On Jheri Curls

I went to high school in the mid-80s.  Looking back, it was a hilarious and iconic time in fashion and music but we did not know this then.

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*photo courtesy of Ed Smith.  This was a night in 1984 in downtown Mill Valley as all of us kids converged at the Bus Depot on weekends.

We only knew that we identified ourselves by what kind of music we listened to and where on campus we hung out.  My high school largely self-segregated during breaks and lunches.  People were known by the specific part of school you sat with your friends.  You were a “front parking lot” person (Prince fans, Madonna look-alikes, cheerleaders and football players) , a “back parking lot” person (rockers and stoners/Heavy Metal), an “Orange Court” person (Dungeons and Dragons, brainiacs) and on and on.  I sort of wandered between the “front lawn” (skaters, surfers, soccer players, beachy types)  and off-campus, being sure not to associate myself too much in any particular area.

Our school was mostly white but there was a small contingent of African American kids (Tupac went to Tam High!).  These kids mostly hung out in the front parking lot and a few wore one glove like their idol, Michael Jackson.  Secretly, the music they listened to and break danced to was my favorite but because I was not a “front parking lot” person, no one knew.  My love for Vanity 6 was my little secret.

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When we were Freshmen, we had PE and PE was divided into segments.  We had Gymnastics, Square dancing (oy) and Swimming.  Gymnastics came first in the rotation.  The gym was full of bright blue mats and we were forced, in our very awkward 14-year old bodies, to do somersaults and such.  During Tumbling training, the oil from our classmates with Jheri Curls would famously streak the mats and one day, someone slipped on the oil.  That person sprained their ankle causing a school dilemma.  What to do with all the kids who have to do somersaults but have Jheri Curls?!?!

Do you know what a Jheri Curl is? Let me remind you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jheri_curl

Jheri Curls were hugely popular right in the mid and late 80s thanks largely to Michael Jackson who rocked one famously on the cover of Thriller.

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In a nutshell,  a Jheri Curl (technical name is Soft Curl Permanent) is when you relax curly hair and then perm it into a new curl pattern.  What was inconvenient about Jheri Curls, in addition to being time consuming, was that to keep them rocking you had to have an activator in your hair at all times to keep it from drying out.  This was called, by some, Jheri Curl Juice.

So, the schools solution to keep Jheri Curl wearers in class and not cause any more injuries was to have all the kids with Jheri Curls wear shower caps during PE.  That didn’t stand out…

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I was reminded by my friend Kimberly that after that incident, those guys worked that style all day long and soon enough wearing a shower cap became cool.  Of course.

When I started Beauty School, I was a little lost.  I was raised by Hippie-types and went to a Hippie college.  When I started Beauty School, I didn’t know what a flat iron was.  Actually.  I had never done a perm and didn’t own a blowdryer.  Most of my fellow students were more typical Hairdressers meaning they had already been doing hair their whole lives and were finally there to get a license.  Many had been cutting or coloring hair at home, wrapping their Mom’s perms and doing all the make-up for friends for years.

When I learned about what is called the Soft Curl Perm and that I had to do them, I thought-Holy Shit, that’s a Jheri Curl!  Getting a Cosmetology License is still largely an archaic experience.  You must learn things you will never, ever do after you graduate and you practice procedures that go entirely out the window the minute you work in a salon.  That said, I was fascinated to learn the history of the Soft Curl Permanent which my friend Lee calls, the two-step Perm.  As a red-headed white, gay man he had to find two-step perm models for his Vidal Sassoon training in LA and he would venture into Compton asking strangers if they would come and get a perm from him.  Talk about a racial divide!

The business of hair largely divides itself by race and ethnicity.  You get good at cutting  “Asian Hair” or you specialize in Extensions which are more Caucasian while Sew-Ins are more for Black hair.  You may do fades, clipper cuts or $100 scissor-over-comb men’s cuts and all of the above is skewed by race, class and economic status.  As a Colorist, you learn that there is only hair texture to contend with.  Ethnic background can certainly play a part in texture but hair is hair.  Marketing of hair products is absolutely race-related and may not be as blatant as it once was in the 80s (see below) but it still aims at a target audience, just as all products do.

