Bald is Beautiful

On Monday evening I was lucky to be a part of my mother’s annual Tennis Team Christmas party. I love this tradition. Every year her tennis team (and some who used to be members and are no longer) get together for drinks and food and a fun gift exchange, white elephant style. It’s so cool to see the women that have been such a huge part of my mom’s life and to watch them laugh and party and have a good time. I usually participate in the gift exchange, but mostly I’m just there to help in any way I can so that my mom can relax and enjoy her company. 

Many of these women I only see once a year, and while many of them follow me on Facebook, some of them do not. This past year I’ve had a lot of changes, one of them being my bald head. I expected there would be some questions. Everyone was kind and mostly just a bit curious as to why I cut my hair. It caused me to realize that I haven’t yet written a proper blog post about my hair journey and why I choose bald.

There are many photos of me as a young child. My mom was pretty good at capturing the important moments in my life. One thing that is incredibly clear as you look back over the faded images, is my hair was a firey red. I was born a red head. My hair had a wave to it and my mother used to say it reminded her of the shade of a penny. Sort of a rusty red I suppose. Brown eyes, red hair, freckles. I hated them as a child because it was the most obvious go to for kids who wanted to tease me. I wasn’t the norm. I didn’t have the blue eyes and blonde hair like most of the kids my age.

As I got older I grew to love it. At lease I thought I did. I grew to love the way it made me feel. It turned into a bit of a security blanket. It made me fit in where I thought people wanted me. See, I was overweight…BUT… I had such beautiful red hair. Or, I didn’t fit in with the other girls…BUT…boy I was sure blessed to have such beautiful hair. It became something that defined me. Boys I would meet on dating apps seemed more inclined to date me because they “had a thing for red heads”. I loved it because it sort of over shadowed the things I hated about myself and thought others might hate as well. It somehow kept me from feeling vulnerable about my appearance.

As a teenager I would dye my hair from time to time (like most rebellious teens do) and my mothers response was always

“Oh…but your beautiful red hair!”

To her credit, as a mom I probably would feel the same way about my son dying his hair. I get it. But I just wanted her to see why it was something I needed to do to discover myself. When I met my husband Rob, he encouraged me to really discover who I was and embrace it. For the first time in my life I felt like I could get the tattoos I’d always wanted and dye my hair any color I liked and not have to answer to anyone about it.

I started by shaving a small part of my hair and dying it some funky colors. I wish I could say I just woke up one day and shaved my head cause I’m a bad ass… but sadly it didn’t quite happen that way.

My baldness, was sort of an accident. 

My husband and I went on a dying spree and decided to do some fun rainbow colors. First, I had to bleach my hair. I will never forget the way it felt. I leaned over the sink to rinse my hair, and instead of hair I felt mush. It was falling out in clumps at the front of my head. My long hair just falling away. 

I was devastated. I cried and freaked out and panicked and every other emotion you could imagine. I refused to go to work. I felt sick. We decided it had to at the very least be clipped with the clippers to make it even. I remember sitting on the stool in the bathroom, sobbing as my husband took the clippers to my hair. When we finished it was no more than a few inches long. I tried so hard to rock it, to embrace it… and my husband, who loved the idea of a bald wife, felt so sad that the process of clipping my hair had been so devastating. It was gone. My blanket, my safety, my beautiful hair. Gone.

That is when it hit me. 

Why on earth had this ravaged my heart so greatly? Why did I feel like a part of me had died when I was sitting there, clearly still very much alive? Had I really spent 37 years letting something so trivial define who I was? Was this what I wanted to be remembered for? 

When I die someday, some people will remember me as Claire, some as Bird. Some people might remember my voice or my heart or my spirit or how I loved others. Some may remember my laughter or the art I created or how I gave to others when I could. Some may even remember the dumb shit I did. But my hair? Was that really what I was letting define me?

I knew right then what I had to do. I looked at my husband and simply stated

“Let’s just shave it. Let’s do it right now.”

We walked upstairs together and it was the last time I saw more than a smidge of my hair. I rid myself of something that didn’t really matter in the grand picture. It was the best decision I have ever made.

I’ve discovered so many things about myself since that fateful decision was made. I realized that without my hair, I am still funny and kind and giving and beautiful. My husband LOVES me bald and tells me every single day. I feel free and sometimes incredibly vulnerable, which as it turns out, is ok and healthy and therapeutic. Being vulnerable is so important to discovering who we are. I am learning to look in the mirror and see other things besides my hair. My smile, my freckles, the beautiful art on my skin, the handsome man standing behind me admiring me as well. I’ve also learned that the mirror is kinda overrated.

