Archive for the ‘caregiving’ Category

Those Healing Women: Nurses, Witches, and Folk Healers

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I began this post thinking I’d give a shout out to nurses. I sathawthorne still long enough last night to catch a new medical drama television series about nurses starring Jada Pinkett. The series is called HawthoRNe. Hawthorne is one of three new medical dramas debuting this season centering on hospital nurses, this one starring Pinkett who plays hard-a** head nurse Christina Hawthorne. (Anyone here old enough to remember actress Diahann Carroll playing the first professional black woman and nurse on TV  more than 40 years ago on the series “Julia”?) Okay, so last night debut of “HawthoRNe” was a bit hackneyed with Pinkett playing the most hackneyed role of all as the competent, compassionate, caring, conscientious, no-nonsense, workaholic head nurse who has little tolerance for administrators, doctors or rules that come between her and her care of her patients. But I’m willing to give the show time to find its identity and work out its kinks. After all, any show is better than the current line-up of sorry TV shows starring black actresses and black actors. If “HawthoRNe” hasn’t improved by the end of the summer, I’ll come back on and pan it.

For now I’m happy that there’s a TV medical drama that focuses on nurses. I’m happy because I have a daughter who dreams someday of becoming a nurse,  and I’m looking forward to watching the show with her every week. And I’m especially happy, for my daughter’s sake, that she grows up, like I did with “Julia”, seeing a black actress starring in her own series as a nurse. No, I’m not a big fan of Jada Pinkett. But that’s not the point right now.

So you see why I started out wanting to write about nurses. But then I changed my mind.

Here’s a special shout out to women healers everywhere.

Nurses come from a long line of women healers. From the beginning of time women have performed the role of healers. Natural healers, in fact. As caretakers and homemakers, those assigned to care for children, the aged, and the infirmed one might say that women were in all likelihood the first healers in the world. In fact, women have always been healers, unlicensed doctors, herbalists, abortionists, midwives, roots women, doctors without degrees travelling from home to home and village to village caring for the sick. Having studied the body and having learned the healing mysteries of plants and nature, women healers were called “wise women” by common people (Jeremiah 9:20).  But they would soon go on to be called “witches” and “sorcerers” when men begin elbowing their way into the profession and sought  to demonize and put down women practicing without license in order to convince patients to trust male health professionals over self-taught women healers .


Thinking more about the matter, here’s yet another shout out to a woman with healing hands from my past: Victoria Franklin (affectionately known at church as “Ma Franklin”). She did what I want to believe my own mother would have done had she still been alive at the time. Ma Franklin came over to my house to see about me after I gave birth to my daughter.  I was alone with a newborn. (Did you know that only in the industrialized West do new mothers  return home with newborns and and no female support system to help her?)

Fresh from the island of Trinidad and in the states visiting a daughter who’d had a baby a month earlier, Ma Franklin came when my husband (also from Trinidad) called to say that I was still having pains weeks after our daughter was born. Ma Franklin showed up at my door with her “medicine bag” with her. She took one look at me and instructed my husband to find a bucket, place it in the bathtub, and run hot steaming water in the bucket. The two of them then helped me to the tub whereupon Ma Franklin poured the contents of a bottle she had in her hands into the bucket and instructed me to climb in and sit over the bucket for as long as I could. And I did. With a Ph.D. hanging there in my study and despite the fact that I was a seminary professor at a local university, I climbed in that tub naked, stooped and sat over that bucket of steaming water with its soothing menthol scent rising in me and released myself to the healing ministrations of a woman with centuries of wisdom about what to do about postpartum complications.

And then I cried– for all the wisdom that gets lost in the pursuit of knowledge.

The gouging cost of health care in this country and the uberprofessionalization of our medical personnel tell me that we need more women in our neighborhoods like Ma Franklin. Wise women. Natural healers. Women (and men) who carry within their buxom the secrets of natural healing and folk medicine, knowledge of herbs and plants and common sense healing practices needed to treat headaches, menstrual pain, morning sickness, asthma, allergies, diarrhea, burns, ear infection, flu and cold, hair loss, bee sting, and the heartbreak of unrequited love.

healing black womanGod bless you Ma’ Franklin there in heaven. God bless women healers, folk healers, and everyone woman who fretting over what to do about the sick neighbor down the way were mislabeled witches, sorcerers, roots women, devil worshipers, country healesr, silly old women, and quacks for consulting God and nature and stirring up potions.

Join me in celebrating the folk healing practices of our ancestors by sharing some natural healing remedies you know about. (Cough. Cough. In the litigious society in which we live it must be said that no one on this blog is responsible if these home grown remedies do not work for all who apply them!)

I Was Hungry, and You Gave Me A Voucher

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Let’s get one thing straight, Oprah. This is not what Jesus had in mind when he said in Matthew 25 that one of the qualifications of those who will inherit the Kingdom, “I was hungry and you fed me.”

