On Hair

A little over a year ago I decided to cut my hair. Before that I had always (except for one time long ago when I tried to have a $10 pixie cut-bad. news.) rocked long hair. My hair was always getting compliments because it was “the good kind of hair”-thick, course, just a little bit of wave, etc. It did basically exactly what I wanted it to on any given day and didn’t take up too much of my time.

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When I first went to the hair stylist to tell her I wanted a pixie, she was horrified. So even though I went in with an exact example of what I wanted, she successfully talked me into something a bit less drastic. She was sure I’d regret it if I went for the full chop like I was hoping for. We She settled on this. (Far right, holding my adorable niece Adley).

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It wasn’t a bad hair cut, in fact I’ve seen it on many women and loved it, it’s just not what I wanted. After a month of trying to get it to look as sassy as I felt, my wonderful husband finally said, “Just do it. Go get your hair cut how you wanted it in the first place. You’ll never know if it’s what you really want until you do it.” And so I did.

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Since that day I haven’t really looked back. I’ve worn it spiked, down, mohawk-ed. I’ve had it blonde mostly but I also went purple and maroon.

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Currently I’m wearing it shaved on one side and a little longer in the front/on the top. I asked Zach a few weeks ago, “Hey, you wanna shave part of my head?” His response, “Never thought you’d ask me that but sure.”

Let me start by saying I understand that I’m super lucky to have a husband who puts 0 stalk in how I look. I get that I’m one of the lucky ones who has married a man who finds me (almost) equally charming and beautiful in my sweats as he does in my bridesmaid dresses. I get that.

But having my hair short has been one lesson after another in the hurtful ways we women think about ourselves. Almost every day I get a woman coming up to me saying something along these 4 lines:

“Oh man, I love your hair, I wish I could pull that off!”

“Oh man, I have always wanted short hair but I don’t have the face/look/hair for it.”

“I LOVE your hair! I would love to try short hair but my husband would kill me!”

“Love the hair, would love to try it but it would make my butt/face/belly/arms look HUGE.”

Every time I hear it I say something like, “Please don’t say that about yourself, it’s absolutely not true. I used to do that to myself as well, it doesn’t feel good. So stop it! And if you want your hair cut do it! Let’s go right now!”

Look, we are ingrained from a young age to believe our femininity is tied to many things-our hair is just one of them. In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, (side note: you have to read this. Go reserve it at your library, I’ll wait. Ok then) she talks about how feminine norms are the foundation of shame triggers. “If women want to play by the rules, they need to be sweet, thin and pretty, (editor’s note: I would add, ‘with long hair’) stay quiet, be perfect moms and wives, and not own their power

She goes on to talk about how any move outside of these norms brings a hailstorm of shame on the woman making such risky moves.

And boy do I believe it. Because we women have a constant stream of unhealthy self talk going on at any given time in our heads, right? I don’t want to boil it all down to physical appearances because it is not just that, but since this blog is about hair that will be the focus.

I think, for me at least, it took me so long to go for this hair cut I had been coveting for so long because it takes so much work to own your own power as a woman. So many of our bosses make it impossible, some husbands or significant others clearly make it really hard to do so, our kids might be testing our resolve at owning our own power. Certainly I think the biggest culprit is our society’s emphasis on masculine power structure being the end all be all, whether it be in really obvious ways (marketing, culture of war) or fairly subliminal ways (the ways in which we were raised and familial hierarchy structures).

None of this is to say that if you’re rockin’ long locks you are giving in to “the man”. I merely want us, as women, to start evaluating who we are letting take our agency. As a mother to a daughter I am constantly aware of the way she sees me look at myself. I am constantly aware that the way I talk about me is the way she will one day talk about herself. Whew. What a scary and brutifal honor.

What I want her to see when she looks at me is someone who owns everything she is-the beautiful and terrible. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I want to own all of that, there’s a lot of scary stuff in there, but if I don’t own it someone else will and that is far more terrifying to me.

Maybe one day our daughters won’t have to consciously think about owning their own power, maybe our culture will have let go of the (dated) masculine ideal, we can hope. But until then I’m going to show Dailah my struggle with it so that she knows it’s a choice every day.

So when Dailah sees her dad shaving half my head she’ll see a small shift in the world and know she’s on the right side of things.

Do you guys struggle with this? Is it just me? Beuller? Beuller?

