Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goodbye 2010...Hello 2011

As the New Year closes so does my brain.  I have been on "holiday" since December 18th from my job and since the 23rd from my dissertation.  During this time I have ate a lot, drank a fair bit, worked out a little and overall felt tired, bloated, annoyed, anxious, excited and...dare I say hopeful!

2010 has been a year of ups and downs, like more years.  I started the year hiking a mountain in the snow in Northwest Wales. By March I had run a half marathon in Prague and trimmed 25 lbs off my frame.  April hit and with it a hip injury that only progressively got worse over the year due to my stubbornness and not properly resting.  By late June I visited the States, saw some family and friends, and met my advisor who told me my initial outline of my dissertation was crap.

It was here that I began my anxiety ridden second half of the year.  July was full of festivals, data transcriptions and theoretical readings.  By August I had turned the big 2-9, wrote my first chapter, and I dropped out of my second half marathon.  September thru December was more of the same same, but different.  I continued to write, work, work out less, went on a few walks, became more irritated, dabbled in yoga, and then wrote some more.

Now I sit here on December 30, 2010 writing some more and planning to stop soon because it is just making me more annoyed.  But, the good thing is the dissertation is there. I am really just now making massive edits to the five chapters I have and plodding through until February 7th when I submit the first full daft to my entire committee.   For the New Year I intend to write a bit more, run a hell of a lot more, get a dog, graduate with my PhD and finally....just finally...maybe I can just be and enjoy my life.

But really Katt Williams says it best...

What do you hope the new year will bring you?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stroke, Float, Sink...Repeat

The cold weather is slowly setting in throughout the Southwest over here in the good-old UK.  Barefoot running is more like numb foot running and my hips are acting up to much for me to even enjoy the sport at the moment so my runs have become minimal.  So I am trying to make the pool my friend at least once a week to take the pressure of my joints while I get the blood flowin and the heart pumpin.

Problem is...the water and I aren't friends or really even associates yet.  We have this weird relationship.  If I don't visit the pool on a regular and consistent basis then when I do get in I feel as if she is going to swallow me whole and then spit me out.  It's like she is back handing me and making me feel bad for cheating on her with the rowing machine or free weights.  I then feel I need to tell her it's not her...but me.  My confidence in the still body of water is still minuscule.  I can kick and stroke but not for very long or very far and if I can't put my feet on the floor then I don't go in...PERIOD.

However, that has to change because I have gotten this crazy idea in my head that I want to learn how to row next year and I want to join the Bristol women's rowing club.  But to take the learn how to row class I need to be able to swim 100 meters in light clothes - makes sense if I am to be in a BOAT in the middle of a BODY of WATER.

Now some of you might be thinking "Why would you want to learn to row if you don't necessarily like the water?"  Answer: "Why the hell not?"  See I miss a team sometimes.  I miss the camaraderie between teammates and the fun of being active with a group of people.  Plus, it's a good way of making friends in a new place where I am still learning the local ways of...making friends.  Besides, it just looks cool.

I mean let's face it - I taught myself to run long distances even when doctors told me I might not be able to even walk properly again.  I jumped out of a plane twice in one day attached to another person.  I got myself on a bike at age 27 and learned to not fall of.  I made myself get in the water and learned to at least get my feet off the floor and kick not long after.  I even found myself on a side of a mountain in snow on a new years morning with no crampons and a bad fear of heights, and got back down without killing myself.  So I figure if I can get myself to make the water my friend then I can find myself one day in the middle of a lake in a row boat with 5 other women working up a sweat and getting some definition back into my shoulders and back.

Today I got back into the pool.  Second time in two weeks.  I said hi to the water, took a deep breathe, and pushed off the wall all by myself.  I had Mike stand next to me instead of in front and I made it down and back again - stopping only 7 (ok maybe 8) times.  6 lengths total which is a nice start for me.  It's a shallow pool. I still have problems learning how to breathe, and my body gets tired quick with the new movements but dammit I will be able to swim 100 meters in light clothes so I can at least see if I can learn how to row a bit farther.  I'll keep you updated.

Oh and HAPPY AMERICAN THANKSGIVING to all...and to all a good day.

Monday, November 15, 2010


My dad was a man who use to tell stories.  Stories oozed from his lips like smoke from a cigarette.  Long drawn out stories from days gone past, my dad taught me about life through his elaborate tales.

I learned how to drink by listening to my dad recall his days of old.  My favorite? The time he says him and  two friends "accidentally" drank his grandpas potato moonshine.  From the "old country" my dad's grandpa liked to brew his own drink. To great-granddad beer was always room temperature and alcohol always homemade.  My dad was a skinny red head who didn't realize the difference between moonshine and regular vodka.  The only thing he remembered was drinking in the basement of his grandpas house and then waking up in his room in a rocking chair naked.  His car was on the front lawn and the front door wide opened.  His dad asked him what the hell happened and my dad replied "Well I was drinking grandpas vodka.."  His dad cut off by saying "that shit is pure moonshine.  Surprised your not dead."  The hangover lasted 3 days.  Lesson: Don't drink shit you don't know.  Easy enough.

My dad also taught me the fine art of enjoying my liquor.  To him a good woman should know how to drink whiskey straight and play blackjacks.  When I was 10 he sat me down with his good Jack Daniels cards (ones we were NEVER allowed to touch without him being present) and instructed me on the fine art of blackjack.  He showed me when to hit and when to call, and tried to guide me in the practice of bluffing (or what it also know as bullshitting).  These transferable skills of bullshitting are ones  I call upon often in academic writing.  I use my understandings of whiskey on the weekends to recover from the bullshitting performed during the week.

I also learned to appreciate the musical artform known as country.  A hard core country (and Elvis) listener, my dad always had 99.5 US 99 blasting from the radio on all car trips.  Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Wynona Judd, Reba MacEntire, and Trais Tritt were all some of my favorite singers in the 80s and 90s.  As the years went on I leaned away from my country roots, letting the opinions of others influence my music preference.  But then I moved to the South and my relationship with country was mended.  One of my dad's proudest moments was when I called him to tell him I bought my first real pair of cowboy boots at a cowboy store in Baton Rouge.  He told me "good job" and then proceded into another story about his first part of cowboy boots.  Apparently they were a bitch to break in and the first few times he put them on he looked like he was crapping his pants cause he was walking so bad.  So his advice was to start off small and break them in.

Being a know-it-all I didn't really listen to the story and its lesson until it was to late.   I was on the streets of New Orleans during Halloween in so much pain all the whiskey in the world wouldn't cure.  I still have the scares of the multiple blisters that appeared on my feet that night.  But I broke them damn boots and have been stompin in them every since.

I loved my dad's stories as they took me to other places and times.  When I was kid all I could every dream about was getting out of the Southside of Chicago and into the world.  Books, school and my dad's stories let me escape.  When he died I decided I needed to stop living in book and through his stories and make some stories of my own.  So I took a little backpacking trip to Guatemala 6 months after the funeral and it was there, in the back of a chicken bus on a old mountain road that I realized something that I have kept special in my heart to this very day.