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I actually have Hot Sticks.  But let’s keep that between you and me.

 

On Boyhood

When my kids were itty bitty, (Daughter, 5 months and Son, age 2) I made a career change, went to Cosmetology school followed by a 3-year Apprenticeship to become a Color Specialist.  In my years of training, I made minimum wage and was a Single Mother with full-custody.  I worked extremely hard as I was setting myself up for the career I have now.

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In those years, as well as the years after on the road as a Corporate Trainer, I missed a lot.  I never had the option of being a Stay-at-Home Mom and, as I saw it, could not allow myself to feel guilt about any of it.  I had no choice but to push through and provide.  I was fortunate to have a few women who gave me really good advice that at the time I didn’t totally understand but now I do. They said to me that when kids are little, anyone (not literally but someone wonderful other than you) can care for them.  When kids are little, you know when they are hungry, they tell you when they stub their toe.  My daughter, to this day, tells me she is going to the bathroom.  What these women told me is that as kids get older, they need you more.  As your kid gets into Junior High and older, sometimes they don’t say much about their day for a few hours, if at all.  You need to be around and then, when you least expect it, they just start talking.

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This week, a friend of my Daughter’s committed suicide.  She was 11.  This was a new friend of hers so not a family I knew and I have no details on the girl’s life or her family.  It still rocked our world.  Her older Sister is in school with my Son at the high school he just finished his 3rd week of.  A lot of changes going on for him as well.

This week, neither kid has stopped talking for a second.  It reminds me of when they were babies and there was a cacophony of sound.  A constant stream of chatter and someone always saying “Mom!”.  I am so grateful to be closer to home and here for them.  I am so grateful that we have a house of communication. Even with all our arguing and (occasional) door-slamming, we have love and direct talks about our feelings.

I can’t imagine what that family is going through.  It is the worst thing ever.  This isn’t even a teen suicide.  Pre-teen.  What the hell?

I saw the film Boyhood a few weeks ago with my own kids and we all loved it.  What I loved most about it was the reminder that time is precious.  I loved the quote I heard recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.” and watching the children in the film’s faces age, I held my breath for what is in store for me.  My window in getting to raise my own kids is getting smaller and smaller.  What my kids loved about Boyhood was it made their life seem normal.  Single Mom, Brother and Sister, Mom working hard to provide with an occasional difficult choice in partnership. Well-meaning but not totally together Father figure.  Their life.

I am not religious but I do pray.  I pray for the family who lost their Daughter.  I pray for the girl who must have suffered in ways we will never understand.  I pray for my own kids, family and community and give gratitude for our blessings. I pray that I always remember to count my blessings.

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On Beyonce’s Feminism

Last night at the VMA’s (Video Music Awards hosted by MTV), Beyonce did this.

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Many people had mixed feelings about this coming from Bey.  They argued that Beyonce couldn’t be a Feminist because of her marriage to Jay-Z.  (Jay-Z often raps lyrics that are pretty misogynistic, but that’s another blog all together.  “It’s complicated.”).  Whether you agree or disagree in Beyonce’s version of Feminism, I was happy to see her bring the F-word back into a mainstream dialogue.   Thank you Bey, for sexing it up.

Many young women in the US today take for granted the privileges and rights they have.  Many don’t even know they are privileges that were hard earned not that long ago.  I am 43 and my generation is arguably the first to get to “have it all”.  We are also the first to have the choice to “opt out” of working when we have had our kids.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-revolution.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Many women aren’t fighting wanting to “have it all” because we gained access to all options from the women before us.  But many still are.  In a recent conversation with a man close to me, he asked me why we still have to be having this conversation.  My response was that it’s just the beginning.

And dare I say that the men we choose to be with in our journey are also conflicted?  What happens to men whose purpose shifts with the choices his partner makes or who is asked to be flexible and redefine who he is when the roles change?  What happens to the man who is asked to partner, change diapers, provide, be sensitive, be alpha but not too alpha….

