Tuesday, March 17, 2015

And now... I am bald

So here we are, a little over six weeks after I began the St. Baldrick's journey.  Six weeks ago I looked like this:

Now I look like this:
 Photo Credit: J. Greg Jordan

So what was it like- in a word- AMAZING!  This has been one of the best decisions and experiences of my life.  As a theater kid, making drastic changes to my appearances was par for course.  The shaving of my head really wasn't too much of a worry for me.  The part that moved my emotions in crazy, unpredictable ways came from the fundraising and support.  In the course of six weeks I had originally thought that raising $1000 would take work and effort.  I set out a fundraising plan to get me there:

Step one: Put it out on social media- what I am doing, why I am doing it, how you can help through posts and pictures
Step Two: Let the places I work know what I am doing, why I am doing it, how they can help by putting out information and donation jars
Step Three: Let my community know what I am doing, why I am doing it, how they can help by hanging up fliers around town
Step Four: Let local business professionals know what I am doing, why I am doing it, how they can help through hand written letters with information included to spread the word 

This seemed like a solid plan for the six week period to get to that $1000 total.

However, I hit that total after step one and two, within one week!  This was a humbling moment for me because people are asked to support a lot of great causes, and it is sometimes hard to support even the ones you really want to. Money is tight sometimes but in the course of one week- my friends and family showed amazing generosity that left me floored.  I couldn't stop though- I still had two steps to go in my fundraising plan.  So I kept going.

I raised my goal total on my online profile to $2500 but secretly thought "What if I could get matching funds from the business professionals and hit $5000?"  So, when I sent out my letters that is what I expressed to all those awesome local business people I know.  Everyday I inched closer and closer.  Patrons at the pub where I worked continued supporting me each day.  Family and friends gave what they could.

When the big day finally arrived, I totaled up where I was at with donations and it came to just over $4000.  Tears filled my eyes as I stood in front of a huge crowd of family, friends, patrons and community members and announced my estimated total.  The things that move me is how in a world full of so much negativity, the people I am lucky enough to have in my life can be filled with so much hope, love, support, kindness and generosity.  This is what brings tears to my eyes, even now as write this.  I am very, very lucky to have all of these very special and supportive souls in my life!

So then I sat down in the chair.  The stylist banded the 21 inches of hair that would be mailed off to "Wigs for Kids" (this company works specifically with kids who are suffering from hair loss for a variety of reason but especially those undergoing cancer treatment).  Then the shaving began, and that was a very interesting feeling.  The razors buzzed back and forth across my scalp. There were no mirrors except for all of the faces of my family and friends watching and cheering as my hair slowly came away from my scalp.  It was intense and absolutely full of joy!  Pictures and videos recorded the whirlwind that I still have not fully processed as the stylist finished and I stood up on the chair to shout "BALD IS BEAUTIFUL!"  The stylist then handed me those long locks and I held them high beside my now bald head. Exhilarating!
(Photo credits: Emporia Gazette and Cathy Gilligan)


Then, after I thought it was all done- it wasn't.  Suddenly there was a donation cup full of money in my hand. My father with tears in the corners of his eyes was pressing money into the palm of my hand as he hugged me. As I went around town with friends, it seemed everyone I hadn't seen yet was handing me a few more dollars.  Then when the day was winding down and my tired bones were ready to call it a night, I logged into my online donation profile to see that there had been several more donations over the course of the day.  I was just under or right at the pie in the sky; hardly hoped for; wanted to hit but didn't think I actually would total of $5000.  I went to sleep that night with tears in my eyes- not because I was missing my long hair- but because I was overcome with humbleness from the support of my family, my friends (both near and far), and my amazing community that rallies for a cause in a way that moves me.   I AM SO LUCKY!

This was by far one of the best things I have ever done.   It reminded me how lucky I am that I have the "CHOICE" to do this when so many others do not.  Losing hair is one of the many side effects of treatments for cancer- there has to be a better way.  Though I will say, hair is not what makes us beautiful.  All day people were telling me how beautiful I look, how my eyes pop, how much more distinctive my features seem now.   Hair is just a feature, a feature that will grow back eventually for me.  What makes us beautiful is that light inside of us that radiates through our eyes, and our faces, our nonverbal signals that tell the world the each of us is special in our own unique way when you look past those exterior features. SO WORTH IT!