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The Concrete Jungle

I have ridiculously generous parents. By “parents” I am, of course, referring both to my biological parents and my in-laws-I very rarely differentiate.

My sister-in-law, Kait, has lived in Brooklyn for close to a year now and since I love her so much, I’ve been wanting to check in on her. She also started interning for one of my favorite non-profits, The Adventure Project, and had been working tirelessly on their annual Gala.

Much to my surprise, my in-laws were paying attention and (after singing Happy Birthday 2 months early) announced they were sending me to New York to visit Kait and to go to TAP’s gala. Did I cry? Yes. Are they amazing? Yes.

Related note: My husband is also amazing. Even though camp season is gearing up and he’s getting busier and busier he encouraged this stay-at-home mama to jet off to the Big Apple while he held down the fort with our 5 children, 4 pets AND THE 2 GREAT DANES WE ARE DOG SITTING FOR MY PARENTS. Sainthood-he deserves nothing less.

My time in NYC was spent doing very non-touristy stuff-which I loved. (Though I did say hi to this beautiful lady as I was taxi-ing to Kait’s restaurant).

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Saturday we went to a new bar near her place that was really cool. I watched as she got hit on by multiple men wearing the same size jeans I do.

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And we celebrated my being in NYC (and out past 10!) with a glass of my favorite whiskey.

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Sunday was really crappy weather but we managed to walk around Brooklyn and visit flea markets, second hand shops, etc. We also caught a comedy show that night (Kait is seriously way cooler than virtually everyone I know. She hosts a comedy show out there and also co-runs this hip-hop blog with a friend of hers.) and I tried a few different Brooklyn lagers.

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Monday was the day of The Adventure Project Gala. I have this weird compulsion that I want to be helpful if there’s an opportunity for it. So Kait and I got to the TAP offices at about 9am. From then until 6:30pm when the event started we were helping set up and whatever else. I met some really great people during those hours-those who work for TAP and those who work for partnering organizations as well as other volunteers like myself. Then the gala started and I proceeded to enjoy the free cocktails and time socializing.

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I also caught up with a few women who I traveled with to Haiti, which was so fun.

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After the gala we helped pack everything up and take it back to the TAP offices. Then Kait and her friends decided they were hungry and one really wanted Korean food. All this resulted in me being up until 4am. Yikes. But Kait’s friends are as amazing as she is, so it was so enjoyable to be around them and share that part of her life with her.

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After not enough sleep, Tuesday was our day to finish stuff up at TAP and then explore the city. First we walked around the Highline, which was absolutely amazing.

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Walked through a Chelsea flea market where I found a coat that I’ve been dreaming about and lusting after since. I mean, seriously. SOMEONE MAKE THIS FOR ME!

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After a few days in the concrete jungle I had a serious hankering for earth. I get that I’m a bit of a hippie but I had no idea just how much until I hadn’t been able to touch the actual earth. You know, put my hands in some dirt, feet in grass, etc. So off we went to Central Park. We played frisbee with one of Kait’s friends and I did a bit of yoga. But mostly, just enjoyed the sights.

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We ended the night at a restaurant where we talked about things ranging from comedy to racism. One of my favorite things about Kait is she chooses friends who challenge her and encourage her to continue growing as a human. Love that.

Travel back home was complicated (seriously, I would love just 1 time of normal flights) but the end result was that I was home with my family.

The next day at home was spent teaching my classes and going to the kids’s school where they were all awarded various things. All day I was struck by the realization that I am so infinitely blessed to be able to experience NYC with one of my favorite people in the entire world and then to come home and experience life with my other favorite people-all in the span of a week.

What a lucky lady I am.

That’s What She Said

A few bloggers I follow always have a “That’s what she said” series and I LOVE them. It’s always a great place to find new articles that often resonate with me. More often than not I want to share them but they are kind of random so they never have a real place to fit in on my blog.

Thus, I’m creating my own “That’s what she said” series.

“How I lost Faith in the ‘Pro-Life’ Movement.” As someone who once considered herself pro-life this spoke to me in so many ways. In order to truly be pro life it means WAY more than anti-abortion.

Obamacare stands to cut abortion rates by 75%. And yet, the pro-life movement has been leveraged in opposition to Obamacare, and most especially in opposition to the birth control mandate. They don’t believe women should be guaranteed access to free contraception even though this access is the number one proven best way to decrease the number of abortions. That access would, to use the rhetoric of the pro-life movement, prevent the murders of 900,000 unborn babies every year.

