Archive | February, 2011

Queen of the Mamas…just an average Jane or not?

26 Feb

I swear I do not hate so called Mommy bloggers but after a week that not only found me needing oral surgery (seems a piece of my wisdom tooth that was removed 10 years ago was still left in my gum and decided to abscess…so my next stop is an oral surgeon) to add to that fun I was on pins and needles waiting to learn if my breast discomfort was the big C (its not). So I need to go light and lively for a bit here. Gee, this was a vacation week too; nothing says vacation like health issues!

So last night found me taking a break from my more serious reading of spiritual matters and cozying up with Ree Drummond’s new literary gem (smirk…cough) The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. Now for those not in the know, Drummond is better known in the blogosphere as The Pioneer Woman. I must admit I am not a big fan of her blog, to be honest it’s too busy for my taste but last year I stumbled on her cookbook at the library and after trying a few recipes the Spousal Unit bought me my very own copy. So when I heard The Pioneer Woman had a book coming out, I figured if it was available at the library I would check it out…wouldn’t ya know, my library had it and I checked out.

To be honest this book is the perfect book for reading when you have eaten too much spicy food combined with chocolate, topped off with red wine and your ass is in need of the toilet for a while. Oh you know what I am talking about. When you have a case of the bubble guts and you know aren’t leaving the bathroom any time soon. When bubble guts strikes you need something to read to pass the time and The Pioneer Woman’s love story is just the book.

Look, in all honesty it’s a sweet little story, she was a big city gal (though if you are born and raised in OK and spend 4 years in LA, not sure that really makes you a city girl. Anymore than my 8 years in Maine makes me a Mainer) who fell in love with a cowboy, it was love at first sight and now they live on their little ranch with their 4 kids living happily ever after. Problem is that in Drummond’s decision to protect her family’s privacy she leaves a lot out of the book, in fact a quick Google search this afternoon revealed that her cowboy affectionately known as the Marlboro Man is really a very wealthy rancher and in fact his family is well known. Now like I said earlier I have never been a big fan of her blog but between her cookbook and the most recent book, she tries to give off an air that she is just like you and me. Just regular old Jane, problem is anyone with any type of intellectual curiosity can quickly figure out that she is not quite what she pretends to be.

This leads me to the bigger issue of Mommy bloggers and the more well known such as Dooce and Katie Allison Granju (note: I really like Katie’s blog and the fact that she has been so open in sharing about her son’s drug addiction and death makes her pretty damn real to me). In fact I just read this piece in the NY Times, Motherlode section talking about the Mommy bloggers. Look, I realize that people are only going to show us what they want to see, but the truth is at a certain point it starts to feel like what much of the bigger and well known Mommy bloggers show us is not real. After all, yes they are Mommies like the rest of us but some of these women are earning some serious cheddar, report’s put Dooce’s salary at $30-50K a month! Um…she makes more in a fucking month than I make in a year, nope we aren’t alike at all.

I don’t have issues with folks getting paid to blog, shit I wish I could but I am too lazy to take the next steps or rather with my full plate I simply can’t fit it in. Yet I firmly believe when you get to the point you are earning a living doing it, it will change the nature of what you share. I know if I were earning that type of bread, I might not be as inclined to bitch and moan about crazy parents, bills, you get the drift. Instead I would go out of my way to share the good shit in hopes that it makes you feel good. After all if you feel good, you might come back thus I get to earn more scratch. The thing is the authenticity of sharing the momma experience is lost and the blog is simply a means to earn money and get your brand out there.

I have said it before and I will say it again, the fact that there is a severe shortage (dare we say almost a lack) of women of color represented in the high earning Momma blogs also sets my radar off. When the fuck are our stories going to be worth sharing? What about low income Mommas? Most of the blogosphere’s top earning Mommies already had a foot in the middle class door.

Anyway, just my quarterly bitch fest on the lack of diversity within the top earners in the Mommy sphere of blogland.

