Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sesame Street's I Love My Hair

I love this little video. A plucky little muppet in a pretty pink dress, her brown hair a perky 'fro, is helping little girls — and their moms — to accept themselves just the way they are by loving their hair.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Family Fun Friday

I've been meaning to post these pictures for awhile now. It's a darn shame just how late some of them are, but better late than never, right?

I mentioned in an earlier post that we traveled to the Gulf Coast for my birthday in March. We had an awesome time. Just me and my boys.

View from the Condo

Friend, My Heart and Soul and Favorite Nephew (shhh, don't tell my other nephews!)

In April, I escorted my boys to the Space Museum and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. The boys had their first experience on a rock climbing wall. Here they are receiving their instructions. Both of them told me how scared they were, but they climbed that wall like they were born to it. I thought I had videotaped the experience, but a funny thing happens when you don't hit the 'record' button. . . NOTHING!! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

In June, the Cub Scouts had an outing at a local nature center where we discoved all kinds of fun things including insects, snakes, geese and poisonous plants. The mama's response was "ewwww" but the boys LOVED it!

And finally, my child tells me that this story is not complete without showing the other members of our family. Meet Chuckie and Lillian!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The wisdom to know the difference. . .

I was molested as a child. Repeatedly. Over the course of many years.

For the longest time, I never spoke a word of it; believing that somehow there was something wrong with me that caused that individual to target me and that I was responsible for his actions because I never told.

That's a heavy burden for a 4 year old.

For the longest time, I never fully realized that, even after I was moved out of his grasp and eventually grew into adulthood, I remained that terrified, abused little girl. I continued to allow his abuse and control to reign over me, at least figuratively.

Two recent events brought this piece of my personal history back to me. I ran into a former lover about 6 months ago. He was someone who knew me before I fully understood that I still carried significant baggage from my childhood and before I recognized the significant impact it had on my romantic and sexual relationships. This individual made the unfortunate mistake of forcing himself on me sexually. Even though we had been intimate for over a year at that time, the idea of him taking the choice of consent away from me destroyed me and our relationship. I thought I was madly in love with this person, but in the middle of an argument he was not able to win, he chose to control and master me with sex.

Big mistake.

We had an opportunity to discuss that earlier this year and even after all this time, he still didn't "get it"; he didn't understand how "one little mistake" could end our relationship. He couldn't understand how I could not stand to look at him, much less have him to touch me in anyway. I was literally nauseous whenever I heard his voice.

Well, unfortunately for him, at this point, I no longer cared to go through the motions of trying to explain it to him. I didn't share with him, but was both pleased and curious to discover about myself, was that, it and he, no longer had the emotional impact they once did. My lack of interest was due to both my own growth, as well as to my realization of what a selfish, self-centered pig he was then and now. I chose him because I didn't think I deserved better.

But, THANK GOD, I finally got a clue, I understood. I experienced an epiphany that showed me the extent to which I had allowed my abuser to control me, long after he had lost physical control. For years, he controlled my thoughts, my emotions, my choices, my fears. . .

For the longest time I was unable to sleep on my back and I couldn't sleep without being covered up, from head to toe, in sometimes 2-3 blankets, even in the middle of a southern summer. I had done this since I was a kid. Indeed, my family joked about it all the time; of course, they had no idea of it's significance. And for the longest time, neither did I. But until then, I experienced significant anxiety without the weight of the blankets and if for some reason, I didn't have access to the blankets I needed, I knew I would be in for a long, anxious-filled night.

I was well into my 30's before I figured it out. My perpetrator would come into my bedroom at night and pull the covers off me in order to gain the access he wanted. My 4-yr old mind decided that if I were covered up, he wouldn't be able to get to me or if not, I would least have some warning of his intent. Of course, it didn't work, but that didn't stop my innocent logic and the efforts I made to try to protect myself from him.

As soon as I put this together, my need to be buried under the covers ended. I could finally tell that 4 year old child that she no longer had anything to fear. This was the beginning of my recovery. I'm not fearful of the dark anymore. I don't remember his name. I can no longer remember his smell that haunted me for years. I no longer feel the murderous rage that had me considering to take his life at one time. And I make much better choices in lovers .

I am communicating with the love of my life again. I have loved this man since Jan 21, 1993, when he smiled at me across a banquet table in a room full of people where I used to swear there was no one there but the two of us. Unfortunately, we were on dates with other people that night; he didn't approach me then, but later, he nagged several of our friends to death in order to get my phone number. Within a couple months, we were in love, living together and engaged to marry.

I've often thought about what went wrong with us. Over the years, people who know have asked that same question, usually in disbelief when I tell them we broke up. We just fit. And while I can throw immaturity and several other things in the mix to explain, I know a large part of it was due to the fact that I could never really believe that he truly loved me. Somehow I just KNEW he would betray our love and the life we were building together. I never could fully understand what he saw in me. To me, he was an angel sent straight from heaven! So, why would he want me?

Anyway, y'all already know how that story ended.

