Archive for the ‘breasted’ 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!)

Get Thee Fitted

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Suggestion to my loyal male readers: this blogpost is intended for the women in your life.

Come closer, sister. Let’s be honest. Perhaps the reason you can’t keep your mind on the sermon on Sunday morning and the reason you’re in a bad mood all the time is because –your bra doesn’t fit. A well-fitted bra will improve not only your posture and body image. A well fitted bra will improve your personality and spiritual outlook.

I hear better when I have on the right bra.

right bra

A friend gave me permission to post here on the blog her email from last week.

Renita, today I decided to do something for myself. I have, for quite a while, needed bras. A couple of days ago I saw an ad on the television that said a famous “bra fitter” was coming from NYC to a little bra store here (Bra-vo) and that, but appointment only, she would be professionally fitting bras. I jumped on it and actually arrived 30 minutes early for my appointment.

The little skinny (elfin actually) white lady seemed to suppress a scream when I pulled off my shirt. “My goodness,” she said. “Where do you buy those?” What she seemed to be referring to were the pull over the head bras I had been fond of wearing for the last six or eight years. They were light and comfortable. Sure, there was not a lot of support involved here but…….I tried to always move slowly and deliberately.

Somewhere over the last decade or so some very odd things have occurred. I have somehow gone from a nice C cup to a genormous F or double G cup! What is that about? She tried to tell me that something called “breast tissue” is now under my arms and has to be pushed forward and wrapped into the cup in the front. Where did that come from? Is this something else that age brings. Again, I was not informed. Breast tissue growing under my arms, almost around my back. Odd. Anyway, she showed me how to pick it up and put it where it needed to be. It took a while though.

Two hours, 40 bras, and 11 brands later I walked out of the store with three new bras! They cost me $199.32. I had no idea bras were so expensive! Still, that is a small price to pay for my new look. I am now walking taller and my head is held higher because I have reached down, around and under and finally gotten it all back to where I guess it used to be naturally.

Ask yourself these questions:

• After a few hours on, is my bra uncomfortable?
• Does the back of my bra ride up?
• Do my shoulder straps dig in and leave impressions?
• Do the straps fall off my shoulders?
• Do I have pain in my shoulders, neck and back?
• Am I bulging out of the top of the cups or is breast tissue pushed under my arm?
• Do I need support, but find underwires uncomfortable?

For years I wore bras that didn’t fit. And even though I’ve been known today to plunk $50 or more down for a Wacoal bra, I gotta admit that I’m beginning to think it’s time for me to go in for a new fitting. I’m turning into my mother. She was always calling me to come into her room to undo her bra for her. I’m beginning to do the same to the teenager-in-my-house. “Your daughter will be doing the same for you one day,” I warn as she rolls her eyes and lifts up the back of my blouse. After reading my girlfriend’s email it’s dawned on me that perhaps calling your daughter into the family room to undo your bra as you watch television is not a normal mother-daughter ritual.

hudson I shouldn’t have to tell you well-endowed breasted-ones that you should do your girls a favor by strapping them down in the  right bra. But I do. Lord knows, I do. But the same goes to all women. Women’s bodies are constantly fluctuating from diets, hormones, exercise, having babies, breastfeeding, menopause, etc. which can cause changes in the size of our breasts. And then there are those of you who have actually had breasts implants, breast reductions, and various types of breast surgery. Experts recommend that women should make an appointment for a bra fitting an annual part of their routine. And when we’re fitted, that we should buy the bra size that’s recommended. Not the bra size you think you wear.

So you see,  this blogpost is not just for those of us whose boobs have migrated with age, but my 20something years old readers could benefit from a bra fitting too. Placement is everything when it comes to those plunging necklines you all like to sport. Do your girls a favor and put them in the right bra. Repeat after me: Victoria’s Secret  makes bras for dolls not women.

