Credit : Mondays At Racine, HBO Documentary
I am an avoider of pain and pretty much anything remotely near the stink of death.
Perhaps on some level, I feel if I stay far enough away from it I won’t have to succumb to the reality that those I love (and even I) will eventually reach an expiration date. But, as I get older, wiser and, a little more ‘in your face’ I think I’m learning to be okay inching somewhat closer to that reality.
Enter this trailer.
My sister-in-law sent this to me a few weeks back. I was so moved, I had to get in touch with the director of this documentary. She instantly made my fear of all things ‘deathy’ and scary, look so weanie next to these women who faced it head on.
Sadly for me, Director Cynthia Wade was on location in Ireland, but her lovely assistant, Dave (shout out to Dave!) sent me some interviews and information on how this amazing documentary (shown on HBO) developed. Here are some highlights:
As any woman knows, a bad hair day can literally ruin your day. The product gurus at Tresemmé actually performed a study that showed 23% of women don’t even leave their house on a bad hair day!
Director Cynthia Wade became interested in finding out more about women’s beauty and their sense of self-worth. She wanted to uncover how this all played into the lives of the women she followed for 2.5 years filming.
Why is hair so important? That’s really the central question in the film. In the face of a cancer diagnosis, in the face of potentially losing your life, does it matter that much that you’re losing your hair? And yet, it’s such a defining aspect of how we look and how we present ourselves to the world and how the world perceives us. And it was very disturbing for many of the women who would be going into a store that they’ve gone into five years prior with hair and they go in and they don’t have any hair. – Cynthia Wade via NPR.ORG
The women in this film are so open, so raw and so real that anyone who has a fear of being near touching death need not remain so after watching this. They are more full of life, tenacity, love and emotion, then anyone just b*itching on Facebook about cranky kids or bad hair days.
Speaking of those bad hair days:
They don’t have any eyelashes or eyebrows. And they’re not recognized by the storekeepers. They’re not recognized by the other customers. And it was so disturbing to them because, you know, who then am I in the world and how does the world see me? And if these defining features are being taken away from my face, how do I navigate that and how do I navigate my place in the world? – Cynthia Wade via NPR.ORG
So, 2 amazing store owner sisters, who just so happen to be daughters of a cancer survivor, decided to do something pretty awesome to help these women.
They opened their shop once a month on Mondays, as a spa day only for Cancer patients. The rule is these women cannot apologize for themselves or their feelings. What they can do is receive facials, massages, makeovers, spa treatments and hugs, as they say goodbye to old hair and hello to a new ‘do (synthetic or otherwise).
What happens next in this story is the best part. This shop, that started with the mission to make a woman feel beautiful on the outside, becomes a collective support support group for tapping into the enormous, unexpected beauty on the inside. The openness of saying goodbye to that hair opens the floodgates to the anger, the hurt, the pain, the love, the sadness and that will to fight. They talk about collective pain, how dealing with Cancer affects their relationships and their self-worth as a woman. How all women define themselves by a stick of beauty.
It’s not about the ‘hair’ but, its about what hair represents. Our hair helps to set us apart. In a sea of bald heads we’d just meld together, undefinable. But, our hair speaks for us – even before we do.
Curly and unruly, straight or wavy, up or down, short, painstakingly long afterwards. Blonde, brown, black, red or auburn. Highlights, low-lights, foils and touchups.
Hair helps define who we are today and who we were when we were younger. We always dreamed of that hair our friend had or we paid tons of money over the years to look like celebrities in magazines. We cried when we cut it poorly. We straightened it, we crimped it, we curled it and then these poor women shave it or lose it.
And, then in a moment Cancer. When it’s gone – then what? How does a woman express or define her beauty now? Watch and find out…
I have seen the Grateful Dead live.
Bob Dylan. Yep, live on stage.
The Allman Brothers. Check. Oh, and 9 months pregnant.
Peter Himelman. Twice. Even got the idea to name my daughter Raina.
I have breathed in the secondhand smells of illegal drugs and stepped into the drippings of my neighbor’s spilled beer. I have been frightened after a Madison Square Garden Deadhead ran naked screaming like a monkey from a bad LSD trip. I have learned about Miracles and hackey sacks. I have watched the dances, the grooves, the space, the dreads, the unkempt un-deoderized bodies swaying in the steam-filled arenas.
Some would say they are jealous of my musical past. Some would say I am lucky. I however, never got it. Not for one darn second. I went to these concerts because the man I loved, loved them. I never spoke a word of dissent. I put on my long prairie skirt, grabbed my hemp purse and went to the shows. I held his hand. Tightly. Afraid and yes, somehow in wonder of all I was watching. I wished one day to go to a concert and actually enjoy the experience. To sing or dance along to the music. To come home in the great mood my boyfriend, now husband did. But, that never happened.