Teeth are optional in the USA

22 Feb

Warning I am in a pissy mood…so if you aren’t in a pissy mood, feel free to catch me some other day. I woke up Sunday morning, still reeling from the great relocate Dad to Maine project that ended abruptly and without resolution. After all my Dad leaving while it’s nice in the short run to have my house back still doesn’t solve any of the problems that we/me was hoping to solve. While lying in my bed letting the thoughts run through my mind, I realized that my mouth didn’t quite feel right, not quite pain but definitely uncomfortable. So I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a mirror and flashlight to look in my mouth and sure enough noticed that my back gums seemed inflamed. Initially I didn’t worry too much but by Monday morning, it was clear whatever the issue was, needed the care of a dentist.

Uh-oh…like millions of Americans I don’t have dental insurance. Shit, I was only just at the dentist in November and while my visit did reveal a few things that needed to be done, the truth is I simply didn’t have all the money at once to pay and explained that I would need to do the work one procedure at a time spread out over time. The office staff and dentist said they understood but the vibe I got was that to be honest they didn’t get it. Oh, the very helpful office lady told me I could apply for credit via Care Credit to finance my dental work. Yeah that was real helpful. Considering that we are still digging out from the 18 months of unemployment I had back in 07-08 and the Spousal Unit’s decreased client load, our credit has more holes that a hunk of Swiss Cheese and I already knew that Care Credit wasn’t an option because they turned me down a few days before I went in for my exam. I had sorta sensed I was going to need a bit of work and was trying to be proactive but I didn’t share this with the office manager. Instead I smiled sweetly and said, I will be in touch.

The treatment plan has been sitting on my desk in the inbox since November and I have been trying to work the various procedures into our budget…eh, it’s been a mixed bag. Oh I only need a few fillings which alone aren’t too bad but I also need a new crown which with a whopping price tag of $1034 simply is not going to happen until after houses taxes and insurance are paid in a few weeks and the tax man gets his money on April 15. I was pretty okay with waiting until this new issue came up.

Well yesterday after waking up in great discomfort…who am I kidding, shit I barely slept. I realized fuck let me call the dentist. Turns out the dental office was closed for President’s Day so I left a message and after an hour decided to call their emergency number. The on call dentist called me back and while gracious enough to call in a prescription for antibiotics was adamant that I needed to come in this week. No, shit Sherlock! By the way what is it with these people speaking to folks like you are all of two years old?

Nope, the real fun started this morning when the office staff called me back to schedule that appointment and I brought up the matter of what was this little visit going to cost. I guess they aren’t used to folks asking that question but this is already the office that charged me more than I was quoted earlier for a visit and didn’t include the cleaning I was told would be included. So I will admit I am already on the fence about them, but since this is all coming out of pocket the idea of starting with yet another dentist and paying yet another couple hundred for an initial visit doesn’t make sense to my wallet.

While on the phone the office gal stressed that depending on what the good dentist finds when I go in later today they will have to get started today. I calmly explained that while I understood, I was concerned with matters of paying for this emergency work…I could hear the blank face look through the phone. I do have a few hundred that I can use today but the truth is if the good doc tells me whatever work he needs to do exceeds my ability to pay, either we need to look for a cheaper option (extraction) or I will have to delay this a week or so until I have some more money. As I nicely told the lady I can’t manufacture money…I suspect there is a notation in my file now that reads bitchy patient.

However this whole situation got me to thinking about the millions of folks that have dental issues who really lack the ability to pay at any point. While I don’t have a great deal of funds, I know I can move some stuff around and more importantly once I get a few things off my financial plate, it will free up some cash but some people are in situations where there is never enough money to do that…ever.  Based off some of my Google searching that seems to be a lot of people. I was on one site where people were looking for home made remedies for dealing with dental abscesses. Yikes! One of my former staff folks had really bad teeth, broken teeth, missing teeth and at one point an abscess but in the two years he worked for me he never went to a dentist. Why? Because he couldn’t afford it. I remember when the abscess got bad he went to the ER for treatment. I wish I could say he was an isolated case but in my line of work I see plenty of people who are in this shape, even in my center I have some teens that have bad dental issues.

