It’s Just Hair Right?

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve shared a lot about my experiences since starting this blog. I’ve shared experiences on waxing, breastfeeding, insecurities, marriage, homeschooling and more. I’ve never truly described in detail my journey with natural hair. After growing my locs out for 11 years, I recently had to cut them down quite a bit, and it sparked a lot of emotions.

Hair is a very serious topic when it comes to the black community. Black men take their hairlines and beards VERY seriously. When it comes to black women and our hair?! It’s a completely different dimension. We carefully choose our stylists, products and styles. Our hair is versatile and includes many textures and lengths. Simply put… we just DON’T. PLAY. GAMES when it comes to our hair. Although hair can be gone in a second… although our confidence is supposed to come from within… our hair can make or break us.

For me, it all started back in the Winter of 1989 when my mother gave birth to me… I’m just kidding! I won’t take you back that far, but I will start with my sophomore year of high school. I absolutely loved getting a relaxer! I looked forward to my 6-8 week mark in order to get a touch up and style. Some of my high school friends may remember me calling it the “swoosh-swoosh” after I received my treatment because of how it used to sway back and forth when I turned my head. After a while I stopped looking forward to hair salon visits because a trim always turned into a hair cut. Then all of a sudden, major breakage happened. We assumed it was because of the stylist, so my mother switched me to her hairstylist. Because of the amount of damage that had been done,  I received my first, true hair cut. Majority of my hair was cut to about mid-ear level, while the back was short and tapered. I was not happy about no longer being able to wear a ponytail. But it eventually grew on me.

Overtime, my hair began to grow back slowly, but shortly. Then it happened again. Major breakage. But this time it was worse. I woke up one morning with hair as low as an Amber Rose cut on the left and backside of my head. The hair wasn’t in my scarf, wasn’t on my pillow, and wasn’t in my brush or comb. Still to this day, I couldn’t tell you where my hair went, but it changed my life forever. My mother consoled me and quickly made an appointment with the dermatologist. He told us that the chemicals from the relaxer were just too strong for my hair to handle. My stylist was so helpful. We began adding weaves to my hair so that it could cover the damaged parts until it grew out again. Eventually we cut off the remaining damaged hair, and she referred me to one of her close friends who specialized in natural hair.

I didn’t reach out to her right away. I made a lot of visits to the African Hair Braiding Gallery first. It was the summer time, and since I had no idea what I would be doing with my hair, I decided to protect it with braids. During that time, I began to research locs. This was during the Lil’ Wayne era, and I found myself not liking the idea. It seemed like more men were rocking locs, and they were being worn very basic in my opinion. There was a lack of care, and I was not a fan. I didn’t want to commit to a style that I believed to be more permanent and not know what to do with them. Once I dug deeper and found beautiful women wearing locs of all sizes, lengths, colors and styles, I made the decision to loc.

In August of  2008, I began my loc journey. It took a ton of confidence to rock my “baby locs,” but I did it. These days, individuals are able to get the instant loc’d look with permanent and faux loc extensions. Some also wear wigs and braids over their locs while they are waiting for them to grow a certain length. While I think it’s super creative and inventive, I think starting that way takes away from the experience of having a true loc journey experience. Being able to watch your locs form and grow. Being able to get your first ponytail and then style. It’s an experience I’m glad I got to have. I experienced all of this from my sophomore to senior year in college. None of my friends wore their natural hair. Everyone still wore braids, weaves and relaxers. I went to Penn State, which is a predominantly white university, so within our maybe 4% black community on campus I can only remember one other loc’d female. I honestly felt like a unicorn. It was a good and bad thing. I was different, which meant I didn’t look like everyone else. But I didn’t look like everyone else! So I went back and forth between being confident and a little insecure.

Two pregnancies and several ups and downs later, I’d been loc’d for a total of 11 years. I was finally at “butt-crack” length and super proud of it. However; due to postpartum hair loss and a lot of stress from life, my hair was severely damaged at the roots. Locs were super thin, dropping out of my head like flies, and more. Goes to show you… Things can look great on the outside, but be absolutely terrible on the inside. I wore head wraps nonstop to cover the thinning and spacing in between my locs. So my buns were still very full and tall from the length, and they also still hung long past my waist when worn down. No one could tell. I was so embarrassed, I refused to go to the hair salon until I felt like I had enough new growth to grip and add into my existing locs.

