Monday, October 7, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


As I have written in another post, I am in the process of transitioning from chemically relaxed hair to my natural hair.  This morning it struck me that although this process involves change, it is itself a perfect metaphor for change.
I have worn my hair chemically relaxed for 30 years, and in that time, I enjoyed having a relaxer because I felt like my hair was problem-free; I liked the straightness, glossiness and body that my hair possessed.  Every six to eight weeks, I would get it touched up as new hair growth appeared and I'd be back to a completely straight head of hair.
You see, for those unfamiliar with Black hair, my hair in its natural state is very kinky or "nappy" as we call it in the Black community.  It can be difficult to comb through, particularly when wet and is not wash and wear. In other words, jumping into the shower or just deciding on the spur of the moment to wash my hair is not something easily done. It's a whole process dealing with Black hair that can be time-consuming.  Even relaxed, to wash it still involves getting it very dry and either rolling it or curling it with a curling iron. In fact, straighteners were introduced as a way to help Black people manage what had come to be seen as unruly and difficult to manage hair.  Over time though, I feel what started out as a method of convenience turned in to a subtle message of "Your hair (and by implication, you) is not good enough as it is; you need to have more attractive and easy to manage hair". Unfortunately, that easy to manage hair was very much like white hair with its straightness and sheen and so the subtle message was to become white (or in other words, to become like someone you aren't). Natural hair hearkened back to the days of slavery and since we had fought to come out of slavery and oppression, it was like everything associated with it was something of which to rid ourselves. We forgot to see ourselves as beautiful and accept our nappy hair and dark skin. However, in the 1960s, during the height of the Civil Rights movement, a lot of Blacks wore naturals. It became a symbol of their heritage and their refusal to be something that others defined for them as they simultaneously fought for even more rights.
Nevertheless, I found relaxed hair easier to deal with than natural hair, particularly as someone who sweats a lot.  Unfortunately, as I have entered menopause, sweating happens more often and I found my hair reverting from the relaxed state into its natural state a lot more quickly.  This frustrated me and I began to wonder why I was spending all this money to keep it relaxed when it would revert so quickly.
Another reason that I was led to natural hair was from a trip I took in 2006 to Israel.  For that trip, a friend braided my hair so that I didn't have to concern myself with my hair.  If you have ever been on a travel tour, you know that there isn't a lot of time when you get up in the morning for your usual routine.  You've got to get up, get packed, have your bag at the door to be loaded onto the bus and then catch a quick breakfast before being whisked away to that day's destination.  I was never one for primping and the last thing I wanted was to be bothered with my hair.  After 10 days braided, I loved it and ever since then I've thought about having my hair braided.
This is where the comparison to change as a process comes into play.  I could have worn braids as a weave but didn't want to.  If I was going to wear braids, it was going to be naturally, but I didn't want to deal with the change I would have to grow go through to get my hair into its natural state.  I knew that the process was not going to be easy or short and there would be days that my hair would not look its best as it grew out and I didn't want to deal with that.  There would also be the looks and comments of those around me; family who didn't understand the process and who would probably have comments about the way it looked.  Looks of strangers who also would wonder what the heck was going on with my hair.  If I could, I would gladly snap my fingers and go from chemically processed to natural hair immediately.  But it doesn't work that way and neither do many other changes in life. Change usually occurs as a process with some unpleasantness involved, including the comments and opinions of others who don't understand the process and usually consider themselves being helpful as they offer their unsolicited advice and opinions.  Some see natural Black hair as something only seen on the pages of National Geographic and is usually associated with those in the wilds of Africa.  A lot of times, other people will not see the value in making the change, and for many Black women, I daresay the decision is usually a very personal one. For me, that came about as a result of feeling as though I had not been true to my race over the period of about twelve years and this was one expression I could make to identify with my race and be more genuine. You see, by looking at my hair as problematic and using chemicals to relax it, I think in a way, I was denying part of who I am.  Not to mention the predominantly white setting I was in at the time in which I squelched my opinions in deference to others when there were times I should have spoken up, particularly when someone would do or say something offensive. I tolerated so much, but a part of me was dying on the inside. When I left that setting, the succeeding years (going on 2 1/2 years now) have been filled with being more true to myself and my core beliefs regardless of the acceptance or reaction of others.  (Note: Let me say, that this is not intended as a judgment against anyone who wears straight hair. We all choose what we feel is best for ourselves and my decision was and is a very personal one.)
Needless to say, the discomfort involved in any change is undoubtedly why most people avoid it, if at all possible. We all like the life of ease; even someone like myself who enjoys a challenge.  I know that the road ahead is probably going to contain some frustration, but there is a freedom that I associate with going natural. Of course, the natural hairstyle will need to be maintained as all hairstyles do.  There are days that it will probably look pretty scruffy and I might even be tempted to turn back as some women have done when it became too much for them.  But the little taste of freedom that I'm already experiencing will, I imagine, be magnified once my hair is fully transitioned.  I hope that I can stay the course to see that change come to fruition and enjoy the reward at the end, an outlook I hope to continue throughout my life when facing any kind of change.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Made the Leap

