Take me back to WildWood!

 

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I can remember the night I met my now husband. I can remember thinking to myself that a person this good, this moral would never love me because of that one thing in my past. That one thing I tell no one, that my closest friends know and never bring up. The one thing I am more confused about than any other decision I have ever made in my past. The one thing that makes me feel like I am not good enough to have this man love me. As a result of this fear, I reacted in the opposite way that I normally do with this piece of information. Normally, I hide it until someone sees me, loves me enough to love me in spite of that one thing I did when I was 16. This thing that I completely believe is everyone woman’s choice to make, but why when I acknowledge that I used my right to choose does it make my skin crawl. However on that night I didn’t bury that information, when my wonderful now-husband asked me about the significance of my tattoo on my back instead of using any one of the reasons I normally share with people, I told him the truth, I told him about a choice that I made when I was 16 and the ways that it still drives my life today. And guess what. .. he still loved me. He still asked me if I was upset he wasn’t trying to make out with me that night, and still convinces me every day that I am his “have-to-have” in life, that I am his most beautiful woman in the world. And I like to think it is not in spite of my choice to tell him about my past, but maybe just a little bit because of my choice to tell him. ( And look at me even now, not wanting to write the word out)

A wonderful woman named Grace spoke to a group of 16-18-year-old girls this week, she will continue to speak to them every week for the next 10 weeks she will influence the way that they share their lives with people, and she impacted the way I hope to share my life. She spoke about vulnerability but beyond that, she spoke of transparency. Transparency in our lives in our stories is typically reserved for the few closest to us, those we believe, as I did, will love us in spite of the choices that we made and not turn our back on us or run and tell their neighbor the things we choose to share. They will see themselves a little bit in our stories and find our humanity refreshing. But vulnerability is what we chose to share with people who have not earned transparency yet, with the people who ask to hear our testimony, who ask us about our day. We pick and choose little-edited pieces of our life that we feel comfortable sharing, things that may make us look like we have been through something tragic but still paint us in a good light. We don’t talk about all the shitty things WE have done when we are just being vulnerable.

But what could we do, if we were transparent with more people if we shared the struggles the hardest decisions we have made and then let people see the ways we were formed and shaped by those choices. Through the times that we hide away from others, don’t you think we all probably have a little more in common that we think? But we just spend our lives only showing the “instagrammable” moments with each other. We paint our lives to appear beautiful all the time. But I think we could all become a lot closer if we showed the browns and the grays of our lives instead of only the golden, the bright and shiny hues.

First off, I have never been to WildWood, not as a camper, not as a counselor, not as a staff member.  Wildwood is a place where campers spend a week of their lives trying to get closer to God and get closer to each other. It is a place removed from cell phones, social media and a place where you get to work hard and take a week to breathe deeply again. I spent a few nights at Wildwood this summer as a guest and in the moments I start to hide away the moments I forget what it is like to live transparently, I hope someone will Take me Back to Wildwood.

-Rae

P.S. I wrote most of this post back in June, and am just getting around to posting it.

(Wildwood, camp- Hume CA)

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Out of their Hole.

I went home to my home town last week. A place I spent 18 years of my life, I lived in the same house, on the same street all those years; and my mom still lives in that house on that street. At the end of my road and across the street sits a little white church with a sign out front that reads “God Save America Again.” Now that sign may seem annoying, ignorant even but nothing too out of the ordinary in Small Town America until you know one little thing about the people that enter that church every week. . . those people are known White Supremacists. They had their hey day in the 70’s and have been rather quite since but they are still there at the end of my street in my little hometown.

Now this has become a fun fact I share with people when they ask about my childhood. .. “Oh I lived in a small town, the only really note able thing about it is the white supremacist church.”  People will gasp and ask me how I handled that growing up… you know being a black woman and all.

But the funny thing is that I didn’t handle it, I didn’t have to handle it. They stayed down there on their end of the street and I felt as safe as any child could running around the town until all hours of the night. They never bothered me, there were no confrontations they simply stayed in their little church, probably hating my existence.But you know from inside their space I couldn’t have cared less about what went on inside their heads. Because as long as they stayed inside, some part of me knew that they understood the inappropriateness of what they were feeling. They knew they would be met with such resistance in this time in in America that they idea of coming “out” as what they truly were wouldn’t even cross their minds.

Flash Forward to today— 2017—- Small Town America—-

You would think we would have made progress right? Maybe that little white church has been closed up for the last year, maybe the people all scattered around the country, or with any luck made a friend of a different race and realized it was all just a lie.

