To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery.
The revery alone will do, If bees are few.
--Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Reflections on purple hair

I changed the color of my hair again. No more purple or brassy blond shines from the top of my skull. I'm back to brown with a few well-placed highlights. I'm back to socially acceptable suburban mom hair. I have to admit, I loved my purple locks. It was fun to have hair that could be associated with grape Kool-Aid.
People here in Houston hardly batted an eye at my new hue. Sure, there were a few people who stared. I'd be in the grocery store or cross a parking lot and get an odd look. I would also forget that I had purple hair and think in my internal outraged voice, "What are they staring at!" And then the internal forehead slap, "Right, I have purple hair."
All in all, the odd looks were few. Most people embraced my hair. Strangers would strike up conversations with me who perhaps wouldn't have otherwise. Maybe when you're wearing hair that looks like it should be waving from the back end of a pink plastic pony, it conveys to the idea that you're open to conversation.
In particular, this happened with 20-somethings who would be checking me out at a restaurant or store and at the end of the transaction would suddenly gush, "I just love the color purple!" O-kay. What followed would be a ten minute conversation on everything from their life goals to recommendations on my next hair color. Cobalt or turquoise blue were the most common opinions.
In short, my purple hair didn't just become an outward expression of my angst on suddenly turning 40. It became an opportunity for people to get to know me better and for me to know them. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

I needed to do something different...

Last week I turned the big 4-0. It was a good day, all things considered. At a professional conference, I received a rose from our breakfast waitress. My boss, who had control of the microphone at the conference, lauded me and had a couple hundred pastors sing me Happy Birthday.  A cute Starbucks dude gave me a free frappachino when I hit the road home. The family was glad to see me when I returned and met me with joyous embraces. It was the kind of day that gives you warm fuzzies.

Three days later, I dyed my hair purple.

My new look.
That's right, purple. There's also some gold mixed in for contrast. Why would I do such a thing? Mainly, because I've never done it before. And 2014 is all about new experiences. This year it's about taking risks and trying some things just to see what it's like. Plus, I really like purple. I wanted to do something that would change my outward appearance, something drastic to mark the start of a new year. Sure, I could have gone with piercings or a tattoo, but they seemed a little too permanent. Besides I'm pretty certain that the purple hair will stay as etched in mine and my family's memory as if I etched something in my skin.

When I was a teen, I never dyed my hair any strange colors. Unlike many of my friends, I didn't even try playing with peroxide-induced blonde streaks in my chocolate brown locks. 

So it's part teenage rebellion and part social experiment. Frankly, I wanted to see how other people would react. I've been walking around a couple days with purple hair and the most reaction I seem to garner is from elementary-age girls. Most of them think it's cool, a few scrunch up their faces with the strangeness of it all. Most folks haven't batted an eye. Maybe that comes from living in a metropolitan area, but they've been either too polite or too unfazed to make much mention of it. Of course, those are strangers. I haven't flaunted my purple locks in the workplace yet. I imagine my co-workers and the people I interact with most regularly will have the most to say. 

When I came home with purple hair, the reaction from my loved ones was mixed. Let me acknowledge that I have a loving and tolerant husband who was amply forewarned about the Year of Scheffie. Emma thought it was beyond cool and kept patting my head saying, "My mom has awesome purple hair!" Rose was flabbergasted but has gotten used to it. She's grudgingly accepted it after a day or so. Emma now wants to dye her hair orange. I told her she could dye it whatever color she wanted when she was 40. She's negotiated me down to age 32. I'm good with that.

Next month, maybe I'll learn to skydive. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 and transformation

I'll be honest, 2014 and I are off to a rough start. Before it even arrived, I knew this year would be difficult for me. I'm turning 40. That's right, the big 4-0. And I'm not taking it very well. I am not, as my grandma used to say, aging gracefully. I don't want to age gracefully. What does that even mean? Does aging with grace mean that you calmly accept those things you cannot change? If so, it sounds more like a mantra used in Alcoholics Anonymous. Should I wear turtlenecks? Put my hair up in chignon? Start referring to everyone as dear in conversation? Is this the part where I'm supposed to embrace my inner crone?