Heather’s guest post on Momastery. I loved what she had to say, especially the excerpt below. Can’t wait to read her book.

The greatest shock of my life was to discover that the exposure of the very secret that I thought would kill me brought me the greatest relief. It turns out that when you give up on looking good, no one can make you feel bad.

Adoption. Ethics in adoption. It’s all Big Business. The more I know the less I wish I knew (not really, but-yikes). I have been following the discussion for as long as I can remember. Oh how I wish my eyes had been opened before I started. If you are starting out on adoption, or if you have friends/family who are you owe it to them and their possible future children to send them to some of the below links. The conversation has to be had. We can no longer bury our collective heads in the sand.

Jen Hatmaker is quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers. After this, she shot to the top of my girl crush list (right after Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, obviously).

What would happen if we reallocated a percentage of the millions we spend on adoption toward community development? What if we prioritized first families and supported initiatives that train, empower, and equip them to parent? This would absolutely be Orphan Prevention, not to mention grief prevention, loss prevention, abandonment prevention, trauma prevention, broken family prevention. What if we asked important questions about supply and demand here, and broadened our definition of orphan care to include prevention and First Family empowerment?

My friend Amanda (she’s my real-life friend y’all, I’ve met her. I’ve talked with her. She’s amazing. Zach makes me distinguish between blogger friends-ones I’ve only “met” online and real-life ones. I have pictures with her, it’s legit.) is brave, strong, beautiful and amazing. You know those moments when you feel like you’re in the presence of greatness? I get that feeling from her right now. Read this. Read about her adoption. Read about the painful choices her family has made to ensure they’ve done everything they can to look their precious son in the eyes and know they did the right thing. She needs our help. Let’s rally around her.

We hope that, after reading our story, you will support us for this simple reason: we will not sign a gag order to protect our former adoption “agency” and their facilitator in return for the easy release of our documents.

Tara Livesay is a blogger you have to follow. I won’t take no as an answer to this. Go to her blog and follow her now. She has written about missions (more on that later) and adoption. She is intimately aware of both. One of my favorite posts she’s done has been this one.

It occurs to me that our western culture of capitalistim, materialism, and consumerism all play a large role in our attitude toward and approach to international adoption. Due to our wealth and ability to provide, sometimes without even realizing it we begin to believe that our material wealth makes us better suited to parent the child of a poor mother. What began as noble and pure and loving can farily easily begin to look a lot more like ethnocentrism and entitlement. 

I have family in missions, I have friends who have went on short term mission trips. I have never went on one because I just felt, for lack of better term, “icky” about them. Jamie has done an awesome job (as has Tara Livesay above) with the issues that can come from missions-both long and short term.

I’m telling you all of this because there is blatant fraud going on in the world of missions and in the name of Jesus. And that bothers me. If you support a missionary, if you’re a church that supports missionaries, if you’re interested in becoming a missionary, you should be pushing for clarity and transparency from the Missions world. Most missionaries will be able to answer your questions without resorting to evasive language and obscure ideas. But if they can’t? That should be a serious red flag and you should feel emboldened to push back until you clearly understand what they’re doing with their time.

Any other links you guys have loved lately?

 

 

Mother’s Day

I love Mother’s Day. As much as I hate other Hallmark holidays, I just really love this one. I have no idea what it is exactly. Probably equal parts homemade cards from the kids and a day that I get to do no “typical” mom activities. My family is so good at spoiling me on every day but this day in particular they get just as excited to show me the love.

When we ask Binyam to write a thank you to someone it is indecipherable. This card? Can almost read every word. He claims he had no help from his teacher but I’ve never actually heard him use the words, “lovely” or “fabulous”. Regardless, I accepted with the most humblest of exclamations.

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Dailah’s…I mean it’s too much. The sleepy (beautiful) picture. Love it.

 

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Tariku gave me the standard one about growing from school but then he created this. Interestingly, we have never even referenced “saving” him so I had a little talk about that but otherwise the message (and art) is simply breathtaking.

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Tomas. “Mom, you are awesome because you have done almost everything to get Ethiopia water that is way awesome. You are sweet and cute and I thank you for doing stuff you are the best mom in the world.” I mean, really.