Ultimately, what I want to leave behind in this world is something much bigger than what I see in the mirror. I don’t know what that is yet. I don’t know if I’ll do something important to many or something important to few. As long as it’s SOMETHING. Bald is beautiful. I am beautiful. And I am free. 

Bird

Maybe Christmas…

I remember the feeling well. It was panic, or fear, or sadness or really all of them combined. I was a mommy to a little boy who was going to wake up Christmas morning with nothing from Santa. Sure he would be spoiled by grandparents and his aunt, I was sure of that. But that did nothing to ease the pain I was feeling those weeks before Christmas that Santa was just not going to be showing up at his home. My heart broke for my little guy. I had no idea what I would do.

Christmas for me as a child was magical. My sister and I would sleep in the same room and try with everything we had to stay up and hear Santa. It never worked. Our living room was closed off by doors, so when we came bounding down the stairs in the morning, we could see nothing. We would sit and wait quite impatiently for my grandparents to come down and for the doors to be flung open and for my grandpa to say

“Looks like the old boy made it”

My mom always took great care to set up Santa gifts. If we got doll clothes, the doll was dressed in them and they were set out as if Santa had just pulled them from his sack. Santa gifts were never wrapped. You could almost smell the magic in the air. We loved it. I wanted it for my child. I wanted him to experience the magic of Christmas.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to think about your child never experiencing that. Now I get it, I know what you are all thinking and I agree to an extent. Christmas isn’t about the gifts. It’s not! I love to give and see people receive and I love spending time with my family… but there is a pain that comes with knowing your small child won’t encounter the magic of Christmas morning like you did as a child. I felt like somehow I was letting him down.

That’s the place my heart was in and no one knew it but me. That is until my boss at the time, Denisse, pulled me aside and told me she and her friends wanted to adopt a family for Christmas, and they had chosen me.

I was flabbergasted and humbled and in tears as I realized I just might be able to give my son the Christmas I had hoped for. See, I was a single mom at the time and I was making minimum wage. I could barely put food on the table, let alone spend money on Christmas. I didn’t feel like I deserved it, I felt like there were definitely other families worse off than I was. All that being said, I put my pride aside and counted it as a HUGE blessing. My son woke up to the best Christmas ever, and while I doubt he remembers a thing he received that year, it changed something inside of me.

I was chosen to receive this gift a second year as well, and that year I promised myself something.

Someday, I would find a way to repay the gift. I would find some way to do the same thing for someone else. To take the blessing that Denisse gave me and pass it on to someone else. It became a huge desire of mine. I had no idea if I would ever be able to keep my word, but I was going to try. 

This past year has been life changing for me in so many ways. I am so lucky to have a husband who supports every dream my heart has. I told him how important it was for me to give back, and he made that happen. This year, I participated in adopting a family of my very own with my team at work. We wrapped presents today and ate pizza and chatted and I barely realized the magnitude of what we had done until it was complete. I stood back and looked over all the gifts and I thought

“This is it, this is going to be magical for them. This mama doesn’t have to worry about the magic this year.”

I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to be able to do that for someone. To give a gift that was given to me years ago. Denisse changed my life that day, and her gift in turn changed someone else’s life today.

You see, it isn’t about the gifts. It’s about loving someone well. It’s about saying

“I don’t know you, but I know where you are, and I’m going to meet you there and bring the magic along.”

Thank you Denisse, and thank you to my sweet husband for allowing me to give back.

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas …perhaps… means a little bit more”

Happy Holidays everyone! May it be as magical for you as it is for me.

Bird

Fragile Flowers

I wasn’t exactly nice to my husband this morning as I sat in our driveway leaving for work. I was irritated that my window was covered in frost and I was running late and I hate mornings and I hadn’t had coffee and I am the devil in the morning and he had the nerve to come outside and rub his hand over the windshield, trying to help, but all I could think was how smudgy that would make it and I yelled at him. Did I mention I am the devil in the morning?

I immediately felt horrible and anxious and panicky, as I normally do after I’m a big jerk. I called and cried and apologized profusely and sent another sorry via text as I arrived to work. It was then that he posed a question that really got me thinking.

“You think my devotion to you is a pretty fragile flower, don’t you?”

