On Being a Person Who Has Dreadlocks

So, I have dreadlocks. If you used to read my blog before I dropped off the face of the earth, you probably remember that. Back in 2010, my girlfriends locked up my hair for me. I kept the dreads for about 10 months before I decided that it just wasn’t working for me. Since we’d actually sectioned, backcombed, crocheted, waxed, and powdered them into submission (see also: into hard pieces of hair that resembled cat poop [love you, Jane and Joy!]), I was able to simply comb them out at the 10 month mark. Basically, they never really locked up – they just looked like dreadlocks. Oh well. It was still an important time of learning and growth!

Then, a few months later, I learned about the “freeform” or “neglect” method of obtaining dreadlocks. This method immediately struck me as right and good. I had been pondering my previous set and had come to the conclusion that for me, dreadlocks should never be an immediate result of one night. I wanted dreadlocks because I refused to comply with pointless social expectations; because I wanted a near-constant reminder to surrender control of my life to God; because I have more important things than my hair (being a wife, being a mama, cleaning my house, making art, connecting with friends…) to think about. So then, why should dreadlocks come easily? Obtaining them should be a slow, steady, thoughtful process. Each little knot, loop, and stray hair should be appreciated. And, perhaps most importantly of all, the dreadlocks shouldn’t look perfect. Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose? Wouldn’t it just be another hairstyle? What would I learn from having perfect hair? I would have naturally-formed dreadlocks, and they would happen in their own time, in their own way.

On February 14, 2011, I did a bit of sectioning to my hair and then agitated the sections a little bit by doing something called “twist and rip” (it’s the most gentle way to give your hair a few starting knots). Then……….I left it all alone. Yeah…that’s it.

Now, a little over 20 months later, my dreads are definitely coming along, but let me tell you – they look like freeform locks. They are squiggly and they are uneven and they are “interesting.” But they are exactly what they need to be and they teach me so many lessons and provide me with so many reminders to just let go. I am humbled by the way they have locked up and shrank to many different lengths. I am forced to look at myself in the mirror, recognize the glorious mess that is my hair, but then choose not to tame it. Oh, I’ve been tempted to chop it all off, and I’ve even wondered why I ever got myself into this in the first place. But all of that continually points me back (sometimes, with the help of encouraging words from wise friends) to the reasons I went down this road in the first place. Rise above. Surrender. Focus on what matters.

I first let go of my hair when I was still living in Rochester, NY, so I didn’t get a lot of attention (positive or negative) since dreadlocks weren’t all that uncommon around there. However, now that I live in Southern California again, I am amazed (and amused) at the things people have said and the looks they’ve given me.

My all-time favorite: “Wow! I love your dreads!…You’re obviously living a very free lifestyle!”

Oh, totally. Just, you know, living in a rental home with my husband and my three kids, cooking and baking and cleaning every day, going to church……that’s what you mean by a free lifestyle, right?

Seriously, though! It’s fascinating to me that dreadlocks elicit such an interesting stereotype. I do realize that there are particular lifestyles that are commonly associated with dreadlocked people, but I do find it interesting that there are people who simply give into that general assumption instead of opening their eyes and looking at the whole person standing before them.

I am not my dreadlocks. I am not my tattoos. I am not my height, or my weight, or my clothing. Sure, some of those things are physical aspects of my body, or they are reflections of my creative side and my spiritual beliefs, but they do not define me. Rather, they are defined by me. They are pieces of my story but they don’t give it all away. They provide glimpses into the story you’ll learn if you get to know me. But why stop with the pieces?

 

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Filed under dreadlocking, photographs, tea-timing

The Idea of a Blog

When I think about the idea of keeping a blog, I feel really irritated. It’s like, why does anyone care what I have to say? I don’t know anything. Better to avoid steering someone in the wrong direction. Keep my life private. Leave people alone.

Yeah…I know. It’s weird.

Because when I think about all the ways I have been meaningfully influenced by other people’s willingness to just put themselves out there via their blog, it immediately adjusts my perspective. It’s just that I lose that perspective often when I think about myself & my own blog.

Oh well. I have stuff to say. I want to remember what it felt like to be 26. Or what it felt like to be a mama & a wife at 26. Or how it felt to try to move through this life with joy at such a crazy, intense speed (I’m not the only one who feels that, right?). I don’t want to tell anyone what to do or how to do it, but that’s not what I’m here for…anymore. (Oh, humility. It hurts, eh?) I just need a place. Here it is. It’s been here, waiting.

So…I’m considering the idea of a blog, & how it can be extremely instrumental in my life, & I’m welcoming that.

Here we go!