It’s confusing.  Beyonce can be seen as “having it all”.  She can be seen as a role model for female power, sexuality, sensuality, creative control and being a working Mother.  I am thankful for that.  The debate roars on that she can’t be a Feminist because she is shaking her ass.  I disagree.

When I was 19 and a Teacher’s Aide for the most well known Feminist Professor in the United States, Bettina Aptheker, I stood in front of the class in a mini-dress, lipstick, cowboy boots and curled hair.  I did this on purpose.  I wanted young students to see that you could be a Feminist and look traditionally feminine.  In the late 80s, lipstick Feminism hadn’t happened yet.  It was shortly after that Naomi Wolf wrote “The Beauty Myth” which was a breakout book and school of thought for Feminism at the time.  Yes, beauty standards are a problem for women but ALSO, women can do what they want with how they look.  Arguably, this is why women now feel inclined to say that getting surgery or cosmetic alterations is “their choice” but let’s not digress.

Ass shaking aside, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  On a global scale, we are still facing massive inequality in most developing nations.  In China, it is highly dangerous to identify oneself as a Feminist.  To “lean in” simply isn’t an option.  My friend Erika Merrill traveled to Kenya this summer with the Daraja Academy which aims to provide funding for the education of girls.  Here are some facts about the global situation for the education females.

Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth, 70% are girls.

Human Rights Watch, “Promises Broken: An Assessment of Children’s Rights on the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” [December 1999]

Less than 2¢ of every development dollar goes to girls.
Nancy Gibbs, “To Fight Poverty, Invest in Girls,” Time Magazine [February 2011]
Women’s education was the single most important factor behind falling levels of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world according to a 30-year study.

The US Institute of Food and Nutrition

A girl who receives secondary and higher education beyond grade 7 has, on average, 2.2 fewer children.

United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990

An extra year of primary schooling raises a woman’s eventual wages income by 10%. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25%.

George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A FurtherUpdate,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002]

Every extra year of schooling reduces infant mortality by up to 10%.

T. Paul Schultz, “Health and Schooling Investments in Africa,” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 13, no. 3 [1999]

http://www.daraja-academy.org/why-girls/

If you or someone you love, thinks we no longer “need” Feminism I would like to provide the following photo from the “We Don’t Need Feminism” movement on Tumblr as a cautionary tale.

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http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2704889/Have-completely-misunderstood-concept-Women-Against-Feminism-blog-sparks-fierce-backlash-statements-I-like-men-compliment-body.html

We still do.

On Back To School

It’s that time of year.  For some parents, this is good news and for others (like me) not so much.  I am a night owl and so are my kids and so for all of us, we dread the 6:43 AM alarm clock, lunch packing and out the door morning rush.

What made this year different than others is my Son’s attendance to a new school. Not only is the school new to him, it’s private and it’s Catholic. Oh, and it’s High School.  Quadruple whammy.  We are not Catholic and we have never attended private school and he is 13.  A moment in time ripe for social awkardness and reflections on this rite of passage we all face.

I, like him, was also 13 when I started high school.  Young for our grade.  But I already had experience with older boys, cigarettes and hid any social anxiety behind Wayfarer sunglasses and an aloof posture.

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*That’s me in the middle the Summer before Freshmen year.  Not smiling.

When I started high school, I had my same friends and frankly don’t recall feeling all that terrible.  I wanted to be a Senior already but could manage.  Any step closer to Adult was good by me.  Don’t get  me wrong, I wasn’t EXCITED to go to school as being EXCITED about anything was not socially acceptable either. My adolescence was spent as a non-participant.  I was a product of the counter-culture coupled with a too-cool-for-school nature.  If I was forced to join anything, I stood in the back.  As I have shared in other blogs, I lacked a playful spirit so doing anything which may reveal joy or vulnerability was not my speed.  At my high school, the “cool kids” didn’t join anything.  Except parties, surfing or possibly soccer.