People who don’t know better often say well can’t folks go to a sliding scale clinic? Good luck with that one. I know in my state, it takes months to get an appointment and frankly these appointments are never conducive to folks who work. Ask me how I know? Yep, I tried that last summer before breaking down and saying fuck it, I’ll just have to deal with full dental prices. In many states adults on Medicaid are not covered for dental care unless it’s a major medical emergency. So by the time you have teeth rotting out of your head and you have multiple abscesses then you can see a dentist and at that point you are saying bye bye teeth. Its extraction for you! You didn’t need those teeth, eat mashed potatoes and oatmeal.

So is it better for kids? Depends. Due to low reimbursement rates many dentists just pass on accepting Medicaid patients even with the tykes or the wait is so long…well you get the picture. The not so funny thing is the fact that good oral health is needed for overall health yet we live in a nation that does not make that connection as more and more employers simply don’t offer dental insurance. For many families struggling to survive, teeth and dental health are seen as expendable in the family budget and who the hell can blame them. If dental cleanings and exams average $135 (what we pay for my kid) to $200 (what I pay) and you have 2-3 kids plus the adults, that’s a lot of extra cheddar. That says nothing for if cavities are discovered or heaven forbid more work is needed. To the few Americans that are more or less still financially solvent that may not be a big deal but to many it is, if the choice is the mortgage or dental work…most folks will take the mortgage. Can’t live in them teeth.

Yet the issues with dental care in this country and make no mistake it is an issue, after all remember this case. Kid in the US of A died due to a lack of access to dental care. The issues with access to dental care are simply part of the other things that are broken in our system. We the people at some point have gotten confused; we have all started buying into a dream that is just that…a fucking dream. Instead of demanding that we all have access to good schools, good healthcare, etc we instead see it as moral issue and spin it as those without are simply lazy bastards. We see the folks who will still take a stand as leeches on the system, maybe what we need to do is examine ourselves after all in these turbulent times, our fate can change with the wind. As for me, fingers crossed the dental issue is minor or else I might have to put on my Spanx and look for some side work if ya catch my drift.

Why I support Planned Parenthood

19 Feb

This past week has been a fucking head trip…no, seriously. For readers that follow me on Twitter you know my world has been spinning off its fucking axis. Right now I am trying to just process everything but the short of it is that my Dad is back in Chicago. At some point I will do a post mortem on the blog but right now I just need to process everything.

However it seems that while I have been dealing with family drama, the world has just been going mad. What the fuck is up in Wisconsin? Dear Lawd, we have the governor sending state troopers out to look for Democratic legislatures who are hiding out.

We got the Republicans deciding that Planned Parenthood should get no funding…which is really the point of today’s post. By the way all you Democrats, Independents and whoever else sat out the midterm elections; y’all need to shut the fuck up. See, even when you don’t vote you are indeed voting and now we are seeing our country going ass backwards. But that too is another post.

My relationship to access to health care has always been tenuous at best. I got married and pregnant at 18, as you can imagine I didn’t exactly have health insurance so I had to avail myself to Medicaid which was interesting to say the least. Frankly having Medicaid in my experiences has always been seen as a sign that you deserve lousy medical care after all you are poor and well poor bodies especially poor brown bodies apparently don’t deserve adequate and respectful care when it comes to their bodies. At least that is how most providers treat Medicaid recipients in my experience.

Yet since coming of age there has always been one place I can count on to get my annual exams, birth control, etc and know that I will be treated well. That place is Planned Parenthood. I have used Planned Parenthood in different states and have always been treated well. Back in my 20’s when I needed birth control yet lacked insurance I could get birth control. When I thought I had a lump in my breast, I was seen in a timely fashion and treated with dignity.

