Tag Archives: Bald Is Beautiful Initiative

Free to Be, You and Me

Tonight was a game changer.  I sat in a room of strangers (except for Nancy) and told them my story.  Then I handed everyone a book, and we read it together.   I’m honestly too fried right now to write coherently or compellingly, but I just have to say that it was very moving for me, and it seems for everyone else as well.  On one side of me a 6-year survivor of stage 4 ovarian cancer, on the other a woman 3 months out of surgery and bald and beautiful.   A pre-school teacher was so effusive in her compliments that she almost made me cry.  I sold a handful of books, touched a number of people, and realized that tonight just might be the first night of a whole new career.  At dinner afterwards (Chinese, obviously), Hans overheard the music playing in the restaurant.  It was as perfect as my fortune.

“And you and me are free to be, you and me.”

To charting one’s own course.

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Just Ask

To ask.

Why is this so hard?

Kids know how to do it.  In fact, they can repeatedly pull the “Can I …” trigger until you would image they get some kind of elbow injury.

Having been on the receiving end of the “Can I?” game, I’ve watched  how a pro does it.  The initial approach is straightforward.

He asks.  Pure and simple.  In our house, often the pro gets a reply that he doesn’t like.

So, after a minute or so, he asks again.  To his horror, he gets the same unappealing answer.

Perhaps next it is a re-framed question.  Something a bit different.  “Can I do it later?  Can I do it tomorrow?”

If he still does not receive the right answer, he adds some flair:  The add-on.

“Can I do it IF I …”  This is a savvy move, for the qualifier makes the recipient believe they are negotiating.  This is smart.  It also serves to elongate the conversation.   Fatigue sets in.

This is the time for the extreme level of difficulty.   Time to unveil the ever-so-slightly desperate switcheroo.  The “Why can’t I …” refrain.  Only the best can keep a level head and dry eye at this level.   Whining doesn’t score extra points, and actually allows the recipient to know they might have the upper hand.

Today I tried the “Can I” game for myself.  I’m not a big player.  Not too comfortable with it.  But now, I wonder why I don’t play this game more often.

Because, you know, I’m finding that most people are pretty accommodating.

So today when I asked, “Can I get you to move my book from the childrens book section of your store to right there across from the cash register where far more people will see my book?” the lady on the other end of the phone said, “Sure.”

Clearly she didn’t know the game.

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Slipping

He doesn’t put his arms around me anymore.

And I get it.

But talk about a very obvious change in the boy I used to have ride on the scooter with me, who would grip me tight around the middle and yell into my ears.  He’s now a youngish man/boy, who holds on to the back rack behind him instead of to his mama.

And I can feel it, right there.  A flutter in my heart.  A pinch.

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Walking the Line

Was he sleepy?  Or did he just shoot up?

And why oh why did I stay in his cab?

I don’t know.  I don’t know the answer to any of those things, and it bugs me.

We were all in a great mood, having just experienced the Blue Man Group in Chicago.  And it wasn’t all that late, maybe midnight, when we hailed the cabbie.   I got the back middle seat, with my two guys on either side of me.  My seat allowed me the prime (and only) position of having a view of the eyes of the cabbie.  It wasn’t like I was focused on him at first.  We were talking about the show, the uses of yards of toilet paper and how many marshmallows a human being can actually fit in his mouth (it’s a lot more than you think …), when our man behind the wheel kind of lurched his car down the road.  It got my attention, but I brushed it off and went back to our conversation.  But then he sort of sagged into another lane, and then he really got my attention when he closed his eyes and stopped the car at a green light.  On a pretty busy street.

Sort of out of character for me, I reached through the open plexi between the front and back seat, touched his shoulder, and asked if he was alright.  He perked up, mumbled something, and then both Anders and Hans were looking at me like I was a lunatic.   They couldn’t understand why I had shook the guy.   I thought perhaps he was dying, actually.  And since he was the one at the controls of the car, it seemed a prudent move at the time.