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*This was a backyard party I attended Freshmen year but as you can see, there are grown men here (one with a mustache!).  I am actually smiling in this one, maybe because of the Keg?

My Son’s new school is known for it’s community spirit and FOOTBALL.  Neither of which I have any experience in.  My Son took the initiative to attend this school and I support him all the way and, as with all parenting, I am learning as I go.  Humbly.  The night of his Freshmen Social, I was invited to attend a Social for incoming Freshmen Mom’s at one of the Mom’s homes.  I spotted the home because of the balloons outside in school spirit colors.  I was greeted with a name-tag, also in school spirit colors.  As I entered a home full of Mom’s, I imagined this must be how my Son is feeling.  I don’t know anyone.  Where do I stand?  How do I do this?  My higher self knows this is all perfect.  My fearful self wanted to run out the back gate.

For someone who has spent their entire life and career in the public arena, I am actually pretty shy.  People have a hard time believing that but it’s true.

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*That’s me on the right, not wanting my picture taken in high school.

Being shy, introverted and not drinking, it’s not super relaxing for me to attend parties with strangers.  But I did it.  And therein lies the development of self that we all must soldier through.  Joining a new team, starting a new job, moving to a new city.  We are faced with the fear of failure, not fitting in, not being good enough, not saying or doing the right thing.  And living through it.  And maybe actually enjoying it?

My kids are having a pretty good childhood.  They don’t hate school.  They join things.  They participate. They want to be “part-of”.  They don’t share my social phobias and for this I am utterly grateful.  Because of my kids, I get to push through my own judgments and reluctance and recognize that at the root of all of it is fear.  And every time we push through our own fears, we become a little bit better and a little bit stronger.  I am sure of it.

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On Depression

I had planned to blog about a photography exhibit I saw in NYC this week but on my way home from vacation today, I learned of the suicide of Actor Robin Williams.  My intention was not for this blog to be so heavy week after week but I do mean for it to be current and this subject certainly deserves some light shined and air time.

I have only had depression once for a few weeks after a miscarriage, before my Son was born.  That itty bitty post-partum hormonal shift was awful.  I felt dead inside.  People around me would complain about whatever and I felt angry and resentful towards their seemingly trivial concerns.  People would try and cheer me up, make suggestions on how I could feel better.  Tell me things would be better soon.  I felt nothing.  Like I was in a bubble, unable to connect.  And then it passed.

That one itty bitty experience with depression gave me the utmost compassion for people who suffer from it regularly.  I would never again offer a platitude to someone suffering.  It just doesn’t help.

I have been around people and lived with people with depression many times in my life.  I have been around and lived with people in and out of 12-Step Programs my whole life as well and I know first hand how close the connection is between addiction and depression.  I have also been around and lived with many Artists and Musicians and Actors, many of which suffered from depression and addiction.   There is no coincidence in these connections.

Whenever anyone dies, either by their own hand or by an overdose, I retreat to the same place in my heart and soul.  I always think about that last moment for them and how lonely it must be to really believe this life isn’t worth living.  And wondering, had they just known that that feeling of futility would pass maybe they wouldn’t have done it?

When a celebrity dies, either by their own hand or by an overdose, I am reminded that there is no amount of money or fame, power or recognition that cures inner suffering.  Our own happiness is something we must work at regardless of circumstance.  Any illusion of happiness coming from outer circumstances is just that-an illusion.  I have been guilty many times over of assuming that “if I had what they had” (money/fame) I would be happy.  And maybe I would be a little happier than I am now being that I do stress about money.  But the truth is, I can be happy right here right now.  I insist on it.  The allegory of the person who has it all and is still suffering is my teacher and reminder of gratitude for what is right here, right now.

Most Marin kids have a Robin Williams story.  We grew up with him around us downtown Mill Valley, in San Francisco, showing up at night clubs, comedy clubs, trying out his jokes on strangers.  My Facebook feed is filled with fellow Marin kids sharing beautiful and funny Robin stories today with his passing.  He was a true genius and a kind soul.