I always find it interesting how many folks seem to only equate Planned Parenthood with abortions which yes they do provide and some how only see them as providers of abortions which is patently false. Yet even if that was all they provided, abortion is still a legal procedure and the reasons that women choose abortion are varied. Perhaps some women have been irresponsible, yet we also live in a time that demonizes women who have babies and then need assistance in the form of social services. Well hot damn, women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. On the other hand do we not believe in this country that people have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness? If that is the case, then don’t worry what others are doing with their bodies and specifically their wombs…it’s none of your business.

That said until all women have access to good, affordable and respectful services then we will continue to need places like Planned Parenthood. Call me a fool but with states axing services that might mean even the meager services offered via Medicaid will no longer be available and all the more reason that women need access to places like Planned Parenthood. Then there are women who for whatever reason may not be completely broke but simply don’t have a health care provider for their gynecological needs. That pretty much sums up my current situation. I had a lovely midwife who delivered my daughter who decided to retire not long after I have birth so for the past several years I have been trying to find a health care provider I like and trust who I can also afford since I am paying out of pocket. That pretty much means Planned Parenthood since it’s actually down the street from my office, affordable and I actually like them which is more than I can say of a few providers I have had in recent years.

Maybe its because I am a Black woman and maybe its because my Mom died relatively early and started having health issues at approximately the same age I am now but I take addressing my health needs very seriously. After all the stats don’t exactly suggest that Black women in my age demographic are as healthy as they can be yet in order to be healthy there has to be access to services and services that are culturally sensitive which is another piece that I have always liked about Planned Parenthood.

Anyway this current issue hit close to home and I really felt the need to add my voice to chorus of voices rising up over this issue.

When a phone was just a phone

15 Feb

I suspect that the bulk of my readers are old enough to remember a time when every home had a land-line telephone, when call waiting was a new and exciting feature and when cellular phones first arrived on the scene. Back in about 1993 I had a job working for a market research firm that did work for the movie industry. In some ways it was a glamorous job especially because when we were in the field, we were given a cell phone to use to report our findings back to the office. Ahhhh, my first time using a cell phone and it was unbelievable, big, clunky and in a bag. If memory serves me correctly the connection and sound quality wasn’t great but damn we were talking on a mobile phone!

A few short years later in about 1996 or so I recall getting my own cellular phone and it seemed so sleek compared to my earlier experiences. I think it might have been a bronze colored Nokia, I remember how neat it was to call someone just for the hell of it. Of course my poor husband was still walking around with beeper back then, granted pay phones were still fairly plentiful so normally if I paged him he could call me back within 20 minutes or so.

I think back now what seems to me just a few short years ago when I moved up to the Motorola Razr and how cool that phone seemed, not only could I make calls but dammit I could take pictures and send a simple text message! However back in 2009 I made the leap to a Smartphone at that time getting a Blackberry because they were hot. Oh it was love at first sight, my goodness I had a gadget that was pretty much a computer that I could put in my bag!! I was hooked.

But technology is steadily progressing and not even a year after getting that Blackberry, it started feeling dated compared to my son’s Droid and my other friend’s i Phones, but I am loyal. Besides I hate having to start all over and trying to be frugal I figured I would just stick with my trusty old Blackberry. Yeah, sometimes she gave me a hard time and of course there was the issue of the track ball that occasionally got stuck making it hard to use the damn thing.

Yet all good things must come to an end and about two weeks ago, the poor track ball got stuck and none of my usual tricks worked. I realized old Bessie the Blackberry was going to have to be replaced when I couldn’t access my address book and payroll needed to be called in. I didn’t think my staff would be too happy about not getting paid because I couldn’t get the number of the person I needed to call.

So at the beginning of a large snow storm, the Spousal Unit and I braved the snow to go to the local Verizon shop to see if Bessie could be repaired or for a simple replacement. Upon getting to the store the staff announced that Bessie was no more…her ball had gone off the track one last time. I had known that might be the case so I was fully prepared to get another Blackberry since they are economical also I like… no need a keyboard. Since gaining possession of an iPad during the holidays I have learned there are limits as far as me and touch screens especially when doing work related stuff.

