Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Bald Woman's Penseive

 Random thoughts on it all

* I wondered if I would get emotional when my head was shaved.  Not at all.  I was the first to go and it was so hot, I couldn't wait to get that mop off.  Plus, all eyes were on me, so my inner master-of-ceremonies took over, keeping a running commentary.

* Afterwards, someone handed me a mirror.  My first thought was, "Oh! That's still my familiar face!"  I think that I anticipated the change being so dramatic, I would no longer look like myself.  Well, of course I looked exactly like myself, just with no hair.

* Every shavee had a reason to be there.  Some of those reasons would break your heart.

* ...Like the cancer survivor who is currently on treatment, but who wasn't experiencing any hair loss.  He was one of our firefighters.  Weak from treatment, had to get out of the heat -- but still came to be a shavee and raise money for childhood cancer research.

* Way more people came out just to be there and support us than I imagined.  They cheered, gave more money, took pictures, and told us we were heroes.  What I neglected to say then, that I regret -- that they are heroes, too.  Reaching in to your pocketbook can be just as much of a challenge to some as getting your head shaved is for others.

* UU ministers are insanely generous.  And the IRS has the proof.

* Ditto some of you layfolks and seminarians.

* I have not experienced one single second of regret about shaving my head.

* You really do lose 90% of your body heat through your head ... unless it's sunny.  Then your head becomes a solar panel.

* Counting all the checks and cash, the event raised over $14,000.  I expect it to hit $15K by final tally.  (Not too late to contribute.)

An interesting juxtaposition:

* An amazing amount of people who know me have taken the time to give me very sweet compliments. 

* But in the grocery store, strangers won't meet your eye.  They see the bald head then quickly look away.  To think of a sister with cancer pulling up her energy to go to the store, then getting that ... I'm so sorry. 

* Speaking of that ... I'm wearing a pin that says, "Ask me why I'm bald."  No one has.  (I'm not surprised.)

* Out on the trail around "my" pond, a fisherman smiled and held my gaze.  Yep.  That's how we are.  Bald woman?  Whatevv.  But are they biting and what kind of bait are you using?

* The one thing I really didn't expect ... shavees coming up to me and emotionally thanking me for the chance to do this.  They thanked me for the chance to shave their heads and nag their friends for money.  That, friends, is pretty high on the "I'm not worthy" experience list.  Beyond humbling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Losing Hair, Gaining Much

Supposedly Luther once wrote, "I have so much to do (today) that I should spend the first three hours in prayer."  Well, I have so much to do today that I should spend ... well, a bit of time ... in blogging.

Tomorrow is our St. Baldrick's event.  At this point, sitting down to be shaved sounds like bliss.  At that point, everything will be underway, the work will be done.  All done but the shaving and sweeping.

This has been quite the experience for me, and frankly, one that took more "bravery" than agreeing to shave my head.  I organized this event.  

The tests they make you take, if you're pursuing ministry, all show me to be an extravert, and most people who know me would probably agree with that assessment.  Certainly The very introverted Husband would.

But being extraverted doesn't necessarily mean that one feels comfortable contacting strangers, asking for favors.  Come those days, and I was a bunny wabbit in the headlights.

I've done it now.  It's not huge, but we will surpass our goals. I asked, and got a bunch of firefighters and a venue and some people willing to shave their heads.

Actually, scratch that last part.  Other than Father Mac and the firefighters, I didn't ask anyone to shave their heads.

And there's a pretty good lesson there.

People talk about leadership.  If you're going into ministry, they want to know, "Will people follow you?"

No.  I don't believe so.

I don't believe people follow a person.  I believe people follow a mission, an idea, a goal.  If they believe in the idea, and they trust the person, they will walk together toward that goal.

No one would shave their heads just because I was.  No one.

But they believe in the cause.  Many of them have heard a story.  For some of them, they heard Little Warrior's story.  And so they said, of their own volition, "I will shave my head."  Each one of them has their own story, and their own reason to do this.  They dared to think, "I can make a difference."

Every one of them is a hero.

