“Someone said my hair is springy and they pulled it today like this – boing, “ my daughter said with tears in her eyes. She demonstrated by pulling her twisted hair and letting it go. She was in kindergarten and just had her first incident with having “different hair.” At that point, at the age of five, she had not thought much about her hair at all, but now that it was called to her attention she did not want to be different.   Different meant Other. She wanted hair like the other girls in her class. Swinging hair, not springy hair. I heaved a deep sigh. I knew this was coming. I have read to her since she was a baby preparing for this day, books about smart and funny and beautiful black girls with springy hair, but I just didn’t know that it would be so early.

I mentioned the incident to her teachers, a black woman and a white man. Both were sympathetic and both understood that this was more than it was. Yes, it was an innocent remark from a child. I mean, my daughter’s hair  is springy. It does go “boing” when stretched. The black teacher, who often wore her curly hair in a high ponytail like my daughter’s hair when not in twists, made a big deal of their similar hairstyles – “your hair looks just like mine!” And the class had a healthy discussion about how wonderfully different they all were – and about keeping their hands to themselves. The incident was handled beautifully, but I knew that it would come around again. And it did, and it still does – and the comments are not just from children either.  The comments from adults are even more damaging because children are innocent while the adults should know better.  Obviously the adults have their own issues, but if they can’t celebrate my daughter as she is, I wish that they would keep their mouths shut.

Now at just shy of 12 years old, she has accepted her curly hair. She obsessively reads natural hair care blogs and watches YouTube videos about how to wash it and which products to use. Every other week she prompts me to buy yet another natural hair care product (and there are many on the market now, the industry has figured out that this is as lucrative a market as relaxed hair) trying to find that magic potion that will tame her springy hair. I am happy that she is on the right track, but still chagrined that she tries to contain her hair with clips and bows. She wears it in a low neat bun rather than a high curly ponytail. I show her magazine photos (when I can find them) of black models and actresses with big curly hair, “Isn’t her hair pretty?” I ask.

“Surely she sees you as a role model.” This is what people say when I tell them of black-girl-self-esteem hair stories. True, I wear my hair in a natural style and she has not seen me any other way. I locked my hair right before her first birthday and wore it in twists before that.  But my hair is long.   It is not her hair.  It hangs and swings.  She loves to play with it and twist it in intricate buns, replicating the styles she sees on YouTube.  She is often with me when strangers compliment my hair.

I am amused by the attention my hair creates – most of the time. The back-handed compliment “your hair is so clean and neat” is not amusing – as if my hair is the exception to the rule. Hampton University’s ban on dreadlocks for business school students is not amusing. The school policy forbidding 7 year old Tiana Parker to attend class while wearing her dreadlocks is not amusing. There are countless ways, subtle and not so subtle that we are told that we must conform to an idealized standard of beauty to be successful and accepted.

It’s exhausting.

Really people, lighten up. It’s just hair.

Even though our hair is different, I do hope that my daughter sees me as a role model.   I hope that she sees that with my hair, my dreadlocked long and lion-like hair, I say to hell with all of that. Everyday that I shop and work and speak and travel and read and exist quite happily with this gorgeous head of hair, I defy the stereotype that I have to conform to a certain standard of beauty.   I say nothing, but shout everything, with my hair.

 

Funkidivagirl Pink Dress Dreads

Keep reading Funkidivagirl.com for more Hair Stories.

© 2013 – 2014, Funkidivagirl.com. All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

{ 6 comments }

Christmas Countdown

in Christmas

So this is basically how Christmas is going for me this year:

Bitstrip

It’s funny, but also true.  I’m not a Strooge – Christmas is my favorite holiday – but after 20 years of being the sole  Magical Elf in my family, I’m just burnt.   But since  I have this little girl at home who wants a Christmas tree and homemade gingerbread cookies, making her happy and giving her the Christmas she wants trumps my desire to get on a jet plane bound for the Caribbean and chuck the whole thing.

So in the spirit of Christmas, I’m answering a couple of Mama Kat’s writing prompts:  1. Write a blog post inspired by the word pajamas. 2. A favorite holiday tradition.