Well the handy dandy staff showed me the Droid Pro, the latest Droid apparently designed to entice faithful Blackberry users…the holdouts clinging to the candy bar design and the keyboard yet who want more out of their gadgets. Fuck it, I said. Turns out it was upgrade time so they offered me a deal (yo, remember when they used to give us free phones every 2 years for being faithful customers?) so I walked out the door with my pockets $160 lighter and a fucking beast in my bag.

Let me tell you it’s two weeks later and I still don’t know what the fuck I am doing with this thing, someone told me they were Tivo’ing with their Droid…I’m like hey how the hell can I assign ringtones to select folks so I know when to answer the phone? Don’t get me wrong, I have decided to keep the phone and while I agree with elder boy that the navigation system is lovely, lately I find myself longing for the days when a phone was a phone. Nowadays you must have apps to maximize your enjoyment of your gadgets…all I want is a simple internet connection, email and a phone.

For some reason I am remembering Star Trek…space the final frontier. Lately it feels like phones are the final frontier.

How class can impact rites of passage

12 Feb

I rarely cover similar subjects in back to back posts, yet I read this piece from a Tumblr blog (I must be honest, not sure I quite get the Tumblr thing) and it really resonated with me. In fact I am extremely happy that the author tackles just how deeply the class we were raised in impacts us even when we are no longer a member of that class. It always amazes me in America how we say folks can move up the class ladder and how so many people refer to themselves as being middle class. Yet in a nation where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is almost an ocean these days, I think most of us are living in a class cloud where fear of being at the bottom keeps us hanging on to the middle when the fact is we are much closer to the bottom than we would like to admit. However that is another discussion for another day.

No, it was reading this piece that hit home to me something I have really struggled with and the fact that while I have blamed the situation on other issues the roots of my dilemma are very much based in money and in class.

I don’t drive. Once again I have said it and it’s embarrassing after all I am an almost 40 year old woman, college educated, fairly professional gig, and all that jazz but driving? Basically it’s gotta be life or death for me to drive. People who know me ask why I don’t drive. Well part of it is driving makes me anxious, no not just a little nervous, a lot of nervous. The type of nervous where mistakes can be made, and frankly I have no wish to kill myself or others due to being nervous.

Often people ask, was I always this way? Well, that’s where my humble roots play a role. In many communities in the US kids start learning to drive at 15 and at 16 get licenses. (Granted with graduated licensing I know that is not exactly how it happens now but that’s what it was like eons ago) At 15 my high school offered the written knowledge of how to drive as part of my physical education classes but the actual behind the wheel piece was not taught at my school and basically parents had to pay for it. My folks didn’t have the few hundreds required for me to take the behind the wheel classes and if memory serves me correctly we had no car at that time so I never learned.

I worked after school but my money was used to pay for my clothing and for my lunch money and bus fare back and forth to school (I went to high school clear on the other side of Chicago, having won admittance in one of the top academic programs in Chicago at that time). So being 16 as you can imagine I wasn’t exactly earning enough to handle my expenses that I was responsible for and saving to take driving lessons. Then there was the realization that since I had no car to drive there was no rush to learn to drive.

Long story short I went from age 16-30 with the idea of driving never crossing my mind in any serious way. I mean yeah there were a few times when a car would have been nice, it was sometimes inconvenient raising a kid in Chicago always taking buses and trains but I most certainly wasn’t alone. A lot of the reasons were rooted in lack of resources, having become a mother at 19; I didn’t exactly have a lot of spare cash lying around to afford the cost of driving lessons. Then there was the issue of actually buying a car and upkeep, it simply was not in my budget. Hell, even taking time to get lessons would have been a resource juggling act since I would have needed someone to watch my son so that I could to take lessons. Even when I started earning decent money, I just chose to live in neighborhoods that were easily accessible to public transit and things I needed and wanted.

