Haircuts and Anniversaries

I have a haircut coming up with Bledi-with-Scizzors. Bledi has been my hairstylist for at least fourteen years now, which is ridiculous. By now he owns the salon, and I’ve had three jobs since we met at Starbucks. Also by now we’re comfortable enough with each other that sometimes he will tell me what he thinks I should have done to my hair, and I will tell him I don’t care what he thinks or if it’s stylish, I just want long hair. But sometimes I get bored with the long hair (recently, I just haven’t had the patience to dry it–or the time, because we moved and my commute in the morning is 15 minutes longer). And so, when contemplating my upcoming haircut, I thought, “I think it’s time to get my occasional bob.”

Also because it’s October. If I ever get a bob haircut, it’s in October. There are two reasons for this: 1) By October it’s cold enough here I don’t feel the need to pull my hair off my neck in a ponytail; while I like to braid my hair in the summer. 2) October (appropriately, as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month) is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I had my hair cut in a bob to take an incremental psychological step toward readiness for shaving my head for chemo. Then I didn’t end up needing chemo, but sometimes I still get my hair lopped off in October.

2008 cancer haircut

I was thinking about this the other week, which is why I suddenly remembered that today is the tenth–tenth–anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I don’t often talk about my cancer because honestly, most of the time I feel like a “fake” cancer survivor, since, at the end of the day, it wasn’t really that bad for me. I had surgery and radiation, but no chemo. I had to take a hormone suppressant which gave me migraines with which I still struggle. I went back and read the relevant blogposts from my Original Blog and discovered that at the time, I really was pretty freaked out and it was a tough process emotionally–but it also was a pretty quick one, relatively speaking, and I had some amazing support around me.

Meanwhile, I have a friend who’s still trying to recover after a year of harrowing treatment, and another friend who has had cancers of various types at least 11 times. (I’ve probably lost count, I’m ashamed to say. It may have been more, at this point–but I hope not.) Also another friend was diagnosed within the last year; her diagnosis sounded really similar to mine, but she does need chemo, and she has a husband and two little boys and the chemo is doing a number on her. Stories like these brave women’s make me sad, and also make me uncomfortable about publicly celebrating the fact that I have basically been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and officially so for five years now.

On the other hand–I’ve been cancer free since they cut it out of me, and that’s ten years. And while I don’t understand why the above, and other, friends of mine haven’t gotten through their diagnoses as easily as I was able to get through mine, and while it would be ungracious of me (particularly since I had nothing to do with it) to brag about it, it would also be ungrateful of me not to note and celebrate it. I don’t take my cancer-freedom for granted. I know I could get it again. But I haven’t yet, and I’m deeply thankful. And so, in honor of my diagnosis and celebration of my current freedom from it, I’ll be pampering myself next Friday–and getting a haircut.


First Anniversary

Family Friday

Last week was my Paul’s and my first anniversary. Did I tell you that? Yes. I did.

We went to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire. It was not a part of New Hampshire I had ever been to before. It was snowy, unlike our part of New England until today. We had snowshoes, and we knew how to use them. (Also, we did use them.)

The snow stuck to the trees in crystals kind of like the frost I’ve only ever seen in Ireland. Only there was snow with it.

What Ireland looked like in 2009.

What Ireland looked like in 2009.

What Franconia Notch looked like last weekend

What Franconia Notch looked like last weekend

We snowshoed up a mountain that overlooked some ski trails where the people looked like slide-y ants, and then we snowshoed around a natural “flume” where there was a covered bridge and also a bunch of crazies climbing up the ice floes.

Crazies. I'm telling you.

Crazies. I’m telling you.

When we got to our hotel in Concord, New Hampshire, we were pretty tired, but we managed to make it through a very nice dinner at a local brew-pub. Then we got back to the hotel and . . . fell asleep. Hey. We’re married. We can do whatever we want whenever we want. And we had just been snowshoeing. It really takes it out of you. You should try it if you’re looking for low-impact cardiovascular exercise. Also, though? The beds in the Holiday Inn in Concord are amazing. That public service announcement is free. How often do you get to sleep for 10 straight hours? It was fantastic.

The next day, after a start, we discovered that Concord, NH, is very observant of Sundays/Sabbaths, which is something I hypothetically endorse, but it was kind of frustrating that I couldn’t actually go into any of the interesting shops on Main Street. Still, we managed to get decent coffee and a sufficient breakfast before starting back toward home, accompanied, of course, by Screwtape.