The money raised at this event, along with the money raised at several other similar events around the country has already raised over $18 million this year that will go to the best, most promising research.  Someday- it will make a difference for families with children who just want to be kids but instead must battle cancer.  That matters. That matters to me. So I thank you for reading about this, because now you know more and can spread the word for next year or maybe even sign up to shave your head by choice- because bald is beautiful!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Humbled and Amazed

In the continuation of my blogging for a cause series, I have to share the overwhelming feelings that have surged this week.

When I initially signed up to #Bravetheshave for St. Baldrick's I had to set a fundraising goal.  When I chose this number I thought carefully about what I thought I could raise, what the people I know would be able to donate and I decided on $1000.  I thought that this would be a difficult number to reach, that it would take me the 6 weeks to get there; then I reached that goal in one week!

Humbled, that was the overwhelming feeling inside of me that I was connected to so many generous souls that made my goal a reality in only one week.  At that moment I could have simply stopped, and been complacent with reaching that starting goal.  However, this is a cause that I believe in and if I could raise that much in one week... how much could I raise in the remaining five.  So I raised the goal and started working towards making a bigger impact, to make the golden locks on my head that will be shaved on March 14th worth more.  So now I am reaching out, reaching further to raise more money for this worthy cause.  Won't you be a part of this journey?  Even a few dollars can make a difference!

Visit www.stbaldricks.org to find an event near you or

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Blogging for a cause!


So last night at my job as I was trying to encourage people to donate, one person was asking me for some details about the event and why I was doing this particular event.  I explained the fact that I can't give as generously as I would like to the various charities I support, that I am not the most athletic minded person in the world so it is hard to find events that I can participate in, but that this event allows me to do something in a way that fits my personality.  They then asked why this charity matters and I  said,

"There are far too many names to list of people in my life that have fought, are fighting, or lost the fight with cancer. I truly believe that any breakthroughs on cancer research at any level will lead to breakthroughs with all types of cancer."

Then they expressed that, if I was going to shave my head they wanted it to be worth while and asked what my donation goal was.  I told them $1000 and they said the most amazing thing in return... "If you reach that goal, let me know and I will match the funds."

Tears! I kid you not, there at work, tears sprung to my eyes that this effort could be even greater, at the generosity of those who have the means to be generous, and that in just one week I feel like I am doing something so important and meaningful!

Right now I am at 33% of my goal after the first week and I have 5 more to go!  Let's DO this!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Blogging for a Good Cause

All right blog readers (if there still are any of you out there),

I realize that keeping up on this blog sort of took a back seat and I have been neglecting it for far too long.  I can not promise that I will keep up better in the future, but I return now for a really good reason and worthy cause.

Over the past few years I have been growing my hair out mainly out of sheer laziness to schedule a hair cut.  I will confess here in the blogusphere that I typically only get my haircut maybe once a year. (hard to believe but completely true).  Last year I decided to let it grow as long as I could before I did something drastic and dramatic- Shaving my head.

Now hold on! You haven't heard the whole story yet.  I am not a woman of means or disposable income, but I have always tried to give where I could.  If I couldn't give money, I always try to give support, time, spreading the word, or some other way of showing solidarity for the causes I believe in.  I have really great friends and family that bike, swim, walk, run and train like crazy to raise funds for important organizations. Alas, this is never going to be an arena I see myself becoming a participating part of- I am sure I can do some of those things (I can walk a 5K) but it doesn't really speak to me, the type of person I am.  Then, I made an important decision of how I would become someone who helped fight for a very important cause that is close to my heart, and it involves hair.

St. Baldrick's is a fundraising campaign that raises money to support pediatric cancer research and they have an event in my hometown on the day we hold our St. Patrick's Day Parade.   This event is going to let me use my amazing hair growing skills to not only help create wigs for kids with cancer but also raise funds to fight cancer.  It has always been my firm belief that ANY breakthrough with ANY kind of cancer research will lead to breakthroughs in all cancer research like a domino effect.  I want there to be BETTER, SAFER, MORE EFFECTIVE treatments for all kinds of cancer if not FINDING A CURE.   So, I decided to participate and so- I am shaving my head.

On March 14th I will be going from this:

To no hair at all!  I invite you, dear blog readers to be apart of this journey in whatever way you can be.  
Read the blog, share the blog, just be  apart of the journey

Find your own event and signup at http://www.stbaldricks.org/

Even $5.00 can make a difference, if you are in a position to help monetarily please consider a donation by going here  https://www.stbaldricks.org/mypage/participant/751043/2015 

I am really excited about this journey and hopeful that I can meet and maybe even exceed my personal fundraising goal. CANCER SUCKS!  I want to be a part of the solution in my own small way and I hope you find a way to be apart of it too, whatever way it may be!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Where does the time go?