I realized that I am my father's daughter...and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Running Barefoot

I went for a run yesterday.  My first in almost 3 weeks.  I had body was aching for it and my mind could not focus without it.  In my last post I talked about being more gentle with my body so I was suppose to lay off the roads and trails for a while and hit the yoga mat with some new found enthusiasm.  Needless to say that lasted a whole...week.  Something was missing from my life but I didn't really realize it was running per se until I picked up a book.

That book was Born to Run and my love of, and desire for, running came back in full force.  You know what had me?  The second chapter when Christopher Mc Dougall went in search of the answer to the question "Why does my foot hurt?"  I have been asking that same damn question over and over again for months (along with why does my hip, lower back, knee hurt as well).  I almost bought into the idea I have been told over and over again by doctors, friends, and trainers since I was 22 that my body just isn't built for running.  Almost that is until I opened up this book and soaked up the story that Chris (yea we are on a first name basis now) unfolds in Born to Run.

Chris and I have a few things in common - we are both 6'3" and weigh around the same (240lbs - yea I said it).  While Chris is a middle-aged white male who writes for various men's magazines and sports journals and I am a late-20s mixed race female who is writing a dissertation, I felt a bond with Chris while reading his story.  We are connected by our body type: our height and weight somehow makes our bodies "wrong" to other people, in various ways, when it comes to running.  Like Chris I was also recommended to take up swimming or biking (both sports that I only recently learned how to do and do not do very well).  Years of playing high school and college volleyball left me sick to death of team sports and a herniated disc made me have an aversion to any kind of jumping.  All that aside I just like the feeling of throwing on some shoes, getting outside and having my body move at a faster than walking pace for a long duration of time.  My first half marathon in Prague this year left me not only sore but happy - a genuine happiness that didn't fade, even when my hip flared up at mile 10.   I was just happy to be there and be able to move with other people around me.  In my training I found myself a little giddy after an hour of running as my body was just moving in this fluid (well maybe not fluid but let's just go with that) motion for long periods of time (or what seems like a long time for me).

So long story short the book got me thinking about the benefits of barefoot running.  If Chris could go from being a tall big guy with a bad case of planter fasciities to running a gruelling 50 mile race with some of the best ultramarathon runners in the US and Mexico's Tarahumara people, and finish that race in one piece, by learning barefoot running then why not try it (or give a go as the Brits say).

Give it a go I did - kind of on accident.  Yesterday I went to the gym and took off for an outdoor run to the nearby open grasslands.  I started off in shoes cause I was still a little skeptical (plus the concrete and broken glass didn't leave me to thrilled about starting in bare feet).  But after only 5 minutes of running in those neutral cushioned shoes my right Achilles felt like it was going to tear and my right hip was getting that first tingling of discomfort.  So I broke into a walk for 4 minutes and started again with a light run.  This time the pain was instant and I was pissed.  I stepped off the walking path onto the grass, took off my shoes and socks,  placed a shoe in each hand and...took off.  I just ran.  Slow at first but as the minutes passed my confidence grew until I was running at a pace I hadn't run at in 4 years.  And you know what, it felt good.  I scared myself at one point cause it felt so good and I was going so fast that I just stopped and looked around. I was't out of breathe and my legs didn't feel like cinder blocks.   Damn - it actually worked.  It worked so well that I didn't realized I ran in the wrong direction and had to stop to figure out where the hell I was.

I put my shoes back on so I could take the marked gravel road and trotted on back the gym parking lot and arrived just as Mike was leaving.  I gave him a huge smile and said "I just went barefoot running!"  He said "Oh, how did it go?"  My reply "Amazing!" I felt like a kid again and for the first time in months I actually ENJOYED going out for a run.  But with the cold months coming I am looking into a more minimal shoe or the five finger shoes.

What I do know is it looks like I just brought my running, and sexy, back.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


While I was in yoga class today attempting to "relax" into a side bending, squatting, stretching pose (don't ask me the name cause I don't have a clue) I had a revelation.  I don't think it was the big  "Enlightenment" but rather a small "enlightenment" that made me realize I need to be much gentler with myself.   Let me explain.

Over the years I have engaged in numerous sporting events.  Basketball and softball throughout high school and volleyball all through college.  I attempted rugby at one point and considered playing football (American) during these times as well.  The list of injuries I accumulated is a never-ending one: concussion (I mean who slides into a brick wall instead of home plate?), sprained ankles, dislocated fingers, busted nose, strained shoulder, and one broke back and dead leg.  But I always thought, well I seem to heal fast so what the hell - just keep going.

Then somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that maybe team sports were not the way to go.  College volleyball wore me out, mentally and physically, and the thought of having to be on one more team with one more bitchy coach left a bad taste in my mouth. So I turned to running.

Running.  A sport of individuality that can be done in a group but you compete on your own. No fancy equipment really needed, just some decent shoes and breathable clothes, open space and on you go. But, that back injury and dead leg thing from my college days stayed with me throughout my running.  Once that was somewhat under control I then developed...fuckin sciatica!  So now I can put that to the list of injuries along with a tight IT band on my left side and a pinch nerve in my right shoulder (who in the hell pinches a shoulder nerve in running?  I do) and tense neck muscles.  Essentially I am verging (or am I already there) on being a HOT...ASS...MESS.

Today in yoga as my body protested with every upward dog, downward dog, side bend, back bend, kneeing and sitting posture it hit me that I need to be more gentle with myself.   Gentle is a word I don't use when describing my relationship with myself.  I go hard or go home - not use to any other way of understanding how to do things.  I powered through my education, never stopping on the quest to a PhD and I am making my deadline of finishing before 30.  I powered through grief of loosing my dad and of trying to loose all the weight it took me years to put on.  Now I am fully aware that my body just can't power through another damn run or gym session when it is obviously telling me to slow (or sit) the fuck down and chill out.  I think it is time to listen this time around.

So I am re-evaluating my physical activity goals and giving myself a bit more flexibility in my time frame for all those competitions I want to do.  I am keeping up this yoga thing cause "everyone" tells me it is good for my body and mind.  Even though I wanted to throw up and sit down at the same time while in class today I have to agree.  Come on, where else would I learn that I not only have tight hamstrings, tight hips, tight groin muscles but ALSO tight ankles (to the degree where me and child's pose are not even associates yet) and then LEARN how to "breathe" into the tightness to loosen it up?  