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Filed under tea-timing

blathering and a quick update

It’s mid-afternoon here and I’m just finishing up my last sips of chai masala tea. Yum. I like tea. Ryan took Jack with him to the studio and Forrest is napping peacefully (for the moment), so it’s quiet (except for the incessant traffic outside my window [yes, I seem to have lost perspective since moving from Southern California]). I was just sitting here on my bed, knitting and trying really hard to ignore the fact that it’s 67 degrees today (at the end of June) when I remembered that I have something to tell you. That made me much happier. Well, the knitting made me feel happy, too, because it’s a blanket for my wee one. Oh, and also, my thoughts were traced with bits of episodes of Dr. Who, and that also makes me (strangely) happy. (I feel really odd admitting that “out loud” here because I’m so ridiculously not a TV person and I don’t even have a TV. We’ll just move on now. But I seriously love Dr. Who.)

But anyway.

First of all, it’s really cool to read the comments from those of you who’ve been visiting my little space here ever since I began writing again this week. Thanks for holding out for me! It means a lot. Kisses to you.

Also, I wanted to give you all a bit of a site update. For the time being, I’ll be reverting back to the URL http://mamarissa.wordpress.com as opposed to http://mamarissa.com. This change will officially occur as of June 26th, so if you keep up with me via reader or anything else in which you may have entered my site as mamarissa.com, be sure to change it so you still receive updates! I wouldn’t want you to miss any of my riveting posts. Wink.

Love love love!

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Filed under tea-timing

It’s 4:45pm & my kids are still in their PJs

I’m sitting here at the table with a cup of tea. My boys just got up from their nap time & quiet time. We’re giggling off and on because a storm just rolled in and our windows were open. I asked Jack to crank the window closed and right then the wind and rain came down so hard that he got soaked and the screen flew out of the window. He just laughed and laughed. I ran to close the window over our sink but the fan sitting in it was spraying me with so much water that I could barely see. Now, only 5 minutes later, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping. Oh, little adventures.

Earlier today, I was adding a few knots to some of my front sections of hair that haven’t quite dreaded up yet, and Forrest wanted to “help.” He sat on my lap and just twisted my hair all around. It felt good. It’s something you kind of give up when you have dreads – there aren’t a lot of people who understand how clean dreadlocks can be, and so, there are few people who will just play with your hair for fun. Except your little kids. You can count on them for sure.

Do you ever have that feeling that nobody really gets you? It sounds narcissistic when I say it like that, but I mean it innocently. I think I feel that way because I have forgotten how to share myself. I mean, it’s so easy to share half-versions of ourselves on blogs or Facebook or whatever, but what about the full versions in real life? I’m sure that not everyone struggles with this. But I am a stay-at-home mama (who loves what she does) and I don’t get out a lot because there are so many blessings to tend to here within these walls. I would like to see myself open up so that people can get me. Because I’m pretty sure that’s the key here.

Anyway…time to get my kids dressed. (Yes, it’s 4:45pm.)

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Filed under Forrest, Jack, laughter is good, tea-timing

it’s good to be Mama.

I went to get an ultrasound today. It was my first for this pregnancy, and I was a little stressed out about it for some reason. I take that back – the reason is that they told me I had to guzzle down 24 ounces of water 30 minutes before my appointment and then hold it until after the ultrasound. (I really think that could be classified as abuse.) But it turns out that 24 ounces first thing in the morning isn’t too bad (except for when the ultrasound is done and you get up and your baby dances on your extremely full bladder and you think, ohmahgah why do these people hate me so much?). Truly, though, the technician was extremely sweet and she said that everything looked perfect.

I was amazed by how wonderful it felt to see my baby on that screen. I recognized the feeling – it’s something I felt with both my boys – but I guess it surprised me that I’m still in such awe of this process of bringing new life into the world. Those two lines on the pregnancy test, the swelling of my belly, the first kicks, those glimpses of my babies on the ultrasound screen, the incredible process of labor and birth and bonding and those teeny tiny little baby bodies – I love it all and I feel so honored to carry the title of Mama.

Ahh…happy thoughts.

Oh, and since we’re on the subject, here’s a I-don’t-own-a-real-camera photo of me and my belly from a few days ago. I was 20 weeks and 3 days pregnant at the time.

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Filed under on being a mama, photographs, pregnancy

a long-winded explanation about why I am beginning to distrust stinging insects

I’m not really the type of gal who is easily disturbed by insects. I mean, I don’t really love them, but as long as they’re gentle or they basically want to avoid me, I’m happy to share the air with them. The problem is, I kind of feel like insects of the stinging variety are following me through my years, and I wish they knew how much I don’t like it.