And anyway, hadn’t they noticed how he was driving?  Couldn’t they see his eyes kept closing?

Apparently not.  Because it kept happening.

And instead of saying to them, “Holy crap, our driver keeps closing his eyes. I think we need to get the hell out of here!”, I gave Anders one of those googly-eyes that says, “Holy crap, something is very very wrong here!” but didn’t tell him what.

Because I thought it would embarrass the driver.

I mean, what is WRONG with me?  Either he had just shot up with heroin in the moments before we got in his cab, and probably wouldn’t have given a flying fart what we thought of him, or he was working on his 19th hour of constant cab driving to try to pay for his ailing mother’s new hearing aid, and should have been appreciative of someone calling him out.

So there we were, weaving our way ever closer to our hotel, completely at the mercy of some dude clearly not completely with it.  I was praying hard, “please please please let him stay in our lane please please please.”

It was a long few minutes, I’m telling you.   And instead of engaging him at the hotel, I walked away with Hans as fast as I could as Anders paid the bill.

Was I wrong?

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My Little Sunshine Tomato

For a town where, it seems, the sun has not shined with the kind of uumph I think a lot of us would like this summer, I give thee the happy baby tomato.

Even without copious sun, his friends are all popping up too.

Can you say cherry tomatos for anyone in my neighborhood that want to stop by?

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A Precision Haircut

Some might think it unkind to speak of the brilliant nature of a good haircut at the same time I am flogging a book about being bald and creating something called the Bald is Beautiful Initiative.

But life is full of juxtapositions, and this is one of them.

So yes, I just got my hair cut.  And I believe I can make the case for the transformative nature of a good haircut.  (Sort of like a can make the case for the transformative nature of being bald.  But that is for another blog posting …)

Come on.  You know. It seems like you’re suddenly thinner.   Your jaw line is just a wee bit sharper.  And life is demonstratively more in your control.  Shoulders back.  Head up.  Lock and loaded.

I personally have always been a short hair person, with a small stint into long locks around the time of my wedding.  Because that’s precisely the time to be experimenting with who you are … the exact moment when you are trying to convince someone to spend the rest of their life with you.  Regardless, I pulled it up for the wedding, and seemed to pull it up or back most every day between August 1st when we wed and early November when I had it shorn off because it just seemed so pointless.  I mean, I always had it pulled off my face, so why have it at all?

Yet for many years as a young woman, I struggled with waiters asking “… and what would you like, Sir?”  Or strangers telling my father that his son was a great skier.  I didn’t have boobs that announced otherwise, and short hair (at least in the late ’70s and early ’80s) on girls just wasn’t all that common.   But I liked it short, and to this day, when I wear a long wig, I wonder how in the world women can stand to look out from behind a wall of hair.

The man who cuts my hair is named James.  I started going to him close to a decade ago when he was something like 23, because he “got” short hair on women and would make me look sexy and not butch.  When he opened his own salon in 2002, he framed my $10 and hung it on the wall, as I was his first customer.  James is moving to Arizona, which would make me cry except that he is going to fly back to the Bay Area once a month for a few days to cut hair here.

Bless him.

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How Will it Turn Out?

Oh breathe, baby, breathe.

Will I land it?  Does it matter if I crash?  Is anybody even watching?

This week has been filled with a bunch of gut check moments.  Walking up to complete strangers, unannounced, and introducing them to my work.  Some look at you all leery, as if they’re not sure if they can trust you.  Or figure out what in the hell you want.  The ones that are better, the ones that smile right away because perhaps they can tell you are nervous and being authentic in your unpolished way, you want to hug.  And sometimes you do.  Really, I did end up hugging a bunch of people this week.  Because we ended up having a real connection, which would have never happened had I not put myself out there in the first place.

So here’s to jumping off the dock.  To attempting to land a triple axel.  Or dreaming up the McTwist 1260 in the first place, and throwing it again and again until you finally stick it.

