Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The ArchAndroid

The same good friend that recommended the book I'm reading now (Three Cups of Tea) also hipped me to a relatively new artist Janelle Monae.  I got her album The ArchAndroid and the first couple of times I listened to it, I thought it was way too strange.  But it's really starting to grow on me!  It's really refreshing to hear something so radically different when everyone is essentially doing the same things over and over again.  Plus, there are some tracks on this album that have a really old school, classic feel (think Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn but also Judy Garland . . . lol!)  So I decided to do a little research and watch some videos on YouTube.  And, to my surprise, I think this sister is a natural, i.e. she wears her natural hair texture.  She gets extra cool points for that! So hats off to this very creative sister!  Once I get through this album, I'm going to check out her other one Metropolis

Here's a link to "Tightrope":

And maybe my favorite from the album, "Cold War" (I love the video, by the way!  Ms. Monae is stunning!!:

And another one I really love "Sir Greendown":

Also, check out this interesting review of The Archandroid

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: Dreaming Me by Jan Willis

I picked up this book after receiving recommendations for it from two sources.  It's not often you hear about a Black woman's experience with Buddhism and so I knew I had to read it.  And I'm so pleased that I did.  I related in so many ways to Willis especially when it comes to wondering why I was born into the family I was when I am the way I am.  I found myself nodding in agreement so often, I had to chuckle.  No surprise that I found my way to Buddhism like Willis did!  

The book was hard emotionally in some parts.  I know that having never lived in the segregated south with the KKK as a serious threat, I can't really appreciate the kind of terror Black folks had to live in.  Willis made this existence stunningly clear.  I mean, things like having to drive around in the sweltering heat with the windows rolled up for fear that some racist would throw acid to blind a Black child . . . it's hard to imagine.  But it's the truth.  Also, Willis does some work to find out her family's history and there were some parts of her search that made me boil with anger.  

And there were some parts that just really struck home like when Willis father tried to let her know that she was just as valuable as her White counterparts.  Meanwhile, society had let her know differently.  Willis wishes that the foundation for a strong self-esteem was laid right from the beginning because in truth, that is the only effective way to do it.  Trying to instill self-esteem in a child who has already been barraged with only negativity about themselves is an uphill (and mostly futile) endeavor.  

Willis also struggled with some phobias like a fear of snakes (like I do) and lightning.  She lives in a house where there are snakes all around.  One gets in her house.  She doesn't freeze or go into shock or anything like I would so I don't think her fear of snakes is as profound as mine.  Her fear of lightning is and I could totally sympathize.  She goes through a form of therapy that helps to realize her fear of lightning is rooted in the terror that the KKK caused for her earlier in life.  This really saddened me but at the same time I was happy that she got to the bottom of it and was able to live life a little more freely.

It was amazing how she tied the book in at the end to her beginnings in the Baptist church, realizing that she didn't need to reject one path to embrace another.  I just loved the way this book ended and had to go back to read that part again.  It was just really sumptuous!  It's a brilliantly written, honest book that chronicles one woman's extraordinary journey: the struggles, the lessons, the hurts and failures as well as the triumphs. 

I really enjoyed this memoir and highly recommend it especially if you are a woman interested in Buddhism.  There are so many pearls of wisdom and insights in this book that I would really love to own it.  I will be keeping my eyes open.

By the way, keeping my eyes open has yielded me three books from the thrift store, I'm happy to say:  Eat, Pray, Love, Autobiography of a Yogi, and a collection of O. Henry's short stories.  All for less than $2.  Can't be mad at that at all. 

I'm currently reading Three Cups of Tea.  It's taking me a little while to get into it (i.e. it has a slow start) but it comes highly recommended by my good friend. 

Going it alone?

I never imagined that homeschooling would be something I would do in isolation.  I always thought that when I was ready, I'd go looking and I'd find a cohesive, vibrant homeschooling community to be a part of.  So far, this is not the case.  There are few homeschooling groups I'm a part of but they are not co-ops   Co-ops generally meet consistently and have an agenda/goal for each meeting.  They are more structured and this is what I would love to have.  The homeschooling groups I'm a part of have mailing lists with all kinds of activities and interesting (though often expensive) programs and I keep thinking I'll get involved with some of the activities (like the playgroups and all that) but the truth is going to these groups would involve 40+ minutes of driving.  One group would have me driving to the city and fighting for parking.  The other would have me driving north further into the country and while I wouldn't have to worry about parking, I would have to worry about the lack of diversity.  