Well, today begins the first full day of my journey from chemically relaxed hair to natural hair.  I wore my hair relaxed for almost 30 years!  I just did the math and am amazed it's been that long.  For those in the African-American community, particularly women, you will understand why I call this a journey.  All the stigma and history that goes with our hair is the backdrop for such a change.  And it's not an easy or short ride either. Some will take the drastic step of doing the "big chop" and just cut off all the relaxed hair.  Others, like myself, opt for the longer process of growing it out.  Fortunately, my hairstylist has worn her hair natural, so while not a natural hair care specialist or loctician, she does know a thing or two about dealing with natural hair and the transition involved.

Last night, instead of getting my usual 8-week relaxer, she opted for braiding my hair in sections and then roller-setting it on medium rods.  I sat under the dryer for probably over an hour while she made sure it was thoroughly dry.  Next time she said she will use more braids so that it can dry quicker.  But, I liked the effect of a head full of curly curls. Normally, I would get a roller set, so this isn't too much of a departure from my usual routine.

One thing I'm looking forward to is experimenting with different styles as the texture changes.  I'll try to blog here throughout the process and include some pictures along with my feelings and experiences.

Day after braided rod set

Another angle of 'do the day after a braided rod set.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Some churches seek young pastors in the hopes of shaping them into what they want versus looking forward to the vitality and freshness  that young pastor can bring to their church.  Essentially, the pastor is nothing more than hired help.   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just Going Along

