Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Brown Gingers: God's Beautiful Artistry

There's been quite a buzz over a certain Huffington Post article this week.

I first heard about it when a friend shared the article link on my Facebook timeline. (Thanks Mr. Mitchell!)

Well, I thought today I'd give my take on this cool project and add to all the buzz.

So what's all the fuss about? 

I'm so glad you asked...

The buzz is over redheads. Specifically, redheads of African descent. Redheads like the two that live in my home...

My Brown Gingers - Kalin and Jada
So of course I found the article "Photographer Explores the Beautiful Diversity of Redheads of Color" quite fascinating. 

The HuffPost article features London-based photographer Michelle Marshall and her project that documents Black and mixed-race redheads. 

"I want to stir the perception that most of us have a 'ginger' as a white caucasian individual..." says Marshall. "As we struggle with issues of immigration, discrimination and racial prejudice, Mother Nature, meanwhile, follows its own course, embracing society's plurality and, in the process, shaking up our perceptions about origins, ethnicity and identity."

Amen. I love this. What a timely topic in the midst of ethnic division and unrest in the world. 

I'd assert only one modification to Marshall's statement. I attribute the beauty and uniqueness of Black redheads not to "Mother Nature", but to God. God - the Creator of all people - brunettes, blondes and redheads alike.

But I adore Marshall's project. I enjoyed gazing at the beauty of the redheads she photographed.

It made me want to tell the story of my own redheads. So here we go...

Since November 22, 1996 I've answered innumerable questions about my redhead Kalin. The moment Kalin made his entrance into the world, my obstetrician Dr. Hope Griffin said, "Oh my goodness. Red hair!"

And that's where the discussion began. (And has yet to end.)

From that moment on, nurses nicknamed Kalin "The Mailman's Baby". They showed me evidence that his skin would remain very light (pointing out the back of his ears and another area that would make this post PG-13 rated.) African American nurses informed me they were educating their Caucasian counterparts about the diversity of colors found in African American people. 

My sweet newborn boy had somehow become a teaching tool of race and diversity.

And that's how it began. That's how it's continued until today... and multiplied in December 8, 2007, when Little Sister Jada Anne made her grand entrance, showcasing the same genes as her brother.

Little Sis Jada

Yet unlike my postpartum days in the maternity ward of Greater Baltimore Medical Center, today I relish the opportunity to talk about my gingers. They are like walking billboards, advertising diversity and the amazing handiwork of God. 

When I became an adoptive mother in 2003, and again in 2005, I expected to hear questions about my Christian and Joelle, who joined our family through adoption. Yet I've never gotten one question about those two. Instead, to the very day, I continue to answer questions about Kalin and Jada. 

Where did the red hair come from?

Were you a redhead when you were a child?

Is that his (or her) natural hair color?

Most questions come from strangers. I don't see it as an intrusion. But sometimes I wish I had more answers. I wish I knew where the red hair came from. I wish I could point to the person in my -- and my husband Anthony's -- family tree that contributed this recessive gene.

But I can't.

Even though I've done some ancestry research and found a trace to my Mom's grandfather who was of English heritage, I still don't know for sure where this gorgeous, ridiculously-abundant red hair comes from. Maybe I never will. 

No matter. I'll continue to discuss my gingers and their red hair with anyone who wants to know. We embrace this red hair. We love it. 

We wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Momma's Heart: Launching My First-Born to College

Kalin, Anthony and Me in front of Kalin's MTSU dorm
It's the day after we dropped my first-born Kalin off at college. 

I'm a little sad. (My baby boy has grown up and started a new season away from the nest.)

I'm a little bewildered. (How is that my baby boy has grown up so quickly?)

I'm a little nervous. (He's on a huge campus. Will he make it to all of his classes on time? Will he study hard? Will he eat at least one real meal today?)

But mostly I am very grateful. 

I'm grateful that I know Kalin was ready to be launched to college. (Oh sure -- he barely cleans his room; stays up way too late watching movies, writing lyrics and dropping beats; and sleeps in as late as humanly possible in the morning...) 

Yet I think of my red-headed boy today and see a mature, responsible young man who's had a clear direction in life for many, many years now. I see a young man who studies well, reads ravenously and takes school seriously.

I see a young man who loves his family deeply and respects his Dad and me wholeheartedly.

I also see a young man who adores his heavenly Father. Who began his walk with Christ at a very young age. Who through some minor rough patches and setbacks, has persevered and trusted God.

I see a young man that God will use on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University to His glory, just as He has in every other season of Kalin's life. 

That is my hope. That is my prayer. 

Kalin in his dorm with the whole Hendricks Clan and Aunt Shanera
Last week I'd planned to spend as much time with Kalin as possible, knowing that the summer was coming to a quick end. As life would have it, we both were extremely busy, and I barely got any time with him. 

But God allowed me to get some precious time with him during our trip to Tennessee this weekend. 

Kalin with his siblings -- Christian, Jada and Joelle. (They already miss Big Bro!)
A pic w/MTSU Pres. McPhee & wife (Btw I'm wearing my Mom's earrings & Kalin's wearing my Dad's shirt!)
I'll share one highlight...

But first a backdrop. So... many people know that Kalin has written and produced music for years. He produced his first album at age 14. This love of music has afforded him an "old soul" in respect to music, and he loves a lot of the "old" music his Dad and I love. 

Anyway... Kalin and I were riding down Highway 40 East towards Middle Tennessee together, enjoying Celine Dion's greatest hits. (Don't judge me...) Together we crooned "Because You Loved Me", "If You Ask Me To", "My Heart Will Go On" and all my BFF Celine's great songs. 

Then a song began that I couldn't place until a few lines in. After humming along for a bit, I realized it was "Dance With My Father" - the testimony of a woman who's lost her Daddy whom she adored. By the chorus, I was sobbing like I haven't in a while now, thinking of my Daddy who passed away earlier this year and whom I adored.

When I asked Kalin to grab some tissues for me, I noticed tears streaming down his freckled face too. He said he hadn't cried for Pop Pop like that since his funeral in January. It was a precious time for us to talk about life and loss, which often go hand-in-hand. It was a treasured moment, one that cemented my bond with Kalin just bit more.

And speaking of life and loss... As God would have it, MTSU's Convocation was yesterday. Yesterday was also my mother's birthday. My Mom also passed away earlier this year, just three weeks after my Daddy passed.  

With all this recent history of loss, the lyrics in "Dance with My Father" really touched me at my core. Especially these lines:

Sometimes I'd listen outside her door
And I'd hear how my mother cried for him
I pray for her even more than me
I pray for her even more than me...

I remember those days in the hospital, sitting beside my mother. I'd begged her to fight to stay with us. I'd prayed that the Lord wouldn't take her so soon after my Daddy. But she missed him too much. She told me she needed him.

I also remember whispering to her in ICU that she'd been a good Mom. That she'd lived a great life with purpose. That she could go on and be with Daddy. 

And with her heavenly Daddy.

It's no coincidence that we would launch our first son on the very day that we'd remember my Mom's first birthday without her. She would be so proud. She had been an educator during her entire career. My Dad had also been an educator for many years before his career as a business owner.

Today I am so proud of my Kman.

And I know his Pop Pop and Grandmommy are too.

My Beloved Parents and Kalin's Grandmommy and Pop Pop