Gray Hair… I Kinda Care

So once again, I have made the decision to stop dying my hair, even though my vanity is begging me to reconsider. I have several reasons why I decided to stop. First one being, my scalp stopped tolerating the dye. After each dye job, my scalp would feel itchy for days. My hair would also feel greasy.  I would just feel uncomfortable for days, weeks, like my scalp was being taken over by vindictive, invisible bugs.

Until I recently reconnected with favorite hair dresser in the world, I was going to a salon in the mall every 6 or 7 weeks and paying $120 for a cut and color. For a brief time after I reconnected with my hair dresser, I was paying half of that every 6 or 7 weeks. The cost added up, but before the bad side effects happened, the cost used to be worth it to me.

Now, it’s not worth it. Nothing is worth me itching my scalp and feeling physically uncomfortable for large stretches of time. If I could, I would still dye my hair for another solid 10 or so years. It breaks my heart (okay, pride) because I love how I look with dark hair, and felt super cute and confident.

Seeing these white/grey hairs slowly take over my scalp has been a mind fuck, and making me feel strangely emotional. On one hand, I understand that being able to grow old is not a luxury afforded to all. I have known so many amazing young women who have died from metastatic breast cancer in the previous year. They would have given anything to be able to grow older.

But I’m not working with this abundance of self esteem to be barreling toward 40 (a little over 2 years from now, ahhh) and seeing an “old” lady looking back at me in the mirror. I see my hair and I feel old, defeated. I don’t know how to reconcile with what’s going on the top of my head with how I really feel.

Why is getting older so hard to accept? I used to think I was going to be dead by the time I was 40, just like my mother. I was certain that breast cancer was going to kill me, too. Now, I’m only a couple of years away from the my mother was when she died, and frankly, y’all, I’m starting to look more like her. In my mind, I’m lookin’ like a woman who’s been dead for 30 years.

Also, why is it so hard for me to accept the fact that people are going to stop thinking I’m not in my 20s or heck, even in my early 30s? I simultaneously don’t believe people when they say I look 10 years younger than my actual age, but  I love it. Not going to lie. I know that’s going to stop when more of my white hair comes in.

I know it’s okay to accept that my pride and vanity are taking a beating. I’m not a bad person for seeing my white hair coming in and wish that this wasn’t happening for another 10 or 20 years. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good and taking pride in my appearance.

I think this will take time to accept, and I will just adapt with however this turns out. I know what I look like with red hair, blonde hair, black hair, and dark brown hair. Now, I am just going to find out what I look like with a combination of white hair and dishwater blonde hair.

Well, at least my glasses and wardrobe is going to be fly AF.

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Hey strangers!

It’s been awhile since I have updated anything on this blog, and I blame the new job. I’ve been there for eight months now, and I’m just now feeling a little more sure-footed at the same company. I definitely did not realize how hard and difficult it would be to switch careers at my age, but I am glad I did, despite missing investigating now and then.

Sometimes, it completely blows my mind to think about where I was three years ago and where I am today. Three years isn’t that long of a time period, but it feels like five or six lifetimes ago. I was at a job I grew to hate for a manager and supervisor who had me convinced how bad I suck at the job and life.

During my time at that job, I tried to move up or move to another department. Several times, instead of just promoting who they thought was best, the company held “try outs.” If I recall correctly, I tried two out of three times they held these tryouts while I was there. I even “tried out” to move to a preliminary researcher position, and once again, told I wasn’t good enough.

While I understand that I wouldn’t have gotten my last job (which resulted me in getting my current job) if it hadn’t been for the first one, I still think back to that time of my life and feel wonder. I resigned so easily to a position of mediocrity and allowed myself to believe that I couldn’t achieve more. It might take several more years for me to forgive myself for that.

I have had the absolute privilege working for companies who believe and encourage career development. They send their employees to trainings, so that these individuals can improve in their skills and abilities. I have worked with mentors at my last job. I have learned so much in these last three years, and confidence in your abilities radiates in the work that you produce.

A January 2013 Forbes article entitled “Why Employee Development Is Important, Neglected And Can Cost You Talent” stated:

Good talented people naturally want to advance, and appreciate meaningful support in the process. As the HBR study showed, capable ambitious young employees want training, mentoring and coaching. They want to gain skills. They want to become more versatile and valuable to an organization.

