My Own Little White World – Part 1

My Story

Hanging with the cousins – I’m the one in the blue dress, my sister is behind me, and my brother is in the bottom left corner.

As I read my Facebook and Twitter, I see many different perspectives on race and how it fits into our lives. In my heart, I know I have a lot to say about this topic, but I wonder what can I add to the conversation. All I can do is share my story. For those expecting to see a weight loss blog entry, please bear with me (my weigh-in this morning was 236.2 pounds in case you’re interested). As a blog writer, I’m convinced it would be a tragedy to say nothing. I have a small platform, but it’s time for me to step up to it.

As a Christian, I believe that every part of me and every part of you was intricately designed by God. Much of a Christian’s life seems to be spent figuring out what it means to live faithfully where He’s placed us, whether it is race, gender, culture, socioeconomic status, country of origin, time in history, family, skills, or personality. We serve a creative, intentional God who shows His glory in His creation. If you love God, please take the time to notice the beauty in the diversity of the people He created in His image. I beg you to spend time getting to know people who are different from you and try to see the world from their perspective. If not, you are missing out on seeing the goodness of God from so many different angles.

This is where I’m coming from, but how did I get here? It’s a long story, so I will only share part of it today. Everyone has an entry point to their development of racial identity. Mine was to working class white parents in a suburb of Indianapolis. They attended a fiercely independent Baptist church,  and they home schooled. In some ways, this set me up to be…let’s say quirky. It also set me up to be okay with standing against widespread beliefs and questioning how society and the church in America works.

My mom grew up in the southwest and had a daughter from a previous marriage to a Navajo man. My dad’s family moved from France to the hill country of Missouri and sang blue grass and Southern gospel together at their family gatherings. My dad adopted my sister when he married my mom, so I was born with an 11 year old sister who was half Navajo and half white and a 2 and a half year old brother who was white.

From birth, I had a role model who had darker skin, hair, and eyes than I did. I am aware that not everyone has this opportunity. When I was old enough to be mobile, I was the annoying little sister who sat outside her big sister’s locked door crying because I wanted to spend every second with her. When I started getting dolls, I wanted the white dolls with blonde hair, but I also wanted the black dolls (I don’t remember seeing any Latina, Asian or Native American dolls at the stores then).

Just having a biracial sister did not mean I was an instant expert on race, but it did mean that my impressions of people of other races started early in my life. Other than the usual sibling drama, these daily impressions were positive. It was through these lenses that I interpreted the things that I saw and heard people say. We’ll get to that next time.

 

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Under the Sun

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Someone at work mentioned that I was tan today. I would call that an interesting definition of the color that has appeared on my face:

 

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I’m loving the warm weather. Spending time out in the sun has given me a lot of opportunities to be active. I’ve been rediscovering things that I loved when I was younger. I’ve been reading more (it’s perfect reading on the porch weather!), feeding a neighbor cat (a “pet” without obligations), and playing in the dirt (aka gardening).

There’s nothing new under the sun, including sunburns. I get them so easily. You’d think I’d learn to wear sunscreen at some point. I guess this is the year of being a grown up, so I better go buy some. Here are some things that have been keeping me busy lately.

 

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Working in the garden

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Soccer all morning on Saturday

Hair Helplessness

When I was taking classes for my education degree, there was a lot of talk about learned helplessness. Basically, if you fail enough times in a certain situation, you just stop trying (there’s a lot more to it, so feel free to head over to Google if you’re interested). This is how I feel about my hair. Some may think I’m crazy. I’ve gotten plenty of compliments on my hair on various occasions. So, what’s the problem? Well, let’s go back a bit.

From the time I was around 8 up until maybe 22, I was a classic tomboy. I ran away from all things I considered girly. One of those things was doing my hair, my friends’ hair, dolls’ hair, or any hair. I washed it and brushed it when needed, and that was it. Sometimes I would put it in a pony tail for sports or for times I had gone too long without washing it (sorry if that’s gross). Because I was heavy, I didn’t feel pretty or feminine. Instead of putting in an effort and potentially failing, I created a new identity for myself. (Note: This is not meant to be a projection on anyone else’s experience. It’s just an honest assessment of my own.)

This strategy stopped working when I was about halfway through college and started to be seriously interested in getting married and starting a family. I thought a good first step might be shopping in the women’s clothing section.

College hair

This is me in college right before I started “making an effort.”

This led to things like watching a lot of What Not to Wear and buying hair products that I had no clue what to do with. When something didn’t look right, I figured I should just buy a new product or get my hair colored or cut and see what happened. I would spend time in front of the mirror trying to figure out how to style it. Eventually, I would give up because I didn’t feel like anything worked. Enter my good old friend learned helplessness.

The cycle continued when I met my husband. I (actually, the Holy Spirit) had chipped away at a lot of my image issues, but I was still unsure of myself and vulnerable. I put a lot of pressure on myself to figure things out. I started working out, wearing makeup regularly, sifting through my closet for what I thought he would like, and doing something (anything) with my hair. While it’s good to make an effort to look attractive to your significant other, I was yet again finding my identity in the wrong place. I felt lost and inadequate. And, it was all self imposed.

After we got married and the pressure lifted, I started gaining my weight. When I was looking at a picture recently, I noticed that my hair was also neglected. My hair routine is the same now as it has been since I was a child. Wash and brush. That’s it. The simplicity of it isn’t the problem. The problem is that I still feel helpless, and I’m ready to change that.