Wow, I knew I had been slacking but it has been far too long since I sat down and shared a little bit with the world wide web.  There have been many thoughts and moments where I thought, "Hmm, I should write a blog about that." Alas, those thoughts were fleeting enough that I did not ever actually act upon them.

The basic 411- Life keeps moving.  As we grow and continue to age, time and life take on a more basic reality- it just keeps going.  Stress, sadness, happiness, anger, frustration, and every other emotion that we experience in  life simply happens as each day progresses regardless of our intention. However, it is the choices in how we handle that progress that not only define us, but also direct the additional paths we will follow.  

It is those choices that led me back to the classroom, though it was only dipping my toe back into the water.  An opportunity presented itself to return to the part of teaching that I love- actually teaching.  Though it was only six weeks and five students, it was one of the highlights of my summer.  This foray back into the teaching universe has led to additional opportunities that I have been able to pursue at my leisure, slowly easing myself back into the arena.

Also on the burner, churning and boiling away in the back of my thoughts is the possibility of returning to pursue my Master's degree.  The issue is that I have not fully convinced myself that I am, well for lack of a better term, "smart enough" to actually do this.  Although there are many people who have encouraged and assured me that I am quite capable of this pursuit, at the end of the day it is my own self-concept and perception that matters.  Until I truly feel that this is something within my ability to pursue and complete- the pursuit will remain stalled.  This is true of so many things in life when I look back- that it wasn't until I believed it could truly be, that it truly was.  So the next time you or someone you love is facing a new challenge, try to remember that the support of loved ones is crucial but is not the final thing to tip the scales one way or another; it is what is within us that will finally set the scales in motion towards a final decision about what we can or cannot do in life.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Happiness surrounds

Well, in true blogger style I have failed to post for far too long.  Partially it is because life moves pretty fast, and the other part is because we are less likely to stop and share our feelings out in the ethos when life is good.  Right now, life is good.  It is not that there has not been heartbreak, for life always has its ups and downs; but over all.... life is good!

Recently I went through the extremes of grieving over the end of life and celebrating the joy of new life.  Both gave me the opportunity to reflect on what it means to live and how priorities are selected.  My great uncle Paul passed away just a few days shy of his 101st birthday.  Sitting there reading over the summary of that century of life; for that is all that you can do is provide a brief summary; even those few details spoke volumes about the type of guy he was.  He was married to my aunt Jane for 50 years, remarried several years after her death and was in that marriage for over 10 years.  He then spent the last eight or so years dating a wonderful lady named Edna.  He was caring and kind. He was a veteran, a post master, retired in 1976, spent his time with family, friends and the partners who filled his many years with love.  We should all be so lucky.  Then just a few weeks later I welcomed a new nephew into the world and my heart swelled with love and happiness.  As I sat filling in his baby book with all the random "the world right now" details, I found myself wondering what the world will look like if he were to surpass his 100th birthday in 2114?

Change is the only constant in life.  If life went on from day to day staying exactly the same with absolutely no fluctuations of any kind, it would be boring.  Though change can be scary, change is what keeps us going as well.  Often the best changes come when we are least expecting them.  It was one year ago that I was starting to pack up my classroom, planning for what I thought would be the next step in my life; yet here one year later I could not have predicted in any way what has transpired since that decision to leave the classroom.  I miss teaching, I do; but I don't miss the stress, the frustration, the over whelming amount of time I felt I had to dedicate to that one area of my life.  Life is a journey that follows many winding paths, and the best thing to do is have the courage to follow the path your heart tells you too.  It will not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.   If you ever find yourself standing there wondering "is this all there is to my life" or "am I actually happy" also remind yourself that this is but a moment, how much can change and occur in the course of a lifetime- even if it isn't over 100 years.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stop and Smell the Roses