Everyone gets new pajamas in my house to wear on Christmas Eve; it’s a holiday tradition born out of my desire to have good-looking people in my Christmas morning photos.

I usually buy PJ Savage pajamas for myself; this is the pair that I chose this year:

PJSavagebottoms

My daughter wanted a “onesie” and we found the perfect one at Gapkids:

onsie

My husband decided that he too wanted to wear a onesie.  Dear God, NO!  Although there are plenty of onesies available online for adults (why, God, why?), we are all discouraging this sure to be horrifying look.  So far he hasn’t gotten around to buying one.  Let’s hope he doesn’t.

Another tradition that we continue each year is buying new ornaments for the family; we have amassed quite a collection.   We buy ornaments on every trip that we take and try to buy an ornament for each family member to reflect something that they did that year.   These are ornaments from our travels to Washington DC, New Orleans, Nashville, Hilton Head, Montreal and Québec City.

IMG_6598 IMG_6617 IMG_6616 IMG_6615 IMG_6614 IMG_6613 IMG_6610 IMG_6607

If you have ever read my Christmas blog posts before, you know that I change my color scheme for Christmas decorations every year.  Recently I’ve narrowed it done to 4 rotating color schemes because it was too stressful thinking of new colors each year.  This year the color scheme is “colorful.”  I found some beautiful color bulbs at Michael’s (on sale too!), and used colored lights, some colorful spangly sticks and funky Whooville-like present sticks to decorate the Christmas tree.   Most of the tree is covered with our family ornaments.  My daughter says that one day soon we will need two trees to hold them all.  As if I would decorate two trees!

IMG_6619 IMG_6620 IMG_6621

So that’s how I’m surviving enjoying this Christmas season.  What about you?

**BONUS FOOTAGE**

Are you one of those Christmas crafty types?  I am not, but my daughter loves crafting; she made this cute snowman cocoa kit for her classroom Secret Santa gift.   She got the idea from Anne or Shine.  If you want to be crafty this Christmas, my daughter highly recommends Ann’s DIY projects.

IMG_6625

(I think that she really wants to keep this for herself.)

© 2013, Funkidivagirl.com. All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

{ 2 comments }

Totally Random Thoughts for December 12th

in Totally Random

I’m back – two weeks in a row!  I’m answering a couple of Mama Kat’s writing prompts this week, 1. Something you love about December 2. A favorite Christmas ornament, and just riffing on other totally random thoughts.

So far I’m not loving December.   While I do have my Christmas shopping done, I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit.  We finally got our Christmas tree, but this is what it looks like

christmas tree

Undecorated.  And it will remain that way until I decide to decorate it, hopefully by next week.  Notice that I didn’t say “the family will decorate” because that’s not happening.  I decorate and undecorate it alone.  I’m so over having a Christmas tree.

This weekend I will take my daughter to see Atlanta Botanical Gardens Lights Holiday Nights and to the Holiday Tea at St. Regis Hotel, so maybe that will get me into the Christmas spirit.  And I’m sure my family’s annual trip to the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee Reynold’s Plantation property will help as well – ice skating, decorating a gingerbread house, eating cookies with Mrs. Claus and sitting in the lobby by the huge roaring fire are on the agenda.  There are 16 families going with us this year – 69 people – so we are sure to have a ball.

I do like drinking hot chocolate, something I only do in the month of December.  It’s worth my occasional indulgence of dairy.   It’s made with premium chocolate and whipped cream and mixed with this handy gadget that I bought from Williams-Sonoma.   I even add a bit of  Trader Joe’s Caramel Fleur de Sel Sauce to make it even more decadent.

aerolatte

hot chocolate

My tree may not be decorated, but as I do every year, I bought Christmas ornaments for everyone in my family.  This year’s Favorite Ornament is for my son, to represent his first year in college.