I could easily say F it and go back to what I know - pounding the roads and hitting the weights hard but...I really don't want to.  And that is a good thing I think.  Self-realization is a bitch, but when you actually start listening to your body the things it tells you are amazing.  So simple, yet so true.  That simplicity is what I forget sometimes.  Of course it makes more sense for me to take a few months and focus on my flexibility and hit the pool and bike to take the stress off my joints and nerves.  Of course it makes more sense for me NOT to train for my first marathon and run it while I am are also writing and scheduled to defend my dissertation so I can graduate after 12 years of higher education.  Of course it makes sense to practice activities that calm my mind so I can handle the current and impending stress.  But as my dad use to say...not all sense is common and not all people have sense. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Work Plan

The hardest thing about writing a dissertation is trying to do to much.  I had a rough last week with overwhelming stress from writing and feelings of neglecting work and running.  This weekend I spent mostly in my house on my couch physically and mentally exhausted.  Downloading songs to run to from the 90s and early 2000s made me think back to times when I was less in my head and more in the moment.  It's amazing how powerful music is on the psyche and after an intensive downloading session Sunday afternoon I began to understand that I need to re-evaluate my work plan

So what is this work plan you ask?  Well, basically I don't need to do so much.  Period.  It really is simple in theory but harder in execution.  I am not writing a masterpiece and I don't want to. I actually can't stand the damn dissertation and once I am done want to go in a different research trajectory anyway.  This is not unusual  - after you spend anywhere from 5-10 years on a research project it essentially gets old and you move onto other interests.  I prefer to look more at economic inequality and the effects government policies have on disadvantaged communities if I were to take a research focused job.  I also prefer to write books - still figuring out what kind but I have an idea and a basic outline on paper for when I am finished with the dissertation.  Hell I wouldn't even mind writing speeches of press releases as long as I was able to use my brain and writing skills for some type of betterment of society.
But in the meantime I have to get my work plan in order.  Once running started to feel like another thing I needed to do I knew I had taken this school thing a bit to far.  Let's be real  - I am technically still a student and so I am technically still learning how to be a PhD.  The last step is learning how to write up a research project in a longer format than is really necessary.  Nothing more.  
But reality is setting in and once Mike has a job I will able to stop my current one and focus solely on finishing this degree.  Until that happens I know I need to calm my body and mind so I am starting yoga once again.  And I am practising on my breathing.  It's funny how the most basic thing a human needs to survive is one of the hardest things to learn how to do effectively.  
I can be dramatic, but last week was more than me being a dramatic Leo. It was a wake up call.  To slip in and out of depressive states at such an intensive rate is giving into the meanings other attach to life and not my own.  Lets be real - I don't want to do that.  When it comes down to it I want to listen to music, run in the woods, write in comfort and live a life that I can enjoy.  So I hope you all can enjoy a little bit of the music that reminded me of the joy of life this weekend.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


You ever get that feeling of suffocating?  You know when you throat starts to slowly close and your breathe becomes short.  When you can't seem to focus and all you want is one full gasp of air.  I sometimes feel like I am suffocating.  Like I can't just get a full intake of air.  My body is constantly tense, my neck a tight mess.  The feeling of being trapped takes over and I just want to scream and run out, but I don't know where.

I don't write here alot anymore because my days are filled with endless writing for school and work.  By the time I am done I am so mentally and physically tired my body reacts with feelings of nausea and fatigue.  With headaches and body pain.  I finally saw a specialist for my pain.  I hoped it would just be a muscular imbalance, but he gently explained it was actually a mental and emotional one.  By body is reaching out to me and telling me to stop. The constant ache does not go away, but rather is there day after day...after day, reminding me that I need to stop and try to play.  But I am forgetting how - and I don't know when I will be able to really just sit, relax, and allow my body and mind the rest it needs.

I don't want to call it a depression...I guess I am in a recession.  That downward spike that will naturally occurs in any economy when there has been too many years of excess.  I don't know when that excess occurred but it must have -  I think.  If not then maybe I am preparing myself for a new horizon..a new game...a new something.  But for now I try and keep me head up high enough so that I can gasp the air I need now and then.

 I go back and forth with the idea of yoga - can I really fit in something else?  Can I try and learn something new?  Will this be the answer to my pains?  Will this allow me to become enlightened?  To find my direction?  No...I am already seeing my running as another chore, another thing I must "do".  Most of the time I just want to Fuck It and start anew.  Start anew.  Start anew.  I think I just want someone to talk to...

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I turn 29 Saturday.  Twenty flippin nine...and I'm still in school.  I've been in school since the age of 3 so my mother tells me.  Non-stop I have had a book in my face and a pencil/pen/keyboard in my hands.  As I near the end of this long (and I do mean long) relationship with education I find myself a bit confused and whole lot of tired.

Writing, that is all I do.  I wake up, get a cup of herbal tea, open my laptop, check the email/Facebook/newspapers for an hour and then start writing.  Sometimes I don't know what the hell I am writing, but I do know just seeing the page numbers increase makes me feel like I am doing something.  I treat it as another job - do something for at least 6-7 hours in the day, preferably between the hours of 9 and 5 and then stop.  Problem is I am also working in a "real" job that to requires me three days a week to do something in front of the computer, preferably between the hours of 9 and 5.  Balancing the work with school dissertation writing is already proving to be a bit to much, but what can you do when both need to get done and without one the other is just not as meaningful.

But this post is about my birthday.  I'm turning 29 in case you forgot - don't worry I do as well sometimes.  And...I'm still in school.  I don't know why but this is bothering me a bit more than usual.  I will graduate next May come hell or high water.  I can't stomach the thought of going into my 30s still in school, not taking a break since the age of 3.  It's like a bad haircut that you thought was the shit but over time realize that its a pain in the ass to up keep, expensive to boot, and the appeal start to slowly wear off making you just want to shave your head and start again.

I don't know what I want to do with my life if I am being honest.  I saw an education as way out.  A way out of the Southside, out of the State, out of my life.  I saw education as the ticket to a better life where I would be able to understand what was going on around me and contribute in a fruitful way rather than turn up another statistic.  Hell, so far education has lived up those expectations - I did get out and in the process traveld to places I would never had imagined, took up sports I deemed to be for other people not like me, met a man I would have never come across and moved to another country where I do have a part time job that has me knee-deep in politics, race equality and community activism.  Shit...I really couldn't have asked for much more.

But I am tired and it is wearing on me mentally and physically.  Education got me to where I am now, but I don't know if education will be able to get me to where I want to be.  That may sound weird cause really having the education is opening up my eyes to all the possibilities in front of me so I guess it will always get me to where I want to be, but I am not sure if that will leave me into the academy after I graduate next May.  The dream of being a professor is not there anymore and as I approach 30 the feeling gets stronger and stronger that the dreams of my 20s are quickly changing and morphing into new dreams for my 30s,  That is a little scary, but overall exciting as who in the hell know what will happen.

I feel as if I am saying the same thing over and over, but it is like I have to in order to get it into my head that it's ok to change - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  I am still trying to come to terms with my physical changes and have just now realised I was self sabotaging myself every time I was getting closer to my "dream" goal size/ability.  I don't want to do the same with my career goals - I spent to damn long in school and racked up to much debt to allow that to happen. (Again Sam if you can help me with the to, too situation I would be very appreciative)

 So...I turn 29 on Saturday and all I want are good vibes and good times.  I want to reassure myself that I can finish this dissertation and that I can start a new career path, whatever that may be.  I can "not be in school" and I look forward to that day.  I don't expect some rosy life is easy picture to magically emerge once I leave school and enter into a job, but I do expect something different that still challenges me mentally.  As I leave my 20s I want to leave behind a lot of the insecurities and self doubt that plagued me and welcome my thirties with an open mind and heart.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I have to pull out of the Bristol half marathon.  My right hip can't handle the mileage or the pain at this point.  I realized this Sunday after running only 2 miles.  I stopped, looked at Mike and started to cry.  My frustrations crept up as I could feel my pace getting better and my stride becoming stronger, but my hip just gave up.  I stretched and started again, this time only lasting another 10 minutes before my run turned into a jog and then a pathetic limp.