Nope, it was the Maine move that brought the matter to the forefront. Granted my plan had been to live in Portland, Maine’s largest city where I figured I would be able to get by until I mastered this driving thing. (Yeah, dumb me didn’t bother to learn before moving 1100 miles away…figured being a 30 yo newbie it would be easier to learn in a small state) As fate would have it I landed a job less than 3 weeks after moving to Maine therefore giving me no time to get a handle on the driving thing. That first year in Maine was a real juggling act as my job required travel at times and the Spousal Unit thank goodness to his flexible schedule was able to assist me but it was hard.

I figured after a year or so I would learn and while I did the truth is learning to drive as an adult is hard and while I can do it, my own anxiety gets in the way now. I often think had I learned as a teenager it would have been better. One of the instructors I worked with explained that in many ways it’s harder for adults to get it because by a certain age you realize that shit…driving is serious business and if you fuck up it can have grave consequences. Whereas teenagers are fearless, this frankly can also be a bad thing.

Anyway in thinking about my driving issues and pondering how lack of resources can get in the way of folks learning how to drive actually made me think of many of my current clients and clients I have had over the years. Most of them don’t drive which for most low income folks especially in a rural state greatly limits ones opportunities. In my area we are fortunate to have public transit but it’s costly. A one way ride to Portland from my area (by car a 20 minute ride tops) is $5 that means a round trip is $10. As a result I have a lot of kids in my after school program who have never been to Portland or who rarely get to the beach despite the fact they live mere miles away from the beach. In Chicago it was poor minorities who rarely traveled around the city because they too had a lack of resources granted public transit back in my hometown is far more affordable.

It means that when lower income folks have cars they are almost always jalopies that are on their last leg, which pretty much describes every car my dad, had when I was growing up. Though in our case having access to good public transit did not limit me but at times it was a minor inconvenience.

Yet like the tumblr poster, even so called rites of passage are not always accessible to those who hail from the working and lower classes. Those of us who are able to emerge from that background and move up due to education are often still struggling with the residual effects of our childhood.

PS: People often ask me how I get around, well I bought a house in a very walk able area and even my office is less than a mile from my house. I utilize public transit and the Spousal Unit due to working from home is often able to help me out when I need to go further. One thing I do not do is ask others for rides since this is my shit with that said with the girl in grammar school now I am realizing I have to work on this issue. I need to get comfortable enough where driving is not this emotional and anxiety roller coaster and I am setting some goals and plans in place to get there.

Straddling the class ladder and family

8 Feb

Just a quick post as I head off to bed. Tonight after a tasty dinner cooked by the Spousal Unit I ended up spending some time talking with my Dad trying to make light conversation about life and the state of the world. Yet it was one of those conversations that veered a little off course which frankly is quite common with my Pops but by the end I had one of those light bulb moments. My dad has now been with us a few weeks and it’s still an adjustment and part of it is due to his rather acerbic personality, coupled with the fact that ours has never quite been a warm and fuzzy relationship. However the light bulb went off tonight that some of my general discomfort is really based on the fact that I am a class straddler.

I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a child of the working class, as I often joke during my childhood we alternated between two states, poor and working class. Working class was what happened in a good year and  poor was the rest of the time. However due to just making different choices than my folks made, I am no longer officially a member of the working class though in many ways it’s what I still identify with. Though as I discovered it’s a lot easier for me to identify as working class when dealing with friends who come from family money than with my own father.

During his time here there has been that sense at times that he does not quite understand how we live, why we make the choices we make. One night he actually commented to us “So this is how you live” on the night in question it was a Saturday night and the hubby and I were getting ready to settle down to watch a movie and share a glass of wine. Ours is a quiet existence, far more stable and frankly quieter than what I grew up with.