     I was just chatting with my 82-year old mother this evening and I brought up jokingly about how in the small Kentucky town in which she grew up, every time a person passed you on their way somewhere, they would greet you with a "How do".   Then when they came back and passed you, they would again say, "How do". Growing up spending part of my summer there, I thought it was the funniest, craziest thing I'd ever experienced having been born and raised up North in the city where that did not happen.  When I brought it up again this evening, my mother said that growing up she and her sister would often suggest to each other that they go back a different way than they came so that they didn't have to speak again to people they had already greeted.  I asked her if this was after she and my aunt had been to the city, since they started coming here for visits when they were teens. However, she said no.  They just didn't want to speak again but their mother had raised them to always speak when they passed people.  Obviously, everyone had been taught this because just about everybody in the town did it.
     This is a simple thing, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me that this was a good example of how in groups, no matter what they they are--whether cities, towns, businesses, churches, etc.--there can be a culture that unquestioningly becomes ingrained.  Even though there may be people who don't agree with the way something is done, they simply go along because "that's just the way it's done".  My mother was born and raised in this town and it was her custom.  But even so, she and her sister didn't necessarily want to always practice it.  Now, you may say that is just typical little kids not wanting to always do what they're told.  Maybe so, but I also see a lesson in it that is good to keep in mind:  while something may be an accepted practice or belief, it doesn't  mean that everyone believes the same thing.  There may, in fact, be people who think differently; they just don't make it known.  But it is my contention, that if we want real change, we have to speak up and express our differences of opinion or question the way things are done. Not in a negative way or for the purpose of causing trouble, mind you, as many people are taken aback by what they perceive as a threat to their already established practices and beliefs. But rather a question or thought phrased simply, clearly and in a non-threatening manner might yield surprising results as a conversation may open up and we find that we're not the only ones who think a certain way or hold a different view.  Who knows, it could be the catalyst for change that was missing.
     Having said this, however, I am not naive to the fact that some have broached topics in a non-threatening manner, only to be greeted with hostility and a clear message, whether verbalized or not, that the system is not be questioned.  The moment people begin to believe that their environment is not one where differences can be discussed or even raised, that is the day  that entrenched thinking begins, if we allow it.  At that point, there is a decision to be made:  stay in the group and hope to enact change over time, stay in the group while maintaining one's individuality or leave and find an environment more conducive to the discussion of ideas and the possibility of change.  Of course, there's also another option--stay and take on the dominant mindset.  That, to me, is the least preferable option and how group think maintains its foothold.

See also this post by Michelle Van Loon on the Pope and his exhortation that might help all of us.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Look Before You Leap

I was going to post, "Fully investigate something before committing." However, as I thought about it, the very fact that something is new to you indicates there is a level of foreignness there and as a friend used to say, "you can't know what you don't know." Sure, we can ask others for their advice or expertise, but at the end of the day, the experience is all ours and there will be aspects that no one else can fully prepare us for. It's as if inherent to the newness of something, is the element of the unknown. Perhaps, what is unknown is that which we must uniquely experience for our own growth and maturation. As you experience it however, you then can become that person who passes on their wisdom and lessons learned to others and part of that wisdom should include the counsel that one be prepared for the unknown. We don't like the unknown. Many of us over-prepare, over-analyze and procrastinate, all in an effort to make sure we fully know what we're getting into. But I'm coming to a place of believing that full knowledge about that which is new to us is not entirely possible.

I posted the above on Facebook earlier today.  This post emanated from the experience of living with my 82-year old mother for the past eight months.  You see, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2011.  Last October, his health greatly deteriorated and my brother rushed him to the hospital late one night.  My mother had already asked me at the time of my father's diagnosis if I would move in with her if anything happened to my father.  I told her that I would.  Personally, I could not in good conscience leave her alone.  She has never lived on her own  and would have spent a lot of her days in anxiousness.  From a selfish place, it probably would have been more work for me as I would have been constantly calling to see if she was okay, eating properly, taking her medicine, etc.

So, the night my father was taken to emergency, we knew he would not be returning home, either due to death or being moved to a nursing home.  He was in no condition to come back home and it would have been too much for my mother to try to care for him.  As it was, she had spent the previous several months attending to him:  trying to get him to eat, take his medicine, clean up accidents and had recently taken over driving as he was too weak to even drive.  Thus, I began sleeping on her couch that night and have been living with her ever since.  I eventually moved into one of the bedrooms, but for the first month or two, I was sleeping on a soft couch with a bad back, gradually moving things from my apartment to her house, wrestling with whether to sign another year's lease, paying month to month which would have involved an additional $100 a month or giving the landlord a 30 day's notice and making the big push to get fully moved.  All the while, I was working full-time, traveling between my apartment and my parent's house, visiting my father in the hospital and working with my brother on end of life issues like the eventual funeral arrangements and then making space for my move into the house (this was no small endeavor as my father was somewhat of pack-rat).  