Statistically speaking, half my life is probably over. I'll admit the the first half has been great. I've done things I never dreamed possible when I was coming of age in that tiny town in Illinois. I'm married to a handsome and generous man. I have two beautiful children who are turning into sensitive and thoughtful human beings. I've seen my fair share of the world. I've experienced both heart-bursting joy and losses that crushed pieces of my soul. In short, I have lived and loved beyond my wildest expectations. I'm blessed and I know it.

But now I'm turning 40, and I've decided I need to shake things up a bit. I've decided that if I can't age gracefully then I can at least do something that propels me forward.That's why I've decided that 2014 will be a year of transformation. 2014 will be the year of Scheffie. I don't want to be the same person stepping into 2015 as I am now. By this time next year I want to have a wagon load of new experiences and discuss them right here. I've got some ideas about what types of things I'd like to do. I won't share them with you now. It would spoil the surprise. I'll let my mid-life crisis unfold as it will, here on these pages.It's an ever-evolving list  of new experiences anyway.

Suffice to say, I plan to kick 2014's ass.

So let the transformation begin. If I have to turn 40, I'm going to do it my way.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

From foe to friend

Recently Rose and Emma taught Jason and I a lesson, a lesson we've struggled through the years to teach them.

Since Rose and Emma were little my husband and I have been trying to teach them the art of forgiveness. When they fought (as only sisters can) we made them apologize to each other and then directly afterward utter the phrase, "I forgive you." Granted, in the heat of the moment, when they're still so mad at one another they're spitting apologies through gritted teeth, the forgiveness part seemed pretty futile. But in that moment they didn't have to believe it, just say it. Because I believe that something, once spoken, has power. I didn't need them to believe and understand forgiveness when they were 4 years old, I needed them to say it, to practice it, so that somewhere in their brains they would begin to understand that forgiveness is just as important as the apology.

We don't discuss forgiveness a lot in our culture. We're Americans. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We overcome poverty, fight against injustice, and take no prisoners until we get what we want. We don't apologize to the people we vanquish along the way to reach those goals. We also don't ask forgiveness for the manner in which we achieve the things we want.

So we're not really good at apologizing and even worse at forgiving. We don't want to let go of the conflict. We want to relive it, savor our response if we thought we were the winner or hold on to it because we were the loser, the person trampled by the other. We want to lock that hurt up tight and keep it close so we can be reminded of our humiliation and plot our revenge.

People seem to confuse forgiving with weakness. The act of forgiveness is actually an act of freedom. It's a letting go of anger, resentment, all those darker emotions that everyone feels and then needs to get rid of. It's a release of the emotions that could hold you back, cloud your judgment and numb you to the good stuff like joy. It's difficult to fully experience joy if you're holding onto the hardship.

So we want Emma and Rose to know about forgiveness. To function in this world, they need to be comfortable receiving it as well as giving it. Forgiveness is a gift.

In the Bible, Jesus forgave. He urged his followers to forgive freely. Forgiveness is featured in the model prayer, the Lord's Prayer, and even on the cross Jesus asked God to forgive his tormentors, the very people who had put him there.

Forgiveness looks fine and dandy on paper. it sounds nice and easy when you're sitting in the church pew on Sunday morning with your shoes shined and your halo on. But it's much harder to pull off in real life. In fact, I'm not that great at it. It's hard for me to let things go when I feel slighted or stepped on.

Recently, Rose and Emma set an example of forgiveness for me to follow. In January, when we moved to Texas and enrolled the girls in a new school, we had bully trouble. There was a girl in Rose and Emma's class who decided to throw her weight around. She wouldn't let the other girls eat lunch with them or play with them at recess. She made fun of Rose and called her names. Often in those first few months, the girls came home in tears about the slights and insults this other little girl was dishing out. They finally allowed me to talk to their teachers about the situation. The school immediately took action and the bullying behavior stopped.