Like most working class kids I did not grow up in a household where simple discussions were held for no reason. Instead my parents chiefly my Dad ruled the house as if it were his kingdom and the rest of us were serfs. Rules were laid down and you followed them lest you wanted to get your ass kicked. Alfred Lubrano is his book Limbo talks at length about this, part of the reasoning behind this is that for many working class folks, their home is the only place where they have a say and can actually control things. My father seems amused that our five year old is allowed a voice in things, once again tonight reminding me of the good ole days when you could slap a kid upside the head. Having been the kid being slapped upside the head I have no desire to create those memories for my own kid.

As a straddler I realized even seemingly small things like buying in bulk seem to perplex my Dad, as he asked me today why I had bought multiple packs of batteries. It was one of those moments where I clearly felt the divide between how I was raised and who I have become as an almost 40 year old woman. One of the legacies for me growing up with little is that for years I had behavior bordering on hoarding but now I simply like to keep a well stocked house. After all it would make no sense to buy toilet paper one pack at a time in house with two bathrooms.

I often struggle with my working class roots in professional settings yet tonight I realized that even with family that movement up the class ladder can create a disconnect and frankly it saddens me.

Being an adult and speaking up

7 Feb

It’s barely 10 am and frankly I am ready to rewind and start this day anew. Too bad life doesn’t come with a rewind button. This is one of those posts where I wonder if it would be better suited for my journal since in many ways I am just dumping all my shit out there…yet I know I am not the only one who struggles with these issues and often when I feel this way, I find comfort in sharing. I come from a culture where too many times the personal is hidden yet I don’t think its ever truly hidden instead it manifests in other areas of our lives generally affecting our health through anxiety, tension, stress and other habits that have a negative impact.

I come from a family where speaking one’s truth and expressing themselves was met with disapproval and when I was a child it was met with physical punishment. As a result I learned early on to shut up and never speak my truth because the punishment was not worth the cost of my truth. As I have shared here before at age 19, I was introduced to the not so wonderful world of anxiety attacks. I believe there is only so much our minds and souls can handle before we become overloaded, in 19 years of dealing with anxiety it’s only been in the past year I have realized that when I am silent I become anxious.

It may sound as if I learned a lesson yet it was my own son who is now 19 that illustrated to me the dangers of keeping it all in. See, my beautiful boy is prone to anxiety just like me, it started a while ago and if he is not cautious like me he keeps himself bottled up and then deals with the vague anxious feelings. I sometimes think that the fact he was forced to live between two parents in many ways has played a role in his own anxiety, in the past year I have encouraged him to be true to himself no matter if it hurts or upsets either me or his father. It’s a process and I believe he will get there as far as his own truth and voice and speaking up.

Yet I was reminded today of the price that can be paid for speaking up, as readers know my father is currently living with us while he decides his next steps in life which now may or may not involve settling down in Maine. I may gripe and complain but overall having my father here has been tolerable and seeing the bonds develop between him and my daughter has been great. But the reality is anytime you have someone else in your space it creates a different energy that all parties need to be aware of.

For me that energy is centered on the issue of sleep, I suffer from insomnia and I have a spouse who snores. Throw in a dad who suffers from old guy syndrome of waking up early (3-4am) and you get someone whose sleep has been sorely lacking lately. To be honest I feel like the walking dead, and with major deadlines this is not a good thing. Without getting into many details, let’s just say I brought the issue up with my dad and the result was not good. He took my speaking up as a sign I did not want him here and it was messy and knowing my dad a grudge will be held.

I am hurt, I am very hurt yet as I went into my space to focus on breathing through it, I was reminded that I can’t control the actions of others but only my response to those actions. Playing back the exchange while I may not have been as calm as I could have been (not too much asleep on my end) I realized that ultimately if he chooses to leave despite my actions, there is nothing I can do. Yet at the end of the day, I spoke my truth and tried to be gentle.

I have written before on the value of speaking our own truths and once again was reminded that no matter what the cost it’s a necessity. It cost too much to walk around with anxious feelings bottled up and as a mother I must be aware of what I model for my kids.