I remember seeing him in his red suspenders telling jokes and stories to a group downtown Mill Valley.  I remember what a presence he had 100 feet away.  This was in the Mork and Mindy days, a show I loved.

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The first movie my Son really loved was Jumanji.  I can’t possibly quantify how many times we watched that movie.  So silly but Robin, as always, brought his soul and humor to his role making him utterly lovable.  He was a raw performer, a true Artist and I am sure that the intensity of his own gifts were a source of torture for him.  Like many of the greats.

I hope that, if nothing else, his passing can shed light on the seriousness of depression and addiction and the urgency for help, support and treatment.  There is no shame too great to keep silent.  There is no need to go like this.

http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Inform_Yourself/About_Mental_Illness/By_Illness/Dual_Diagnosis_Substance_Abuse_and_Mental_Illness.htm

RIP

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On Peter Pan

My Daughter was in a production of Peter Pan this week at our local community center.  It was good and she was really fun to watch.  Having not seen this play or film since childhood, I was strangely surprised by my lack of emotional connection to the Peter Pan character, or really the spirit of the play.  Why?  I always wanted to grow up.  I always wanted to go to school.  I have never uttered, “Oh, I wish I could be a kid again.” When people talk about their inner child, I picture mine  trying to get a job already.  I always loved the sound of high heels clicking on the sidewalk and I developed to-do lists from age 10.  I think I was born serious.

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*My “inner child”.  Age 4

As I found my mind wandering during the shows slower moments, I thought about how each character in Peter Pan represented an Archetype in modern romance.  For a story that was written in 1901, the story line remains relevant.  I wondered, does the ongoing celebration of this 100+ year-old fairytale perpetuate underdeveloped emotional lives?

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If you have not seen the play or movie since you were a kid, allow me to refresh your memory.  Alas, if you don’t want your love of Peter Pan tainted, I suggest you stop reading RIGHT NOW.  I am a fairytale buzzkill from this point on.  I should also state that I am not touching issues of ethnicity in this exploration.  Just gender.  An analysis of genocide deserves it’s own space for certain.

Let’s start with the central figure, Peter Pan.  A man-child who just wants to play play play.  Peter refuses adulthood and insists on nothing but fun all the time.  And the woman-child who loves him, Wendy.  When they first meet, Peter has lost his shadow (is this where Carl Jung got his theories?) and sneaks into her bedroom to steal it back.

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Having attempted to adhere his shadow back onto himself and fail, Peter asks for help and Wendy obliges. In her stitching, she unintentionally hurts him thereby fracturing his facade of impenetrability.  Shadow intact, Peter appeals to Wendy to come to Neverland and  be a Mother.  She obliges, leaving behind her duties to her own Mother and Father.

Wendy’s Mother and Father are the classic male/female of days bygone (one would hope).  The Father is bossy and grouchy from working all the time and wants nothing but “a little less noise”.  The Mother is busy abiding and scuttling around making sure the house is clean and the kids are quiet for him.  We see that what is expected is for kids to “grow up” and become just like them.  And that really doesn’t look like a lot of “fun”.

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*My Daughter as a Lost Kid on the right

In her new role as a Mother in Neverland, we see Wendy taking care of kids and falling in love with Peter.  Both she and Tinkerbell indirectly express their feelings for him (often competing with each other) and he misses their coy attempts entirely.  Peter is confused, clueless and disinterested. Oy-unrequited Love.

We then meet Captain Hook.  The original Bad Boy?  He doesn’t give a shit.  He is totally fine being “the creepiest of creeps” and laughs at death.  Though his one weakness is his fear of a crocodile who once ate his hand.  His fear ends up being his downfall.   Captain Hook is supposed to represent evil in the good versus evil dilemma but I end up wishing he would win because he is far more entertaining than anyone else.  What this says about me probably isn’t so good….

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*My Daughter with Captain Hook

Peter feeds Hook to the crocodile winning the good versus evil battle.  He then flies Wendy and the Lost Kids back home.