After 11 months of hiding, I finally scurried up the courage to book an appointment. My actual loctician was booked for the next two months, so I tried someone new. I’m not a fan of change, but I’d been following this business just as long as I had been getting my hair done by my loctician. I felt comfortable with trying them out. The shampoo assistant reassured me that regardless of what would happen during my appointment, I wouldn’t walk out looking the way I did coming in. And she was right.

I was informed that my hair was way too long and heavy for my hair to continue to grow healthy. There was too much strain on the current state of my roots, and they would need to cut it. They asked me if I was ok with that, and my response was “I came here with high hopes that you all would be able to restore my hair to a healthy state. If that means it needs to be cut, then by all means, please do what you need to do.” I almost got carried away and said, “Well if we’re cutting, thing let’s go drastic and go for a bob!” Glad I didn’t though lol. I would have been in tears! In that moment, I was super confident with the cut. It didn’t mean too much because I had loss so many locs, cutting them would be no biggie.

I was wrong. While my head felt much lighter, it really hit me when I looked in the mirror at home. I was shocked at how much shorter it was than my previous length. I honestly loved people saying “Oh my goodness, your locs are so beautiful and long!” although I knew there was damage. I had always wanted to see how long my hair could grow. I was actually obsessed with it. I didn’t want to post pictures because I was still growing accustomed to the new me. I was still figuring her out. You would think it wasn’t a big deal because clearly I’ve been this length before! Way before my hair grew to the length it did before I cut it. My hair had become my comfort zone. “Oh you’re having a major breakout?” It’s ok, my hair looks good and long.” Girl look at this mom pouch?!” “It’s ok, my hair is longer than anyone who may try to judge me for it!” Terrible, I know. I was using insecurities to make me confident.

I’ve now realized that all of the length that was cut off was dead weight. A whole bunch of poor self care, disappointment, past hurt, insecurities, and stress. It would have been ignorant of me to hold onto things that were straining and damaging my roots. My foundation. It was much deeper than hair.

To some, this post is highly dramatic and extra. For me, it’s therapeutic. I thought I’d rid myself of all my insecure thoughts. I did with my weight, but not my hair. But now I have!IMG_8366.JPG

 

Am I Smart Enough to Homeschool My Child?

Earlier this year, my husband and I became more serious about moving to another state. The cost of living is way too expensive where we live, and my husband’s trucking career has grown to be a pain while living here. We couldn’t find a suitable parking space for his truck without having to pay a fee each night, get a parking citation, get towed, drive an hour and a half to and from a good truck stop, or settle for having his truck vandalized/broken into. I work from home, so the move wouldn’t hinder me. However; my fear of putting my child in a new school system grew.

I’m a planner. I am not the kind of person who moves away from my comfort zone, and then figure out where my child will attend school. I go crazy with my research and then like to visit the school(s) being considered. That process is super hard when you are considering multiple places to move to. It also becomes super expensive to travel and visit the school(s) in consideration. I began to feel like my apprehension about where our daughter would attend school was holding us back from being able to take the huge step of moving and getting a fresh start. That’s when the option of homeschooling came to mind.

Homeschooling wasn’t an option before because I knew nothing about it. The closest I came to being homeschooled was when I was out of school for a few months in elementary school with two broken wrists (fell off the monkey bars). I couldn’t remember meeting anyone who’d ever been homeschooled until I thought hard about it and remembered my husband was actually homeschooled for a short period of time. When I brought homeschooling up as an option, he immediately jumped on board. What was once an idea, became our reality.