That simple question has caused all sorts of thinking today. That simple question prompted me to write.

See, what some of you may not know about me, is that I suffer from severe abandonment issues. I think that fear of being abandoned started at a very young age and progressed from there. I am an adopted child, which by the way is a huge blessing. I love adoption and what it does for children who need a home. That being said, it personally affected me in some negative ways as well. Something about the knowledge of being given up for adoption, causes you to have this fear of abandonment as part of your makeup. 

**Please note that I am aware that not all adopted children experience this.

That fear at such a young age, caused me to poison a lot of relationships. I always just assumed that people left. Everyone leaves, no one stays. But after my husband presented that question this morning it got me thinking.

Did everyone leave, or did I push everyone away by always being paranoid that they would leave?

Thank goodness I’ve been blessed with a husband who wouldn’t ever leave over some silly mean morning in the driveway, but honestly it really got me thinking about the past. How many times did I ruin a good thing or bruise a friendship by holding on too tightly? 

How does one wake up after years of believing she’s not worthy of healthy, unconditional love, and magically realize that she deserves it as much as the next person? How does a girl who has been hurt and left behind so many times, grow to understand that real love is forever and contains no fine print. 

One of my favorite quotes is

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky

I love this quote, and yet I don’t seem to take it to heart. My whole life, not only have I been afraid of losing people, but a lot of the people I was afraid of losing were toxic people. Year after year, boyfriend after boyfriend and friend after friend. I accepted harmful and conditional love from people simply because I didn’t want to be abandoned and I didn’t think I deserved any better.

So this is the point in my blog post where I say something deep and inspirational about how I figured it all out. The thing is, I haven’t. I still cling to my husband for dear life. I still sometimes cling to friends and family for dear life. I still, sometimes, am not completely aware of what I deserve. The point is, I’m growing and I have been lucky enough to at least realize what is healthy and what is toxic.

My husband, he is good and healthy. But do I deserve him? For now… I’ll go with “some days”. It’s a start. I am daily working on treating myself better and realizing my potential and growing into my body that I’m learning to love. It’s a daily struggle, but I’m a step closer every morning. Even when it’s a devil morning and I haven’t had my coffee.

 Bird

Unfinished: A tattoo love story

The familiar smell of latex and clean, sort of like the smell you might encounter in a doctor’s office, floats in the air. I can hear music playing, usually some kind of folk rock, but it often depends on who is in charge of the genre that day. I climb into my familiar chair and wait patiently while Nick prepares for this two hour long trek.

Rob is almost always there. He takes my hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. The stress and anxiety of the day or the week or the month is heavy on my shoulders, so heavy by now that it’s hard to catch my breath. Some of it Rob is aware of it. Some of it he is not. I keep a lot of things hidden still even though I know I shouldn’t.

If you have never had a tattoo you may not be aware that there are different types of machines, but a lot of tattoo artists these days use machines that are very quiet. Rotary machines are much more fluid and silent, while coil machines (from my limited understanding) are a bit harder to use and are incredibly loud. Think, I don’t know… Dentist’s office loud.

Nick uses a coil machine. He’s incredibly skilled with it, but it is loud. There is this jolting clack it makes when he first turns it on that tells me it’s time to begin. That clack sound gives me goose bumps. Every single time.

Anyone you ask that says that tattoos don’t hurt is either a bigger badass than I’ve ever met, or he is lying. They hurt. Now some hurt worse than others, sure. But they all have some sort of pain attached to them. My most recent tattoos have been my hands and fingers, and I’m here to tell you it hurts. Badly. It’s a pain like I’ve never felt before. It burns and stings, sometimes it feels like there may be nothing left of my knuckles when he is done and there have been a couple of times I’ve looked at my husband with a panic in my eyes and given him an “I can’t take any more” look. Every time, without fail, he nods and says “You got this”.

Some of you reading this get it. Ink therapy is a very real thing.

For those of you who don’t get it, it may be hard to explain, but I will try.

Tattoos, for me, are healing in two very specific ways. I remember the moment in middle school when I realized I hated my body. I was part of the Eaglettes Dance Squad which was a huge accomplishment for me. I was by far the biggest girl on the team, but it didn’t bother me because I had passed tryouts which meant that I was worthy. I let go the fact that my cheerleading type outfit was the largest one and was still pretty snug on me. It didn’t matter because I was a good dancer and I had earned my spot. 

