Family, General

The Perfect New Year’s Resolution

What follows is a re-post from December 29, 2011 on another blog of mine: 

When I was younger, there was a woman in my church who wanted the church to celebrate Kwanzaa and always tried to get us church kids to participate in Kwanzaa activities during service. She was given permission to do this, but I always had the impression that no one in the church really cared about Kwanzaa – they just didn’t want to hurt her feelings. As I grew older, I realized that there really aren’t a whole lot of Black people who celebrate Kwanzaa, and that it is more often made fun of and regarded as trivial or stupid than anything else.

Kwanzaa was developed in the 60s(?) by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a part of the Pan-African movement, and as an attempt to bring Black folks together in support of each other and of the Black community as a whole. It is not an actual holiday in any African nation, but the it was derived from the many different harvest-time traditions that stem from the different countries in Africa.

I believe that Dr. Karenga was/is an Atheist, and Kwanzaa is a non-religious holiday so that anyone can celebrate it – regardless of their religious leaning. The holiday lasts for seven days – between December 26 and January 1 each year, and on each day of Kwanzaa a candle is lit, a new principle is recited and taught, and educational/homemade/practical gifts are exchanged. On the last day of Kwanzaa, I believe a traditional African meal is prepared and friends and family can get together to throw down on some good food.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, collectively referred to as the Nguzo Saba – which simply means “Seven Principles” in Swahili.

Umoja, or Unity.
Kujichagulia, or Self-Determination.
Ujima, or Collective Work and Responsibility.
Ujaama, or Cooperative Economics.
Nia, or Purpose.
Kuumba, or Creativity
Imaani, or Faith.

Although I was among the ranks of those who made fun of Kwanzaa when I was younger, I find myself more interested in it now as an adult. And yet, because of the stigma surrounding it, I feel as though it’s going to be quite a hard practice to get started. Already, my family laughs at me for even having the interest!

I feel that the Nguzo Saba are important principles for the Black community to take seriously. And I’m not saying that there aren’t any African-Americans who already live by these principles, but let’s be honest… I really think that the Nguzo Saba – if taken seriously – could help us to get ourselves out of poverty, ignorance, and this whole ‘hood mentality’ thing that we have going on. I think that if we were more self-determined, we could get out of this defeatist funk that we’ve been in for the past hundred years or so… we could invest in our own businesses, in our education, in our young boys who are being lost to crime and murder. We could see a rise in fathers who stick around and women who work together and not against each other (which is probably a problem with all women – no matter what ethnic group they belong to). We could show our children that they don’t have to grow up and be a famous athlete or entertainer in order to “make it,” that there are just as many opportunities for Blacks to be doctors, scientists, businesspeople, and lawyers – if that’s what they want to do.

So, this is what Kwanzaa means to me. It’s an opportunity to share the “good news” with my community and future children that your opportunities for success in life are not limited to drug-dealing, gang banging, rapping, and shooting hoops (not that there’s anything wrong with the last two). It’s an opportunity to bridge together those in our community who have done well with those who are still struggling. It’s a chance to ask – How can I help my community to better itself? How can I be for my people and not embarassed by them? All in all, I don’t see why anyone would not want to participate in Kwanzaa – not just during the Kwanzaa holiday – but by living out its principles throughout the year.

And since Kwanzaa wraps up on New Year’s Day – it’s the perfect New Year’s resolution.


Things We Don’t Talk About.

This is our 15th month trying to conceive, and this month I am more discouraged than usual but I don’t know why.

I’m in the middle of what is termed the “Two Week Wait” (the waiting period between the time a woman ovulates and the time she begins her menstrual cycle or receives a positive pregnancy test), and although my husband and I timed everything perfectly this month (I mean, could not have been more perfect!) I don’t feel like this month is going to result in a “Big Fat Positive.”

I was reading an article that a friend linked on her Facebook page about why women shouldn’t have to wait three months to reveal that they are pregnant (if they don’t want to). Normally, a pregnant woman might wait to announce her good news because she wants to make sure that her baby makes it through the first trimester in good health. Since the chances of miscarriage decrease with time, a woman who reveals her pregnancy too soon might have to face the agony of announcing her miscarriage only a few weeks later. The author of the article described how she’d waited to reveal her pregnancy, and unfortunately she miscarried while still in the first trimester. Since no one knew that she was pregnant in the first place, she had to go on with life as though nothing had gone wrong. She had lost a child, and kept it to herself. The experience was emotionally draining for her, and once she finally opened up about her miscarriage she realized that there were so many other women who’d gone through the same thing. It’s a good article.

I feel like the situation is somewhat similar (though perhaps less devastating?) for people who struggle with infertility. Usually, you don’t announce that you are trying to get pregnant. If no one knows that you are trying to get pregnant, you can avoid all the unwarranted advice, the people continuously asking you if you have any “good news,” and the embarrassment you might feel if it happens to take longer than expected (or if you happen to discover some medical problem that you didn’t know you’d had). But trying to conceive when no one knows you’re trying (and even if they do know!) is also very lonely.

My family is extremely fertile. My maternal great-grandmother had fifteen children and my paternal great-grandmother had eleven. My maternal grandmother had five children and my paternal grandmother had four. My aunts and uncles have all had multiple children as well, and my cousins with children had no problems with getting pregnant once they started trying. So, I have to admit that I don’t think anyone in my family would really be able to understand the insanity/emotional roller coaster/obsession/absolute craziness that is trying to conceive. As for my friends? Most of them already have children. The ones that don’t are not interested in having children at this point (to my knowledge), but I’m not close enough with any of them to really discuss this sort of thing, anyway. It would be nice if I could make friends with people who have been trying to conceive for a long time. But where do you find them? These aren’t exactly the things people talk about in polite conversation. And that’s my point. Trying to conceive is a lonely road. Meanwhile, people get pregnant all around you, and you are invited to baby showers, and you go out shopping with friends for baby clothes and baby items for their bun in the oven. All the while, you’re wondering why you can’t get pregnant yourself. But you don’t want to rain on someone else’s parade by mentioning your infertility struggles. And if you’re like me – you certainly will do whatever it takes to avoid becoming that bitter, jealous person!

I wish that I could say that I am going to give up on trying to conceive for awhile, but I can’t. I’ve tried to give up so many times and I never can. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything as much as I want to be able to have children and have a large family of biological and adopted kids. I mentioned in another blog post how I’ve dreamed of becoming a mom since I was 5 or 6, even before I desired marriage! Hopefully, whether I have my own children or not, I can be an encouragement one day to someone else who is going through their extended TTC journey!