I considered backing out a few times for different reasons. One being I didn’t understand how my daughter(s) would have social encounters with children their age. After more research, that thought was wiped out. Secondly, I didn’t know if I could handle being around my daughter 24/7. Read my post I love my daughter but… to see why. Lastly, and most recently, I wondered if I was smart enough to educate my daughter.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m confident that I am an intelligent woman. When I was in school, I maintained well above a 3.0 gpa, was on the honor roll nonstop, received countless awards, was a member of the National Honor Society, graduated from Penn State University with a major and minor (finished 7 months pregnant) and more. I excel when it comes to education overall, but when it comes to certain subjects, I struggle. I began to think about all of the subjects I’m great at, the ones that I can be great at, and those that I suck at. The biggest pain being math. Math never came easy to me, but once I understood it I was good to go. In school, I was able to get an A on an English exam that required me to write a one-page essay on a book I hadn’t read by simply looking at the way the question was formed. I graduated with a degree in print journalism and am the owner of my own editing and proofreading business (Queen Scribe Editing & Consulting). Math on the other hand— it intimidates me. My husband is the opposite of me and can calculate problems in his mind within seconds. Our oldest daughter shows signs of being advanced in both reading and math. Uggh. Numbers can be so intimidating.

The thought of my daughter surpassing my math skills frightened me. How would I teach her if she moved faster than I did? How would I teach her math courses that I’ve never learned? Statisitcs? Calculus? Would I have to enroll her back in school? Would my husband be able to teacher from the inside of his truck 1,000 miles away? I brought my insecurities to him and a solution I came up with. When we move on to math courses I know nothing about, I will purchase the math curriculum for it. This year I researched what the core curriculum was for reading and math, and created my own curriculum based on that information. I knew that there were workbooks and free online resources that I could use to help me. When math becomes a struggle, I’ll just purchase a curriculum.

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know my husband whipped me into shape QUICK! He empathized with me. He understood my concern. He disagreed with me though. He said, “Use that as your motivation to learn as she learns.” He continued, “You don’t know everything there is to know about science, but you’ll still be able to teach her, right?” He was right. I don’t know much about lizards, but it’s one of the animals we’ll be learning about. It’s a little overwhelming, but that’s where the excitement of homeschooling comes in. Not only do I get to teach my daughter, but we will have many opportunities to learn together. There will also be moments where she will be able to teach me something. That doesn’t mean I’m inadequate and unable to educate my daughter.

My husband reminded me that our child is the smart little girl she is today because of me. He said, “Yes, I help out a great deal when it comes to our children, but you do the bulk of the work.” He continued,

“You taught our daughter before she entered daycare and the school system. At the age of one our daughter knew her ABC’s, numbers through 10, sign language, shapes, colors, and spoke using small sentences. You did that, not me!”

I love him so much. He reminded me that I didn’t know American Sign Language when I taught our daughter. I taught myself, and would teach her afterwards. I was also reminded that with the right support system, homeschooling my children will be a success. Yes; there will be times when my daughter and I bump heads. Yes; there will be moments where I have to take a course or two and have late nights studying a subject before teaching my daughter. This is the road I have chosen, and I don’t see myself turning back. I am smart enough to homeschool my child.

I reached out to my friend who is a mathematics genius, educator and business owner. Cherre Jefferson holds a degree in Mathematics from Morgan State University. She is the owner of Self Is S.T.E.A.M. where she provides math tutoring (group and individual), math curriculum consulting and customized math lesson plans. She’s also a math teacher in the Baltimore public school system. When I reached out, she delivered. During our meeting, she actually gave me a mini tutoring session to help me with ways to teach the different math courses. I left feeling confident and with a game plan. Her rates are excellent, and her knowledge is outstanding. Please follow her Instagram page @self_is_s.t.e.a.m._ and visit her booking site at selfissteam.setmore.com/.

Gurley Academy officially begins September 10, 2018!! Pray for us.

Mommy I Can’t See, It’s Black

When I was younger, the thought of having a child used to make me nauseous. I couldn’t fathom the pain that women endured in the process of giving birth, and I couldn’t imagine having something squirming inside my stomach. It would honestly make my stomach turn, and I was fearful of the moment it would happen to me. Nevertheless, I knew that at some point when I was an adult wanted to have at least two children, preferably one boy and one girl. At the time I didn’t think about the health of my unborn children. All I thought about was the fun and adorable times that we would experience. Soon I would learn the gender of the child doesn’t matter one bit. Your ultimate desire is a healthy baby.