Last Summer we took the kids to a One Republic concert at Ravinia, an open, airy and beautiful park experience in Illinois. We dined on Sushi as Ryan Tedder belted out his tunes. I found myself humming or singing along in my casual, picnic clothes. I then took my daughters closer to the venue to watch. I was mesmerized by the music and the vibe in the air and my daughter’s excitement was infectious. It was actually enjoyable.
Last night, we celebrated my husband’s birthday 2 months late with floor seats at Paul Simon and Sting. As we entered the theater freezing our butts off, on yet another cold Chicago night, our bellies full of wraps eaten in the car on the way, I realized after 15 years of living in Chicago this was my first time in the United Center. Pathetic, I know.
We sat in our seats, lamenting to myself the taller person in front of me, but excited none the less. Knowing I don’t ordinarily enjoy concerts I was happy to at least know the songs. We stood as Paul and Sting took the stage. I glanced around me noting the average age on floor seats was roughly someplace between middle aged bellies and fully white hair. Noted, these performers are 62 and 72.
They opened with Brand New Day. It was okay. The excitement in the space was palpable but, I wasn’t ready to give in just yet. Song number four, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic was super fun and I felt the need to tap my legs. Eight songs in they played Mother & Child Reunion. My heart did a little dance. I love, love that song and to see it live on stage was pretty cool. America, Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard, Roxanne. It was bordering on awesome. Then, The Boxer.
As Paul and Sting ever so gently sang, I felt the goosebumps rising on my arms. I was seeing history. My history. I remember as a child hearing these songs played on records at home or in the car. Listening to my mom play Simon & Garfunkel on the grand piano in our living room. Those songs leading into dancing songs around the room. It was a beautiful moment and a beautiful memory.
As the show came to a close it hit me like a Dead Head on an LSD trip hits the cold hard pavement at the end of the show. It was over and I wanted there to be more. It was an evening that showed me that music, when it’s something you like, when it’s something that brings back moments in your life, when its shared with someone you love – can be monumental and special and fun and something you want to do again.
So, my dear husband, dead-head – I get it. I really do get it.
There are times in any parent’s life when you look at your children fighting over a silly toy in the cereal box or who is going to clean up the mess in the toy room. You wonder to yourself, will these children be close siblings when they grow up? You try to navigate these relationships, forcing makeups after fights or encouraging them to play with one another. You wobble between teaching respect of one another’s privacy while also teaching support for each other in harder times.
This past weekend I spent a less than 24 hour trip to NY for a family Bat Mitzvah. Knowing I was flying in at midnight and flying out the following day at 6 pm, I chose to only take two of my four children to this party. My youngest would have been a wreck traveling so quickly so, only my middles came on this trip. At 14 and 10, my daughters were simple packers (albeit many shoes filled our 1 suitcase) and excellent traveling partners. It was so nice to sit next to two of my children and only have magazines and gum. No complaining, bonus.
We went to the family party. It was a myriad of family members from all over gathered in one place. The first time this has happened in a number of years, since my brother’s wedding. Six adult siblings together in one room, two parents, spouses (albeit mine sadly absent from the gathering), a dozen or so grandchildren, aunt, uncle, cousins galore.
Nothing brings on the emotion more than a family gathering.
Mixing childhood memories, teenage angst, unresolved conflicts, expectations and a whole lot of love brought to the surface as I looked at this space filled with blood and tears and years. These are nice people, I thought to myself. I tried to look at them as individuals, as if perhaps not related to me – how would my family fare?
Really nice people. I noticed a few grayer heads, some lost pounds, some beautifully grown children. Some shared stories, some facial expressions I recognize in my own mirror. Some reminded stories, some forgotten. Some laughter, some nodding, a little uncomfortable familiarity.
Oddly enough we are six siblings spanning over nearly 20 years and each one of us is completely different. In the nature versus nurture argument in my family, I would say there is no argument – we are who are because of and despite our upbringing. Some of us rebelled against the ‘machine’ and others tried to emulate it. But, we are all who we are and none of us are alike. We all span different ends of the religious spectrum, combined we could probably make a full circle of a Jewish observance map. Our sense of humor, completely different. Some find fart jokes and loud burps hysterical, others repulsive. None of us chose even similar careers, all of us chose different paths in raising or disciplining our children. All have married spouses (or dated) from different backgrounds and geographical locations. Some live in the east coast right where they grew up, others in the midwest trying something new.
Some of us have nothing in common, more than the fact that our two parents are the same.