Over the years, we have been in and out of each other's lives. We come in and then one of us does something to hurt the other and then we're out again. I'm no martyr, my angel, while perfect for me, is far from perfect. But I do recognize how my trust issues played a major role in keeping us apart.

So, this was the second event that had me thinking about my past history of abuse and to recognize that my history no longer dictates my present and future. I contacted him again a couple months ago. I was not sure of my reception, but what I finally accepted, without a doubt, was that I loved him and that, at least at one time, he truly loved me. As we've been talking and taking baby steps towards each other again, I'm amazed at my growth and healing. I found a journal I was keeping at the time, and reading it now makes me want to cry for that pain-filled, insecure woman. I know that he was never intentionally tried to hurt me, and if anything, after awhile, he was mostly trying to prevent me from hurting him.

We're not dating, and I have no real agenda about where we may or may not end up. I want the opportunity to heal the damage we both caused; I want my friend back. I want to get to know him again, without the filter of abuse and damaged self esteem hovering between us. I need him to be an active part of my life again, even if it develops no further than where we are now. And fortunately for me, for us, he was open to receive my invitation.

I thank God for the healing. I thank God that He opened me up to love, both to give and to receive.

Thank God for the healing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Update on Hair Biz

Turns out the dress code restricts "trendy" hair styles, defined as braids with beads and no unnatural hair dye. It also calls for boys' hair not to extend below their collars and to be out of their eyes. My son's locs meets this criteria exactly.

I shared that the other teacher(black) stated that his hair would have to be shaved to his head, even though I saw white and Latino boys whose hair was longer. I was speaking to the Asst Principal (non-black) who stated that she was unaware that this was policy, and that as far as she was concerned, his hair should not be a problem. And despite what the "other" teacher said, the only person to make that call was the Principal, who was still on bereavement leave.

It's hard to believe that even now, some of us are still living like crabs in a barrel.

So, I'm not going to stress over this anymore; I am not shaving his head, but I am willing to keep it at it's current length during the school year. If we are admitted into this school, my son will not be taught by the "other" teacher, so hopefully that will cut down on some possible backlash. The administration would have revealed to me an open minded attitude about diversity and all is well in our universe.

However, if the principal calls back and tells me that locs are not acceptable, regardless of length, then I know this is not a place we want to be anyway.

I'll let you know what we decide.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I am not my hair?

Happy Memorial Day everyone! If you know any soldiers, airmen, or squibs, currently serving or ones who served in past conflicts, please, let them know how much we appreciate their sacrifice and dedication to the safety of this country.

I have decided to enroll my son into a regular school in the fall; I've been interviewing private schools. I seriously doubt either of us want to relive the trauma of public school.

Anyway, my son and I met with the staff at a small Catholic school that came highly recommended to us. Not only for their educational standards and small student to teacher ratio, but the success they've had with special needs children.

My son was excited by what he saw, the children seemed friendly and well-behaved. In fact, several students came up to him and started chatting while I met with the 3rd grade teacher. He seriously did not want to leave.

The only glitch came when we met with the 2nd and 3rd grade teachers to discuss their curriculum. The 2nd grade teacher, an older black woman, who, in fact, was the only black faculty that I observed on our tour. She very likely could have taught my parents; she was very proper and conservative. Anyway, after the meet and greet, she turned to my son and said,

"Well, I can tell you first off, that you're going to have to cut his hair. Those. . . braids. . . do not conform to our dress code."

Some of you may know that my son's hair is loc'd. He has a gorgeous head of 3 to 4 inch long baby locs. I should also say that on the day of the interview, I wore my own natural hair in small individual plaits, which could also pass for locs, for the unschooled. My son and I just looked at her. I finally responded that his hair was not in braids, but loc'd and that the style was permanent.

"Well, regardless, we require that our boys hair is close cropped."

At the time, I simply nodded at her in acknowledgment. I considered commenting that I had observed several Caucasian and Latino boys with hair well below their collars, but decided I would reframe. . . for now. So, we continued with the interview. When we got back into the car to head home, the first thing out of my son's mouth was "Mommy, I don't want to cut my hair." I confirmed that I didn't either but it was not a decision that we needed to make now.

Now, I spoke to a friend of mine later, who said, "It's just hair. If you like the school, just cut it. He can grow locs another time." Well, that's true, I suppose, but then I started wondering that if we enrolled at this school, what else would we have to sacrifice in order to fit in? What lessons do I really want my son to learn about conformity?

I am NOT conservative, not in my dress and especially not in my attitudes and beliefs. I am not a conformist; I like being part of the tenth. I encourage free thinking in my son's head. There are some things that I teach that I believe are essential to being a productive citizen, but as long as he stays within those parameters, I encourage him to be whatever he and God designed him to be.

Although my child is only 7, nearly 8, the decision to loc his hair was his. If it had been up to me, I would've chosen for him to wait, at least until he was in his teens because I felt that at this age, he may not be able to handle the probable negative reaction to his hair. And each time I tried to divert him, he was even more insistent that this was what he wanted to do.

