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A couple of times on Sunday, I referred to people’s inner beauty, as in, “These girls are showing us what it means to be beautiful on the inside,” implying, of course, that they were no longer beautiful on the outside.  But I was all wrong.

They are indeed beautiful on the outside. I just needed my own definition of beauty challenged by them. By you. All of you.

Sunday was full of beauty; it was all around us.

This is the beauty of family: Father and son working together to save one of their own (and remembering to have fun in the process).

And this is the beauty of family: A father shaving in solidarity with his son, whose bald head took some getting used to.

This is the beauty of small people doing big things:

This is multiple generations of beauty: grandmother and granddaughter watching the mother shave her head.

Contemplation can be beautiful:
Courage can be beautiful:
And pride can be beautiful:
Beauty is young:
And old (relatively speaking, at least!):
And male:
And female:
And this is the beauty of friendship:

If you want a few more examples of beauty, check out the first wave of photos here. More to come shortly.
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St. Baldrick’s is less than one month away and we are well on our way to the most successful year yet. As of this moment, there are 84 people signed up and nearly $17,000 raised.  This is way ahead of where we’ve been in the past, so I am super excited, especially since the vast majority of fundraising tends to happen in the final week.

I feel like the movement I’ve been hoping to start in our community is really and truly happening.  We have teams of kids from four elementary schools in CH-UH and four in Shaker plus a Gesu Team, a Rox Middle team, and several from Heights High. We also have tons of girls, not just cutting and donating their hair, but many actually shaving, including four Heights High girls (the Bald Babes) and 4th graders from both RoxEl and Fairfax and my sweet little friend Sara Schubert, a Fairfax second grader. These girls display a sense of self-confidence and self-awareness that is most impressive to me.  I’ve spoken with several of them about their decision, trying to make sure that they understand the impact of what they’re doing (as well as the dreadfully slow growing-out period they’ll have to endure!). They’ve all responded to me with such maturity and careful thought, that I am sort of blown away. We hear a lot in today’s society about how girls are bombarded with princess images and made to believe that their looks are of singular importance in their lives. And yet these girls have stated their goals with such simple clarity, as though physical appearance were far down on their list of defining characteristics: “I know I may look funny, but I’m doing to for something good so that’s okay.” Or, “Well, I think I’ll look cool with a shaved head!” I am completely moved by their commitment and their gutsiness and can’t wait to celebrate them at our event.

Another thing that I’m very excited about for this year is that I’ve finally convinced Mark to shave at my event instead of downtown like he usually does.  This is his seventh year, which means he’ll get inducted into the Knights of the Bald Table, an exclusive St Baldrick’s club for long-term shavees (that’s written with a wink and a nudge since there are no real perks to such knighthood). But now I will have the honor of knighting him, which I believe will be highly motivating to the kids present who are in their second or third year of shaving. Braedan will be next in that regard and is already eagerly awaiting his own knighthood in two years.

All in all, I think this event is extremely empowering for young people, as it gives them an opportunity to truly make a difference in their world. They are giving away a literal piece of themselves on behalf of others, and while it’s certainly a fun and cool thing to participate in with their friends, it is also a meaningful and often very powerful experience. I am so proud to be able to bring them this chance to change the course of someone’s life, as they raise money to save the next kid diagnosed, someone they don’t and will likely never know.  We have a seventh grader from Rox Middle who’s currently in treatment for leukemia and his mother said he was initially very hesitant about being honored by this event, as he’s usually the one raising money or doing good for others. I told her to make sure he knows that his participation in this event is for others. Unless he remains in treatment for many many years (which I sincerely hope he doesn’t), the money that is raised today in his name and in his honor will be used for treatments for some child diagnosed well into the future. Likewise for Austin, who is always a bit overwhelmed (and even surprised) by the number of kids who say they’re doing this for him, while Austin will never benefit from the new cancer research that gets funded by St Baldrick’s. At least, I hope he won’t since I hope he never needs treatment for cancer again. If we wanted to do something truly for him, we’d raise money for kidney research! But this isn’t about us, this is about the families who come next, the families that don’t yet know their world will be rocked by childhood cancer. This is to ease the path of the next child and the next mother and the next brother who have to bear this terrible burden.

This is why we do what we do. This is why people shave. And this is why we come to you year after year asking for your financial support. I will keep coming back to you because you also have the chance and the power to change the course of someone’s life. You too can sign up to shave your head, by linking to our event page here. Or you can make a donation on the heads of any of these brave men, women and children. Austin is here, Braedan here and Mark here.

On behalf of my extremely lucky family and on behalf of all those who don’t yet know how unlucky they may be, we thank you.

Every once in a while, it’s nice to be reminded of all that is right in the world. We hear stories every day of death and destruction, fire and hatred and political wrangling. Incompetence and sickness, war and poverty. This is what glares from the headlines and blares from the news programs.