It was then it hit me in the face that I have 5 weeks left and have only completed a 4 miler for a long run - that just won't cut it for the 13 mile event.  So I have to drop out and start again.

I'm waiting for the referral to a physio by the doctor I saw and need to go in and get x-rays done tomorrow of my right hip and lower back.  But I've been down this route before and know what I really need is another MRI, a full back X-ray and someone to readjust my hips and rehab my back.  That takes money I don't have and time I am loosing so I'll just have to make due and use my remedy of cutting the fat off my body, strengthening my core and stretching like crazy.  However I do need some professional help so I need this damn referral to get here sooner rather than later.

Honestly, it hurts a bit.  I had it in my mind to run this race and now that it is gone I am a little depressed.  I still plan to run Rome marathon next March and will start a 6 month progression program for that in September.  I am hoping by then to be in a rehab program that will work well with the training and have my shoulder in good enough shape to begin yoga once again (seems as if I tore something there but the doctor ignored it so I need to go back and have them look at that again - don't ask me how I did it cause I really don't know but it hurts like a bitch to raise my arm and I can't put weight on the damn thing).

Overall I am a little lost.  The writing is overwhelming - trying to balance it and working is hard at best. The running gave me some balance but now I need to cut down the mileage so I am turning to spinning as an alternative and hitting the trails when I can to keep the pressure of the road off my hip.  But it really doesn't feel the same as a long run on a Saturday morning...

I miss having close friends around and sometimes I go through periods of feeling utterly alone and hopeless.  I want my mom which is strange since I have been on my own for over 10 years, but I guess every girl wants their mom at some point in their life no matter how fucked up or strange that relationshop.  I try and go out but I get annoyed as I'm not drinking and I'm tired of people trying to push a drink down my throat or asking me the same boring ass questions week after week-  "Where are you from?  How long have you been here?  Do you like it here?  What do you study?"  I've learned to never ask those questions to others as just trying to spit out those words makes my skin crawl.

Ok, so I am in an annoyed mood that may pass - don't know when but it will pass...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dissertation Writing

I began to outline my dissertation today. I opened up my little folder entitled "dissertation information", clicked on the sub-folder that holds the Graduate School's detailed formatting instructions for the dissertation, and began to make files for the title page, table of contents, acknowledgements, and abstract.  Now I am outlining chapter 1 and will begin to work on chapter 2 - due August 28th in the inbox of my advisor in preparation for our phone meeting August 31st. I will repeat this process for each chapter until the end of January.  By February 7, 2011 I will have a completed first draft of the entire dissertation ready to submit to the full committee for their review.

As I began to type up the title page a warm feeling of satisfaction and disbelief permeated throughout my body.  It's almost less than a year I will done.  I'm finishing the 12 year run I started since I left high school and the Southside of Chicago in 1999.  Although this blog is about the new adventures I am taking I can't help but add this into the new journeys I am embarking on.  I don't know if I every really imagined being done and now that I can see and taste the end all I want to do is fast forward to next May, walk across that stage, get my diploma, and start a new chapter in my life.

But we all know life doesn't operate in that fashion and I have to go through the ups and downs inherent within the writing and developing process of dissertation writing and job applying.  I've already been turned down for one lecturer positon in the UK - but that was ok, I at least applied.  The next application will be off to Oxford University for a 5 year post-doc position that would help me jump start my career.  That also is a long shot but if I don't go for it then I will never know.

So now I get back to more writing before a training session latter on today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

6 weeks

I have 6 weeks left of training before my half marathon September 5th in Bristol.  The problem is I haven't  gone longer than a 5 miler due to the hip and foot problems I've been having lately.  My first appointment with a GP (or doctor) is this Friday and hopefully the lady will refer me to a specialist in lower back/hip pain or to a sport doctor who has dealt with these issues in runners. 

There is no option to quit or just not do the race.  It's in my mind and once there it's hard to erase.  So, in the meantime I have decided to up the cross training big time.  Spinning three times a week on top of 2 lifting sessions and if i am luck 2-3 runs with one long run on Sunday's is the plan of action.  As long as I can hit a 10 miler before the half and keep my endurance up I know mentally I can do because the first half of the race is run on pure adrenaline and the second half of wanting to finish and have a beer (or at least this is how I run these things).

Anyone who has run a half or full marathon or done any other distance racing will tell you the worst part is the training.  Period. I mean who wants to go to bed at a decent time on the weekends just so you can get up on a Saturday or Sunday morning to go for a "quick 10-12 miler" before starting your day?  Drinking is curb dramatically as running hungover is not a pleasant experience.   Once I get into the marathon training, which happens right after I finish my half, I will be working up to 10 milers during the week with 18-20 mile long runs on the weekend. That shit doesn't sound like fun to me.  But the rewards outweigh the pain and to get my body into a shape that I can complete the training makes the actual race day a hell of a lot easier on my mind and body.  

But first things first - I'll see what this NHS business is all about and try and get my hip sorted.  I need rehab - I know that much but I don't want to keep guessing what kind and paying for things I just don't really like (pilates) or going to people who say I just shouldn't run (like the osteopath) or to plain dumbasses (like the physio).   Yoga would be good but I can't put pressure on my right shoulder anymore (pain in the ass really).  So, off to the doctor I go... I'll let you know what happens next.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Yesterday I made my way after work to one of the local running stores I frequent for running gear in order to see one of their physiotherapist that comes in twice a week.  I thought since the physio was affiliated with a well know and reputable running store that it would be a good idea to go and get my hips and ankles checked out.

 I am now 8 weeks from the Bristol half marathon and have only managed to get in a 4miler as my long run due to intense pain in my right hip, knee, and ankle.  Sleeping is becoming a bigger problem as lying on my back is a no-go due to my back injury.  After 15 seconds on my back my right leg begins to tingle and by 1 minute it's on fire.  This forces me to sleep on my side but sciatica makes sleeping on either hip for more than 30 minutes uncomfortable.  Now my left hip begins to scream in pain the longer I sleep on it making me toss and turn all night.  Last night I had to literally sit up in bed at 4 am and wait till the pain subsided before I did the toss dance once more until 8am.  So needless to say I am tired of being in pain and just plan old tired from not getting a full night sleep.  Topped with a job that is a little demanding and writing a dissertation I am one transcript away from bashing my own face into the floor, or at least from booking another short vacation where I can maybe take a breath before plunging back into the hell they call PhD writing.

Trying to think logically I decided on this physio. Now normally I am anal retentive and check out the history and performance of the people I am paying to see about my back/hips/knees.  I have been in pain since 2002 and so far I have seen a number of general doctors, sport doctors, osteopaths, neurologists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, yoga instructors, personal trainers and one pilates instructor.  For the most part I might feel less pain for a little but then over time another area gets infected and the pain comes back double time.  I refuse to have surgery as the idea of fusing my back is a little to extreme.  All I want is a program or routine that I can do to calm down the pain and allow me to sit, run, and sleep in minimum discomfort.  So the idea of a physio who treats runners sounds great to me.  I didn't do any other checks on this guy, I just signed up online for a 45 minute initial consultation and took my happy ass down to the store.