Now before you run out to buy a push-up, demi-cup, balconette or seamed deep-plunge bra, says the experts: Get thee a proper bra fitting first.  And then get thee at least one good bra. Preferably two or three.

Mammogram–It’s That Time Again

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Face the machine. Stretch your arm across here. Lean in a little bit further. A little more pressure. That’s it. Suck in your tummy for me. Is that uncomfortable? A little closer now.  Hold your breath. Stay still. That’s it.

Next breast. Arrrrgggghhhh

I dislike going for my annual mammogram. I hate having my breasts put in a vise grip. There must be a kindler, gentler way to see into a woman’s breasts. (Where are the feminist inventors when you need them?)

mammogramBut I’ve put the exam off for longer than I should. I almost turned around this morning when I found myself stuck in morning traffic trying to get to the breast clinic. But I pressed on.

A line from the book of Song of Solomon  came to mind.

“We have a little sister, And she has no breasts; What shall we do for our sister On the day when she is spoken for?” (Song of Solomon 8:8).

And then there are the statistics:

**1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.

**African American women are more likely than white women to die from breast cancer.

**Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among African American women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

You may dress now, Ms. Weems. The doctor will examine your film after lunch. If there’s a problem you will hear from us and your doctor immediately, otherwise we’ll send your results in the mail.

Did I mention that I dislike mammograms? But I do want to live. Plain and Simple. It helps knowing that God too has breasts. LOL.  Or, at least there were those in the world ancient world who thought so.  After all, one of the meanings of the divine name El Shaddai is  “The Breasted One.”

When was your last mammogram? When is your next mammogram?

A Poem for a Woman’s Body

God, this is MY BODY.
She is an expression of Genius.

This is MY BODY.
She is more than fatigue, infirmity, soreness, cellulite, estrogen loss, and drooping breasts.

Lord, I want to LIVE in my Body.
Cleanse me of every thought that makes me
shame of my body and slow to take care of it.

Help me to experience LIFE
in my heart,
fingers and toes,
breasts and legs
arms and thighs
buttocks and uterus
lungs and belly
ignite a quickening fire in every cell of my body.

For I am
a woman in a Body.
My body.

A body that has breasts
That must be smashed, and
A uterus that must looked into
To live.

There is Life in my Body.

May I never again be ashamed
For this is My Body which is

A Gift of God
A Sanctuary of my Divine Purpose, and
an Expression of the mystery of God.

This is My Body.

You Are Not Big-Boned, Girlfriend

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

My husband brought home a big fat slice of chocolate cake on Sunday which one of our members had made and handed to him after church service because she knows how much her pastor, my husband, loves chocolate cake. (Don’t ask why she didn’t send a slice for me.) I could barely think of anything else the rest of the day for thinking about that piece of cake. I sat at the dinner table with family eating spinach, rice and peas, brown stew fish, and the other delectable West Indian dishes peeping back at the chocolate cake  sitting there wrapped on my kitchen counter. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a slice of that cake.

Did I mention that I don’t even like chocolate cake? But I do love ice cream (which there was a gallon of in the freezer). And, trust me, BlueBelle ice cream makes chocolate cake taste so much better.

Never mind that I’d just spoken two days earlier at the 25th Anniversary of the National Black Women’s Health Imperative. Never mind that I stayed over on Saturday to walk and sweat my way with 300 other black women through the closing 5k Walking for Wellness event and felt pretty good about finishing in a little over 35 minutes.

I wanted that slice of cake. I needed that slice of cake. I earned that slice of cake. Along with a bowl of ice cream.

But I need to lose 30 pounds. Minimum. It doesn’t help that all the women in my family are, as they say, “big-boned.” There was my mother, Big Mama and my aunts Mae, Kate, Anne and others. But how can I be sure they were big-boned women? After all, the women in my family fried everything they cooked, used heapings of Velveeta in their macaroni and cheese, and never set a table without four starches to pass around. So, maybe the women in my family aren’t big-boned. Maybe the women in my family are “girthy” because of the food we eat.