It was the perfect anniversary for us . . . mostly because it was for us. “A year ago,” said my Paul as I was waking up that Sunday morning, “I was laying out my suit.” It made me smile. A year ago that day, this happened. It’s been a good year. I’m ready for another one.



What Would CS Lewis Write?

Wordy Wednesday

Wow. Tough crowd over here. I go away for the weekend and so does everybody else, apparently!

Anyway, I went away for the weekend. With my Paul. For our anniversary. As one does on First Anniversary trips (?), we spent most of the car-ride to and from our destination listening to Focus on the Family‘s radio-theatre adaptation of The Screwtape Letters. No matter what you think about Focus on the Family (and I confess my own impressions have risen and fallen and risen again), they do excellent radio theatre, and anyway, how can a project that combines Andy Serkis (atheist) and C.S. Lewis (former atheist) in the cause of Christ be a bad idea? I guess one or two of you might think that sounds like a terrible idea, actually, but I am here to tell you that you are mistaken: it was a very, very good idea.

They went all out with this project, I'm telling you.

They went all out with this project, I’m telling you.

Listening to this sort of audio in the car was a new thing for my Paul and me, and, since the CD set was originally mine and I had already listened to it, I was feeling some sort of nebulous pressure for my Paul to like it as much as I did. I didn’t need to worry; as the first CD wrapped up, he said, “You can put the next one in if you want.”

A lot of the content of the story ties in with things we’ve been discussing in Systematic Theology, and I got to thinking about this and to marveling (as I often do marvel, when confronted with the works of C.S. Lewis) at Lewis’ clear-headedness about sometimes muddy concepts, as well as his ability to express them so readably. I have this sheepish idea that C.S. Lewis’ writings are just one tier below inspired Scripture, and that one of the reasons for that tier is that he didn’t happen to write his stuff in the first century. This is a very unorthodox position to hold, and I don’t really believe that, but his books are the only ones outside the Bible that I can read and reread and still get something out of every single time. (Then again, I was searching for Bibles for my confirmation students yesterday and was kind of dismayed/irritated/yea-even-disgusted that there is now a “C.S. Lewis Bible” out there. So maybe I’m on safer ground than the above statement makes it sound.)

Anyway, all this thinking about C.S. Lewis reminded me of my childhood. (I’m cramming Memory Monday and Family Friday into this Wordy Wednesday, since I left you hanging all weekend.) When I was about two or three, my mother was reading the Chronicles of Narnia to herself, and she wouldn’t read them to me just yet, but she let me look at the wonderful Pauline Baynes illustrations, and she told me that Aslan the lion was Jesus. I was a pretty sensitive child, so when she finally did try to read them to me the first time, I got completely freaked out by The Magician’s Nephew, but eventually I tried again with the whole series and just ate it up. Since then, I’ve read them over and over, and listened to the Focus on the Family adaptation of those, too.

I think I must have been around seven years old, three years after I had announced in no uncertain terms that I wanted to become a writer “like Elsa Beskow,” when my mother asked me, “Jennie, how do you think you could use writing to serve God?”

I was right in the middle of the Chronicles for the first time, and obviously I hadn’t read any straight theology or anything before, and so I said, “I could write stories like C.S. Lewis.”

I’m not sure why my mother seemed a little taken aback and noncommittal when I said that, since I was only seven, had never been confronted with a question like that before, and was encountering God through Narnia as I hadn’t really through any other books at the time. I suspect, though, she was just thinking realistically. No one else could write like C.S. Lewis.

No, really–they can’t. I had to order a book by an eminent Scottish theologian for my Christology class which starts next term and, in looking for it, I discovered that this theologian has apparently also written some sort of fantasy allegory sorts of books. I have never read them so I have no idea if they’re any good, but the fact that I have also never heard of them, even though I have heard of this theologian since I was an undergrad makes me think that they’re probably a little stilted or contrived. There was another series of books of that sort from an entirely different theologian that I read as a kid in the 80’s. I liked them well enough as a kid in the 80’s, but they didn’t have the staying power of Narnia or Screwtape or even the Cosmic Trilogy (which is pretty lame sci-fi, but still a pretty great marriage of theology and fiction). I no longer have any of the editions of those other books, but I still have all my Lewis.

And here’s what I’ve been realising recently, with all this thinking about writing and writing about thinking about God: writing anything that comes close to the clarity and profundity of C.S. Lewis’ straight theology, let alone writing fiction that so powerfully incorporates strong theological ideas as his does, is kind of a long shot. Kind of an impossibility, knowing my writing. But it turns out that if you asked me, “Jenn, how do you think you could use writing to serve God?” I would still say, maybe not very certainly, but certainly hopefully, “I could write stories like C.S. Lewis.”