Finally, I got fully moved in at the end December, just a mere two months after my father went to emergency.  It's been a real transition and growing experience for my mother and me.  She has had to adjust to being a widow and alone, so to speak, even though I am with her.  I have had to adjust to living with an elderly person after living on my own for 20 years and being single with no children.  For 20 years, I have been my only concern.  Now, I have the added responsibility of making sure there are groceries in the house, picking up meds, getting the garbage out to the curb for the scheduled pick-up (when you live in an apartment, you just take it to the dumpster; you're not concerned with pick up dates and proper handling vis-a-vis recycling cans), transporting to medical appointments, home maintenance (I eventually wanted a home, but inheriting what feels like somebody else's baggage is not what I had in mind), etc.  

All in all, the experience has been good.  My mother has grown in that amount of time and learned some new things and for that I'm grateful.  I also have learned a greater amount of patience.  However, it's been an adjustment as someone who enjoys solitude and only had myself to care for.  At times, it feels like there's always just one more thing with which to contend.  That is where the posting above comes in.  Had I just investigated what all was involved in moving in with my mother.  But you know, even if I had consulted with someone who has been down the same road, there are some things they couldn't have prepared me for like having my car in need of a rebuilt transmission and the decision to sell it while I drive my father's 10 year old car which I end up having to sink $600 into, all in an effort to keep it running until I can get my own car replaced.  Now I'm motivated to go out and get a new car, but that is going to be another thing to fit into my schedule.  This may not sound like much, but when you have to make calls to follow-up on something, a full-time job, an adjunct teaching job and various other things to see about around the house, it can be just a bit much.  I know about respite care and will probably avail myself of that in the future, but personal business is not necessarily something I'm going to or can entrust to a stranger.  

But I am learning to take time for myself and realize that is something you have to make a priority.  For instance, as I'm writing this, I'm sitting in Panera.  I had to get out of the house.  It's supposed to reach 88 degrees today and I'm a warm body whereas my mother is not.  This will make for interesting times this summer.  I could run the air all day and sleep with it on at night.  My mother, not so much as she catches cold easily and just doesn't get warm like I do.  However, she does need it at times like today as she suffers with COPD and the heat and humidity are no good for her.  But what's comfortable for me and her and two different things.  Plus, I just needed a change of scenery and to get away from the questioning and reminders.  I now know what it feels like to have a "honey do" list and I'm not even married!  Who knew that I would learn about parenting and marriage through living with my mother?  

In any event, long story short of the purpose of my post above, would I have not made the decision to move in if I had all the information beforehand?  Could anyone have even prepared me by saying, "Now look, when you move in, the dryer's going to break on the weekend that you're packing to go away on a business trip and you'll have to arrange to have one delivered while you're away?" or any of a sundry other things?  No, they couldn't and to be frank, would my decision have been any different?  I doubt it.  As I said above, in good conscience, I couldn't let my mother live alone and she's not ready for a nursing home.  To the extent that I can, I think I will try to care for her and keep her in her home for as long as possible.  But even with that intention, it's not easy and there are days that it all gets to be a bit much.  But this is my experience that I must live and learn as I go.  

Welcome and Introduction

Well folks, welcome to my blog.  I had one under the same name a few years ago, but got away from it and in the course of deleting some documents, accidentally deleted the blog.  But here I am, attempting to take a stab at it again.  I feel like the time is right for me to start this endeavor again.

Basically, I will reflect (as the title implies) on subjects that are of a theological nature and beyond.  Even when the topics don't seem very theological in nature, my reflections will emanate from a spiritual place within me.  That is just who I am.

I appreciate intelligent, civil dialogue.  Please no arguing, debasing or name-calling.  Vigorous debate welcome as long as it does not dissolve into the aforementioned.  We can disagree without the negativity.

I don't come to this endeavor assuming to have all the answers and will readily admit that.  I'm by far no intellectual giant, but do enjoy a good conversation that gets beneath the surface.  Of course, I'll probably post humorous and inane stuff as well.  I'm a serious, thoughtful person who also enjoys a good laugh.

So come along on this ride with me.