I have gained so much in this.  The next time, I will feel comfortable -- well, more comfortable -- going and asking for help.  Because the world taught me that I can.  I was not slapped down.  I was not made to feel like a fool.  The world -- you -- said, "Great idea."  Here's a venue.  Here's some money.  Here's some publicity.  Here's my head - shave away.

I have been "emboldened by faith."

Will I do this particular event again?  Mmm, I don't know.  I picked this time to stand for a cause dear to my heart, childhood cancer research, because it might be the last time I can.  I do CPE next summer -- my hair will be grown out.  Next, if all goes well, comes graduation, internship ... I have no wish for this to become my identity, "Cancer Mom."  I am grateful to those who take up the mantle, and I will always carry my membership card in my wallet, but I don't believe it is my calling to always wear the tshirt. 

I have another mission and another ministry.  Very bluntly and with total humility to the task, I feel called to love the hell out of the world.

This was just one step.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Hair

One week from right-now-this-second, I will be bald.

It would be disingenuous to act like this hasn't affected me at all. Okay ... it would be a big fat whopping lie. I would love to be one of those cool-as-a-cucumber types, "Eh, it's just hair," giving no more thought to it, and instead focusing my brain energy on the best way to provide nutritional supplementation to starving children or how to build vertical gardens to save land.

But it's taken up a sizable beanbag in my brain, popping up every now and then to say, "You do know you won't be able to wear pigtails, if you got a yen."  And then I remind myself that in the last 15 years of having long hair, I've never once had a yen to wear pigtails.

I have a seminary friend -- male -- who cut off his waist-length dreads last year.  He did so because he felt he needed to look more conservative.  Kind of funny, we agreed, that me doing the same thing will mean that I look more liberal.

Being a mom-in-tennis-shoes with long hair, usually clamped up in a bun, has given me a fair amount of anonymity.  I'm a mom.  I look like a mom.  A conservative one, at that.

But now ...


It will be interesting seeing the reactions to a bald woman.  Already, the reactions to my impending shave have been quite interesting.  One woman from my church said she thinks I'm the bravest woman she's ever met.  She said it with sincerity.  And she was talking exclusively about me shaving my head.

Okay, so at that point, I do become the "It's just hair!" person.  I mean, really.  It's not like I'm removing something that won't regenerate.  Bravest?  No.  Not even a little.  I know people who are brave.  Volunteer firefighters and people who do work in the inner city and my sister-in-law, who travels by herself into Mexico for her environmental work.  And trains as a mountain guide in Ecuador.  That's brave.

Hair?  Not so much.

I'm a little scared, but not so much about not having hair.  My life has so much going on right now, 4 kids, three schools, 1 seminary, traveling husband ... a little simplicity, even if it's just in the shower, sounds great. 

I'm a little scared ... oh, I hate to admit this ...

I'm a little scared of what I don't know.  My head.  I have no idea what my head looks like -- do you, yours?  I blame Shel Silverstein and reading Where the Sidewalk Ends at an impressionable age.
I thought that I had wavy hair
Until I shaved. Instead,
I find that I have straight hair
And a very wavy head. 
So, a week from now, I'll know.  Bumpy head, birthmarks, moles, all will be revealed.

Still taking donations, and thank you!  DONATE TO ST. BALDRICKS

Thursday, September 09, 2010

but the flesh is weak

At my seminary, classes are done in complete blocks.  So, rather than a 3 hour class meeting for one hour MWF, it meets for 3 hours, once a week.

I live about an hour away, depending on traffic, and have 4 kids in 3 different schools, so fitting these blocks around their comings and goings is a challenge.  The Husband and I decided I'd have one monster day, plus one morning that fits into when they're in school.  He makes it home by the time our Elementaries are getting out.  Have I mentioned how great it is to have a supportive partner who has a somewhat flexible schedule?

Anyway, Wednesdays are a long day.  I love the individual parts, but ...

I begin with a 4 hour class, that's broken up in the middle for Chapel, making for a 4 1/2 hour block.  Christian Spirituality.  Love, love, love the class, highly participatory, love the professor.

Lunch.  Then History of Christianity, 3 hours. Really love the professor -- he's the one who first introduced me to missional ecclesiology.  He's one of the reasons why the seminary I attend today is very different than the seminary I started with.  (But still the same seminary.)  He'll point out (in this evangelical school) that "Various heresies forced the early church to articulate the truth more precisely.  Sometimes too precisely – they were articulating things they didn't have the biblical basis to make." 