This could not be more spot on. Sure, not every employee wants to be an asset to a team and wants to collect a paycheck. I’m talking about those who want to gain skills and become a valuable asset to a company. Right now, I am studying to become a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist. After this, I want to become a Certified Fraud Examiner, and after that, it’s time to rule the world.

I wish it didn’t take me until recently to learn not to accept that I am how others perceive me. I did extremely well at my previous researcher job, even though my previous company had said I lacked the skills to do basic research. They weren’t right about me, and the only person who was hurt by all of this was me.

I didn’t believe in myself and my abilities, and it cost me greatly. The only thing I can keep doing is to move on, and never make that mistake again. If I don’t believe in myself, then who will?

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RIP Maggie

You know, it’s hard to believe but at one point in my life, I used to be afraid of dogs. Yeah, me. Afraid of dogs. I had a couple of bad experiences with dogs as a kid, and as a result, I became an adult who was afraid of dogs.

In walked a beagle named Maggie.

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Oh how quickly I became a dog convert after my parents brought home Maggie the beagle.  I lived at home for the first year of that beagle’s life. I couldn’t find a job after college graduation, so I lived at home. During the day, I’d watch Maggie and when my stepmom came home, I’d take her car and go to my job at Blockbuster.

I can’t believe I was only 23 years old when she graced all of our lives with her presence. After 14.5 years on this planet and as a member of my family, Maggie has crossed the rainbow bridge.

Maggie was a very good girl.  She was full of sass and attitude, and I loved her very much.  When she was a wee pupper, she liked to bite the crap out of the cuffs of my jeans. It didn’t help that I didn’t realize in my early 20s that I needed to buy petite length, so she had a lot of jeans to sink her teeth in.

When she was still a puppy, but I thought she was big enough to be in the backyard unattended and off leash, she proved me wrong. She slipped through the deck posts and went running!  I had to jump over the deck and RUN after her. I mean, I ran like freaking Flo-Jo. I caught her and I remember my parents standing at the front steps, laughing their butts off and clapping at my efforts.

That wasn’t the first and last time I had to chase her. I might be a long distance runner now  but I have never been (and certainly was not then) a sprinter, so short-distance running hurt.

After I left her for the first time for a long period of time, my parents picked me up from the airport. I followed them in from the garage up the stairs to the kitchen. I remember Maggie greeting my stepmom and then my dad. When I came in, SHE ACTED LIKE SHE DIDN’T EVEN SEE ME. I was shunned! The next day, that dog peed in the house three times, despite not having had an accident in the house for several months.

One day visiting my dad, I was heading toward my car when I heard my dad screaming from the backyard, “LARA, COME HERE. I NEED HELP.” First, I thought my dad was having some sort of a heart attack, so I went running to the backyard. Here in turns out, Maggie had found a body part of a rabbit she killed the night before. She was running around with it in her mouth, growling at my dad who was trying to yank it from her mouth.

I took her for a walk once and a rabbit scurried past our path. Maggie reacted so quickly to chase after the rabbit that I was scared my arm was going to pop out of place. She whipped me across the street like a rag doll.

When I got my own dog, Boomer, I brought her to meet her “aunt” Maggie.  There’s a seven year age difference between Boomer and Maggie, and old dogs typically don’t care for the young pups.

Maggie tolerated the young, bigger dog. Boomer really tired the old girl out, but as you can see, Maggie seemed to have a good time.

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One time, I came up to my parents house and didn’t bring Boomer. When Maggie saw that I wasn’t with the overgrown puppy, her demeanor completely changed. She was overjoyed and exuding happiness that it was just me. If she could have done a jig, that beagle would have done it.

When my parents retired to Tampa, I was very sad to see the ole girl go. I am glad I got to see her in 2014 when I went down for Thanksgiving. I recently got to see her Christmas of 2016. I made sure to hug her lots and tell her what a good girl she is.

While Boomer is MY first dog, Maggie holds a special place in my heart as the dog who turned me into the crazy dog lady I am. She had loads of personality, and she made friends wherever she went. My parents spoiled her more than I probably spoil my own dogs. She had a good life.