But so far, I haven't been able to find anything going on close to home.  I've tried starting my own playgroup but after weeks of showing up and being the only one there, I'm starting to think that there are just not that many homeschoolers where I am.  And it's discouraging.  I know that I cannot commit to driving 40+ minutes multiple times a week.  But I really don't want to homeschool "on my own".  I can handle the academics but socially, I need the [I]consistent[/I] support and friendship of other homeschooling families.  DS is starting kindergarten this year and I felt myself hesitating to buy his materials just because I don't know how to keep going.  I often feel so alone doing this.  Summer has not been too bad because the neighbors' kids are around.  When they go back to school, I cannot bear to hear my Z1 complain about not having friends to play with and not wanting to play with his baby brother all the time.  I'm kind of at a loss.  And dreading winter.  At least now we can go out to the playground or pool and hang out for hours. 

I really don't need to have a large group of homeschoolers.  Honestly, one committed homeschooling family that we click with would be fine.  I don't know.  I know that having that kind of community relieves a lot of the pressure that builds when it's just you and your children all the time.  When a friend comes over to hang out, even the toughest of days becomes more manageable just by virtue of their presence.  I need people who I feel comfortable with so that we can barter childcare, help each other do this work of raising our children in an environment that encourages learning. 

I often say I'm taking homeschooling one day at a time but honestly, in my heart of hearts, I want to homeschool.  Already, there are so many wonderful reasons I can easily identify that make homeschooling perfect for our family.  But this one issue of social isolation is a huge sticking point.  And I'm forced to take a look at schools just to know what's out there just in case I can't 'make any headway in this regard.

I mean, in many ways, this issue of social isolation that comes with homeschooling is just a continuation of the isolation I've felt as a stay-at-home mom in an area where there are very few stay-at-home moms.  I wonder why I'm drawn to do things that are just not that popular where I am?  I'm not the most social of people but I know I'm not willing to go it alone. 

I'm not giving up hope yet. I recently met a great homeschooling family.  I'm looking forward to getting to know them better.  And I'm thinking about maybe taking the train on down to the city to try one of the playgroups.  Hopefully, the efforts pay off. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

For a number of reasons,

I do not subscribe to fitness magazines geared toward women.  I'll borrow them from the library but I absolutely refuse to spend my money on them.  First off, they give the same advice month after month:  
Get a flat belly!
Try the sure-fire workout!
Eat this and never gain an ounce again!

They always ignore women of color. To them, we simply don't exist.  

But this month's issue of Fitness, I did purchase for my flight back from California.  I figured I needed something light to read and I thought this magazine would fit the bill.  But it raised so many issues that it was hardly a light read!

Here's a question and answer:
I'm African-American. [I felt encouraged when I read that--maybe they're paying us some mind!] What's the best way to wear my hair when I workout?
A study from Wake Forest Univesity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina found that 31 percent of AA women polled said they exercise less than they should because of hair-care worries.  Before you ditch the dumbbells, try this routine from stylist Kim Kimble.

Step 1 Pull or brush your hair back into a low ponytail
Step 2 Twist the tail up into a bun and loosely fasten with bobby pins
Step 3 Wrap a cotton scarf around your hair line to absorb sweat

Awesome advice, right? Unless, of course, you have a weave or wear your natural hair. (locks or loose)  Ain't no brushing or pulling going on with my super tightly coiled hair without it being wet.  And a cotton scarf?  Really?  No thank you.  Cotton absorbs oil from the hair and that's the last thing my hair needs.  So who is this stylist they found?  And what an insult to throw this little 2 cents of beauty advice to Black women while touting the report that we exercise less due to our hair. That's just us crazy Black women . . . messing up our hair is more important than our health. ((((Huge eye roll))))  Why not take the time to explore this issue further?  Give it the time and attention it deserves?  I may actually write in on this one because they just can't be serious.

But this was MINOR compared to the blurb they did about Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliff, Olympic distance runners. Radcliffe says: "Labor's harder than a marathon.  When I run, my body works with me.  But when I had my first baby, my body worked against me--for 27 hours."  

Sounds cute right?  Except this is the nonsense that has women scared to death about giving birth.  Running a marathon is not something the body does naturally.  You have to train hard for weeks to do it.  Some would even argue that running in and of itself is not an activity the body is designed to do (walking long distances, yes, running, no).  When you are running, you are essentially working agains twhat your body would like to be doing.  Birth on the other hand?  Womens' bodies are designed to carry and bring forth life.  Nine times out of ten, if the birth process is left alone, it will proceed normally.  I'll agree:  labor is hard work.  Some women find it harder than others.  There are complications sometimes.  But if all women were to realize how to work with their bodies (and not feel that they are working against their body) and given the right tools and mindsets to handle labor, I think many would find that it would proceed as smoothly as the best of marathon runs.  Another point I could write about to this magazine. I just feel this was hugely irresponsible. 

So, I'm pretty sure I won't be subscribing to Fitness anytime soon.  I actually really just prefer fitness magazines geared towards men.  I can figure out how to modify most things.  Do you subscribe to any magazines about fitness that pertain to women?  Can you recommend one that won't drive me batty with hair care and beauty tips (for White women only) and useless advice? 
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