First, the physio was 50 minutes last in seeing me because he had another client.  Far enough - I can wait as I imagined some lean running physio who knows what they are talking about and can relate to someone who loves and needs to run.  When he finally came upstairs he was short, balding and had a belly.  Ok, ok - my imagination was shattered but I still had faith.  That was until we finally got down into the physio room and for 1 hour - that's 60 minutes - he  like talked at me and was more concerned about seeing me sit in front of a computer screen then looking at my stance or getting a full history.  I sat there and tried to recite to him my full medical history from the time of my back break to  the present.  I've only done this shit over 40 times in the past few years so know how to get the information out in a concise manner so that we can get down to treatment.  BUT NO...he kept talking about himself and how running 9 minutes was a big deal for him and about me getting a better desk and computer and how he was hoping to get me running again.

That was when I had enough and said - NO, I am ALEADY running and TRAINING for my SECOND HALF MARATHON and came here to see if you can HELP ME be in LESS PAIN while I train.  Then I explained I did a previous half last March in Prague and plan to do the Rome Marathon March 20 of next year.  I gave him my time for Prague and he had the cheek to comment on how slow that was!  THEN he proceded to make the comment that with the injuries and pain I have he was surprised that 1) I was still in a PhD program (don't ask cause I am still confused by this) and 2) that I was rather ambitious and very focus to be trying for these events.

Oh...but it doesn't stop there.  Then he kept asking me how I was funded as someone studying for this high of a degree from the States must be either 1) very bright or 2) well funded.  Which was I?  I looked at him and said "Well both."  By this time I want to gouge his eyes out.  But I didn't. I just waited until he was done.  Pissed that I had to pay him £45 for this shit he called a session he then said he would be with me all the way and that for the first few weeks we need to see each other twice a week for 45 minutes if not an hour depending on my finances. I looked at him and said I don't know, let me think about it and then walked outside into the fresh sunshine.

Pissed I found Mike up the street, ordered myself a Chai Latte (I wanted a damn shot but I am not drinking for a while - I'll write on that later), got into the car, had a nice rant, and then went home.

What now? I don't have a fuckin clue. All I can do is keep up with my workouts and incorporate more of a run/walk technique so that I finish a little faster but in less pain.  Some may ask - why run if it hurts?  I say it hurts more not to run.  It hurts more not to be in shape and not to the weight less.  It hurts more physically, mentally, and emotionally when I see my body loose its shape and hardness and turn into a pudgy hot mess.  I run to keep my fitness but also my sanity as I once again take on to many things.  I have to finish this PhD by next May and I want to. I want to being my 30s out of school  - it's like a fresh start for me really.  So I keep running and I'll keep searching for the doctor/osteo/physio that will work for me.  Until then I'll just be a slightly cranky bitch...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


 I am on vacation (or holiday) for 2 weeks in the States.  After a few "issues" with my own family in Chicago before I left the UK, Mike and I decided that we would spend the whole 2 weeks in Michigan with his family.  I was apprehensive at first - last time we stayed with his parents was exactly one year ago when we were preparing for our big overseas adventure.  At that time things were stressful, Mike had a drunken accident, and we were all about to kill each other.

This time things are quite chill.  Mike has been gone for a year and so his family is just happy to have him home.  For the past week we have done nothing more than run, cook, read, and watch as much Bravo tv as we can (you know you LOVE the Real Housewives Franchise just as much as I do).  For the first time in a long time I am actually learning to a point.

It's funny - the more relaxed I get the more I feel like I should be doing work.  I check my email expecting something from work to pop up or anticipating reading a new article or policy that is related to my research.  I told my boss that for the 2 weeks I was off I would be OFF - no emails, no texting, no asking me to do something as I wanted to have a real holiday.  Now that I have it I am finding it a little hard to actually fully enjoy the time off - it's sick!  I meet with my adviser on Friday to go over my dissertation and so although I did all of my prep for that meeting before I left Bristol and sent it to her I still feel like I should be reading/writing.

But, I am not and am trying to teach myself the art of time off.  I bitch about wanting a break but when I get them I don't know what to do with myself.  I ran a 5K race two days after arriving in the US and have been running consistently since then which is a good thing, been trying to see a few friends, and trying to catch up on some fun reading.  I guess that is what relaxing is?  Who knows.  But for now I know that I needed the time off to calm my mind and my body before the the next 10 months of writing, working and running commence.  Now the World Cup..USA, USA, USA...

Monday, June 7, 2010


May 6, 2011.  This is the date that I will be graduating with my Ph.D in Anthropology (specialising in socio-cultural aspects of race, racism, identity, citizenship, and nation) from Michigan State University.  About 2 weeks ago I had a skype meeting with my adviser and we both agreed that I can push hard these next few months and get it done.  After 6 years at MSU and 12 (DAMN) years in total since I graduated high school I will finally end my love-hate relationship with studenthood.

Am I ready?  Simply put...HELL YEA.  My entire 20s have been spent within the academy.  I'v raked up student loans in excess of $70,000 WITH fellowships in ever year but this last one (not even sure of this figure but that is the bare minimum I know I will be paying back). have moved states and now countries, loss my dad, found my soul mate, loss some weight, gained some of it back, and now am loosing it again, and in general have grown a hell of a lot.  And, I'm tired of being a student.  Tired of being broke, relying on fellowships and loans to get by on.  I'm tired of being underpaid based on the fact that I am a student (cause come on those TAships are a joke with all the work you do).  But I have learned something valuable in all the jobs I have taken- unless you realize your own value no one else will - Period.

So this next 10-11 months will entail me writing my ass off.  I signed up for the Bristol half marathon and will do the Rome marathon March 20, 2011 as a way to have something else to also aim/train for alongside the writing and working.  Balance is key and Lord knows I have forgotten that far to often when deadlines start to approach and stress levels create blinders that allow me to forget that I have a life outside of work/school.  This summer challenge with the following one in winter helps me remember to keep eating healthy food and work out.   Running saved my life so I make that  a priority and not just an extra thing I do if I THINK I have the time because really one can make time for anything they actually prioritize.

But you may be asking - will I really finish?  Again...HELL YEA.  Why?  Because it is not in my reality no to (Sam is this the right form of "to"?).  I can actually picture myself giving the defence, passing, turning in the dissertation to the grad school, getting my fancy cap and gown, and walking across that stage with a big smile on my face and most likely a little tear in my eye.  Thoughts become things and my thoughts are completely  focused on getting done and getting a job that I enjoy and allows me to pay my bills and live a comfortable life.