Think again my friend, here we are in 2017 and for the first time in my life I felt unsafe in my hometown. The people in the little white church still ignored my presence, but someone else some stranger who has never met me and wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a line up felt they had the right to scream

WHITE POWER

At me out of the window of their car as I walked into Hobby Lobby. 

Wait, let me back up just a minute, yes you read that right. 2017, a northern state, a girl and her friends are walking into Hobby lobby to buy wedding supplies and out of no where a grown-ass man yells

WHITE POWER 

out of his window.

It was like my whole perception of my home town came crashing down like the ideals of democracy around me, this place that had always been safe and protective was now foreign and angry. Angry at me because what? I was born with black skin, because the sun doesn’t turn me an angry shade of red, because my hair reaches for the stars while yours falls flat, or angry because a black man in power did something the white men before or after him could not. .. turned so many aspects of the country around.

But there I was furious and hyperventilating in the hobby lobby parking lot, and as much as my friends wanted to help to tell me “anger and fear is what they want.”  or “Don’t let them get to you.”

They truly had no idea how that moment felt; eating away at my insides as I contemplated the true meaning of that statement; White Power . 

And over and over again  I came back to the same thing: 

These people have always existed, there hasn’t been a magical time in the last 40 years when there were no white supremacists in America, they have been stewing and hiding for 40 years waiting for their opportunity to come out of the shadows. Waiting for someone to validate their feelings again, that look all these dark skinned humans whom we have oppressed for hundreds of years have someone done us wrong feeling.

However over the last 40 years they saw the world do the exact opposite they saw a black man become president and the world embrace him they saw his wife become beloved and they had to continue to hide in their holes, angrily sipping on Bud Light and ranting about “if the confederacy had won” But something has shifted; they began to climb their way out of their holes, see the sun and once again think that they deserve so much more than I do simply because of the color of my skin. They were given the chance to once again be validated enough in their feelings that those nasty words; White Power aren’t just uttered in their Klandestine (yes the K is intentional) meeting but rather they have seen the power and they are welcomed back into the fold. 

And this is what truly made me the most sick about that sad, angry man who yelled at me that day. Not that he felt that way, because I am obviously not going to be the person to change his mind. But that he felt strong enough, that enough people would support him and that I was little enough so far below him that he could once again yell it in the streets.Because when these people are strong enough to climb out of their holes, when there are enough people in power that support them that tell them they will fix all their problems by “building a wall” that assure them the wrong doings they perceived against the White Man are legitimate then the real question is

Did the last 40 years even happen, or should I start looking for the colored drinking fountain.

Olivia Pope’s Hair is Scandalous!

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So let’s start by saying I LOVE Olivia Pope, I am a full on Shonda Rimes addict, and if you don’t know Shonda is the genius who has created, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, all of which I love!

Even though I can’t watch the shows until Friday because I don’t have TV I fully subscribe to the TGIT (Thank God its Thursday) that ABC puts out. I love her, I love Olivia Pope, I love Kerry Washington.

And if you are as hooked on Scandal as I am then you know that in the recent weeks Olivia has been under fire for the affair with Fitz, something that was bound to happen eventually and has left Olivia wallowing in her apartment drinking wine.

But what I care about here is her hair, yes her hair, ok I have been upset about her hair before, when she was kidnapped for weeks her hair stayed nicely straight maybe it got some frizz here or there but you know there was no major kink coming out, still mostly composed and relaxed,

Now that she is under fire, there are pictures of a younger, more wild Pope, she is out partying, drinking in college with her friends, she is a freshman as Georgetown and guess what, there is her natural hair! She finally has some curls, maybe a little kink here or there!

Now come on, she is wallowing in her house, a bottle of wine in her hand and her hair is perfectly put together, perfectly straight hair, but when she isn’t supposed to be professional her hair can be in its natural state . . .because well you know natural hair is not professional.

Ok so this is a little thing, this had nothing to do with the episode and I actually liked the episode but it is just another way to see that when people see me in my beautiful braids they see “beautiful black woman” they do not see “professional” Its a little thing yes.. . but little things add up!

❤ Kelsi Rae

Let’s talk about labeling people thick girls. . .

Urban dictionary

1. thick
nice ass, nice legs, not skinny, with meat on your bones. thickness is the shit.
Damn that girl is thick yo!
by Bryant May 11, 2002

2. Thick
A woman with a perfect body, filled-in in places that are, by nature, designed to attract the opposite sex, such as the thighs, the hips, the breasts, and the most lovely part of all, the booty.