But there are bright spots that too often get overlooked. Of course, Thursday my faith in the inherent fairness of our system of government was “upheld.” But politics aside, here are two really great clips if you’re feeling down.  Many of you have seen the first on Facebook, where it made its rounds last week. It’s so worth reading through again though because it is filled with touching and surprising acts of humanity and kindness. My favorites — although it’s hard to choose — are the man in Melbourne jumping into the water to save that woman’s dog and the old Japanese men volunteering to work in the clean-up of the nuclear power plant. Oh wait, and the letter from the three-year-old girl to the grocery store (did you notice the age of the responder?) and the man giving away his shoes, and the  . . . Oh, just check it out yourself.

The second is a bit long, but I highly recommend watching it through to the end because the last minute is the best part.  Kids get a bum rap these days, for being selfish, hooked on technology, obsessed with wealth and fame, ignorant of the struggles of those who came before them. But this video shows young people coming together in a way that can only be described as beautiful.

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Take a few minutes. Let your faith in humanity be restored. If we look closely, we’ll see that there are acts of beauty and kindness all around us. Now go, and have a nice day.

You, my trusted and loyal community of readers, have helped me work my way through several major decisions over the past year. First, there was the should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-continue-with-chemo conundrum. Then, of course, came the awful choice between removing Austin’s kidney in a preemptive strike against the possibility of cancer returning thus subjecting him (and all of us) to two years of hemodialysis followed by organ transplant versus trusting that surgery, chemo and radiation had done their job in wiping cancer out of his body. Then there were the smaller decisions about my book and how to incorporate the third section and what to title it. And who can forget the still-unresolved issue of when to send Austin to kindergarten?

But suddenly I have a new decision to ponder and, boy, is it a doozy.

Next year is the tenth anniversary of the St. Baldrick’s event in Cleveland and to celebrate, the planners are trying to enlist ten moms.

As in, ten moms to shave their heads.

Oh man, it makes me nervous to even think about! I want to do it. I mean, I think I do. At least right now, when it’s nothing but an idea, tucked safely eleven months into the future. I’m not worried about how I’d feel that very day. I’ve seen women do it, fourteen of them last week, and they all look strikingly beautiful and very very proud of themselves. (See professional photos from the event here; my family is between 83 and 120.) But the next day or week or month, when they have fuzz sprouting from their heads and have to attend someone’s wedding or a business meeting or who knows what . . . that’s the stuff I worry about.

I know, it’s only hair and it grows back. But it’s hair and it grows back pretty slowly, especially when it’s as long as mine is now. For the past few days, I’ve suddenly found myself admiring my hair, which is not something I’m used to doing.  I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, uncharacteristically, “Wow, my hair looks so full and shiny . . . do I really want to shave it all off?” Classic case of the grass being greener, I think.

It would make quite a statement though to have ten mothers of cancer patients stand up their together and make that sacrifice on behalf of their children. Ten years, ten moms, ten thousand dollars (each!). That would be my motto.

I know how I am. I know I’ll have moments after the fact when I’m in a major awkward stage and feeling rather ugly, when I would question my decision. But I also know that if ten moms are going to sit in AJ Rocco’s next March and shave their heads, there’s no way I’m not going to be one of them.

This one’s for Phyllis.

The mother/mother-in-law of our closest friends passed away on Sunday morning after a fast and furious battle with pancreatic cancer. She was diagnosed in late January, went through two rounds of treatment including both chemotherapy and radiation, and deteriorated rapidly in the past month. She was only 59.

This was a woman of extraordinary physical beauty, I mean a real knock-out. The kind of woman who, after people would meet her, they’d turn to Dom and say, “That’s your mom? . . . Wow.”  And just a few years ago, they would’ve said, “That’s your mom? . . . Damn!”  That was what you noticed about her first; there was no way not to. But she was warm and sweet and tons of fun. You could tell she surrounded herself with friends who laughed hard and loved hard. She adored her two granddaughters and you know they would have just loved having a grandma who let them be glamorous and extravagent and maybe a little bit naughty, experimenting with make-up or highlighting their hair long before their mother would have allowed such things.

Back in the day

Back in the day

But I was struck today, as we were driving home from her funeral, with the fact that she, as a beautician and stylist, spent her life making other people look and — this is important — feel beautiful. She, who must have always been the prettiest one in a room, gave that gift to so many others, even if it was just through a great, but temporary, haircut. She was spreading the wealth, in her own special way.

With Lola a few years ago

With Lola a few years ago

So this one’s for Phyllis. And for all those who knew her and loved her, especially Dom and Christie and Braedan’s future wife Lola. And for those who will never really have the chance to know her and love her, especially Austin’s future wife Olive.

Her life was cut short, there’s no doubt of that. But those she leaves behind feel lucky today, lucky to have had her while they did.

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