Here’s to 90 years, my parent, teacher, best friend!

Photo credits: Matthew Kozovski Photography

Photo credits: Matthew Kozovski Photography

It has been a very long time since I last posted.  And I’m not going to make excuses, because I know I should have been posting; I will, however, offer you an explanation: I was planning my Grandmother’s 90th birthday party.

A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend ~ Unknown

On March 24, my Grandma turned 90 years old; and I was not going to let this monumental milestone pass without occasion! 90 is no ordinary age! And anyone who knows me knows that my relationship with my grandmother is no ordinary one…

My grandmother on her wedding day

My grandmother on her wedding day

For me, my Grandma is “a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend”.

A little bit parent

My Grandma raised me.  I essentially grew up at her house: when I was a toddler, my grandmother offered to look after me while my Mom and Dad went to work; so, during the week, I would stay with her, and then on the weekends I would go home to my parents.  By the time I started school, I was so comfortable at my Grandma’s house, my parents let me stay with her and my Auntie (my Mom’s sister, who was living there); and this split-week arrangement continued well into my teenage years.

So, while most people have one motherat best, twoI have been blessed with three.  I was co-raised by three amazing women; and all three of them have played a very important role in making me who I am today.

My Grandma, in particular, instilled in me the importance of having a good work ethic, constantly reminding me to “put [my] shoulder to the wheel”; keeping my priorities straight: “boys and books don’t mix”; and striving for excellence: “it’s not enough to do 100%, you must always do 150%”.  She made sure that I never strayed too far away from the straight-and-narrow, which would sometimes grate on my nerves when I was growing up, but I can honestly say I’m so grateful for today.

A little bit teacher

My Grandma encouraged me to learn.  When I was younger, she used to read to me; and once I knew how, she would let me read to her, so that I could get better at it.  My Grandma (and Auntie) would make me recite poems and other readings to teach me how to speak in front of an audience.  My Grandma also taught me how to bake and sew; how to be a “proper lady”; and, above all, how to be a good Christian.

A little bit best friend

My Grandma is my girlfriend, believe it or not.  She used to take me with her everywhere she would goespecially shopping on the Danforth and to her church eventsand even as far as Florida and London, England!

My Grandma has been a constant source of strength and encouragement for me; she is by no means perfect, but she is always present.  She has always been there for meand as long as it has been within her power to do soshe has been there with me at every major event in my life, since Day One literally (I was born at the hospital where she used to work).  Whenever I am feeling down or I have a problem, I know that I can call her to be a listening ear and to offer a good word of advice.

A little bit role model

Having grown up with my Grandmother, I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about her (I mean, we used to share the same bed, at one point, even!)  Over the years, I had had the unique privilege of witnessing her strength, sagacity, skillfulness, sternness, along with her surprising sense of humour- some of the very things that make my Grandma special- first-hand.  But it wasn’t until I planned this party that I really got a chance to know her.  And it wasn’t by spending more time with her, or asking her questions.  I got to know my Grandmother through her friendssome of whom have known her for over 50 years(!)people who did not hesitate to share anecdotes that I had never heard before of how my Grandma impacted their lives.

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Photography

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Photography

Her friends told me stories about what her young days would have been like, growing up in Guyana in the ’30s and ’40s.  About how she came to a far-less-welcoming Canada in the early ’60s as a domestic worker for the White upper class, having to leave her children behind until she was landed (which was part of the rules), and dealing with what all of that entailed just to give her family all of the opportunities we have today. They spoke of her kindness and generosity, her courage, and her willingness to stand up for others and do what is right, even when it was not popular, during the years that she worked as a cook at the former Wellesley Hospital in downtown Toronto.  They talked about her faith in the midst of adversity, and how she has always trusted God to help her, even when her haters (and she has a few) have wished her ill.

I’ve always known what my Grandma has meant to me; but it was through planning this party that I was able to hear the great things that others have to say about her, which I think, is a true testament to how she has lived her life.  A life well-lived, which is exactly how I would like to live mine.

So, here’s to 90 years of living well, my parent, teacher, best friend– Grandma!

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Photography Decor: EmilyRenee Decor & Events

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Photography
Decor: EmilyRenee Decor & Events

 

The Greatest Love of All

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My father (and me- sadly, my face didn’t make the cut!)

Why yuh a fry dem hair? (Why are you frying their hair?),” my father would ask my mother on those rare occasions when she would press our hair out.  He couldn’t stand the smell of burning hair coming from the sizzling hot comb on the stove.  “Listen, nuttin’ nuh wrong wit’ yuh hair,” he would tell my sister, Sarah, and me.

My father was all about us keeping our hair in its most natural state: no additions, no alterations, no nothing.  He would even get upset when my mom would braid extensions into our hair! “Unuh a put in di horse hair, again? (You guys are putting in horse hair, again?)” he would question.  He didn’t think that any of that was necessary (even though the fake hair was actually plastic). “Jus’ plait it” was his recommendation.

My father, along with my mother, reinforced in our minds that our hair was fine the way it was.  Our parents were both adamant about us not perming our hair until we turned 16. “Nuh bodda cream it (Don’t bother with perming it),” my Dad would say. And when I turned 16, I didn’t bother: to know that my father thought that my kinky, curly hair was beautiful made it so much easier to cope with the pressures to change it coming from outside of our home.

But it wasn’t only about hair, my Dad made it a point to teach us how to love the skin we were in—both literally and figuratively.  “Look how yuh skin black and nice,” he would say.  He let us know that our dark skin wasn’t a curse, but rather a blessing.  My Dad knew how important it was for us to be proud of who we were.  He would make us sit and listen to his vinyl records of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches; watch videos about the lives of Bob Marley and Nelson Mandela; and read books about Black history.  He taught us to be proud of our Caribbean heritage and our African ancestry.  He also taught us to be proud of our family: “You are an Anderson”, he would say, “you are great; and don’t let anyone tell you any different!”