I was a young college student away from home and always worrying if I had done something to harm my daughter when I was pregnant the first time. As I grew further along in my pregnancy, it became engrossed with negativity and talks of high risk, so my prayers began to turn into begging God to bless my baby to be healthy. Well God did just that. Blessed me with an 8-pound beautiful, strong and healthy little girl. I wouldn’t have loved my baby any less, but no mother prays for a child that will need visits with specialists or more emergency visits. I thought my child was perfect, although I knew no one was truly perfect.

It was when my daughter was a little over the age of one when I noticed that she still struggled to gain focus with her eyes. During her well-child visits, her pediatrician stated that children are still learning how to use their eyes when they are that young, but if it persisted that I should take to her to an eye doctor. I took her advice, but ultimately knew I would do what I felt was best as her mother. At the time, I wasn’t too bothered. I chalked it up to her having a lazy eye. Then as time went on I grew a little concerned. If you ask any mother about her child, she’ll tell you she knows when something isn’t right with her baby. When I covered my baby’s left eye, she said “Mommy I can’t see, it’s black.” My heart dropped into my stomach.  I responded, “Are you sure baby? Is it black, or is it just fuzzy?” Her response, “No mommy I can’t see, it’s dark.” I called my husband and we scheduled her eye appointment immediately.

The doctor concluded that the optic nerve in her right eye didn’t fully develop, limiting her to only 5% vision in that eye, while her left eye was pretty much perfect. He said that the vision in her right eye would never improve, but it wouldn’t get worse either. We were given a prescription for some glasses that only had little medicine in order to give her a little balance, but for the most part they were vital in order to protect her left eye. At the time we were told that if anything happened to her left eye she would only “feel” like she was blind.

Years passed, and everything remained the same, but me. My daughter was thriving and refused to be viewed as one who was handicapped, but I grew more insecure. I worried about how she would succeed in the classroom, if she would be able to play safely with others, if children would bully her, if she would think she was ugly, and how she would be able to deal with it all. When I looked at my child I saw perfection, but it was tainted with MY insecurity. I suffered for years with my own insecurities and low self-esteem, so I knew I had to get my life together. I didn’t want to pass my negativity onto her, nor did I want her to think that I viewed her as less than.  I began practicing affirmations with her. It started off vocal, and the more she improved her reading and writing skills, I made her write them out. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am smart. I am loved. I am confident. I am enough. I am Taniya Beautiful Gurley.

Between the ages of 5 and 6, she began to take notice of her eye not remaining straight. I would catch her in the mirror trying to force it to look in the same direction as her healthy eye. I would reassure her that her eye was fine, but deep down, it hurt my feelings because I know that she has matured and cares more about her physical appearance. I remain strong and fight the urge to stress and grow insecure again. I did however schedule another visit with her ophthalmologist- pediatric specialist.

The results came back the same, but final. Taniya is legally blind in her right eye. So now if she damages her left eye, she will not feel blind. She will be blind until it heals. The only surgery that can be done is to correct the appearance of the eye. He said if it doesn’t bother her, leave it. But if she wants to change it, he’s available. He also reassured me that she’ll be able to drive, fly an airplane, dance, cheer, swim, gymnastics and more. She will simply struggle with athletics that use a smaller object, such as tennis, hockey and softball.

There was nothing I could do differently throughout my pregnancy to change this outcome. The optic nerve was either going to develop or not. For a while I battled with that. I believed that I was the cause of her blindness. I told myself that I was too inconsistent with my prenatal vitamins. If only I had breastfed her longer, maybe the milk could have fixed it. I am so relieved that it was not my fault, but just the birth mark that God has given my daughter. Today, I am reminded that my daughter is in fact perfect and healthy. My child is blind in one eye but is a first grader who reads on a third-grade level. She reassures me every day that she is okay. I reassure her every day that she is a queen in training. She is smart. She is confident. She is enough. She is Taniya Beautiful Gurley.