UMornament

Speaking of my son, when I talked to him recently all he could talk about was Art Basel and what an incredible time he had hanging out at the galleries and concerts.   Yeah well, he had better be hitting the books as well because it’s time for final exams.   Good mom that I am, I made these Toffee Bars from Real Simple and packed them along with healthy snacks in a care package.

collegecarepackage

I’m done studying now that my French class is over for this session and while I wish I can say that I am more fluent, I would be lying.  In fact I am more confused than ever.  I think it’s easy to know a few phrases to get you around Paris on a week long trip, but it’s quite another thing to study French grammar with all it’s “this is the rule-except when it’s not the rule” idiosyncrasies.  I am in awe of non-native English speakers who have mastered English because learning a new language is hard.   But I will keep studying and hope that one day it will all click and I will be able to carry on a full conversation in French.   I have gotten a few levels past this

chalkboardbonjour

I may be struggling in French, but I’ve had a personal revelation while listening to Oprah Radio on Sirius XM.   Oprah was complaining to Stedman about something or another and said, “but I just want to be seen as nice.”  And he replied, “But you are not nice; you are kind, you are generous, but you are not nice.  Gayle is nice.”   And after some thought, she had to agree and it freed her from trying to be someone that she isn’t.   Stedman’s statement was an ”ah-ha” moment because it describes me so well.  That may sound awful – who doesn’t want to be thought of as nice? – but if you substitute the word “nice” for “sweet” then I think you can relate.   Not everyone is nice (sweet).  I am fun, supportive, kind, thoughtful, generous and loyal – all great qualities to have in a friend – but I’m not nice.   I think others who know me well would agree.

That’s it for me on a totally random December 12th.  Maybe the next time I blog I will have my Christmas tree decorated and some holiday spirit.   How about you; how are you faring this December?

© 2013, Funkidivagirl.com. All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

{ 1 comment }

Totally Random Thoughts For December 5th

in Totally Random

So….yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but I’m here now and let’s just concentrate on the positive, okay?   Last week my son was home from college, I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (an awesome movie), I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary and I saw Kim and Kayne at the mall (check the Instagram pics), so it was a pretty rocking week.  Today it’s December 5th, a random day, and there’s not much going on in my world.  I haven’t even started with Christmas.  It’s a perfect day to answer a few random prompts from Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

What were you blogging about a year ago today?  What has changed?  A year ago today I was answering another Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompt “What was the last thing you bought.”  I wrote about buying my Louis Vuitton Kusama Speedy while in France.  I’m not in France anymore (boo-boo), but I still have the purse.  In fact I have since learned that in just one year my purse has tripled in value -not that I ever intend on selling it!  It’s an awesome purse, but an even funnier story about how I bought it; if you haven’t read it, you should.

Louis Vuitton Kusama Speedy

 

A hobby that you would pursue, if you were the type to pursue hobbies. I would learn how to knit so that I could make clothes for Chili Dawg.  He already has a snazzy tie, but he could use a nice sweater to go with it.  And I guess that I could knit for people too.  People who wore snazzy ties.

chilidawgintie

 

A trend you’re not much a fan of.   This list could go on forever because I’m very opinionated, but just off the top of my head….

Brussel sprouts.  Aren’t these the same vegetables that our parents used to make us eat and we hated them for it?  Now they are on every restaurant menu and splattered across every Pinterest board.  Even roasted and glazed in a balsamic reduction and tossed with bacon, they are still brussel spouts.  They were yucky then and they are yucky now.

brussels-sprouts-new

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Moustaches. Besides during the month of Movember, why are moustaches on every tee shirt, coffee mug and key chain?  Who decided that this was “a thing?”

moustachesmugs

Harem pants.  Please Hammer, don’t.

harempants

photo credit: forever21.com

 Cropped shirts.  Presumably to go with the Harem Pants?

croppedtop

photo credit: forever21.com

 

And that is what I think about on a random December 5th.

 

© 2013, Funkidivagirl.com. All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

{ 2 comments }

This is part 3 in a three part series for high school students and parents.  If you missed it before, please read Part 1 – Getting Started  and Part 2 – College Visits.  

 

PART 3 – THE APPLICATION PROCESS

 

1. Work on the college essay over the summer.  As our college counselor explained it, this is best done the summer between the junior and senior year of high school because by then you have something of interest to say.  If your high school offers it, take an essay-writing workshop.  You should save all essays that you write because sometimes the same essay can be tweaked for use with different college or scholarship applications.  Oh, and college admission personnel are sick of the “I went on a mission trip and it it changed my life” essay, so write about something else.