Okay, so I’m not big-boned afterall. Like the women of my family, I am, um, overweight.

America as a whole has a weight problem. But black women have an even bigger weight problem.

Something is wrong when upwards of 70% of African American women, says researchers, are overweight and over half of overweight black women fall within the obese range. African American women suffer from obesity at an alarmingly disproportionate rate when compared to women of other races. Come on now. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea (breathing problems while sleeping), osteoarthritis, and some cancers. It’s no secret that black women’s lives are at risk and that we have had the worst health on nearly every health index when compared to other groups of women. The soaring death rate among us alone from preventable health afflictions ought to shame us. Racism and sexism take their toll. But some things are not about racism and sexism.

overweightWhat’s our problem? Word on the street is that African-American women are more inclined to be overweight because our men (if you’re heterosexual, that is. cough. cough.) like women who carry around some (como se dice?) “junk in the trunk.” The Commodores referred to curvy, full-figured women as “brick houses” back in my day. But let’s be honest. We’re not talking about those 10 or 20 extra pounds of booty, breasts, hips, and thighs that make cars in black neighborhoods slam into each other when you walk by. We’re talking about those 50 pounds and more that has you slathering on corn starch and talcum powder in private places to keep from rubbing yourself raw in the summer heat.

Come on, girl, push away from the table.

Our eating habits are killing us. I was speechless when a month ago one friend brought a bucket of Popeye chicken and another one brought a huge Pizza Hut pizza to a Sunday evening book club pot luck dinner. Clueless and tasteless. Both women struggle with their weight and are always asking the group for prayer for their health. I know it’s part environment. To pick up good, healthy food these women would have had to drive way over on the other side of town. Yeah, but that’s no excuse. Bring a salad. Boil some eggs. Offer to stay afterwards and wash dishes.

Word: Aretha Franklin will forever be my “Queen of Soul.” But my heart breaks every time I see Aretha on tv these days. Aretha is not big-boned. Aretha is obese. So are half the women I see in church parking lots. Breathless by the time they reach the church door.

Food is comforting. But overeating is killing us. And our children. 25% of African American children are overweight. That’s absurd.

These days when people greet me with the words ”It’s good to see you,” I respond back “I’m just glad that I’m being seen and not being viewed.” (As in lying in a casket). I’d like to live to see grandchildren. Heck, I wanna be able to belly dance at 75 years old.

You and I owe it to ourselves to try to eat right and to exercise. It’s not about losing weight, it’s about getting healthy. It’s about quality of life. It’s about being able to live as long as possible and in good health. It’s about loving your body enough to take care of it, and doing your part to avoid the threat of losing your legs or eyesight to diabetes or winding up in a nursing home due to a stroke.

Stop making excuses. You are not big-boned. You need to lose weight. Pronto.

Start by committing to walking around the neighborhood in the evenings instead of watching reruns of Law and Order. For the cost of that perm you can hire a personal trainer. Instead of ordering a burger, fries, and a diet coke at the drive thru, order a salad and a diet coke instead. It’s a start.

Did I mention that much of my extra weight is here in my middle area which, of course, puts me at risk for particular set of health problems? I could point out that it’s leftover fat from having carried an 8lb. 15oz. child inside me all those months. But that child is now a teenager who’ll be going off to college soon. Sure, I could try exercise that targets the lower stomach muscles. But I’m constitutionally opposed to doing stomach crunches. I walk. I work out on the elliptical. I don’t mind pressing weights to enhance my arms and strengthen my upper body. But stomach crunches? I’d rather face a firing squad.

Getting back to that piece of chocolate cake. Along with that bowl of Blue Belle ice cream. Don’t ask.

I’m lacing up my sneakers right now. I’m off to the track for my late evening three mile walk with the sound of Aretha singing “Rock Steady” in my headphones.