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I have never considered myself fat,  I have always had a booty and ever since I stopped playing competitive volleyball by boobs just seem to be growing exponentially. But despite the doctor telling me that according to my BMI I am obese, I have never felt fat or considered myself hugely overweight, I would never have said that body image or self consciousness has been an issue for me. . Until this year.

I started grad school in June, and by October I had gained 15 pounds, I only gained 20 pounds all of the four years I was in undergrad so apparently the Freshman 15 is really the graduate student 15. . and it killed me. I would look in the mirror and feel like I didn’t look as good in my clothes, they all of a sudden hung it different places and clung to all the wrong places. And getting on the scale. . FORGET IT! I avoided that bad boy like it was the plague.

No matter how many times Ben would tell me I was beautiful or that I looked good in an outfit, there was always a feeling in the back of my mind that it wasn’t true, That he wold have preferred me 15 pounds lighter like I was when we started dating. And then we got engaged and I thought I am gonna have BACK fat. and you know. . .

You can’t suck in back fat. so

So there I was searching for any way that I could loose this weight while maintaining my grad school/teaching/wedding planning life style. . I have started cooking clean eating meals during the week and eating 5 small meals a day. And I have lost 7 pounds since the new year. It feels good but I still don’t feel great

Then enters this Thick girl  thing. . . I have been boxing for a little over a year now and have become pretty comfortable with my two male boxing coaches, but in the last maybe month they have both referred to me as a Thick or big girl at different times.

One time they were telling another girl that if she was fighting me, I was a thick girl and she would have to ensure that I didn’t get a hit on her because I could lay her out.

The second time was last night and Ryan my coach, First started out with “You look really good, you can tell you have been loosing weight, keep doing what you are doing and by the wedding you will look great.” Then continued it with ” It’s hard because you are a big girl.” . . . EXCUSE ME!

What does that mean?

Now I don’t think that either one of them was meaning this in a negative way? They both genuinely meant it in a nice way. But as a woman that has been struggling with self esteem lately, I am unsure how I feel about these statements.

So I headed over to google to figure out what they exactly mean by calling me thick? All of the definitions are nice and one even is quoting as saying, ” The perfect body.” But something about this word just rubs me wrong. Now its not like I am going to hold this against them or take it too hard, but why should by body type be dictated by thick or thin standards.

Why can’t we just say, ” you look nice today.” or ” you are looking really good, keep it up.” Without associating these with a size difference. It doesn’t matter if you are a size 0 or a size 16, you are not your size. So why does making, “Thick” a good thing make it ok. A girl that is a size 0 may be struggling with her body image just like the rest of us and associating her value with the term thin would just make it worse.

Now some girls may take this as the utmost compliment, I don’t know. But I am not one of them. And if we are trying to live in this body positive culture I think that It is time to stop labeling women, positive or negative by the size of their body.

i am not a thick girl.

I am Kelsi, size 12. And I will look fabulous on my wedding day!

Color Blind or Color Brave?

I grew up in a small town, and by small I mean white, and by white I mean, known for its white supremacy church and ideology.

I grew up knowing all of the minority members of my community on one hand, and by that I mean 2. Me and a boy in my grade and we were both the only black children of white single mothers, didn’t exactly scream cultural pride. I grew up trying to mute my association with the Black community, a community I admittedly knew very little about. This was not the fault of my mother, who helped me with all my self driven research projects, into the old negro baseball teams and deciding at age 13 that I was going to go to a historically black college which died as I got into high school and realized all of the historically Black colleges were states away.  She did all of my research with me and appreciated all of my curiosity, but she just did not have any personal knowledge, so I fell farther and farther from my black roots. I was one of 9 out of 1900 black students in my high school, and in college the only black students I knew either played football or basketball, And at this point I was already not comfortable enough around people that “looked like me” to approach any of them.

Now don’t get me wrong, I dated black guys, the majority of guys I dated in college were black, but my real long term relationships have always been with white guys, as is my future husband. I can remember multiple occasions when the different guys I would date told me that they liked, or in some cases disliked the fact that I acted like a white girl. So thats what I became, the white black girl. If anyone even knows what that means? Well I do, I knew exactly what people would mean when they say it, and I internalized it. I became more nervous to enter a room of black people and disappoint them, than to be the only black person in the room.

So now I have entered a grad program that repeatedly tells us about being culturally responsive and we look and look at data and discrimination, and the disporpotionality of minorities in drop out rates, and the school to prison pipeline and suspensions. And now I am here, wanting to be color brace.