When it came time to create the guest list for their laser tag birthday party, Rose surprised me by insisting on inviting the girl who had given her so much heartache. "Really?" I said. "You can only invite two friends from school. Are you sure?"

I wanted to make certain Rose understood what she was doing, but I also was having trouble with her decision. I hadn't forgiven this little girl yet for the grief and tears she'd caused my babies, so I couldn't understand why Rose or Emma would want her at their party.

"Are you sure?" I asked her a second time.
"Yes, mom. It's okay," Rose said. "I've forgiven her."
"Yeah, we forgave her mom." Emma chimed in. "She's really nice now. Everything is okay."

I shrugged and sealed the last party invitation.

And you know what? They were right. Everything was okay. At the party, there was no name-calling, no hard feelings. Everyone had a good time, played together and laughed. I overheard the little girl who had given Rose and Emma such a difficult time express remorse that she hadn't invited them to her birthday party. I think she gained a whole new perspective on Rose and Emma by being included in their birthday celebration.

And Rose and Emma taught me that forgiveness is still a gift and something that should be practiced -- often.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Security over sanity?

The first week of school was the usual rush of packing lunches, filling out forms and placing ourselves firmly back into the familiar arms of the school routine. Amid all of that hustle and bustle, I was most disturbed by the lockdown drill that Rose and Emma practiced in their second grade room.

My elementary school was located in a small, Midwestern town. We had our fair share of drills. For fire drills we shuffled out onto the dewy grass and stood there talking and laughing, caught up in our own elementary-age drama while the teachers did head counts and then shouted the all clear to go back inside. For tornado drills, we crouched in the main hallway, backs against the wall, arms protecting our heads, whispering jokes to each other. We were participants in these drills, but we were distracted participants. Because even in second grade, we realized the odds of a fire or tornado sweeping through the school were remote.

Fast forward to Rose and Emma's generation. They're almost eight and they've never known a time when they could walk to the airplane gate to greet someone or kiss them goodbye. They're post-9/11 babies, born and being raised amid terrorist threats and heightened security. They're growing up in a world where school and public shootings are more common then we'd like to acknowledge. Remember Columbine? How about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo where 12 people were killed and 50 wounded during a movie? And let's not forget Tucson last year when U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 17 others were shot at a grocery store meet-and-greet. The gruesome list of shootings goes on and on.

So why should it surprise me that my children now do a "lockdown" drill at school? The idea is to teach the children how to react if a gunmen enters the building. During the first week, their teacher locked their classroom door and the whole class huddled together in a corner. Their principal pretended to be the "bad guy" and jiggled the doorknob trying to trick them to come out. Rose and Emma proudly told me that Ms. Sierra's trick didn't work. And then the drill was over and their studies resumed.

I'm sure the intent of the school district is to keep the children safe. But I wonder if the drill is so much about safety as it is teaching them fear? I'd rather the school didn't teach Rose and Emma to dread the unknown, to fear a mad man with a gun and a twisted vendetta. Plenty of fear already exists in the world that adults must grapple with daily, I don't think the schools need to start teaching it to our children. All the eye-opening horror and the grisly side of humanity will come as soon as they learn to flip on the news. And if a mad man should appear, do I really want them to respond by huddling in a corner behind the flimsy lock of a school door?

You see, I'm not comfortable with any of this. Not the lockdown drill or the need for it or the reasoning behind it. As a society, we shouldn't meet the twisted truths of mad men by instilling our children with fear. Then the mad men with the guns have already won without lifting a trigger finger.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My new phobia.....

It's not much fun when you discover new weaknesses about yourself. I don't normally think of myself as a fearful person. Heights don't bother me. Neither do snakes, spiders or dark, close spaces. I love fast, high roller coasters and theme park rides that make your toes curl. Death doesn't even bother me  much. It will come when it's supposed to and everyone faces it eventually. So imagine my surprise when I walked into our Texas garage and began screaming in a high-pitched tone, most associated with animals in pain and prepubescent girls. Yes, I was screaming like a girl. Over what you might ask? A giant cockroach.