Here’s what my hair looked like a few days ago:

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It’s been over a year since my last haircut. Pretty, long, and wavy. Also, damaged from impatient brushing and weighed down by the grown out layers.

Because I know that any change is a process, I am starting small. When I look at hair tutorials and articles online, I find the instructions are way too complicated. “Just a braid” is never that easy for me. I need the very basics, and I can’t find them. The first step was a haircut. Starting with the existing hair length would be overwhelming to me. By the time I’m done detangling, I’m just done. So, here’s my just-cut hair:

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Just to be clear, I did NOT style this. 🙂

I am not my hair or my weight or my appearance, but how I present myself is a message to the people I meet about who I am. I’ve given people a lot of different messages over the years. Today, my message is that I rejoice in my Creator who has designed me to look the way I do for a reason, and I am taking steps to care for His creation.

 

Something New Sunday – A New Bike!

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Thanks to a wonderful friend, I am the proud owner of a new-to-me purple mountain bike. Today, I filled up the tires and did a test drive. It was amazing to feel that nostalgic rush of wind on my face as I rode through the neighborhood. It’s been years since I had a bike (I think I accidentally left it at one of my many residences, but who know for sure?). It took me a few times around the block, but I think I’ve gotten the hang of it again.

When I got a bike for my birthday when I turned 5 or 6, it took me ages to catch on. Coordination wasn’t exactly my strength then (or now, for that matter). For instance, I couldn’t tie my shoes until I was about 9 years old. I remember my brother-in-law taking my training wheels off and making me ride it in the street. The results weren’t pretty. Let’s just say I didn’t ride it again for a long, long time. As I did with a lot of motor skill struggles, I eventually came back to it and became a decent bike rider. Although, I could never quite master the whole riding with no hands thing like my friends could.

I haven’t been really excited about working out for a while, so I’m looking forward to incorporating this into my fitness routine until it gets too cold.

My Own Little Food World – Part 3

Post Senior Year

Warning: This post may be triggering for those with a history of disordered eating.

The girl in that picture thought she was super fat. This was the summer after my senior year. I was on crutches because I had a stress fracture in my foot. I had put on maybe 15 pounds total by this point, partially due to a vacation where I ate like a normal person and partially due to inactivity from the stress fracture. Those 15 pounds felt more like 15 tons to me.

My solution? Read books and websites to learn how to have an eating disorder. I wanted to make myself anorexic (like I thought I was the Pretender and could be anyone I wanted just by doing a little research). I was feeling pressure to keep up with the identity I built for myself. So, I starved myself. I had several days when I would only eat a banana. Basically, I was addicted to hunger. For a while, it worked.

Eventually, I tried the whole throwing up thing. I remember eating a whole package of chocolate chips after a long time without food (maybe a couple of days) and then throwing it up. The good thing was that my face got red and blotchy and my mom asked what was wrong. I explained everything and she took me to a dietitian.

The dietitian helped me get back on track and I lived happily ever after. The end.

Just kidding! I slowly started eating more (still weird, but more), but I was headed for an eating roller coaster for the rest of my young adult life. That’s because It didn’t address the real issue: my heart.

My Own Little Food World – Part 2

My first year of volleyball

My first year of volleyball

My Senior year

Even if you don’t read this, you have to see the pictures! So, how did a chubby, clumsy eleven-year-old girl turn into captain, setter, and MVP of her volleyball team her Senior year? Obsession. I loved sports. My dad took me to Pacers games, my brother played one-on-one with me all the time, and I memorized every stat on the back of my thousands of basketball cards. When I felt out of place and unfeminine mostly as a result of my weight, I clung to sports for my identity.

The problem was that I was just terrible. Volleyball was the only sport available for homeschooled girls like me in the Indianapolis area. My first season of volleyball, I had two successful hits: one off my head and one off my shoulder. I spent most of the season uncomfortable and embarrassed. I practiced like crazy and improved very slowly.

When someone finally started a home school girl’s basketball team in my Indianapolis, I weighed 213 pounds at age 14. I was exhausted after one sprint, which makes it tough to be good at any sport. So, I decided it was time to change.

I knew losing weight was the only way for me to do well. My weight loss strategy was to eat half of what everyone else was eating and make weird rules. Examples: No pork, no beef, no chips, no butter, no pop, no taste. 🙂 If there were hot dogs, I would just eat the bun with ketchup and mustard. No butter on my potatoes and no dressing for my salad.

It was weird, but it worked. By the end of the next season, I had lost 70 pounds. Plus, I went from last player off the bench to a starter. I got what I wanted. At least, that’s what I thought.

Instructional basketball - Age 10 or 11?

Instructional basketball – Age 10 or 11?

Basketball Senior Night

Basketball Senior Night

My basketball card collection and Pacers themed room

My basketball card collection and Pacers themed room in High School

My Own Little Food World – Part 1

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This. This picture is a summary of my childhood weight. I’m the one at the top of the pile, of course. As you can see, I was just slightly bigger than my friends in this picture (who also happened to be members of my Writer’s Club). Some of my other memories about my weight as a child include being called a hippo by a random girl when I was riding my bike and making myself sick by eating an entire box of Little Debbies at a party. The one that stands out the most is being excited at age 8 that I weighed the same as my favorite figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. I looked that up on the charts and it puts me at around the 98% or 99% weight percentile for my age at the time. This is where my weight story begins, but it’s far from over.