So what does this mean to me? I need to embrace the color of my skin I need to be the person that will stand up for what I believe in. I don’t want to hide behind the “i don’t know” response.  I don’t want to live in the “white black girl” stereotype. I have made changes in my life to do these with the people around me, when I am offended by an off hand comment I now call people out on it, I hope to educate people about how things are perceived and not accuse or castrate people.

I need to think about how I am going to represent myself in order to create value in the diversity for my students, and for the people in my community at large. I don’t think being color brave means saying everyone is the same, I think it means, everyone is different, and that is wonderful.

When I think being color brave I can remember being in high school reading Huckleberry Finn, as of course, the only member of the black community in English class, being asked in front of the entire class why does the word Nigger still offend black people? The class continued to tell me that, we needed to just get over it because it doesn’t mean anything and it hasn’t in like 100 years. At the time being a 16 year old girl I curled into myself, I muted the feelings that were coming up until I ran into the hallway, found a corner, and just cried. At the time I could not pinpoint the feeling I did not know what was happening but those assumptions, those kind of conversations should never happen in a classroom.

One person is not the representation of a race, one person is a representation of themselves. So to be Color Brace I will stand up for my students, I will ensure that they don’t have to feel that, at least in my class and that they are prepared to have those conversations when people, I will teach my students to see color, to embrace color and to embrace people. And if that is my contribution to the evolution of society if I can bring students into the world that understand the differences people bring and why we should embrace color and change then I will be happy.

I will create a small piece of society that is not afraid to talk about race, that is not afraid to embrace their identity, If I can make sure that one person does not ever mute their identity like I did, then I will have succeeded, I will be brave!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”-Socrates.  “The examined life is painful.”

❤ Kelsi Rae

The bad bride blues. . .

So I think I am a bad bride.

I don’t love the spotlight, I don’t want to tell everyone every detail of the wedding and gush about the flowers and the colors and the dress. I love my fiance and I am so excited about our wedding. And its not like I am not on top of the planning, because believe me I am. I have the venue booked, the flowers picked out, dress ideas up the wazoo, the menu created, but I just want to keep all of that to myself. I share it with my fiance, my mom ( she is paying for it after all), and my best friend ( sometimes I even forget to include her.) And that is all. . .

People will find out I am engaged and immediately want to know all of the details, this seems to happen more to my fiance though, girls ask him all sorts of questions, and like really he is a guy he knows a lot but why as him about the wedding. But they want to know all of the details, I just give them a look like please random physical therapist that I just met, no I don’t want to share every detail with you.

Even people that I am close to and gladly share the information with when they ask, I generally don’t volunteer the information without prompting. I just feel like this is my thing, I get the pleasure of planning a party that is just about me and my man, and why do you need to know all of the details now, 8 months in advance? Most likely you are not even invited so you won’t see any of this executed. Now I love a good wedding pinterest board as much as the next girl, I think I am just uncomfortable with the direct attention that I receive as a result of this new found status in my life. My future father in- law so nicely reminded me that this day will be all about ME! Oh god, I thought to myself.

Then we took engagement pictures last weekend, two hours of a camera in my face and I was so uncomfortable. . but according to #theknot, that is supposed to prepare me for 8 hours of photos of me on the big day . . well #FAIL!

Speaking of The Knot, they have things on their wedding checklist I can’t even imagine, having the time, money, or desire to do for my wedding. They have suggestions like start a pampering week, getting a massage, manicure and pedicure ( ok this one I might do) hair done. . all weeks before the wedding for a trial run and then do it again. I don’t even think I will trust someone else to touch my hair the day of my wedding, but that is more a result of my hair- crazed ways than anything else. But I have no time to spend weeks focusing on “pampering” myself. Will I look good, yes, but that does not take weeks of preparation. Is this something women do on a regular basis? Maybe this is why my wedding won’t even cost 1/4 of the average cost of a wedding in America which is over 25,000 dollars!!! That is the cost of a new car, that is over double what my future hubby just spent for a car. That is ridiculous, who is paying for these weddings, I get anxiety thinking about the few thousand dollars people are dishing out for mine I couldn’t imagine spending four times that much, what do you even spend all that money on?

With all of the pinereset and instagrams dedicated to weddings and brides and engagements I feel like I am the only one that feels this way, do all women automatically crave attention when they get engaged? Do we all become a little narcissistic for 8 months of our lives? Is there a secret bridezilla ready to spend daddy’s, mommy’s, hubby’s and her own money on center pieces and massages, and the 1000 dollar wedding shoes I used to crave so much, inside every woman. Maybe I just haven’t let my bridezilla out yet, we will see when she surfaces over the next 8 months . .

Signed . . . the bad bride

❤ Kelsi Rae