With Miss Minnie

My “Black by Popular Demand” Dad and me, during my 1st trip to Jamaica

Although my father may not have always loved me in the way that I would have liked to receive it, he certainly taught me how to love myself.  Today, on Father’s Day, I thank my Dad for teaching us how to love ourselves, which is, as Whitney Houston declared, the greatest love of all.  Now, as a grown woman, I realize just how fortunate we were to have a father who made sure that we not only knew—but more importantly, that we also loved—who we were.  I thank him for giving us the affirmation that we would need to survive, living in a world where everyone and everything continually tells us that something is wrong with who we are and how we look. I attribute much of my success today to having a strong sense of self and confidence, which made me feel that I could do anything! So, for that, Dad, I thank you!

To all of the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!  Keep loving on your children.  Remember to tell them who they are, and who you know that they can be, to counteract the lies that society tells us.  The things you say about your children stick—words have power—so be mindful about what you say to them, both implicitly and explicitly, about themselves.  Teach them to love themselves, so that they won’t have to look for affection and acceptance in the wrong places.  Always affirm them, so that they can face the world with the confidence that they will need to succeed.  Your kids love and are counting on you!

My father, back in the day

My father, back in the day

I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…

Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

(Excerpt from “The Greatest Love of All”, written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed)

Happy Father’s Day! How did you celebrate your father today?

 

“He loves me from my hair follicles to my toenails…”

What are you going to do with your hair on your wedding day?

When I was teenager, one of my guy friends would always ask me: “what are you going to do with your hair on your wedding day? You’re not going to wear it natural, are you? You’re going to have to perm it!”

I used to say to him: “if I met a guy who liked me enough to want to marry me, that would mean he would have had to have liked me, natural hair and all! So why on earth would I change my hair on the day when I would want to look my absolute best for him? I highly doubt that he would appreciate that kind of shock on his wedding day.”

My friend would laugh at me, and insist that I would perm or at least straighten my hair on my wedding day. He was also ready to put money on it because he couldn’t imagine the thought of a bride not having straight hair on her Big Day. What he was basically saying to me was that “you can’t look pretty with natural hair on your wedding day!”

May 31st: a day to celebrate love

Well, today is my 1st wedding anniversary, and it’s also, coincidentally, International Natural Hair Meetup Day– so, for me, it’s a day to celebrate love for my husband and love for myself, too!

A year ago, I married the sweetest, kindest, most thoughtful, amazing man I know!

And on my Big Day, my hair was natural…

Wedding - Natural Hair #1

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

Wedding - Natural Hair #2

Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

Wedding - Natural Hair #3

My Mom and Auntie – both naturalistas – tying me into that dress! Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

 

Believe it or not, my now-hubby would not have wanted it any other way…

Back then…

When we were still dating, one day I decided to switch it up and flat-iron my hair. My-then-boyfriend was not happy- and I was shocked! Why? Because I was so accustomed to guys giving me a lot more positive attention when my hair was straightened.

I have a distinct memory from undergrad of the first time I went to Mass Appeal salon in Atlanta to get my hair “whipped”. When I left that salon, please believe, my hair was “laid”—and the reaction I got from my male friends was astounding! It was as if they had never seen me before—all of a sudden, I had been transformed into this “hot” girl…who they now wanted to talk to, lol! (To be honest, I enjoyed the attention, but what I didn’t enjoy was that my hair took the press too well: it took several weeks to wash it out of my hair, and some of the ends refused to turn back…so I had to cut them! Not cool!)

At the time, I didn’t realize that straightening my hair was such a big deal. I figured, I’m the same person, with the same face, just with a different hairdo; but clearly, straightening your hair was the “sexy” thing to do.

Needless to say, I was expecting my boyfriend to go crazy about my new ‘do. But his response was less than satisfactory:

 “Why did you do that to your hair?” he asked when I got into the car. “It’s so flat and weird now,” he said, as he ran his fingers through and rubbed my scalp.

 “Um, what’s that supposed to mean? You don’t think I look pretty?” (I can honestly say I was a little bit irked by his reception because it had taken me over an hour to straighten it by myself, and this was not the reaction I was expecting.)

 “Yeah, of course you look pretty; but it’s not the hairstyle that looks pretty: it’s your face!”

And that, my friends, was the day I fell in love with him! I’m just kidding! But knowing that he liked my hair—just the way it was—did make a world of difference to me! From then on, I didn’t have worry about whether he was just “accepting” my natural hair—I knew that he actually liked it. Which also meant that there was no pressure on my end to try to change it to “keep” him.

I count myself blessed and I am so grateful for his love.

My soul sista, Jill Scott, captures it so well:

You love me especially different every time

You keep me on my feet happily excited

By your cologne, your hands, your smile, your intelligence

You woo me, you court me, you tease me, you please me

You school me, give me some things to think about

Ignite me, you invite me, you co-write me, you love me, you like me

You incite me to chorus, ooh…

 You’re different and special

You’re different and special in every way imaginable

You love me from my hair follicles to my toenails

You got me feeling like the breeze, easy and free and lovely and new…

(Excerpt from “He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat)” by Jill Scott and Keith Pelzer)

He loves me

He loves me… Photo credit: Matthew Kozovski Hair: Danika Battieste-Geddes Makeup: Soraya Prado

 

When you meet someone who loves you from your hair follicles to your toenails, and everywhere in-between, be sure to hold on to them!

Happy Anniversary to The Love of my Life!

And Happy International Natural Hair Meetup Day to all naturalistas around the world! Visit this link for events near you: http://nnhmd.com/about-the-event/

How are you spending your International Natural Hair Meetup Day?