I think the worst thing about dogs is that they don’t live nearly long enough. I will know this all too well when my own doggos cross the rainbow bridge and meet up with their “aunt.” Somewhere, where all the good dogs go, Maggie is chasing rabbits, tracking voles and getting into as much mischief as her heart desires.

Rest easy, Mags. You were a very good dog indeed.

Resolutions

Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve started keeping an excel spreadsheet tracking my expenses. Nine days into the new year, this simple act is completely changing how I am view money and my relationship with money. I am well past the age I should be and not have a great handle on money.

I never ever ever ever want to find myself in a position like I did with the Ex where I become financially dependent on someone. He and I should have ended things several years before it did, and I was hesitant to pull the trigger because I’d have been financially wrecked without him.  In fact, I even told him this on several occasions.

The Ex rarely complained about getting me anything I wanted, and he was generous with his money during our relationship. Hell, he has been generous even afterwards. I am simultaneously grateful for his generosity but mad at myself for letting myself get comfortable and complacent. Maybe, if I had been more diligent about finances and making wise decisions, maybe I wouldn’t have spent those last years in a relationship with someone who had no desire to be with me.

I know when you live with someone, you are supposed to share bills and responsibilities. In the six years we lived together, we didn’t approach household finances as a team, and always as two people who happen to share a house. Yeah… that should have been a sign. It’s certainly something I never want to repeat ever again.

My relationship with him ended a year and a half ago, and I’m still in the process of learning how to fully get my shit together. I slip up a lot, and I fall into bad financial habits (Starbucks, I missssss you).

Things are going great with my Amor, but I never want to feel financially dependent on him or make him feel like he has to take care of me. (Granted, if I get sick again, then that is different, but the focus here is on healthy, able-bodied Lara.) If/when he and I combine our lives together, I want to have my shit together and be my absolute best. I want to get back to the Lara in her mid and late 20s who was making piddly squat, but saved like a champion.

This excel spreadsheet is a great start, and I definitely have additional steps I need to take to walk confidently into middle age with my head held high and my stress level not at a “Call my therapist” level.  Now and then, I want to check in here for accountability and to ensure I’m living solely within my means.

Year in Review

I know it’s probably odd  to do a year in review post when I haven’t done much blogging in the first place. I guess that will mean I have a lot to share here… maybe?

This year started off with a major surgery, which definitely set the tone and pace for the first part of the year. I knew the recovery would be difficult, but holy heck, it took me longer to bounce back than I thought it would. When I was cleared to start running again, it felt like I was starting over at zero. In all actuality, I probably was starting over at zero after five inches of my abdomen was opened and closed recently. Right now, the five-inch scar doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did at the beginning of the year. I rarely even notice it’s there anymore.

My running this year could be accurately described in one word: slow. I signed up for my second marathon, which I completed in early November. Between my work schedule and the weather, my heart wasn’t really engaged in training for this marathon compared to the previous year when I ran Columbus. My second marathon saw me adding 30 minutes to my previous marathon. While I am proud of the fact that I finished in Indianapolis, I know I could have done much better if my heart had been in it. I’m not going to make any excuses. If I wanted to, then I would have found a way.

This year I learned that I have to fall back in love with running before I attempt to do another marathon. For a brief period of time, I thought I was going to sign up for Pittsburgh Marathon 2018. When Best Boyfriend Ever reminded me that work was going to take up most of my time for the first three months of 2018 (something I had told him several times but yet, I needed him to remind me), I made the correct decision to sign up for only the half.

Time to get back to the basics and focus on getting stronger. When strength comes, speed will happen.

The biggest change this year had to do with my job. A recruiter had reached out to me via LinkedIn about an opportunity with PNC, and I jumped so hard at the opportunity I might have given myself whiplash.  I really and truly loved the work I was doing at my previous job, and I could have honestly kept doing that until the cows came home. I loved being an investigator.

What I couldn’t deal with and the number one reason why I left: the hours. Granted, several of my co-workers definitely billed more hours than I probably did, and they are still there.  All that mattered at that job was meeting deadlines, which meant kissing some nights and weekends good-bye. I didn’t want to do that and felt myself burned out more times than I could count.