2. Start the Common Application as soon as possible.  Although more and more colleges are using the Common Application exclusively, most will still require their own supplement application as well.  Nevertheless, as soon as you can fill out the general parts of the Common Application, the sooner you can start to work on the individual supplements for each school.

3. Ask for teacher recommendations early.   I’m sure that every year teachers get last minute desperate requests from students asking for recommendations, but don’t let this be you.   If you want the recommendation given to the college in a timely manner, it is only fair to give the teacher ample time to write one.  If needed, provide an addressed and stamped envelope for the recommendation to be sent by postal mail.

My son gave hand-written thank you cards and a small gift of gourmet chocolate to each teacher who wrote a recommendation for him.  He also used that opportunity to thank each teacher for supporting and encouraging him during his high school years.

4. Does the college conduct admission interviews?  Inquire early.   This information will not always be readily found on the college website, but a phone call the to admissions office will quickly give an answer.  Interviews can be conducted by university staff or local alumni and may or may not have any bearing on the admission decision.  Either way, it can’t hurt and it is another way to ask questions.  My son had 3 or 4 interviews at a local Starbucks and found them to be a positive experience.

5. Email or call the school if you are unsure about anything.   The schools prefer to hear directly from the student, so that is ideal, but if as a parent you are concerned or confused about any part of the application process, call.   Most contact numbers and names can be found on the school’s website, but students this is also a good opportunity to keep in touch with that college admissions rep that you met on a school visit.

6. Set aside a specific time to discuss college applications.  Don’t discuss college all day, every day in your house.  This will only stress out your family.  Do not make it the topic of dinner conversation.   My family scheduled meetings on Sunday evenings.  During that meeting time we reviewed anything that still needed to be done and updated our spreadsheets.   Parents: remember that the colleges will communicate with your child, not you.  It’s frustrating – especially if your child is one to let things fall through the cracks – but you’re not really in control anymore, so get used to it.

7. Stay organized.   Although this was a tip in my first blog post, it’s so important that I will say it again.   You must have a systematic way of keeping track of all the moving parts to this college application process or you will quickly become overwhelmed.  This could be in a dedicated notebook or in a computer document.   I made several Excel spreadsheets and put them in Google Docs so that my son could update and add to them as needed.

My Excel Spreadsheets:

College Search:  We used this spreadsheet for general research information.

College Application Checklist:  This spreadsheet helped us keep track of the information sent to each school.   We also used this spreadsheet to record each school’s admission decision and orientation dates.

College Recommendations: Sometimes the colleges wanted different formats of recommendations (electronic or paper, sent by email or thru the postal mail) and different kinds of recommendations (music teacher, academic teacher or school counselor) and this spreadsheet helped us keep track of it all.  This spreadsheet might not be necessary for everyone, but since my son was applying to music schools, which is an entirely separate application process from the larger university, it was needed in our house.

 Decide on Accepted Schools: Yay! –  All that hard work has paid off; you are going to college!  Mostly likely you have been accepted to a few schools and now a decision has to be made to attend just one.   Sometimes that is not an easy choice.  This spreadsheet helped us look at all the factors in an objective way.

8.  Parents: if your child rejects your help, let it go.  Students: if you don’t want your parents to help you, find someone else.  While my son enjoyed our family college tours and welcomed my organizational help, he did not want my help proof-reading his essay and his father’s help with his music resume.  So we encouraged him to ask his favorite English teacher for help with the essay and an older friend helped him craft his music resume.   I never saw any parts of his applications until recently; I found his college essay while cleaning out an office drawer.  (It is brilliant.)

So that’s it; I have shared everything that we have learned over the last grueling year.  I hope that my tips in these three blog posts will make it a little bit easier for your family to successfully navigate the college admission experience.  Good luck, God bless and Go Canes!

It's All About The U

If you leave a comment and subscribe to my blog or Facebook page I will send you my excel spreadsheets for your own use.  Just shoot me an email at Funkidivagirl@funkidivagirl.com.

© 2013, Funkidivagirl.com. All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

{ 1 comment }

This is part 2 in a 3 part series for high school students and their parents.  If you missed it before, please read Part 1 – Getting Started.  

