Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Love the Curls

Hair is something I've enjoyed all my life. I remember learning to braid when I was 5. A friend taught me on the little plastic streamers that came out of the handles of my radio-flyer trike. In high school I spent hours many mornings creating intricate dos, that usually lasted until the 3:00 bell. Remind me again why this was more important than sleeping?

Working with Rosie's hair is enjoyable to me on many levels. I love the tactilily of it, touching and stroking hair is nice. Then there is the added bonus of nice smelling oils and potions that make my hands almost as soft as her lovely curls.

The whole craft of it is absorbing to me - what styles look good on her, are functional for busy 4 year olds who like to rough-house and hug white fuzzy dogs, what feels good to her and can I get my working time to match her sitting time? There are all the tips, techniques, tools and gurus of any craft which means hours of happy information gathering and expirementation on my part.

And finally, there is the fun of hanging out with her for a chunk of time. Making hair time enjoyable is an art unto itself, which I in no way profess to have mastered. We have used the computer and DVDs, but I really want our time to have more emotional resonance to it. I want Rosie to remember shared moments, not just media enduced comas. So I try weaned both kids off the movie. We've added in time for puzzles, games and (gasp) Polly Pockets. This allows us to talk, tell stories and generally be hilarious while I have my fingers in Rosie hair and she holds her body something like still.

I've seen lovely pictures of African American women and girls sitting around the kitchen together working on each other's hair. Now when the girls from the kitchen pictures talk, it turns out those warm fuzzy pictures sometimes belied hot words and even hotter chemicals. I've also seen fascinating old pictures of tribal men in Africa braiding for each other. I like to think our kitchen table is part of the evolution of those stories.

Since before Rosie joined our family, I've collected a library of resources on working with African American hair, mostly children's. Books like It's All Good Hair, Kids Talk Hair and Kinki Creations started me out with a basic understanding of how to care for Rosie's hair as well as how to avoid some common issues. My skills, though, have noticibly grown since I joined a Yahoo! Group created by adoptive moms about African hair and skin care. As usual, personal instructions and feedback work great wonders. One of the moms from the group has even started creating YouTube videos showing her techniques. Hearing her narriate while watching her do has emboldened Rosie and I to take on some more intricate styles.
Here is what we did this past year. Let me know what you think - I'm looking for inspiration to add to the braiding, twisting, free and puff fun as we move through 2008!
(Again, with the whining about formatting in Blogger - I could NOT figure out how to get all the pictures posted. So I hope you enjoy the collages Picassa created to help me share the Beauty with you!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Licking My Wounds

I haven’t posted much to my blog in, oh, 6 months. Partially due to the chaos of moving and trying to focus on re-establishing our lives in a new neighborhood.

But also because of several interactions I’ve had with people about my posts. Okay, so one interaction was real and the person had a perspective I had not considered. I valued the feedback and made changes that felt appropriate and good to me. Hopefully that worked for all involved.

Oddly, the other “interaction” was imaginary. Ready for this? Someone I admire, who I thought might have read one of my posts, posted something I feared might have been a side-wards criticism of one of my posts. I spent HOURS obsessing over what she said, why she didn’t send me direct feedback and how it all may have affected our interactions the last time I saw her in person. Finally in search of relief, I read through her entire blog until I found what I had been obsessing about. Not only was it published before I wrote my post, she posted it over a YEAR before I met her. So clearly a case of her post mirroring something I felt uncomfortable about.

My big take away: sometimes I write and post something that doesn’t feel good to me. I need to be quick to correct those posts and quick to forgive myself. While I’m learning the art of self-acceptance, if at anytime y’all feel moved to give me feedback about content or tone, please know that I would love to hear what you have to say.

With that, I return to my regularly random posting currently in progress.

Ain't I A Woman?

I have probably read hundreds of references to this speech by Sojourner Truth over the years. And I'm not sure I'd ever read the whole thing.

Here is it in all it's glory read by Alice Walker. Truly a delight.

(Okay, I'm totally lame and can't figure out how to make the groovy YouTube player show up, so you have to click on the link. Whaaaa.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Alumni Magazines

Somehow when we moved, my university found me. Suddenly I am awash in alumni magazines and pleas to donate time and money. The magazines hold some sort of sick fascination for me with the articles about all the “successful” (and generous) graduates. Of course, they focus on people making big name success, doing remarkable or unconventional things in a conventional world. I’ve spent the past hour musing over what an article about someone more mundane and more freaky, like me, might say. I’ve stolen mercilessly from about 4 articles in the current issue of “The University of Puget Sound Arches, Spring 2008.” I’m sure the writers hourly wage cannot touch my snark value in this one.

Sara Cole ‘91
Don’t let the girl-next-door smile fool you: Sara Cole puts the power in powerhouse. Homeschooling mother of 2, she is working doggedly to achieve what others around her ease through daily.

Cole says the seeds of her freakishness (her favorite word) were planted early and deep at UPS, where she reveled in an academic environment that “pushed your thinking, especially in Bill Haltom’s class. I was very influenced by my professors. I really learned to examine every moment in life, deeply thinking the why and how of each task I execute in the course of my day. “

The great thing about a UPS education, says Cole, is that it encouraged her – no, forced her – “to create her own model for the world. It takes big thinking to transform a very conservative and meek Pentecostal-raised girl into an outspoken, homeschooling, breastfeeding, transracial-adoptive self-thinker,” she says. “Thinking harder because I was stuck in a tiny mental box, I hatched out of my old ideas. Because I had to. This approach has stuck with me my entire career.”

Cole, whose blog is read by over 10 people a week, reads avidly and digests the information to best serve her family's changing needs. She carefully researches each choice point in her life, looking for double-blind studies that will point the way to the most helpful and healthy way to guide those in her care. Over the years she has researched homebirth, attachment parenting, neurological development and brain injury, nutrition, fitness, adoptive breastfeeding and trans-racial adoption. “She really brings her experience and skill as a former student to all she does,” says her husband, Bill Barnes. “Sara is always ready to learn and willing to tackle subjects in which she has no previous knowledge. And to convey them to me in the form of annotated book reports."

In 2001 Sara started attending neighborhood play dates with her 6 month old son, Theo. By 2005 she had taken over leadership of the local attachment parenting group, which she grew from a quiet small group of 25 families to a vibrant and active community of over 100 through her willingness to say, “What do you need? How can I support you in creating this for yourself?” One of her proudest accomplishments during this time of challenge and growth was breastfeeding her daughter, Rosie, while learning to be comfortable with public speaking. “The communications classes I took in my freshmen year really prepared me for the experience of talking before a group of my peers while trying to prevent my child from flashing my nipples for extended periods of time.”

This year Sara is transitioning into more frequent engagements with the Seattle Homeschool group. “ Whether we're viewing sea creatures at our favorite beach or organizing our spelling words,” Cole says, “we’re always trying to come up with a different or better way to do it.”

Recently quoted in both the Attachment Parenting Journal and the Seattle Times for her perspective on parenting and adoption, Sara says, “This is a wonderfully exciting time to be raising a family. Thanks to growing options, I can choose to give my children the best education possible while carefully nurturing them at home. But it is also clear that we’ve got a long way to go before we can hope to fully understand why we pit working-mother against stay-at-home mom, why the world drives young and poor women to relinquish their children, and why being a mother is an economic detriment.”

In the meantime, Cole anticipates more reading and spreadsheets, looking forward to the unexpected sleuthing and hard work that come from over-examining her existence. As she see it, her life doesn’t comply with the mainstream – it fulfills an important moral obligation to provide a promising future for her children. “I’m sure they’ll change the world.”