Over a month into the New Year and frankly, life is going in a much more relaxed and enjoyable direction.  To be honest it is frighteningly normal, thus there is not much of consequence to post in the ether.  However, an article from the Washington Post recently caught my attention for a variety of reasons and has sparked a few thoughts that seemed worth sharing.  Here is the link to this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
The general premise is that the Post conducted a social experiment with the aid of a world renowned violinist in a Washington DC metro station during the morning rush hour.  The question posed was simple; would people stop and appreciate this remarkable musician or simply rush by in a time driven distraction without a second thought.  The results of this were documented and spoke volumes about the world we find ourselves operating in.  The monumental implications of this simple experiment reach far and wide.  Although this was conducted in 2007, it seems that the results would likely be similar today.
So why did this old article stick out and prompt the clicking sounds of keys on a keyboard- many things.  The first was the violinist- Joshua Bell.  A few years ago, two dear family friends had tickets to the Kansas City Symphony that they gave to my father and I.  Huge fans of music in general this was a first for both of us to go see the KC Symphony live at the Kauffman Center.  One of the featured musicians that day was none other than Joshua Bell.  He is talented, amazing to hear, astounding to watch and most definitely a musician that leaves an impression of the musical beauty that exists in the world.  At the end of 2013 we lost one of those generous friends who afforded us this brilliant experience that is still vividly in my mind.  A subtle reminder of how lucky I was to know her, to call her a second mom, to be able to remember the awesomely wonderful experiences that I was able to have in large part because of her generous spirit and how I will always have that beauty with me forever.
The second is the utter astonishment of how many people simply missed this moment.  Walked past this world famous, highly paid musician, playing an incredibly difficult and complex piece of music on a very expensive instrument like there was nothing worth noticing.  How time obsessed are we in this society; is this possibly the root of our problems and issues in general.  In general it seems to indicate that we become so focused on time that we no longer have the ability to focus on anything else. This general thought process applies to so many things really that connect to our understanding of “time.”  Take for example texting and driving- is there ANY message that I could possible get or miss that is worth my life; that cannot wait another 5, 10 or even 30 minutes- doubtful.  I say this because that information will likely still be the same whether it is read the moment it reaches your phone or once your car is in park.  Don’t believe me, look back through your text history and see if there was any recent message that you simply could not have waited 30 minutes to respond to.  The same can be said for speeding as well, is 5 minutes really going to make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of the places you need to go- probably not.  Sure you might get in a small amount of trouble, or you might even get fired if it is habitual but that is a different issue that has nothing to do with speed, other drivers, or rules of the road. 
We are so obsessed with time and tasks associated with time.  I think back to how many times I was so concerned about what needed to be done that I was unable to really stop and take in what was happening.  The tasks that were somehow associated with a timeline in my mind took over my whole thought process.  Often I would be unable to tell you what I ate for lunch or even who I talked to at lunch because of this.  Now this is even more compounded by the technology we are attached to.  Thinking back can you remember the little things in your day or did you miss them because you were focused on something else that was “time” related in your mind.
The third then is the connection to the message of the experiment.  Could this simple message that we have all heard in our lives truly be the key to those moments of pure happiness that seem to be missing from the world sometimes.  I want to believe that if I had been one of the commuters that day in the DC Metro station that I would have decided that today was a day to be late; that I would have stopped and taken in the beauty and wonder of that experience.  I want to believe that I stop and enjoy the little things in life- the beauty of the falling snow, stories from friends or other loved ones, that I take those moments to focus and clear my mind of all the usual stuff that weighs upon it and just focus. 
Mostly, thinking back over recent events in my life, there is a ping pong match occurring for me.  When I read, or dine out my focus is more often on remembering and savoring the experience that I am having at that moment.  Since the changes in my life I find myself more willing to wait for the trains to pass, taking in some of the amazing (though illegal) art that decorates many of the cars; more willing to slow for pedestrians or other cars; more patient when cleaning off the snow or trying to get through the snow.  Occasionally; however, I do get caught up in the details of time.  I have to get to the bank so I drive less courteously, I get anxious and less patient with others in general.   What’s the rush?  The store will still be there; the bank will be open again tomorrow; work will not cease to function until I appear.  The rush only really occurs when I decide to let it rule, or poorly plan out the general events of my daily life and routine.  This is something that I can control.

So, that is what I have decided to make my resolution for 2014 (yes it may be a bit late in the traditional since of time of year; but a resolution can be made at any given moment if you are resolute in your pursuit of it).  This year I will stop wearing a watch every day and instead only wear it occasionally.  I will stop obsessing with the clocks in my life by either removing them, covering them, or simply training myself to not look at them as often.   I will focus more on moments and the things around me than what is on the future “to do” list.  I will make a concerted effort to plan my general day to day appropriately so that “rush” or “I’ve got to get this done” is no longer a part of my daily vocabulary.  It may not be the answer to everything, but it is a start. This is not to say that time does not have a place in life, it does.  The goal is that life not be driven by time but simply guided by its principle.