weird red tinges on the ends of my hair, as captured in this photo next to an exit sign in Nairobi.  (I hid out for several weeks in East Africa with this hairstyle, another suggestion for when you want to go gray. Find another continent to do it on.)

So there you have it, the “how I went gray” story.  Several years ago I bought groceries at the Safeway at Shea and Scottsdale Roads.  A woman behind me in the checkout line tapped my shoulder. “Who’s your colorist?” she asks.

“God,” I said. I love saying that.