Time passes and Peter returns to Wendy to take her back again (for Spring Cleaning!!!!!) yet to his and her dismay, she has grown up and had a child.  He cries on the ground at his discovery that she broke her promise to never grow up. When she exits the room to attend to her grouchy new Husband, he is met by Wendy’s Daughter Jane.  Jane has been waiting for him!  She has all the same qualities he loved about Wendy.  She knows how to tell stories and stitch pockets and is willing to travel.  So the man-child finds a replacement  in a YOUNGER WOMAN. Shocking…

The End

Ugh

“Peter Pan Syndrome” has inspired many a self-help book and magazine article helping women try and avoid him.  No woman wants to have “Wendy Syndrome”.

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I am going to go out on a limb and say that a high percentage of Bay Area men well into their 40s and 50s could be considered Peter Pans.  Some even call Northern California a “playground”.  Home of Burning Man, the Mountain Bike and Polyamory.  I have met CFO’s who wear hiking boots to work. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year which named San Francisco as the number one city LEAST likely for love!!!

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http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303704304579378902170592732

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When I told my daughter about “Peter Pan Syndrome”, she asked if that was a real thing.  We had a nice discussion about growing up and what it means to different people.  I told her how I always wanted to be a grown up and asked her if she likes being a kid or wants to grow up?

She said that she likes being a kid but that growing up means being closer to death.  That, I understand.

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*Me and my shadow

On Bonnie

I first met Bonnie when I was a teenager.  She was dating Bob, who was a good family friend since I was a baby.  Bob and Bonnie met on the Tina Turner tour in the early 80s.  She was Tina’s PR person and he was a Roadie.  They fell in love and when he proposed, Tina sang “Let’s Stay Together” for them on tour.

Bonnie was from NYC, had curly, red hair, was a high-powered business woman and was Jewish.  I was intruiged and enamored by all of those things.  I wanted to be just like her.

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After college when I was moving to NYC to be a Performer, she gave me a huge, black leather bag as a gift.  She told me that all the Dancers and Actresses she had ever known have to carry around “tons of shit” for their classes and auditions and I would need this. She was right.  She was that kind of person and also had no problem with cussing often.

I remember getting the news that she was in the hospital with Leukemia.  She was young and it was sudden and shocking.  I called her regularly over that next year as she was in and out of treatment, most of which she never remembered. Miraculously, her sister was a match for her as a blood marrow donor and that spared Bonnie’s life for many years.  Unfortunately, with that came something called graft-versus-host disease.

Nonetheless, Bonnie beat Leukemia for 5 years and her remission was considered a miracle.  For many years she lived a normal life, worked (eventually remarried) and although she and Bob divorced, we stayed close.  I had a personal crisis in 2001 when I was pregnant with my daughter, toddler in tow.  My marriage fell apart and I couldn’t work because of a pregnancy complication.  I suddenly had no income, no place to live and was on my own.  In desperation, I considered moving into a trailer park in Eureka.  I ran this idea by her and she said, “No.  Jews don’t live in trailer parks.” Unbeknownst to me, she banded together with Bob and another family member to basically pay my rent for a year while I got on my feet.  She was an angel to me and I will never forget that generosity.

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After I spent 4 years becoming a Colorist, Bonnie became my client.  She was picky-picky-picky and made me better at what I do.  She expected the best, nothing less.  She was loving and devoted and came to see me on and off until she no longer could leave her house.

This was her last visit to the salon in April.

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We spoke a few weeks before she breathed her last breath and she told me that what might end up killing her was dehydration.  She just couldn’t get enough water in her.  I asked her point blank if she thought she was going to die and she said she might.  I knew that she had surrendered the fight at that point.  I could hear it in her voice.

I have never met a more feisty and determined person than Bonnie.  She inspired me and always will.  I was amazed, honestly, that she lived as long as she did.  The amount of hospitalizations, blood-work, surgeries, transfusions, tubes in her chest, weird skin reactions, reactions to dental work-all of which she overcame and any one of which would take down most people.  To the end, she refused to complain and wanted only to hear about my life and push me to be the best I could be.

RIP Bonnie Feingold

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?pid=171776834