Perhaps you heard about Oprah teaming up with KFC to launch a campaign promoting a free meal of grilled chicken at KFC outlets? You haven’t? Where have you been? A Google search for “Oprah KFC coupon” turns up over 48,000 hits.

kfc oprahHere’s how it went. Oprah and KFC teamed up to promote KFC’s new “Kentucky Grilled Chicken” product with a free coupon offering “two pieces of grilled chicken, two individual sides and a biscuit.” You and I both know that offering free food is an attention getter all by itself. But it seems that Oprah and KFC were clueless about just how deep a recession America is in. Neither had any idea that millions of people in this country are jobless and hungry. Nor did either know that there are millions of more people in this country who, though neither jobless or hungry, just can’t pass up a free meal.

You can probably take a guess at what happened next.

Visits to Oprah’s website to get the KFC vouchers nearly crashed the site. Mayhem erupted at KFC outlets across the country. Lines for free chicken were outside the door. Crowds became rowdy when stores ran out of chicken or refused to honor the vouchers. Police had to be called in in some places to restore order.

I don’t have to tell you that downloadable vouchers are no longer available on Oprah’s website. KFC had to end the voucher campaign, or they were going to go out of business.  Hens went on strike and stopped laying eggs.  (Just kidding.)

And now animal rights groups are up in arms against Winfrey. Winfrey was named PETA’s Person of the Year just last year because the talk show host  used the show to highlight the cruelty-free vegan diet that she tried!  Now they’re asking how could she use her influence last year to expose the cruel conditions in which factory farm-raised animals live, and this year team up with KFC who gets its chickens from Tyson’s Food, one of the worst offenders in the industry. (Or, so says animal rights groups.)

I know what capitalist behemoth KFC was thinking.  It’s all about making a dollar.

But what in the world was Oprah Winfrey thinking? She wasn’t. On second thought, perhaps she was.  Perhaps she agreed to team up with KFC in light of her recent admission about her own weight struggles, thinking she would be helping to promote good health among her millions of fans –switching from the fried version of the chicken to the grilled. More likely, Oprah teamed up with KFC because, hey, she’s a business woman. And that’s what business women do. Strike deals and make money.

“White people gets free houses and cars from Oprah,” says one black comedian, “but all black folks get from Oprah is free chicken from KFC.” That’s an unfair observation. Funny, but unfair. Winfrey didn’t have any say over who downloaded vouchers from her website.

I can imagine the scene there in New York where, they say, when told that there was no more chicken customers started yelling and waving vouchers in the air and refusing to leave the premises until they got their free chicken.

And, of course, Jesus wasn’t around to take those five remaining chicken pieces there at the store, bless them, and divide them among the thousands waiting outside to be fed.

File this one under: It sounded like a good idea at the time. But I (Oprah) was wrong.

What do you think of Oprah Winfrey’s support of KFC?  ‘Fess up. One you were one of the millions who got a free meal from one of the vouchers from Oprah’s website?

Who Can Find a Virtuous Husband - Part 2?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

I am not a Proverbs 31 woman. I suppose that’s no surprise to anyone who reads this blog often. But then I bet none of you is a Proverbs 31 woman either. The poem in Proverbs 31 praises the excellent wife. We’ve all heard countless sermons and exhortations on this passage of scripture.  As a woman in ministry I can’t begin to tell you how many Women’s Day themes have taken their inspiration from this poem.

On the surface of it Proverbs 31: 10-30 is seems to be directed at to women, but at close glance you quickly figure out that the poem is actually something of a manual for young men on how to choose a good wife. It is a poem to the virtual wife, not virtuous wife; the fantasy wife, not a real flesh-and-blood wife. The woman in the poem is supposed to be the exact opposite of the shrew, the temptress, and the sluggard who are talked a lot about in Proverbs. What man wouldn’t want a wife who is prepared to sacrifice her sanity, health, and life to care for her husband and children? I would love to have a wife like that myself. It’s the kind of poem many Christian women have been made guilty for not living up to. It’s the kind of poem men, Christian and otherwise, walk around with in their heads whether they know it or not as a template for womanhood.

Just to show you how impossible it is to live up to the poem’s ideals. The poem opens with the now famous line: Who Can Find A Virtuous Woman? From there the poem launches into a description of a self-sacrificing wife (and mother)! The thought of a woman being anything other than a wife or mother would have been inconceivable and unconscionable to an  ancient narrator. But what if you’re not a wife or mother? What if you’re more than a wife and mother? These are the questions we’re still battling society and each other about.

But what are the qualifications for a husband? Where does one find a virtuous man? Now there’s a thought.

I’ve written before on good husband-dom, but let’s see if I can do a better job this time. When asked about what to look for in a husband, I’ve always spouted off four things to women: 1) a man who prefers partnership to domination as his model for being in relationship to a woman; 2) a man who has what it takes to go the emotional distance in building a relationship; 3) man who is a friend of your mind as well as other parts of your body (cough. cough); and 4) a man who genuinely loves God and has a strong spiritual life. That’s a pretty tough order to fill in today’s market, I’ll admit.

What if the tables were turned, and it were men who were commanded by Scripture to do whatever it takes to keep home and family happy and running smoothly ?