But it's a straight lecture class.  Type, type, type, faster faster faster!

Then Research Methods, 3 hours.  Team taught, and I'm geeky enough that I enjoy it.  Love picking up new tips.
When doing a critical book review, make notes on your inside cover as you go along, with page numbers, e.g. "Unclear writing, pgs 24, 87, 123 ..."  That way, when you're done reading the book, you should be able to write your entire paper in about two hours.
I am, I must admit, a bit loopy by that class.  The iced Vietnamese coffee that I pack in a big mason jar probably doesn't help.

I get home about 8:30 pm.  Now the point of all this is not to complain ... hells-bells, I feel darn lucky for all of it.  But it has made me realize how much my physical situation affects my brain and spirit.

I get home ... I've loved all my classes.  And yet ... I don't want to be a minister anymore.  I don't want to be a wife or a mother anymore.  I'm usually starving, but don't want to eat.  Nothing is good, nothing is happy.  I'm irrational. "What, I'm going to shave my head???"  "My living room is a wreck and will never be clean again!"  Little things are overwhelming.  Overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted, but my mind is spinning and won't settle down.

Stressing may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

I wake up in the morning, even without a good night's sleep ... and it's all okay again.  It's now happened three weeks in a row, enough that I can draw a correlation.

We are animals.  Our physical state has great power over our minds and emotions.  Hormonal changes, being tired, not eating right ... we are, effectively, not in our right minds. 

As for me, I'm going to make a few changes.  Limiting myself to one afternoon coffee.  Making it a top priority to pack nutritious meals.  Drinking lots of water. 

And realizing that just as I don't take my 5 year old seriously when she's tired, I need to not take myself seriously, either.  "Go to bed and sleep it off," I tell myself.  "Things'll look better in the morning."

Because they probably will.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Saints and Poets and Friday Night Lights

Emily:  ... Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it -- every, every minute?
Stage Manager:  No -- Saints and poets maybe -- they do some.

It is Friday night.

You'll have to excuse me if I am particularly pre-nostalgic over the life I'm living right now.  It's just that it's the start of the school year, the fall, a little crazy, a little stressful, and utterly, utterly normal

God, normal tastes delicious.

But as I was saying ... It is Friday night.

The Boy is across town, playing sax in the high school marching band at a football game.

The Husband came home from work and the girls and I piled into his car.  Went to a local Tex-Mex hangout.  Husband has said he'll go pick The Boy up (probably about 11 pm) when they get back from the game, so I was free to have a happy hour margarita.  Whoo-hoo!  It comes in a glass so heavy I'm afraid to pick it up and happily, tastes of fresh lime juice rather than the pickled taste of mixer.  Thank you, Jesus, for good margaritas.  And by Jesus, I mean the man behind the bar, Hay-zeus.

Chili con queso and chips and crispy beef tacos (with potato) and cheese enchiladas with chili gravy.  And a short Mexican man with a keyboard, playing -- I do not lie -- The Macarena, followed by "You Sang to Me."  LW gives her daddy Big Huge Eyes behind her glasses and cons him into going over and dancing with her.  He's a sucker for all of his kids.  His wife, too.

Friday night.  The restaurant is crowded and it seems like there are high chairs at just about every table.  The Princess and The Husband are teasing each other now, and for the millionth time, I threaten to separate them.  "You're a bad influence on your father," I tell my eldest daughter.  She smiles proudly.

She and Bo Peep have both cleaned their plates.  I give them each a bite of my cheese enchiladas, off my fork.  "Hope none of us are sick," I mutter to The Husband. 

Well, if they get a bite, then LW wants a bite, even though she hasn't finished her own dinner.  I sigh, and give her the last piece.

I'm certainly not a saint, and not much of a poet.  And I disagree with Thornton Wilder.  I think most of us realize life.  Oh, okay, maybe not every, every minute.  But a whole lot of the time.

Give us a good margarita, some gooey yellow cheese spilling across brown chili gravy, and those Friday night lights, and we realize how good we have it.