I know what you're thinking. It's an insect, big deal. Except in Texas everything, even the roaches are bigger. It's probably the warm climate because they just don't grow that huge in places that freeze regularly. I've seen and squashed my fair share of roaches. Those weren't a big thing. But these are ginormous. In Texas, they can grow up to two inches in length. Did I mention they have wings? So if you go to crush them, they just fly off, usually in the direction of your head. (Enter screaming here.) If they were just smaller, they wouldn't bother me so much. But they're like every magnified science textbook picture you've ever seen, you know the ones that illustrate small insects and they're reproduced so large that it grosses you out? That's what it's like with these Texas-sized critters. Everything about them is magnified. And bigger in a cockroach is not necessarily better.

When I explain my new-found phobia to my bench buddy, the guy I chat with while I wait to pick my girls up from school, he tells me that his mother was bitten on the stomach by a giant cockroach. And it got infected and formed some sort of weird puss pocket. Okay, so now they bite. Great.

But don't worry, I have an appointment already set up with an exterminator. Until then, my husband gets to traipse out to the garage freezer at night. It's too risky for me to go. The high-pitched screaming might just wake the neighbors.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Living with a lover of sports

As a much younger woman when I would think about what kind of man I would marry, inevitably I would imagine someone artistic. Someone who played in a band, enjoyed poetry slams and would make me the subject of his verse. I imagined this person would love to have long, meandering conversations about Foucault. He would be passionate about me and probably just as devoted to saving some almost-extinct form of wildlife -- like the western ground parrot (that's an Australian bird). He would play the guitar and serenade me often. I thought he would have long dark hair, probably held back in a ponytail. Anyway, you get the idea.
So imagine my surprise when I fell in love with a guy who doesn't have a ponytail, but sports a crew cut instead. Oh, and he's blond. And he doesn't play guitar. Also, the closest he's ever come to a poetry slam was the summer when we were dating and he had mono. We went on a picnic and he read me some poetry. Of course, every time I remind him of those romance-filled, wooing days he tells me he had mono and was half out of his head in delirium. (I tend to believe him. He hasn't read me any poetry since.)
Don't get me wrong. My husband Jason is an excellent father and a wonderful husband. I wouldn't trade him for anyone. When I look back at the expectations of my younger self, I realize that some pony-tail wearing, artsy dude with a mercurial temperament probably would not have been a good fit for my own personality. Jason is logical and even-tempered, a nice balance to my stormier, emotional make-up. The only time my husband loses his usually cool head is when there's a Bears or a Bulls game on.
He's an avid sports fan. Whatever the season, he's usually watching the corresponding sport. Unless I'm at a sporting event, I have little interest in them. And sometimes, even when they're right in front of me, I have little interest. Just ask Jason about the time he took me to the U.S. Open and I brought a book. (Was I really the only one there who couldn't see that tiny ball floating through the sky toward the hole?)
So when my dear hubby has tuned into a game or tournament I zone out with a book or magazine -- until the shouting begins. You see, my level-headed sweetie starts arguing with the refs when the call is bad and cheering and clapping when the plays are good. It's when he watches his favorite Chicago teams that he's particularly animated.
That's when I leave the room all the while wondering if I've married a mad man because he's shouting at the television. Surely, he doesn't expect it to answer?
But then I remember my wedding vows (I should have had something about sports written in. "Will you love him in football AND basketball season? Will you love him through golf tournaments AND hockey season?) Does sports count in the sickness part of "in sickness and in health"?
The answer, of course, is yes. Even if he isn't discussing Foucault or spouting poetry he still balances me in ways that no other person can. I'm certain he loves me through all my annoying quirks. Although at the moment I can't really think of any, I'm sure after he reads this post he'll remind me of a few. Blogging about him, for instance?