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The Day It All Changed

She said cavalierly, “Oh, I’ve read that book.  It’s great.”

And I just about wet my pants.  Because “that book” was my book, and she wasn’t someone that I knew.

With that simple interchange, I realized that all the hard work, and late nights, and yes, the experience of having cancer as a 33-year-old young mother had translated into something transformative.

In that moment, surrounded by hats and wigs in the fitting room at A Lady’s Touch in San Rafael, where I had come to donate a book and a stack of business cards, I became an author.

I didn’t think it was possible to trump Monday, when I visited the Larkspur library, and asked if they would be interested in purchasing a copy of my book.  The librarian looked on her computer, noticed that the book was already in the system, and told me something that made me clutch my chest.

“Oh, there it is.  And it’s checked out.”

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Ode to Joy

It’s hard not to be sidelined with the mounting signs.

I recently meet with someone in the cancer field, and as we talked about my 10-year-old diagnosis and how I’m feeling (which is great), she used the word “hopefully” when discussing how I’m “cured of cancer.”

I am in the midst of helping my mother create a family trust, and discussing things like “being incapacitated” at best and dead at worst.

I receive a heart-wrenching Facebook notice from a husband who is telling his friends that his wife, who is my age and has a son who is Hans age, is not responding to her treatment for her second round of breast cancer, and has been given less than an appealing outcome for her future.    He speaks of months.

The card catalog of experiences that make up my life tell me that she is not me.  That my mother is simply being prudent and smart about organizing her end of life, so that what my father worked so hard to make and she worked so hard to keep stays in the family, instead of going directly to the government.  That people get uncomfortable when taking about the future, and for whatever reason cannot help themselves but to qualify things with words that (perhaps unintentionally) deflate and terrorize.

So here in this moment, when I am starting to spin, I will write instead of words that will buoy.  Inflate.  Caress.  Boost.

My vision is that my lovely strong amazing mother will live her life as she has up to this point, riding her stationery bicycle and tending to her home, cheerfully showing up at my doorstep at any time of the day or night, until the day her heart decides to stop pumping and she slips like a red-hued leaf in autumn from the end of its branch and falls effortlessly, calmly, and dreamily to the ground.

That I will live out my life in the strong embrace of my family, in a long and varied swirling, twirling, exciting melange of people and smells and sights.

That Verna will shrug off what is currently consuming her body, like a snake slipping from its old skin, and emerge with health and vitality, knowing that what people tell you about your body and your life is an external discussion about an internal situation.

Because life – this life, our life, how life comes into being and changes over time – is a mystery.  No one knows what the future will bring.  And that, perhaps, is a gift of sorts.  We can guess all we want at what the future will bring, but is it not true that many times we stand surprised at what actually occurs.  That we never saw it coming, but it came all the same.

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Signs From Above

Sometimes things just line up perfectly.

I was walking up an unending hill yesterday, talking to myself about the plans for my future (actually interviewing myself about my kids book).  It felt good to be somewhere very very green, as Bequia was so very brown and dry.  Roxy, my dog, was happy to be out, and although I had made one “hail mary” call to a local girlfriend to join me last minute, I actually was appreciative of the solitude.

Of course, if anyone could see me, I looked like a lunatic talking to myself.

So there I was, huffing and puffing up the hill, all the way to the top, where I get a great view of my town and beyond.  Beautiful.  Satisfying.  I had said all the things I wanted to say to myself.  But it wasn’t until I turned around, started back down, and rounded a corner that I was met, full face on with the most glorious CLOSE and PERFECT end-to-end rainbow I think I’ve ever seen.

It was a big ‘ol cosmic HELL YA SISTER!   KEEP ON TRUCKIN’.

At least, that’s how I interpreted it.

And I even laughed out loud.  Because it was that perfect.  And I stayed there looking at this thing of beauty even after it started to rain, pretty hard on me.  Because, you know, when the cosmos is talking, you can’t start walking.

Sunshine and rain, that’s all we need.

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