But, there is a palpable love in the air between us while, at the same time a collective confusion as to how we can all be related and yet, so entirely different.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, repair relationships, start anew, tweak mistakes my parents made or I made or they made. But, then I remember we are who we are. Because of them or in spite of them.
And, maybe that’s not so bad.
I looked over at my own daughters. Sisters. Never leaving each other’s sides, my girls walked the room. Clearly confident in their ability to support one another when some uncle they hadn’t seen in a few years spoke to them or a great aunt they barely know engaged them in conversation and kisses.
I left yesterday as quickly as we came. My beautiful girls flanking my sides. Kissing everyone goodbye, feeling the sadness of leaving my family come to the surface. These really nice people that I love, that I care for and that at times I want to strangle and others hug and never let go. Not knowing the time I will get to see them all again yet feeling a little semblance of relief that I have my own wonderful family to come home to.
Family is a strange beast. We wish to grow up our children and live slightly in fear of repeating our parent’s mistakes and are in shock when we find out we are somewhat similar to them at the very same time (and those parts that are not so awful). We want to foster sibling relationships full of love and compassion, but also let them work things out themselves. There are no guarantees in this life that we will create anything more than a blood-bond between our children as siblings. But, we hope and pray. We grow and change. We love and live. It’s all relative.
As part of the launch of my new, improved blog and in honor of the paperback release of one of my favorite authors I am offering 1 lucky reader a signed copy of Katrina Kenison’s new book, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment.
If you haven’t read a Katrina memoir, grab a box of tissues, a cup of tea and get reading…
“Growth and transformation occur not by changing who we are, but as we summon the courage to be who we are.”― Katrina Kenison
I first discovered Kristina’s book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, entirely by accident. Wading through the Barnes and Nobles aisles one day, I came across an author I was sure was recommended to me. Turns out it was an entirely different author. But, some mistakes become your favorite ones. This book quickly became a beautiful testament to the powers of motherhood and what lays ahead for a woman when she has to redefine the family-unit. It really spoke to me as a young mother getting ready to send my oldest off to college.
Katrina’s newest book, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment, is truly a gem. Inspiring women to accept that we are all intertwined, so entirely similar and often collectively confused. You quickly learn that beauty and peacefulness can be achieved at any age or in any stage of life.
As I followed Katrina’s journey of self-discovery – a woman no longer defined only by titles of Mother, Wife, Employee, I felt compelled to see how she deals with this scary, newfound freedom. Embarking on life that doesn’t revolve around family commitments and children’s schedules – while sounding somewhat heavenly – is a foreign concept. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m faced with it!
With a 40+ body that suddenly decided to age not quite so gracefully and a new passion for spirituality and meaning, I could feel her self-discovery come to life much as I felt my own questions coming to the surface.
“At times, my nostalgia for our family life as it used to be–for our own imperfect, cherished, irretrievable past–is nearly overwhelming.” – Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment
To win a signed copy of Katrina’s book just click on Subscribe Via Email on my homepage and you’re entered! Gain an extra chance by sharing this blog on your Facebook page, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.
A winner will be selected at random on Feb 1st and announced on the blog. Good luck!!
What do you get when you mix poor body image, Barbie-doll appeal and an opportunity to play surgeon? A new controversial video game app called, Plastic Surgery & Plastic Doctor & Plastic Hospital Office for Barbie Version. Yes, my friends, we can now purchase a game for our 9+ daughters that will allow them endless hours of fun as they ‘play surgeon’ with such stimulating procedures like a little liposuction for an inflated, plus-sized Barbie.
As if that is not offensive enough don’t worry it gets worse. The game speaks to the child playing:
“This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her, in our clinic she can go through a surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful. We’ll need to make small cuts on problem areas and suck out the extra fat. Will you operate her, doctor?”
Wow. Just wow.
Thankfully a petition quickly grew spearheaded by Twitter’s @Everydaysexism which forced Apple to take down this completely inappropriate and offensive game.
But, I don’t understand how anyone could think it okay to create such a sick reality in the first place, let alone release it?!
I am a mom to three daughters. I already have to struggle to make sure I don’t rip myself a new one when my skirt got tight or my hair isn’t cooperating that day. We are a nation filled with self-esteem issues, magazine covers that cause teens so much self doubt that they literally make themselves sick. We have hospitals with special departments for eating disorders, newspaper reports all the time on teen suicides and therapist offices filled with depressed kids. Yet, to save the day and add a little fun here swoops in a woman, identified as Corina Rodriguez, now literally playing on low self-esteem creating mini-plastic surgeons out of our daughters. Yes Corina, no thanks.
What we need are Apps that teach healthy body image. Nutrition games, ‘Cooking Mama’ Healthy Snacks Edition. Now there’s an app I’d buy.