None of this mattered until one Friday, I was sitting in the hallway in full uniform for game day taking a makeup test. An older boy was walking down the hall, and he looked at me and stated with a smirk, “Aren’t you too big to be a cheerleader?” then laughed and proceeded down the hall. 

I understand that kids are mean, but this simple statement changed my life forever. All of a sudden I became incredibly aware of what people said and thought about me. This is definitely a topic I’ll explore at great length in another post. But just know that I spent a good portion of my life hating what I saw in the mirror.

So what does that have to do with tattoos? Every single piece of art that Nick puts on my body, changes what I see in the mirror. I see intricate details and artistic design and people stop me and ask me about them and tell me how beautiful they are. It takes the focus away from what people used to see about me, and puts the focus on something I want them to see. Now please don’t get things confused. I don’t use the tattoos to hide anything. I’m still a big girl, that can’t be hidden with ink. What it does is it changes the way I see myself, which in turn changes how others see me. I love me, and so they see a light rather than someone who is just dying inside her skin. Each tattoo represents change.

The pain, believe it or not, is the other portion of the process that heals me. It keeps my focus pinpoint. All the stress, all the anxiety goes away. I have one goal and one goal only and that is to complete the sitting time and not tap out. When it’s done, the pain is a reminder of something I did that isn’t easy. You don’t see a lot of people with solid black work tattoos on their hands for good reason. It SUCKS. Badly. In the end I’m more powerful because I did it, I accomplished it, I chose this skin and I had control over the outcome. 

Look, I get that even now some of you will still not understand. I get that some of you may not understand why I would cover scars and pain with more scars and pain. That’s ok. This isn’t some sort of pitch to sell tattoos to you, it’s merely an attempt to help you understand why I’m taking this journey. There will be many, many, more tattoos. There is a lot more growth for me that needs to happen. Ink growth, heart growth, self-love growth, anxiety free growth, personal growth, professional growth. Growth of all kinds. 

I’m not anywhere close to done. 

I’m just unfinished.

Bird

Current Status: Full

unnamed

My husband tells me I should write about anything and everything.

If I’m honest I have tried to keep a blog in the past. I was always so consumed with writing things that people would enjoy or relate to. Things that were witty or funny or poignant. When I didn’t succeed in that I would just stop writing and move on to something else. I figured, why write if no one is listening. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that writing is actually pretty therapeutic.

And so here I am. A giant mound of kettle corn on my desk, my husband lightly snoring in the next room and I’m not exactly sure where this post is going to go.

popcorn

Recently my husband took me to my favorite restaurant for my birthday. We had a beautiful four course meal and I stuffed myself until I was sick because, well, who doesn’t have room for chocolate fondue? I remember feeling so full I could burst. The kind of full where you almost can’t breathe because your stomach is chillin’ up in your lungs.

This is the only way I know of to describe how I feel right now. I feel full up. Not the kind of full up where you are bursting with joy or excitement, but the kind where you are full of something you don’t quite understand.

See, I deal with an extreme case of anxiety. I am certain everyone has felt it at some point. That feeling like you can’t control something, or the tightness in your chest as you imagine the worst outcome. I haven’t quite figured out yet how I stop it or fix it, I only know that it’s there.

Anxiety comes to everyone for different reasons.

My anxiety is a bit like a spaghetti bowl highway in my mind. It comes from many different people, for many different reasons, thanks to a number of circumstances. I have anxiety that is debilitating when it comes to numerous things such as:

• Riding in cars while other people are driving

• People leaving me

• My parents dying

• People not liking me

• Not ever finding my purpose

• That look he gave me… what does that mean?

• His tone is different today. I must have done something wrong…

And that is really just a tony teaser of the daily anxieties I deal with. Its exhausting and I’m certain it is for my husband as well. I have said to him before and I’m sure I will again. I know I am not always the easiest person to love. Yet somehow he does it really well. We have fights and some uglier than others, but big picture? That man loves me pretty darn well through some of the most ridiculous anxiety.

Do you deal with anxiety? What is the thing that seems to work for you?

For me, I just want my husband in some capacity. Sometimes I need him to listen, sometimes to fix things, sometimes advice and sometimes I just need him to hold me. Mainly I just know I need to get home to him.

Here is the real part though.

I don’t know if I’m typing it for me, or for you or for future me but the fact is: People let you down. They just do. Your best friend that always seems to have the right thing to say. One day she isn’t going to say the right thing. Your husband, as kind and as wonderful and as loving as he is… one day your anxiety and your breakdown is going to push him to the point where he yells at you. One day you are going to come home and want him to hold you and he’s going to fail at that. Not because he is mean or a bad husband, but because he is human. It happens.