When I finish I will be 29 years old, 3 months shy of turing the Dirty 30.  I will close one chapter of my life and begin another.  I wonder what my 30s will bring...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Challenge 2010

I did it again.  I went and signed myself up for another challenge to coincide with my training for the Bristol half marathon in September.  Some of you may recall the winter challenge I did over the holiday season at the end of last year through the Burn the Fat Inner Circle online community that my favorite health guru Tom Venuto is in charge of (see picture on right).  It's simple really - I had to get my weight and body fat, calculate my lean body mass and my fat, do my body measurements, state my long and short term goals, and then take pictures of myself in my underwear from the front, side and back (lovely).  I posted this all to a thread with my name and after 98 days I do this all again and see how much my body has transformed over that time.

The last challenge was a success and helped me to kickstart my body transformation - it will take me a year to reach my goals so I am a 1/3 of the way there.  the past 3 months have seen me at a plateau - not really losing but not gaining so it's time for another kick start.

Now I have 14 weeks (98 days) to reach my short terms goals.  That involves shedding 14-28lbs (1-2 lbs a week), 6-7% body fat (.5% per week), and finishing this challenge with my second half marathon (where I plan to run the whole thing, no walking).  It's nice to have this to help me along the summer.  Usually people lose weight over the summer cause its hot and you are outside more.  The past few summers I have actually gained due to drinking in excess which leads to eating in excess. Plus I was in Michigan working on my dissertation and teaching, so being outside was not something I actually wanted to do.  My trip to SE Asia last summer left me even more depressed because I saw how much I had let myself go, making traveling more uncomfortable than enjoyable.

I learned alot from that trip and so am glad it happened the way it did - I can't allow a place to dictate my happiness and lease on life.  I was miserable in Michigan and blamed it on being in Michigan.  That was only part of it as I had said the same thing about Louisiana, Chicago, D.C. and Wisconsin - it was always the location I was in that was making my unhappy.  The real problem was that I hadn't made peace with myself - made peace with the fact that I was once very large, made peace with the fact that my dad had passed, made peace with the fact that I didn't "need" friends to rely on me for support, made peace with the fact that I am sensitive (cause I am you know).  I mean I had to make peace with myself and not take the easy way out and think once I moved/traveled I would all of a sudden be happy and lean.  Traveling through SE Asia I saw that I was miserable and my misery was of my own doing - I was hot, overweight, out of shape, hair a mess, and had pink eye (that actually really did suck).  When I arrived in Bristol none of that magically changed for the better.  I was living in a living room with Mike on a blow up air mattress with another couple who had 2 pain in the ass cats with no job prospects for Mike and no idea how to start "doing" fieldwork.  Again, my problems didn't just go away once I hit the shores of the British Isles.  After 2 weeks of feeling sorry for myself I got going with Mike - hunted down apartments, set up utilities, looked for work and got myself a gym membership.   Once I started to take care of my body again  - working it to its max and fuelling it with whole foods - other parts of my life started to fall in place.  The depression began to lift and I started to see more opportunities appear.  Thought do become things so for me working on my body connected to me working on my mind, allowing various positive things to manifest before me.

So back to this challenge - I am doing it to keep my mind and body inline with one another.  Especially now that I am starting to write up my dissertation.  Gradation is May 6, 2011 and I will be walking across that stage with diploma in hand.  The next 11 months are going to be a roller-coaster ride of writing, working, running, lifting, and traveling.  I use this challenge as one way of outlining the first 3 months of this longer 11 month journey to ending my student career.  Now, first things first - a trail run on this Bank Holiday (aka Memorial Day in the US) and then working on a grant for work.  Work it out!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Half Marathon Number 2

This week marks the start of my 4 month training program for my second half marathon.  I'll run the Bristol half September 5, 2010.  A flat course around the city I will try to beat my time of 2:52 which shouldn't be that hard to do!
Original Route Map 2009

I'm using a different training program and adding on 4 more weeks of formal training to get myself 1) in better shape and 2) a faster time.  The last race in Prague was great but my injuries flared up bad at mile 10 causing me to walk the last 2 of the 3 miles.  Mental strength was what got me through as my right side was dead on arrival once I crossed the finish line.

Now, I train!  Can't lie, my body is hurtin already so going slowly into my mileage is the plan for now.  My hips ache at night and my right arch is usually on fire and tight but my pace has picked up quite nicely and I am learning how to stretch and strengthen my weak areas.  My visa has tied up a bit of my money so extras like pilates and sport massage have to be put on hold until the middle of the summer once the visa is secured.  So until then all I can do is remember what I learned in those sessions and do them on my own.  But, it's not so bad to be honest.  Running on a schedule gives me structure and helps me balance work, school and life.  The fact that I can even still run with the injuries I have sustained makes me amazed at what the human body can heal and endure.  So I will start to update my progress once again - the ups and downs, the body fat reduction and the pint consumption (cause really you have to balance the two) until I cross that line once again in the city where I live.

Ok, maybe the rhyming was a bit much but you see what I mean.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I'm at work and just finished reading the "The Long Haul", an article published in The New York Times on April 8, 2010.  While reading it two paragraphs grabbed me, hit me on the head, and then placed me back into my seat with a new found reassurance in my recent decisions/revelations about my future career prospects.  Have a read:
Dr. Pannapacker has rebuked graduate schools for perpetuating a culture in which unattainable academic careers are portrayed as the only worthwhile goal, and for failing to level with students about their true prospects. With more transparency — if every graduate program published its attrition rate, average debt of its students, time to completion, and what kind of job its graduates got — undergraduates, he says, could make more-informed choices.
Academe encourages students to think of what they’re doing as a special kind of calling or vocation which is exempt from the rules of the marketplace,” he says. Those who look to work outside the scholarly world are seen as rejecting the academy’s core values. “They socialize students into believing they can’t leave academe or shouldn’t, which is why they hang on year after year as adjuncts, rather than pursue alternative careers.” 