I’m not opposed to ever working nights and weekends. I know I  am going to have to do that for the first three months of 2018. I will do whatever I have to do to make sure the job gets done. However, unlike at my last job, I know the crazy busy schedule will end and things will calm down for a good period.  I just couldn’t tolerate it being crazy busy every day, every week, every month with no end in sight.

I take pride in my work and skill set. I love figuring things out and coming up with great finds. I always want to do the best I can. But I need my nights and weekends to recharge, relax and get myself ready to tackle the new work week with a fresh set of eyes.  Opportunities to do that at my last job were few and far between.

While I am disappointed that my last job didn’t work out given how much I loved being an investigator,  I don’t regret my decision to leave whatsoever. I would make the same decision over and over again. I am now working at a great company and opportunities here are endless. The most amazing thing is that I am learning a completely new skill set, and I am feeling challenged every day.

Next year, my primary focus will be learning and becoming the absolute best I can be at being an internal auditor. I already know my lunch times will consist of studying for the CAMS and spending some free time taking extra courses in BSA/AML. I cannot wait to deep dive into this world, like I am almost giddy. I never could afford to go back to school to get a master’s degree, so in a way, I am getting the additional education I always wanted.

This year also saw the final nails put in the coffin that was my relationship with the Ex (yeah, that was a weird sentence).  For awhile, the Ex was my free dogsitter when I went out of town, but that’s now over with. I know he loves Boomer and Mal, and he even paid for their vet plans this year, but that’s come to an end. He has his own family now, and he’s probably married as I type this. He was a much better Ex than he was a boyfriend for the last 3 or 4 years of our relationship.

It was one thing when he was single or just dating, but he has a family now. While I would have no intentions or desires to meddle in his personal life or get him back (hahahahahaha omg hahahahaha), I don’t want to have any involvement with married exes. That way leads to drama, and I want no part. I will let him know if something happens to Mal or Boomer in the next year or so, but from now on, the Ex is staying in the past along with all the other relationship ghosts rattling in my closet. I wish none of them ill will (well, maybe the stalker), but that doesn’t mean they need to occupy any part of my life now.

I don’t like making New Year’s Resolutions, so I just make the same one every year: read more books. I actually read more books this year than I have in years! I think that goes to show how uncluttered and relaxing this year has been for me.

My focus for 2018 will be to be the best I can be at my job, advocate even more for metastatic breast cancer, get back to the running basics and remember why I loved running in the first place, and spend as much time with the best boyfriend ever. He makes me happy, and if I make him just a fraction of how incredibly happy he has made me, then 2018 is looking to be a good one for the two of us.

If anyone read this entire book I just wrote, congrats. I’m impressed.

 

The Good in People

Two days ago, I was walking with a manager from one building to another for a 12:30 meeting. We were only a block or so away from Firstside, and well, I tripped over a crappy piece of sidewalk and face planted. I was carrying my laptop bag and purse, and just tripped and my face met the sidewalk.

It was surreal. I started gushing blood from my face immediately, and I am pretty sure I went into shock. I mean, that’s what happens when you bloody your face, right? I just lied there for a second, marveling at the blood coming out of my face.  I was trying to keep the blood from spilling onto my pants and feet, but came up unsuccessful. (RIP navy blue dress pants.)

My manager came to my aid and you know who else did? A bunch of complete strangers also came to my assistance as I laid bleeding on the Boulevard of the Allies.  Someone handed me a couple of napkins, which did absolutely nothing but I appreciated the sentiment.

A man and a woman came up to my manager and me and told me to hold my nose together in an effort to stop the bleeding. Another woman, a middle aged woman, actually went running to a firehouse a couple of blocks away to get help for me. A complete stranger ran to get help for me, and she came back minutes later with towels.

These strangers stayed with me and my manager as my mouth kept bleeding. They kept me absolutely calm (or maybe, that was the shock). Honest to dog, it warmed my icy cold heart that these strangers stopped to help a thirty-something woman who face-planted onto a sidewalk.