Best advice I can give is, just forgive. We deserve a breakdown now and then and they deserve to be human.

I feel full up. Full up these days makes me worry… because the full has to go somewhere. The tattoos help a lot. The ink therapy gives the full somewhere to go. That is something I will share more about in another post.

Actual therapy helps. I’ve been seeing a guy, Dr. Baney. He’s pretty great and he has no issue with telling me that my anxiety is real and he hears me, but I need to get my shit under control. I like a no-nonsense therapist. I’m not paying you to sugar coat things after all.

My husband helps. Bless his amazing heart. He makes sure I get my therapy, my ink therapy and as many hugs as he can muster. He is my superman and I’m thankful for him. I also want to say out loud, I know you are human, and I see you and hear you and love you. I know you can’t always fix it all, and I love you regardless.

So where does this take us? My popcorn is half eaten, my coffee is gone and my husband is still snoozing away. I still feel full…but maybe not quite as sick full as before. Writing definitely helps.

For now I guess this post will lead me to bed. Sometimes you just need to curl up and let the full be what it is. I get  to wake up tomorrow and try again. That’s the funny thing about tomorrows.

Bird

Hello Beautiful World!

Webster’s Dictionary defines beauty as the quality of being physically attractive or the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.

When I read this I had this strange sensation. I imagined some guy writing the definition as “The quality of being physically attractive” and some rando HR person in the office placing a hand to his lips and whispering,

“Better put something about the mind in there so we don’t upset the millennials.”

 

I decided I would be better off asking women in my circle. Women I trust and respect. Women I find incredibly beautiful by my own definition.

 

Dawne: “Someone’s soul.   Their aura.   Energy.   That is what it is for me. I see & feel that in others.  The way they help someone in need.  The small gestures they do when no one is paying attention.  The way someone is around children, animals, & the elderly or handicapped.  The innocents. Those are the things I see when looking at the world.   Just cause someone has “good genes” Doesn’t make a good heart…. What are they doing when no one is paying attention?  That’s what I see…”

Katie: Kindness, empathy, eye contact, vast god made/man untouched land stretched for miles, and only the wind and the water are the sounds it makes

 

So by now I’m sure you’re wondering what the purpose of this blog is.

“Is she going to teach me ‘Cool Chicks with Tattoos Recipes’ or something?”

PSA: I’m a subpar cook so this is probably not a great idea, however I’m always down for a great recipe share! Hit me up!

 

The reason behind wanting to start a blog is sprinkled with many different things. Sort of a blog cupcake if you will. The main reason is for me. A place to hold my thoughts and hopes and dreams. A place where I can look back and say, “Yes, that’s where I’ve come from”.

The second reason is you. The girl or guy who doesn’t ever really feel quite right in their skin. The you that feels they aren’t good enough. The you that feels like your past defines you and that the scars you wear are meant for hiding. 

Listen, I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have a clue what I am doing half the time and I still have a lot of broken pieces floating around inside that poke and prod me daily. What I do know is that knowing you aren’t alone in something is EVERYTHING.

I am a heavily tattooed chick with a bald head and a spunky attitude. Tattoos are my way of choosing my own skin and wrapping myself in reminders of the life I’ve lived and where I hope the future might lead me. They are the best way I know to wear my heart on my sleeve and I have a feeling some of the things I say or choose to do will not mesh with you.

PSA: While I am an advocate for doing what you need to do to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, I do not necessarily suggest you go out and get a face tattoo and shave your head. (Although I do think it would be pretty bad ass of you).

That being said, I have a feeling a lot of what I say will ring true with you. All of us have been broken and all of us, no matter how our outsides look, know what it’s like to feel like an alien in our skin. We all have history and we all have baggage and we all are searching for ways to heal from it. Maybe something I say will help you. Maybe you are just curious about my journey and what on earth your old pal Claire has done and who is Bird anyway? 

No matter your reason for reading. No matter your journey or your background. Maybe we are friends, or once were friends, or have yet to be friends (I love people so please, don’t be shy! Be my friend!). Whatever the reason, I’m glad you’re here and I’m excited to share my story with you.

Bird

 

**Please know that if you decide to follow my blog, I do not currently have any type of time line for posting. This may change in the future!