 

suitcase-with-logos-300x259

PART 2 – COLLEGE VISITS

 

1. Do visit colleges.  Make this a priority junior year and use every school break possible to visit colleges.  You will only have junior year and the fall semester of senior year to visit colleges before applying for admission.

Actually we started casually visiting colleges when my son was a high school freshman.  Whenever we were on vacation near a college, we stopped by and walked around campus.   We didn’t take an official tour; instead we just roamed around campus and stopped by the bookstore and bought a t-shirt.   This plan was simply to get my son used to college campuses and how they felt.   Sometimes it sparked an interest in that college, but sometimes it didn’t.

At the beginning of his junior year we went on more official college visits.  Since it’s best to visit colleges while they are in session, we used fall break in October, winter break in February/March and spring break in April to take college tours.   Although our objective was to visit colleges during our trips, we also made sure to include some fun days in our itinerary as well.

Unless you have definitive colleges in mind that you want to visit, it doesn’t really matter where you go, just go somewhere.  The general rule is to pick small schools, big schools, public schools, private schools, schools in urban settings and schools with traditional closed campuses.   My son wanted to study music, so that helped us narrow down the school visits a bit.  But other than that, he didn’t have much of an idea.  We knew that NYU was a school that he liked (because it was in New York, one of his favorite cities, and it has a great fine arts school), so we took a family trip to New York City during fall break.  Most of the weekend we had fun in New York – we saw a broadway show and visited all our favorite Manhattan spots – but we spent Friday at NYU at the information session and on an official tour.

During his winter break in early March we went to Miami to visit University of Miami, a school recommended to us by a family friend for the incredible music school.  We didn’t know much about UM at the time, but my son had done enough research to see that it was a viable option for music school and Miami is a vacation destination, so that’s what’s we did – we vacationed in Miami and visited UM on Friday.  Even if he hadn’t liked the school, we would have had a nice warm vacation in Miami.

I know many people who cram as many as six school visits in a four day weekend.  This was not our strategy.  True, we could have seen more schools that way, but I know my son – he can only take so much before he shuts down.  Once we toured three northeastern schools during a four-day period and it nearly did us in.   During spring break week we took a road trip to visit three schools, but we also had a few days of just vacation time.

Geography – and your own family’s stamina – will determine how many schools you can visit during a single trip, but try not to burn your family out in the process.  The schools will start to blur and the days of touring are exhausting.  Our entire family went on every college tour so little sister was at every boring meeting and her little legs walked every campus.  We brought a drawing pad, markers and an iPad to keep her entertained during the information sessions and we bribed her otherwise; sugar is her bribe of choice.

However you choose to do it, do visit several colleges as your finances and family situation allows.  We chose to make it a family affair because we used family vacation time and also because my husband and I wanted to be as involved as possible, but many students travel with just one parent or even alone.   Even if you don’t apply to every school that you visit, you will have a good idea about what you like or don’t like.

2. Take the official tour and go to the official information session.  During the junior year of high school and beyond, your college visits should include an official tour and information session, registered through the university (usually an online form).  This serves two purposes:

1 – By taking the official tour you will get access to buildings that you cannot enter on your own, like the student residences.

2 – The admission office has a record of your visit.  This last point is very important because colleges like students that show “demonstrated interest” (a buzzword in college admissions) and a visit definitely shows interest.  If for some reason you cannot take an official tour, then stop by the admissions office during your visit and chat with someone.  Try to find the admissions rep for your state.  Fill out forms if they ask because you want to make sure the admissions office know that you were on campus

By the way, these college tours and information sessions fill up quickly, so register early.   We were shut out of a tour during spring break.

3. Record your reactions to the school.   As soon as we got home from a visit I pulled out my spreadsheet. I recorded my son’s feelings as well as my own about a school, what we liked and didn’t like.   Believe me, after so many college visits they all tend to blur and it’s hard to remember one from the other.

4. Sit in on a class or lecture.  Most professors are happy to have prospective students in class, but it is best to ask before hand.   An inquiry can be made by email or phone to the admissions office or school of your potential major.  While my son was visiting a class, the rest of our family hung out in the student center, got a snack or checked our email.   It’s nice for the student to connect with the class professor afterward if possible.  Most will respond warmly to a handshake and introduction as a prospective student.