Pittsburgh is definitely a small big city, and the day of my accident showed me just how much.  I am forever grateful to these strangers for helping me, and for my coworkers keeping calm as my upper lip would not stop bleeding.

Also, for the record, I wanted to share that I DID NOT CRY. Once. Not after I fell or when the adrenaline wore off.  I ended up with a broken nose and busted chin and lip. I’m bruised and cut up on my right knee and elbow. The bright side – my glasses didn’t shatter (although one lens got scratched up) , and I still have all of my teeth. I’m pretty sure my guardian angel (what up mom) did her job on Thursday.

Now I know what it feels like to be beat up, and frankly, not a fan. I hope I never have to experience that again. Fingers crossed!

 

Do as I say, not as I do…?

Three years ago, I wrote a blog imploring parents to not fade away from the pictures. I had a strong emotional reaction to the realization that there are only four pictures of me and my mom. Four. She hated having her picture taken, and most pictures taken of her, well, she’s not smiling.  If my mom is smiling in the picture, then there’s a good chance alcohol was involved.

My blog resonated with a lot of folks who saw themselves in my mom. I have had friends tell me that my blog woke something up in them, and now, they get in the pictures with their kids. I am so proud of that, really and truly.  I am glad I was able to reach out to parents and convince them that years from now, their children will only see them, not any of their so-called flaws.

I have a confession to make: I am just like my mother, really and truly.  I look like her, walk like her, and have the absolute same disdain for being photographed… like her.

I made a gallows humor joke to my friends that if I die, my loved ones will find it hard to find decent photographs of me. Instead, they’ll have to make due with all the fantastic photographs I have taken of others. To be honest, it was a joke, but after I said it, I might be okay with this idea anyway.

I hate having my picture taken, and I honestly believe it’s why I started taking pictures in the first place. I didn’t want to be in them. It is definitely why, whenever I’m photographing an event, I am sympathetic toward people like me who hate having their picture taken.  If it’s unflattering, I’ll delete it or take a new photograph.

When I see pictures of myself, I cringe at my uneven skin or never perfect hair. I just see flaws. I view these pictures as a photographer and someone who doesn’t necessarily always like what she sees.

In recent years, I have tried to be better about being in the pictures, especially when my nieces and nephews are around. I take silly selfies with them. I act weird in photos with my dad. I think the last photograph I took with my dad really sums up our relationship:

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There are very few pictures of me and my ex, which used to bother me but now, hell that isn’t a bad thing, LOL. I’m a-okay with how that turned out.  I don’t want the same thing to happen with my boyfriend.  He makes me so happy I feel like I radiate smiley faces and heart emojis from my very core.

I don’t want to disappear from the pictures, just like my mom did. I’m a damned good photographer but I’m not photogenic. Maybe one day, I’ll come to the same revelation others did reading my blog from 2014.

 

 

 

30 years

This month, it’ll be 30 years since my mother died. Gotta say, it feels surreal that she’s been gone for this long. My mom, she missed pretty much everything in my life, minus my birth. She was definitely there for that one. After that, my mother missed my First Communion, Confirmation, high school graduation, college graduation, first job, first heartbreak, buying my first house, so on and so on.

She wasn’t there when I had breast cancer. More than anything, I missed her while I was going through treatment. I wanted my parent there so badly. Just because I don’t remember doesn’t mean I don’t miss her and have a mom-shaped hole in my heart, which will never go away.

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This is what she just missed in my life. My two brothers, each of whom have kids, also missed out having our mother in their lives.

Metastatic breast cancer is a thief. It’s a dirty dirty thief. It stole my mother, and I’m doing something about it. Once again, I’m raising money for Metavivor. Every dollar you donate will go toward researching metastatic breast cancer. This year, I decided to run 30 miles this year – one mile for every year she has been gone.

That’s right – 30 freaking miles. I’m doing a marathon and then 3.8 miles before.  The date will be November 18 – be there or be square, and watch me hobble toward this bonkers goal of mine.

If you can donate, then you can do so here:

https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/larahuffman30

If you cannot, I understand and would be very appreciative of anyone who can share my story and my link.

My Version of the “Breast Cancer Awareness Game”

I have heard that this year’s “Breast Cancer Awareness” game is already rearing its head, and I have a couple initial thoughts.