Now, this is what I am talking about!  Over the past year I have been going through a see-saw battle with myself over my future.  I am coming to the end of a 10 year run in academics where, when finished, I will have accumulated 4 degrees in the same damn subject (but at least in different sub-fields to give myself some credit).  In that time I have been trained to think in these unrealistic, stifling, and bank breaking ways.  To mention that I MAY not want to work in academics the rest of my life left many other graduate students and some professors in a tissy - how dare I not want to work the rest of my life in an institution where I work 60+hour weeks for little pay in a competitive environment where only a few people will every read my work and I am always critiqued.  Even if I do get to the high status role as a professor I will be 60 and ready to retire since I would have had at least 1 heart attack, 2 nervous breakdowns, a head full of grey hair and a chronic pain in my ass from sitting in front a computer for my whole adult life.  Looking at it in this light I realized I am flippin crazy to invest all my time and energy into a disciple that doesn't want to return the love back.
Listen, I am not naive enough to think any career will love me back.  But I am also not naive enough (now) to think that just because I obtain this magical Ph.D after 6 years at Michigan State University I will somehow get a fabulous job in a university with my own office and instant respect.  And, I am not sure if I even want the dream to come true.  Working in the job I have now as part of my research showed me the value of my skills - those skills being reading and writing well.  It also showed me there is life and money outside academics...and I like it. I like coming home and (for the most part) having my work stay at work. I mean what a concept - most work is done at work and when you come home you can actually enjoy being at home.  I like having my weekends to myself and not worrying about the next paper deadline - ok I still worry since I am in the final year of my dissertation and I need to publish for technical reasons, but you get my drift.  I like the work I am doing and I can see the value in marketing the skills I have learned in this long ass process called graduate school.  And, you know what I actually want to make some money and do some good and not have my finances dictated by another university, period.  No, I don't feel bad about trying to make a comfortable living and enjoying my life.
I guess the point of this rant is to say that there is life outside of the academy.  If you do want, or decide to, go into academics I think you need a clear reason why and more than one exit plan once that degree is done.   In those different plans realize that non-academic jobs are out there and waiting for your CV/Resume to come into those doors.  You will be amazed at what you CAN do OUTSIDE the ACADEMY once you think outside the box. If your argument to me is that higher education breeds knowledge and eduction is the ticket to a successful life I counter by saying the real success is knowing how to use that education to YOUR advantage and not going along the same old tired ass narrative that historically and in the present day is still inherently prejudice.   Yes, I have gained plenty of knowledge along the way but knowledge for knowledge sake can be learned outside of four walls as most of the time the knowledge you really want comes outside of a classroom.    
NOTE: I do want to add - these are my opinions and I am talking about my experiences within the U.S.  I am not attempting to be comprehensive but really to work through how I am understanding my journey in higher education.  What I have learned in my time in the academy has been very valuable and I would not change it, but most of it was actually learned outside of the classroom and in my navigation of the politics and discrimination (based on class, race, and gender) inherent within the process.   The world "outside the academy" is not going to magically be better but it is a sector that I wish to explore and where I want to utilize my skills - that's all.  Having the article in the New York Times speak to issues that are talked about in lounges, coffee shops, and during breaks in class or at conferences is comforting as it lets me know that I am not crazy for thinking the way I do.  Work is work and to get anywhere in life there needs to be work done, but I want the work I do to mean something to me and not just be another checkbox on my CV.  Having seen a professor have a heart attack over the stress of the job, another be pushed out as chair because others in the department didn't like the "new guys" politics, and having been told to me face that I will never amount to anything in the academy I choose to leave it behind for a while when I am done.  I may come back, but for my own sanity and growth the separation between myself and the institution of higher education is one that needs to be done.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Stress is a pain in the ass.  For me stress has become one of those friends that you know you have to talk to but you really can't stand being around them for more than 5 minutes cause they have a high pitched voice that makes you just want to bash their face into a concrete floor to numb the pain from your ears...  Ok, maybe I took that a little to far, but you see what I mean.

I am in the process of organising my first conference.  Collaborating with a senior researcher from London Southbank University  we are putting on a conference called: Exploring Race and Ethnicity through the Arts on June 10th.  I will be debuting my first short story called "Uncomfortable" which Samantha Moy and Celeste Ramos have both helped tremendously on in editing and fine tuning.  I submit the story to an anthology of short stories about the experiences of mixed race women in North America.  If I am accepted it will be my first published piece!  If I am rejected it will be my first rejection of a short story that I submitted as a published piece - so either way a milestone is done.

On top of that I am working 3 days a week for an organisation as a researcher/grant writer/policy analysts/office bitch (oh did I say that), drafting another version of a working paper for online publication, coming up with ideas for an article that I have to submit to a journal within the year as part of my obligations for student visa, and still working on my dissertation which is now going to have be done by May 2011 since one more of my committee members is leaving Michigan State to go onto greener pastures.  Then I decide to take up running as a personal sport so am training for another half marathon with a marathon in the works for next March along with trying to shed the last of this baby fat that has been clinging onto my body since birth.  Damn, I am tired just thinking about it.

But with all of this comes my good old friend stress.  Now I have had a long and hard relationship with this beast - at times it has motivated me and gotten me to finish that last assignment, submit that last grant, or complete that last requirement.  Other times it has given me headaches and stomach problems, made my hair start to turn grey, and made me want to go to sleep and not wake up in the morning.  Right now stress is making its way back into my life, but this time we need to re-evaluate our relationship.  I know people say you should meditate, do yoga, work out, or not take things so seriously.  But you know what that advice can flippin annoying sometimes.  What if you do take things seriously?  What if finding your "chi" is not everyone's cup of tea?  I do take things seriously - it is who I am.  If I do something and my name is attached to it then damnit I want it done well and with quality.  Working with other people to accomplish this will lead to a bit of stress as you negotiate between different perspective and ideas.  I do run, but you can only for so damn long in a day before you get tired and running everyday is not an option.  Meditation is cool, but I don't do it properly and I can't get my mind to calm down long enough to just "be".  Yoga - ah look at my other posts on yoga.

I have to accept that I am a person that can get stressed out, but through the stress I get things done.  Now, I am just trying to redirect my stress and not let others dictate where and how I can and should get stressed out.  By this I mean I can't let someone else freaking out then freak me out so we are two freaked out hot messes.  Trying to email people and negotiate with them on their ridiculous demands and questions can be a stress but I can't let that stress ME out.  I'll try that thinking for now and see how it goes.  If worse comes to worse I'll go off and find an abandoned log cabin somewhere in the woods and just "be"....for at least an hour and then come back to my email.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Sunday afternoon I spent in the woods.  With trees all around me and Mike in front of me we walked for a little while through a small part of forest on a massive estate in Bristol called Ashton Court.  Although slightly hungover I found the forest to cure my stomach pains as I took in the scenery all around me.  The trees were grand with the leaves starting to come out again and the flowers beginning to bloom.  A faint smell of lavender hung in the air and the trails were compact enough to walk on having dried up from the rain.  And the best part was that we didn't run into a single person while in the forest - only when we were in a clearing and on the open land did we see families with kids and dogs going for a "Sunday stroll" or runners braving the windy conditions to get the miles in.  But once we receded back into the forest it was as if time stood still and the only people in the world were Mike and myself with some trees.

It's funny, growing up outside a city made me think that I would only every like city life.  The concrete jungle with all its noise, shops, bars, people, stuff seemed like my idea of heaven on Earth. I was to be that city girl with all the bangs and whistles (or something like that).  Then something slowly started to happen - I got sick of being around a bunch of people in a hot ass city with no circulation because of the tall ass buildings that looked into other tall ass buildings.  I got tired to the price of rent for a box that may or may not include a damn bathroom or kitchen.

But I also began to run and running in a city with nothing but buildings all around you and concrete sidewalks underneath you gets boring and painful real quick.  And I moved - moved to a place where the countryside is at my backdoor and I found I really liked it.  My stress goes down and my face lights up once I am outside and surrounded by the beauty of a forest.  Mountains are cool but to be honest scare the shit out of me.  I will still hike them and attempt to climb them but my fear sits at the top my throat and my feet become more hesitant as I am exposed to the harshness that a mountain can bring.  But in the forest I am surrounded, embraced really, by the dense trees, grass, and wildlife that creates the landscape.  In the abundance and richness of the colors and the peaceful sounds that are produced I find that I am...happy.  HAHA.  It's a funny thing to just be and then to just be happy and content but on that short walk through the forest I found myself just happy to be where I was.  It was nice to know I can go back again and again (with over 850 acres to explore) and its only a 10 minute drive away.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Yesterday I was at a book launch in London.  Overall it was a good event, the two books being released dealt with transnational families and lone mothers of mixed-race children. Two different research projects, but both conducted within the same department at London Southbank brought there union together for this 3 hours event.  This is not the point of this post, but rather a background to explain the conversation provoked afterward during wine and canapes hour (sounds fancy I know!).