5. Explore the surrounding area.   During every college visit we always allowed time to explore the area around campus.   Students, this is where you will be spending much of your leisure time, so it’s good know if it’s a place that you want to be.   Where do students eat off-campus?  Have a meal there.  Where do students shop and hang out?  Walk around that area.  We had a couple of college visits where my son liked the campus, but didn’t like the area around campus and that was important to him.

6. Work your network.   Before your visit, try to find a personal connection to the school.  Ask friends, inquire on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In – I bet you know someone who knows someone who works at the school, is an alumni, or has a contact there somehow.  Email or phone that person to arrange a meeting during the day of your visit, usually they are more than happy to meet.  We had a personal contact at all but one school and arranged a coffee or short meeting with every one of them.   We were able to ask questions and get an insider’s view of the school.

7. Meet with a current university student.   You can start with your high school college counseling office; they should have a list of students that currently attend that university.   If you send that student an email or text message a few days before arriving on campus, the student can arrange their schedule to meet for lunch or coffee.   When possible, my son had lunch at the university dining hall with a former student from his high school while the rest of our family ate lunch elsewhere on campus or nearby in town.   If there are not any high school alumni at the university, work your network.  Someone you know probably knows a student there at the university.  Students, it really does help to get a real feel for the college when you interact with current students.

8. Talk to students on campus.  My husband is the chatty one in our family and never meets a stranger, but even I – who does not typically talk to strangers – talked to students on campus.  Your tour guide is a good place to start.  They are usually very personable and have a broad knowledge about the campus.

One of our personal concerns was how the African American students felt going to a predominately white university and did they feel comfortable and supported.  So we asked them. Since my son was often eating lunch elsewhere without us on campus, he wasn’t there to be embarrassed when my husband and I chatted up students eating next to us at lunch.  Even if we were eating off campus, if they had on a university sweatshirt, we started a conversation.  Since I am in a historically black sorority, if I saw any black student with a Greek shirt on, I introduced myself as a fellow Greek and asked about their experience with university life.   How is their social life?  What did they do for fun?  All of the students we talked to were very helpful and very nice.   You may not be so bold, but those conversations really did give us insight into the overall campus atmosphere.

9. Visit the dining hall, student center, fitness center or anyplace the students hang out.   Often times we saw the fitness center independent of the campus tour; we just went to the desk, identified ourselves as a visiting family and they let us see the facilities.   Sometimes your official college tour will include a meal ticket to eat in the dining hall; it varies at each school.  But even if your tour does not include a meal ticket, students may be able to pay when eating with another student.  If that is not possible, check out the other dining options on campus, usually in the student center.   Definitely take a walk around the student center to see what’s there.  During one campus tour in the fall, it rained most of the day so my daughter and I hung out in the most dreary and dark student center that I had ever seen.   As far as I was concerned, the dank student center was enough of a reason not to apply!  (But I was not applying to college; my son liked the school and applied in spite of my feelings.)

10. If applicable, tour a specific school or department.  My son knew that he was going to major in music, so in addition to the overall university tour, we arranged to visit the music school or department during our college visits.   Usually these tours were very small and unlike the general university tour, they were given by department staff instead of students.   We were able to ask questions and really get a feel for the music program at the school; these special tours greatly influenced my son’s decision about that college.

11. Follow up with anyone you met with during your visit.  Students, you should write a thank you email or card (whichever is most appropriate) to both the person you met with at the university and to the person who arranged the meeting.  Keep that network open; if you are a real person to someone at the school and not just a faceless applicant, it may be the thing to tip the scales in your favor.

12. Connect with the college reps that visit your high school.  Of course you may not be able to visit every school that interests you, but meeting with a rep that comes to your high school is often very beneficial.   You should sign a registration form at the rep’s information meeting because again it shows “demonstrated interest.”   If you become truly interested in the school,  email the rep a few days later to ask any lingering quesitons.  The reps do remember the students who asked questions and made an effort to connect with them.

Exhausted yet?  Wait – we haven’t even gotten to the application process yet!  That will be in the next blog post so keeping reading.

© 2013, Funkidivagirl.com. All rights reserved. Republished only with permission.

{ 1 comment }