So, I plaited his hair one weekend. Mostly as an experiment to see how he would handle public reaction. He came home from school one afternoon and I asked what the response was to his braids. He said that for the most part, people seemed to like it, but mostly there was no reaction. Then he added that he overheard two children talking about his hair to each other. One child said that he thought my son looked like a girl. My child said he went over to them and said, "I'm not a girl, I'm a boy and my hair looks GOOD!"

Aight, so he's more like his mama than I sometimes realize.

Anyway, so this was the beginning of our journey to locs. As his hair has grown and the loc process begun, I think I enjoy his hair as much as he does. I'm using the latch method to tighten his roots, which usually takes about an hour or so to do. So, once or twice a month, I latch his hair and my son and I are talking, bonding, laughing, loving. I mean, we talk all the time, but during this particular time, the level of conversation is deeper. It's a very intimate time and I think we both look forward to those moments.

So, for me, for us, this decision is more than 'just hair'.

Another friend encouraged me to meet with the principal of the school (who was away on a family emergency during our tour) and get a copy of the dress code. Mostly, he said, just to be certain that that teacher wasn't being "niggerish" (I'm sorry if I've offended anyone with this term. If you need some clarification of it's meaning in this context, send me an email and I'll elaborate further.)

So, I plan to meet with the principal later this week. I'm also interviewing other schools, so even if we can't fit in here, there is a place for us.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Letter

I recently found a letter written to me by my mother. It was dated 2002 and I was living in Florida at the time. I was surprised to see that I had kept it.

You see, letters from my mother are never a good thing. Whereas some people can look forward to written communications from their parents, I can't. Letters from her usually hail nothing but badgering and criticism. It's been more than a minute when I stopped allowing her to talk badly to me either in person or on the phone. I finally figured out the value of an untimely exit and a quick hang up.

Then she learned that when she wanted to say something that she knew I wouldn't listen to, she put it in a letter. And her reasoning was sound, at least in her head. This is a direct quote: "I'm writing you because I want you to hear what I have to say and when I'm finished, it's off my conscience and in yours." Ok, so because she was miserable, she wanted to spread misery to all, particularly her oldest daughter.

This letter was no different than many others I have received over the years. It was full of negativity and emotional punishment. I said I was surprised to find that I had kept it, because, some time ago, I alone was responsible for my peace of mind. Therefore I started to destroy any letters from her, unread, and unopened. But this letter apparently came before that realization.

So, I read it again this week. Despite time and distance, the emotional impact was just as palpable and easily took me back to a place of self doubt and self-destruction. She was angry that I made a decision without consulting her. (Mind you, I was well and truly into my adulthood in 2002). And so every line in this 4-page 8 1/2 by 11 inch ruled paper was filled with hate and venom. I have never understood what I had ever done to her to generate this emotion. I am her first born child and by many standards, am fairly successful. I've never been to jail, never used drugs, never stolen or deliberately hurt anyone. I'm mild mannered until you piss me off. And even then, I've never cursed or abused her; I take to heart the bible reference to honor thy mother and thy father.

But despite all this, I would swear that at times, that woman HATED me. I internalized that hate and for the longest time, despite external success, I despised myself and felt that I had done nothing to earn either my mother or God's favor.

I can look back now and see how this internalized hatred lead me into all kinds of bad relationships and other stupid decisions, mostly because I didn't think that I deserved better.

Anyway, I have not spoken to my mother in nearly three years despite the fact that we now live in the same city. She contacted me this past Christmas and I had a brief hope that perhaps the time apart may have led to a meeting of the mind, so to speak. However, the note she sent me was again filled with venom.

My sister and brother keep telling me that I'm wrong in not talking to her. You know how black folk are about their mamas. My brother even had the nerve to chastise me for not calling her Mother's Day. I did think about it, and then opted against it when I compared the relative peace in my life currently against the strife I knew I would feel if I heard her voice again. I also considered that maybe God would not be pleased with my separation from her, memba' "Honor thy father and mother"? But if you read a little further down in that same passage of scripture, it also says, "Parents, do not provoke your children to wrath."

I can't be the person God has called me to be when I allow my mother into my intimate space. The problem is hers, not mine and she has got to find peace for herself. I finally accepted that I would never be able to do ANYTHING that will make her happy, until she finds that joy within.

Finding this letter was timely because recently I haven't been able to write. I finally tuned in to my internal dialogue and heard lots of 'what ifs'. What if my writing is not as good as others? What if I never get published? What if people discover that I'm not as good as they think I am?

And then, the kicker for me was when I heard these words in my own head, "why are you trying to write this thing anyway? You always think you're better than everyone else or you think you should have more than everyone else."

Here's another quote from the letter: "When you get so high you are above your own people, you are too high and is subject to failure."

I'm glad I found this letter this week. I returned to my manuscript and started writing again. I was overwhelmed by my sheer pleasure of the creative process. I couldn't believe how much I had missed Ima, Micah, David and the others. They apparently missed me too because they have had much to say in the past few days.

I know exactly why I kept that letter.

I knew I would need the reminder.