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And Trysten. My personal favorites, “My mom loves me and she loves to exercise and burn calories.” and “The best thing about my mom is everything.” Oh of course, “My mom loves me and she loves to eat veggies.” All true, of course.

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My friend Jody posted a status update that has gone positively viral. I was so thrilled to see many friends reposting it and knowing it came from a genuine, true place from Jody. The reason it was shared so much is because every mama of a child born unto another feels this way-or at least they should.

“Children born to another woman call me ‘Mom’… the magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me this weekend.”

Makes me teary just re-reading it.

Even though I love Mother’s Day I am acutely aware of how hard it must be for women who have lost children, who have made the decision to make an adoption plan. For women who want children but who haven’t known that pleasure yet. And for those two beautiful women whose sons I am humbly raising.

Sunday morning I woke up to my kids singing, “Happy mother’s day to you” and all I could think to do was offer up a prayer to Tariku and Tomas/Binyam’s mom.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

To all you mamas out there. Whether it be children you’re currently raising, have raised or will someday raise. To mamas of fur babies. To mamas who will never have children but choose instead to birth art or books or music that moves the next generation into beautiful action. To you aunties who help raise your nieces and nephews, to you besties who love your friends’s children more than they will possibly ever know.

I love you and am so honored to be amongst you.

Happy Mother’s Day

 

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Girls Girls

Remember this post about Dailah not getting a familial sister? I mentioned that building a sisterhood with friendships will be important for her but what I didn’t mention is that it’s been a lifesaver for me too. Even though I have ridiculously amazing sisters (3 of whom I got to spend time with yesterday, which would explain my overall jovial mood!) I also happen to have friends who have become like sisters to me.

My brother-in-law went out of town to kill innocent turkeys hunt so my sister thought she could pass the time by having us over for a spa night complete with wine and other girly drinks.

One of my greatest friends is a literal beauty school drop out which bodes well for spa night. First, the drinks.

Ashley (“Hot Pocket” as we call her or just “HP”) came up with a Pinterest creation that was waaaay too delicious.

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I can’t actually think of any situation that isn’t made better with these 3 and an alcoholic drink.

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Of course we did “normal” spa stuff like pedicures and manicures.

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But we also did things like bleach my hair (going back to blonde, what can I say? It just feels right.) and this:

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Waxing. facial hair. Ladies, when did this happen? I’m completely aware that I have more testosterone than your average lady. I mean, literally, my blood contains more than the average female. This explains lots of things namely my strong jaw line 😉 and all of the facial hair. Thank God I have a bestie who doesn’t judge, just gets her wax out and takes care of binness.

I’ve been really lucky to have close girlfriends my whole life. I’m a lobster (Friends, anyone?) with anyone I’ve once called friend. I’ll be praying for them and hoping for their happiness all the days of my life. But at this stage in my life my friends/sisters feel more like a lifeline than any other time in my life. Marriage, parenthood and life are made all the better with friends. The really rough times are a bit easier with these people too.

So thankful for these people I’m not even going to worry about the fact that I just posted a picture of me getting my mooostache waxed on the interwebs.

On Teacher Appreciation

When Trysten first went to Kindergarten I didn’t think a whole lot about his teacher or school. I know, I know, shocking. But he was a smart kid with 2 parents who weren’t going to let him fall behind on anything so there wasn’t a huge concern.

Then we brought Tariku home and we started to think more about education. We moved Trysten from his school that, year after year, gets the highest test scores in the district and some of the highest test scores in the state. We moved him because most of his school looked like him, which is fine, but the school didn’t look like us. Our new family now contained a little precious boy of color so an almost all white school wasn’t going to do.

We moved Trysten to quite possibly the most underperforming school in the district. Worried grandparents and community members chided us for the bold move but we knew it was right because Trysten would be fine. Regardless of how the school overall did on standardized tests, Trysten positively excelled.

And then we brought home Tomas and Binyam. There was only one school in our district with full time ESL people on staff and we knew bringing home a first grader we would rely heavily on ESL the first few years, so we switched again. This time to a school that usually ranked towards the bottom on standardized tests. We knew it would be a perfect fit, however, when we first saw there was a large minority population at the school and then that a really great family friend-Mrs.Meinert- would be Tariku’s Kindergarten teacher.