First one being, come the fuck on. It’s not even October. It’s not even SEPTEMBER. Why why why?

My second thought is this, and will always be this, WHO IS NOT AWARE OF BREAST CANCER? Seriously, find me that person who isn’t aware of breast cancer because they need to have a talk with me. I want to know where they have been hiding for the previous 20 years and see if they need joining the 21st century.

Here’s the game: you receive this message.

“Hi beautiful ladies so here it is the time of year again when we try to raise awareness of breast cancer through a game. Its very easy and i would like all of you to participate. Last year we had to write the colour of our bra’s on our status. Men wondered for days what was going on with random colors on status’s. This year we make reference to our love life status as a flavor. Do not answer to this message just post corresponding word on your status and send this message privately to all the girls on your friends list. Blueberry is single, pineapple is its complicated, raspberry is I dont want to commit, apple is engaged, cherry is in a relationship, banana is married, avacado is I’m the better half, strawberry is can’t find mr right, lemon is I want to be single and raisin is I want to get married to my partner. Last time the bra game was mentioned on t.v let’s see if we can get there with this one. Please resend this to all your girly friends then update your status with your answer ONLY! DONT TELL ANY GUYS!
I hope to see lots of fruit 💝

 

FRUIT, BECAUSE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT OUR MELONS, LADEEZ! AMIRITE OR AMIRITE.

Okay, here is what I want you to do if you find this word excrement salad dressed up as awareness in your message box, hit a reply all and send them this:

Hi beautiful ladies!  It is the time of year again when we try to raise awareness of breast cancer , but not through a game. Games are so 2016. Let’s raise awareness by education and outreach – what do you say, gals? This year, how about we make reference to the reality of breast cancer, and send this message privately to all the girls on your friends list. Post the following: 113 for the amount of women and men who died of metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. every day;  33 months for the average lifespan following a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis; men for the fact that MEN actually get breast cancer too; Metavivor for the name of a non-profit organization dedicated SOLELY to researching metastatic breast cancer; October 13 for the one day out of the month of October dedicated to metastatic breast cancer, the only breast cancer that kills; 6% for the percentage of women and men diagnosed with stage 4 initially; and 20 to 30% which is the estimated amount of those with early stage breast cancer who become metastatic later on. Let’s see if we can get real breast cancer awareness out there! Please resend this to all your friends and then update YOUR status with your answer only! Okay, if you want to add more, by all means. This is serious business, and it’s not a fucking game. 

I hope to finally see this being taken seriously! 

What do you think, friends? Are you in? Let’s drown out the pink noise with real action.

Oops… I Did it Again

What did I do, you might be asking? Well, I signed up for my second marathon.  I signed for the Indianapolis full marathon in early November, and training for this race begins soon.

I swore up and down that my first marathon would be a one and done for me, but yeah. I decided to give it another go now that I got over the whole, “Can I even do this?” I know that I can, so the new question will be, “Can I learn from my mistakes?”

When I signed up for Columbus, my primary goal was just to finish and the secondary goal was to finish in five hours. Well, I finished the marathon in five hours and 55 seconds (give or take a second or five). I came super duper close to coming in less than five hours and that has been haunting me.

For weeks afterward, I would think about my time and think, “Oh man, if I had trained just a little bit harder, I could have persevered and ran a sub-5.” 

I barely cross trained. I didn’t do any toolbox runs (ie tempo runs or speedwork). I swear on my pretty bonnet that I am going to do these and work my approaching middle-age tush off.

Once again, I have enlisted the help of a coach to help me reach the finish line. It’s a different coach this time around. The coach I previously worked with was booked, and I wasn’t going to be a burden to a busy man. I’ll be working with Sara, and I’m very excited about this.

So despite being busy with work and finding time to spend with my favorite fella who makes me grin from ear to ear, I decided to give marathon number two a real honest go. This is important to me, so I’m going to make time and shuffle my prioritites. Less TV, more running.  I’m so glad my fella understands how much running is important to me. He has even offered to go with me to these races in different cities. How lucky am I?

I plan on writing more about my quest for sub-5. It’s going to happen, my friends.