Black Beauty

2 Feb

Thanks to yet another snow storm, I find myself at home with time to kill since with another foot of snow expected on top of the however many feet of snow already piled up in my yard, leaving the house is simply not an option. So it seems like a great day to break my blog hiatus and share some thoughts, after all it is Black History Month which is perfect for what I want to talk about today…black beauty.

Living in the United States which despite all the talk of being a post racial society is a hard place to be as a Black woman. Frankly it’s hard for all women, but today I speak as a Black woman because it’s my experience and I know it. From an early age little brown girls learn quickly they are not valued nearly as much as their pale counterparts. The images that little girls see are primarily that of pale girls with silky hair, girls whose natural body shapes often don’t look like theirs.

Unless caregivers are aware of the damage of what happens when you consume a steady diet of images that in no way resemble you, can do to a little girl’s psyche it’s the rare brown girl who will make it to adulthood not conflicted in some ways about her appearance. Generally for my sistern this manifests itself in how we approach our hair.

Hair is often seen as a woman’s crown and glory yet many Black women have a hard time truly grasping that concept when deep down we wonder why our hair won’t do this or that. I have been a natural haired Black woman for a decade now yet it’s only been in recent years that I had true acceptance of what my hair can and cannot do and I am at peace with it. Yet despite the growth in Black woman shunning chemical relaxers and choosing natural hair the fact remains it takes more than simply not putting the creamy crack in your hair to have real acceptance.

When most Black women first go natural they are excited and in many cases trade the addiction to relaxer for the addition to the perfect products that will cause their hair to have curl definition or waves or some other feature that will make their hair appear socially acceptable. I know when I first went natural and did the big chop I was addicted to using Care Free Curl activator gel because it made my hair look curly opposed to tight kinky curls that looked nappier. Then there was the point when my hair started growing out and then it looked like a frizzy mass and I remember being disappointed.

Perhaps it was because of my own frustrations and eventual realization that my hair is never going to lay down (unless it’s being manipulated in some fashion) which is what made this video interesting to me. Please check it out, now I admit the sista is hilarious in her presentation but what she says actually made me think. In the course of my decade long journey I have had folks make all kinds of suggestions about what to use in my hair and for the most part none of it works. I am at the point that pretty much what works best for my hair and my lifestyle as far as energy I am going to put out is, short fro, dreads or braids oh and the occasional afro puff. I am not a play in the hair person, after 30 mins my hands get tired and I have as my braider says at least 2-3 different textures of hair on my head of hair. For years I had a hard time accepting what looked good on me and really coveted the looser curls that I would see on some sisters but guess what it’s not for me.

Yet the sista in the video while it’s clear she is distressed, at the root of her rant is someone who still needs to do the mental work that is part of truly accepting her beauty. But too many of us are not surrounded by folks who give us that validation we need instead we suffer internally. Ultimately too many do not see the beauty of a Black woman’s natural crown and glory…plain and simple. It’s why we spend hundreds of dollars on products to smooth our hair because we still equate beauty with a standard that is not our standard of beauty.

This brings me to this piece. It was in my local news and what stood out was that the woman arrested was a Black woman, a rather cute one too. Now I am not passing judgment on what she does or the charges against her but in reading the comments online following the article it was clear that not too many others saw her as attractive, instead stealing her person-hood by referring to her in terms that strip her of person-hood. So I asked the Spousal Unit was she cute and he said yes. Interestingly enough I think the fact that she appears to have dreads is what really stood out to me, but overall I was reminded of how very little black beauty is valued.

Never mind the fact that she is working in a profession where her looks are required so that she can earn money. I doubt she would be dancing at a club if the tips/earnings weren’t there so clearly someone finds her attractive yet in a public venue like the paper, people feel they must judge her looks. This is life for the Black woman in America. A place where we will always struggle for acceptance yet to truly be accepted most of us must start the work internally. We also need to start with our kids especially our girls; we must present images that affirm what they see in the mirror. It helps if you are in a racially diverse area but even my house, we hang Black art, we buy books and dolls that mirror back what my girl sees in my, in pictures of family members and more importantly what she sees in the mirror.