I think I did mention that, even though I’m done on-line dating (at least for now, hopefully forever), I might still, from time to time, comment on the experience because . . . well, because there are just so many odd features to talk about.

Sometimes the oddness comes simply from logistics. When The Boyfriend and I decided that he was going to be my Boyfriend and I was going to be his Girlfriend, at some point the topic of how long we had been seeing each other already came up. That in itself is weird, as I keep alluding to or even pointing out–the fact that if you’re meeting people on-line to begin with, you have to meet multiple people at once and go out with them all a few times before deciding on one. (Or none.) It’s comparison shopping, and there’s something . . . well . . . really capitalistic and sort of dehumanising about that. All the same, after years of trying to rebel against that fact, I have to agree that if you’re going to go into internet dating, that really is ultimately the sanest (I didn’t say sane) way to do it.

But then after that you have these other weird things. I said, in a conversation with The Boyfriend, “Such and such a date is our two-month anniversary, you know.” (Incidentally, there is a little part of me that screams inwardly when anybody, including myself, talks about “month anniversaries.” The Latin word for year is in the word anniversary for goodness’ sake. How gauche! But monthiversary, which is what I usually end up saying, is just as bad really, and lunaversary doesn’t come to mind very readily.)

“No it isn’t,” he said.

“Yes it is,” I insisted. “We went on our first date on June 24th.”

“But our first email was June 12th,” he countered.

Ah. Right.

This can even happen when you meet someone in person, if the internet/email has played even a minor part in the relationship, because I actually had a very similar conversation with a previous boyfriend some years ago. Evidently the internet is just unavoidable for relationships these days.

Then there’s the question of whether you count the date of the first email, or the date of the first date, or the date of deciding to be an exclusive couple, given the above disclaimers. Is there an etiquette for this, or is it every couple for themselves? At any rate, The Boyfriend and I are sticking with the email date. Which makes this–hey–our third lunaversary! Happy lunaversary, The Boyfriend . . .


On Sunday, my Then Church had a party.

You should know that thirty-ish years ago, my parents moved to this area of New England with little me and littler Brother-Dave and, with the help of some stalwart families and I would say also God, got a little church started out here.

The church isn’t so little anymore (neither are my brother or I), and it’s still going strong, so last weekend they had a celebration of the anniversary of their existence. My parents were still here from Christmas, so my dad got to preach in the morning. I went to my Now Church and kicked off our new Sunday school rotation (i.e., got the kids all wound up) and then headed over to Then Church for the service. It was a great sermon, and I’m not just being biased (although I probably am a bit biased). The thing that moved me, though, was . . . well, first, just that I was moved, I think.

Somewhere in the last few years before I started working at Now Church, I think I started taking the place for granted or something. And maybe in a way I needed to. I mean, maybe that was the only way I was going to get kicked out of the nest and find the Next Thing at Now Church. I feel like I’m kind of bungling my way through relationships and tasks there, but I also feel like the place is a good fit for me and it’s where God wants me to be for now. But over the weekend I was able  reconnect with things about Then Church that I think I had sort of lost sight of in the familiarity.

For one thing, even though I missed the Slideshow of Embarrassing Photos that was shown that night, a lot of memories came pushing their way back into my head anyway. My favourite ones are definitely of being in youth group myself and literally helping to build the church’s first building. But there were people I hadn’t thought of in years who, if they weren’t physically present either that morning or evening, still made an appearance in my consciousness that Sunday. There have been a few things going on in Then Church recently that trouble me, but as I sat in the second building, I was able to see again the things that they’re doing right, and the things that God has done through that church in the past and is still doing.

I’m working on crying less these days, but I almost cried that morning–tears of gratitude. I’m grateful I grew up with a church. I’m grateful for the memories of youth group there, and for all the adults who so deeply and intentionally invested in me and the other kids. I’m happy that there’s still an emphasis on children and youth and missions. And I’m grateful for parents like mine: flexible but uncompromising in their beliefs and conduct, open-hearted and authentic, devoted to God above all things, but loving their family and their church family as a reflection of that devotion.

As I’ve been mulling over the anniversary and my own heritage within that church, it occurs to me that my parents grew up with that church, too. I’m pretty sure they bungled some relationships and opportunities in those early days just as I’ve been doing at Now Church. But maybe–and I truly hope this is the case–I can see not only my past through my parents. Maybe they can also give me a vision for my future. I really pray that God will ultimately live through my life as clearly and effectively as He’s living through theirs.