As a teenager, I was stung by a wasp while retrieving the mail. I don’t know why a wasp was hanging out by the mailbox or why it didn’t want me to get my mail, but I let it slide because it was the first time.

And then, when I was living in Texas and was still pregnant with Jack, I nannied for several different kids. I used to nap along with one of the little girls I looked after, and one time, I woke up to the sound of buzzing. A mud dauber (in other words, a hideous reddish-brown wasp) was flying angrily around my room. I was able to “take care of it” probably only because of the rush of adrenaline it gave me. Maybe a month later, I found another one in my room (thankfully, this time the little girl I looked after wasn’t sleeping in there). I “took care” of that one, too.

This one is the worst. One day, when Jack was only a couple of months old, he was sleeping on my bed and I was on the computer in a corner of my room. I felt something tickle my hand and figured it was just a cord brushing against me. Well, then I felt it again, got a bit curious, and looked over at my hand. Nope, not a cord. A mud dauber. GAH! I leapt up and the mud dauber buzzed to the window, behind the blinds. Fortunately, Ryan was home, so I grabbed Jack and ran to Ryan to ask him to help me. He searched the room and found no trace of the stupid bug, but suddenly, Jack was screaming. I looked all over him and found no reason for distress, so I hugged him to me and tried to soothe him. Suddenly, I experienced such an intensely painful sting on my finger, which was supporting Jack between his legs. It was so painful that I may have dropped Jack if I hadn’t been holding him right next to the bed. I laid him down and immediately stripped off his little sleeper. Lo and behold, there on his leg was the mud dauber, and there were at least five stings on Jack’s tiny little inner thigh. It was heartbreaking.

After that, I once had to chase a bee out of my apartment in California, but it’s nothing to get upset about when I compare it to the baby-stinging mud dauber.

And that brings us to our house here in New York. A couple of weeks ago, a honey bee was just hanging out above our kitchen sink. We tried to figure out a way to capture it so that we could let it go outside, but it didn’t want to cooperate and we (by we, I mean Ryan, of course) were forced to take more drastic measures. And then, just the other day, we came in from a long day away from home only to find a ginormous hornet hanging out on our kitchen ceiling!

What is the meaning of this?! I mean, really? Is it normal? Does everyone feel like they are constantly fighting off stinging insects, or have they just taken a particular liking to me and my home? It’s really quite ridiculous. I’m starting to feel suspicious.

These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night. Seriously.

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Filed under Jack, my delightful husband, tea-timing

as I jump back on the scene

I’m just going to jump right back in. Yes, I took a 9-month hiatus, but I really don’t have any explanation for it other than telling you I had a severe case of writer’s block. I’m back now!

It’s Monday morning and the sun is shining through the trees in my backyard. I don’t think I can properly express to you how much relief I feel when I see that the trees have leaves. Green leaves. This past winter forced me to hide inside myself and now that green just keeps inviting me outward. It’s quite refreshing.

A couple of days ago, I took some time to adjust some of my post categories and just do general maintenance on my blog. I was surprised by how badly I wanted to delete a bunch of my earlier more embarrassing posts. You know, the ones where I acted like I knew what I was doing. But I was struck by the thought that this blog is sort of like a journal. It’s a bad idea to rip out the pages of the dumb, embarrassing, shallow entries because really, whether we like it or not, those entries are a part of our past and they are a tiny little piece of the greater mosaic our lives have become now. You can’t just remove little bits here and there. So, all the posts remain (except for the ones where I talked about giveaways because those are just annoying).

I’ve been in one of those reflective moods lately. I mean, I usually am, but being pregnant (yes! I’m pregnant – 20 weeks and 4 days along) always makes me think. I love that peaceful stretch of time after the first trimester (and beyond) sickness leaves, but before the third trimester aches and pains come to visit. I love to feel my baby move and to think about when I felt my other two babies move in utero – look at their lovely little lives now! And my life! Look at how each child changes my life. They’ve opened my heart, softened me, and they embody such sweetness. How is it that we grow so hardened as we age? I want to be soft again. Life could be simpler that way, I think.

I’m starting this week by challenging myself to consider every task, every event, every conversation as assignments from God. What would happen if I chose to see things this way? I might stop rushing through the day. I might value every moment instead of classifying parts of my day as either “important” or “unimportant,” don’t you think? This moment with my cup of tea and the sunshine streaming through the windows with the sound of my boys playing happily together in the living room is just as meaningful as when I’m doing dishes, or hanging out with Ryan, or reading books to the boys – because it was assigned to me as part of my day.

I just want to slow down.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Filed under on being a mama, pregnancy, tea-timing