Pretty soon after bringing Tomas and Binyam home we could tell they might need a little more attention in school. Tomas’s phenomenal teacher proactively worked with Mrs. Meinert to have Tomas come down with her class during reading and math. At the end of the first year Tomas’s teacher, Mrs. Dunlap, showed me his first words he had written and I cried during the whole conference. Watching how much he had grown from August-May was nothing short of a miracle and I knew, though Zach and I encouraged him at home, it had everything to do with the two teachers who loved and nurtured him in his first year.

Binyam started out in preschool with Dailah but we could tell he too needed a little more work. His YMCA preschool teacher arranged a meeting for us at our local AEA. They tested Binyam and agreed he needed an all day preschool the following year at-you guessed it-one of the worst performing schools in the district (but which boasted Binyam’s Uncle Jake as the principal) 🙂 . When Binyam began his (second) year of preschool he had no idea how to spell his name, his speech was very poor and he had 0 fine motor skills. At his first conference his teacher showed us little scraps of paper that Binyam had written, “Binyam” and “Mom”. With tears running down my face I grabbed her hand, “Thank you, thank you so much.”

The last few years for Tomas and Binyam have carried on much the same. A tribe of advocates have surrounded them and fought for them, working alongside us. And though my other 3 don’t need the same degree of help, their teachers have kept them challenged and loved just the same. Watching these teachers (my kids usually have the same teachers as the sibling who went before them) love, nurture and cherish my babes finding their footing as well as my higher level learners has been an enormous blessing.

I have gotten emails from these teachers at 10:00 pm, “Hey what do you think about trying this for x?” I’ve gotten more phone calls during the day than you can possibly imagine (I quite literally just got off of one) from teachers and administrators, “Hey wanted to let you know x is having a great day today! Make sure you praise him/her for doing their best during reading!” Notes in planners talking about the progress on a letter or a sound or a journal entry. I’ve seen these teachers have to switch from this kind of technique to another, back to the first and then-no wait, let’s do it this way-within just a few months.

And always, when I’ve cried asking, “Are they going to be ok? What more can I do?” They’ve looked at me, usually with tears in their eyes and said, “Of course they’ll be ok, your kid is amazing and we’re going to do everything we can because they are worth it.” And I believed them.

One of my best girl friends was talking about one of her babes that struggles in her class. As Ashley talked about the little girl I just started crying. I can’t get over how much our kids are loved by their teachers. These teachers who work so much, get paid so little love. our. kids. Incredible.

I know not all teachers are like this, I know that. But we’ve been so incredibly grateful for the teachers we’ve had.

I think on days like today when I get a completely unprompted call from the kids’s school, “Hey, Binyam’s teacher was thinking about him…” I am humbled beyond anything else that there is so much love surrounding my kids. I am so thankful I never have to go through this parenting thing alone. So thankful for our community who has trained and support teachers, imperfectly I’m sure, that are as amazing as they are.

So to all the teachers. The ones I’m related to, the ones I am friends with and the ones who have prayed and thought about my kids every day for a year-thank you so much. My words fail me at a time like this but I am forever indebted to you!

Meet Barbara Streisand

Easter weekend Zach surprised the kids and me with the news that he had bought us a new puppy. Ever since our other great dane passed, we knew we needed another one so this announcement was met with much excitement!

We had to wait a few weeks to see her as she was just a few weeks old when Zach told us about her, but then we finally got to bring her home!

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Around Thanksgiving Zach turned to me and said, “I’ve always wanted a female great dane so I could name her Barbara Streisand. I would, of course, call her ‘Babs’ but how hilarious would that be?”

Thus, our new dog’s name is Barbara Streisand. We call her “Babs” or “Babalonya” or-my personal favorite-“Babadoodle doo”. When she does the great dane singing (dane’s don’t really bark, they sing) then we, of course, call her Barbara Streisand. Interestingly she is quite vocal, always doing a dog version of purring when she’s on a lap which, is often. Chicken or the egg, amiright?

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I love living things. I mean, love them. Animals make me happy. In fact, I don’t trust people who don’t like animals. 😉 Only partially kidding.

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Babs has been to many a baseball and soccer game-basically doing this through all of them.

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Even the cold ones, where she and I insisted on staying in the car the whole game.

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All of our other animals have taken a liking to her. Hagrid especially has been very patient in his brotherly love with all of her shenanigans.

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Super excited to see this little songstress prance around Camp Abe Lincoln as she grows. Love her.

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