I was in a conversation with a couple of older Black women, both of Caribbean descent who now live in London and do research around families and mixedness/race.  During our loud conversation one woman brought up the subject of hair.  Earlier in the Q and A round a woman from the audience brought up the subject of hair and how white lone mothers felt about doing their mixed race child's hair.  The presenter commented that for the white lone mothers it was a big issue as many felt they could never leave the house without their child's hair being done.  Otherwise, that would reflect back on them as "bad mothers", especially to black single mothers.  So their child's hair became a physical site of surveillance by the community and a sign of being a good mother.

In our little group the two older women began to comment on the politics of hair for them growing up and how that affected the way in which they wore their hair.  One woman was constantly reminded of how kinky her hair was while growing up in Jamaica, being compared to her lighter, straighter, "more beautiful" sister.  So she rebelled and began to dreadlock her hair and now 30 years later it is still in dreads, but now it is fashionable and her hair is considered "pretty" to some.

I chimed in, retelling the story of my childhood where my dad, every morning before school, would sit me down on the floor between his knees, take out a big brush, put some water on it and squirt a bunch of Pink Oil Moisturizer on my hair and brush it back into one big and puffy ponytail.  By the end of the day it would look a hot mess since the who front of my had would frizz up and sit there while the back of my hair laid smooth.

Hair is a defining statement and can say a bit about who we are.  I have made it a conscious effort to keep my hair "natural" - refusing the temptations and appeals by others to chemically straighten my hair.   I can't lie, I did it once and it burn the shit out of my scalp and left my hair limp and lifeless, necessitating me to have my friend straighten it with a flat iron every time I want to go out to not look like a "Voodoo Queen" as another of my friends so eloquently told me one night.  It was after this disastrous run in with a tube of smelly relaxer that I decided to cut my hair off in March 2005 down in Baton Rouge.  I hated it at first and soon realized that finding a competent hair dresser would be just as hard as finding an honest lawyer so I went through years of bad cuts, experimenting, trying to find the cut that fit me.

But I vowed never to give into social pressure to have that long straight look.  So when I moved to England I toyed with the idea of going short again. I had grown out my hair thinking I wanted it to be long and curly, free to roam on its own accord. After going though 1-2 bottles of conditioner a week and having to sweep my bathroom floor everyday cause of my unruly hair I gave that shit up real quick.  I cut the mop just after New Years 2010.  I was happy with it, but still felt like it was to much. So one day, about 2 weeks ago, while walking in the city centre on a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon I walked into a salon and asked if they had a specialist who could cut mixed race hair. They did.  I think asked if she was free to cut some hair. She was.  The result is a short crop to the scalp that I can work with.  My statement: I'm tall, brown, educated, and I can rock a shirt cut just as good as any long weave...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I realize more and more that I am an immigrant.  8 months into my move to the UK my status as "foreigner" is more and more ingrained in my sense of identity.  Visa problems, cultural differences, lack of general knowledge of habits and local customs, unable to speak the "correct" language all solidify my status as an "Other" in a way different from my "othering"in the States.  

I've been quiet this past month.  Coming off my half marathon in Prague I moved into a house in an amazing location outside the city centre, increased my hours at the organisation I am working for, decided that I wanted to start creative writing so began my first short story,  wrote a working paper for an online publication series through London Southbank University, and agreed to present once more on May 4th AND co-organize a conference on Race and Ethnicity in the Arts in June in London.  So to say the least I have been a little busy.  But in this time as well I have had to contemplate about my status in this country as my visa ends at the end of September, 2010. 

Coming back from Prague both Mike and I had to go through immigration at Bristol airport.  A small airport with just a few immigration officers, one is allocated for non-UK and EU citizens.  Mike and I were the only two in the line and after 15, yes 15, minutes of questioning we were allowed to go.  My visa is good for 15 months and Mike's for 3, yes 3, years.  Nonetheless this woman wanted to make sure we knew we were immigrants in HER country.   My visa was questioned up and down - "What is the course you are studying?  Why did you want to study in the UK?  What do you plant to do when you are done?  How are you funding yourself?  Why are you working?  How many hours a week do you work?  What is the pay?  Oh, why are you working again?"  Question after question left me more and more anxious as I felt I had doen something wrong by coming back into the UK with a LEGAL and VALID visa.  

Mike was then interrogated and his questions even harder and more personal.  After it was found out that is working 30 hours a week and still in search of a professional Project Engineering job in the middle of a recession the woman whips out her hands and counts on her fingers how long Mike has been in the country without a professional job.  After that condescending act she then asks "Well, how are you supporting yourself?" to which Mike responded "Well, with the job I am working 30 hours a week."  Then I added, "And I am also helping out with bills since I am funded." To which she replied "Oh, well isin't that nice of you.  Carry on."

That performance left me mentally exhausted and utterly pissed off.  I do not expect special treatment because I am American and think I have some ingrained right to go wherever I please in the world. On the contrary, I find that behaviour and way of thinking obnoxious and ethnocentric.  But what I do find unacceptable and down right degrading is the way in which "foreigners" are treated in the West when they are traveling for legitimate and valid reasons.  You don't want me in your country, don't give me a visa to either study of work - period.

But, it has been a good lesson and one in which I know will keep teaching me.  I am the "Other" here because of where I happened to be born and raised.   Most of the time it is not a real issue, but once the law comes into it my status become more and more real.  Presently, I am going back and forth with LSBU about renewing my visa for another year so that I can stay and write-up my dissertation here and defend back in the States next May.  

With the new visa regulations, that change literally ever 6 months to get harder and harder, I now have to go through a new set of hoops to show my student status for the extension: £1600 pounds in my account and an electronic letter of acceptance alongside another biometric analysis and £350 application fee.  After that year ends the process will begin again to finagle how I can then stay to start my career.

Life is a funny thing isin't it?  Logistically my life would easier if I just took my ass back to the States and started a career there.  But logistics and happiness do not always go hand in hand.  Despite my immigrant status, the problems I always incur with immigration, the fees and taxation these people pay in this country, and the awful food (sorry Brits) I love the quality of my life this country presented to me and that i happily embraced.   Being an immigrant has helped me understand the issues and complexities of politics and law around human life and the ideas of human rights.  This is translating into my writing and research.  So now I end this long rant by saying that people need to think twice before they go on about immigrants and immigration because when it comes down to it immigrants are people with a history and story.  Do not let media hype and over sensationalism cloud your judgement on a group of people labeled by the state.  In this vein the recent legislative law passed in Arizona is an abomination to basic human rights and we all need to voice concern about the implications that law has in "othering" both nationals and immigrants and what that can do to your basic human rights.  

Thanks for reading