A Virtuous Husband

His value is higher than rubies.
Especially when he is the husband of a high-achieving, working woman.
The heart of his wife trusts him
For knowing when to offer advice and when to simply listen and offer comfort when she complains about how her day went.
He is a tower of strength to her at all times.
He keeps the house when she is away frequently and for long periods.
He prepares his own meals, and those of the children if they have any, rather than blow money by eating out.
He works and has his own career and doesn’t mind juggling his ambitions at work with his duties as a father and husband.
He knows all his children’s teachers and is grouchily happy to stay up to 2am in the morning helping his son with his Western Civs paper.
He doesn’t mind running errands like dropping by the cleaners to pick up his wife favorite outfit for tomorrow’s meeting at work or taking a child to the pediatrician–
whatever it takes to keep the household running smoothly.
He frequently goes to sleep with his wife lying next to him reading a book or office report,
or to the sound of her in the next room tapping on a computer.
Understanding and patience are his demeanor,
A sense of humor and a steady hand are his gifts in marriage.
His heart and his body are his wife’s alone.
He doesn’t care what other men think of him
because he is comfortable in his own skin, and
because he is not just a provider but a caregiver and
knows that making love means
making love,
and not just having sex.
Besides, he prefers his family’s adoration to his buddies’ slaps on the back.
His wife calls him blessed.
And she praises him often and loud for being the man that he is.
Smooth talking is deceptive and a fine looking man is not necessarily the same as a man who is fine to live with.
But a man who loves God and is willing to give himself over to learning what it means to love and live with this one woman is a man to be praised.
May God bless and reward him as he richly deserves with grace, peace, and more love than he can imagine
from the woman who calls him Husband.
(copyrighted, Renita J. Weems)

A Simpler Life

Monday, December 29th, 2008

How many times have you said to yourself, “I want a simpler life”?

Simplicity gains importance in your life when you realize that you have everything you need. And when you consider the possibility that what’s making you sad or sick is the stuff you’re holding to.  Stuff you don’t need but you can’t bring yourself to let go of.

I wanted a new digital camera for Christmas after dropping and busting the lens of my old one back in October.  But I didn’t get one. I could have sprung for it, but I decided against it. A year ago I would have replaced the broken one with a new one the moment I discovered the former couldn’t be repaired. But a year of a faltering economy  makes a difference. I decided against purchasing a new camera. Besides, when I need to take pictures I’ll ignore her protests and borrow the one I bought last year for the teenager in my house. Why do we need two digital cameras in one house?

It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job,” Harry Truman once observed, “and it’s a depression when you lose your own.” The downturns in the economy should have us all questioning the financial yardstick by which we have been measuring our net worth and happiness. Sobered by the economy and overwhelmed by stories of greed and avarice in our society, I find myself looking around my space, looking at the purchases I’ve made in recent years  wondering how much of my own financial worries can be traced to extravagant, excessive purchases I’ve made. Gulp.

Living a simpler life doesn’t just mean learning to do without. Even though it’s true that we could all live with a lot less stuff. But true simplicity starts from within. It begins with taking an inventory of your interior life.  What do you need to be happy? If you were stripped of everything you possess, who would you be then? Who are you?  True simplicity requires having a yardstick that’s capable of weighing and measuring the possessions you carry around in your heart: gratitude, joy, purpose, faith, wisdom, and love.  When you can’t access these things inside you, or doubt they exist at all, you begin to attach your happiness to exterior things and to extraneous people.

There’s an Amish couple I buy baked goods from down at the Farmer’s Market. The wife makes the simplest, but most delicious apple pies I’ve ever tasted. Every time I see her I can’t help marvel at her plain face, her dated farm clothes, and the simple baked goods wrapped in saran wrap she bring to market every Saturday to sell to city women like myself. I don’t envy her her life. The simple, pre-modern Amish way of life she represents comes with a price. To women especially. In my world, the dishwasher in my kitchen is my friend. But seeing the Amish woman with a bonnet around her plain face reminds me that it is possible to get by with a whole lot less.

Everyday between now and New Year’s day I’m going to spend a couple of hours cleaning away some of the clutter I’ve let accumulate over the year. Books I’ll never read again that can be donated to the library of the small Bible college on the other side of town. Clothes that need to be washed, folded, and donated to Goodwill. Old cell phones, adapter cords, cds, and kitchen appliances sitting on shelves gathering dust that I’ll have to search around to figure out how best to dispose of.

Think about it: everything you bring into your house becomes a responsibility. You have to care for it, worry about it, clean it, and eventually figure out how to dispose of it.

I have a good life, thank God, but I am always looking for ways to create a simpler life. It’s not easy. It takes time. It’s an ongoing battle. But today is a good day to start looking around and deciding what needs to be gotten rid of. It simply makes no sense carrying the stuff into the New Year. Making some gesture to rid myself of excess stuff around the house is a good way to end the old year and begin the new.

Take a leap of faith with me. Look around your house at the things that have outlived their usefulness, things you thought you needed but you now know you don’t, stuff that’s taking up physical and emotional space, some thing you could do with ridding yourself of before New Year’s Day. What is cluttering your life? What do you have too many of? What’s gathering dust and causing all that wheezing that you’re doing?

Give it away. Let it go. Simplify your life.