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Monday, November 28, 2011

Did She Go There Already?!

Shock! Panic! Horror!

At 37 years old, I've just been through the amazing process of rediscovering my natural hair. You can't imagine what I felt tonight when my nine year old daughter tells me that she would like to try wearing her hair straight.

Before I went through this process, there were times I contemplated getting her hair texturized -- which is to say "slightly relaxed" -- a "kiddy perm" to make it easier to manage. I remember what it was like to be her age and to dread combing through my hair after having it washed. I've tried to make the experience easier for her. At the same time, she's my child and I want to protect her.

My rational mind knows this is a minor issue. It's only hair. It's normal for her to want to try something new; especially having seen me for years with relaxed straightened hair.

The idea seems a little less horrifying now that she's asleep and I've had some time to think about it. We could try straightening her hair for a special occasion. She's due for a trim soon.

She did make an important distinction: she would like to try straightening her hair -- not relaxing it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nothing and No One is Perfect

My natural hair journey has provided many lessons. I've learned to accept what I can't anticipate and control. I've learned that no one paid as much attention to my hair as I did.

Still I have days like today, where I have to remind myself that nothing and no one is perfect. I was well-prepared for my flight to North Dakota today. My company hires a charter to take employees and contractors up every Monday and back on Thursdays. I left the house about an hour and a half before my flight's departure. Typically, it only takes 20 - 30 minutes to get to the airport.

Today there was a accident on the way, and I missed my flight. It was particularly difficult/embarrassing because there was someone on the flight who was relying me to be there. We're leading training together this week. She needed me to drive because she didn't have the training our company requires.

Initially, I worried that I couldn't get a flight to my destination. Even after I managed to rebook my travel, I still kept thinking really negatively about myself. "Why didn't I leave earlier? My boss is going to be so angry with me. I've let everyone down. There's no way I can recover from this."

I don't recognize myself when I start thinking this way. After taking a deep breath, I made my way to my new terminal and started making phone calls and emails to make sure my travel companion would be met by someone from our office who could get her to her destination.

I did it, and everything will be OK. I'm losing productive time sitting in the airport that I'll have to make up this week.

Why is it so hard to remember: That nothing and no one is perfect?

One of my favorite children songs is "I'm Not Perfect," by the Laurie Berkner Band.

I'm not perfect, no I'm not
I'm not perfect, but I've got what I've got
I do my very best, I do my very best
I do my very best each day
But I'm not perfect
And I hope you like me that way

When our children were younger, we heard this song almost everyday. I recognized it was an important message for the children to hear and take to heart, but clearly I didn't take it to heart. Sometimes plans don't work out. Sometime people let us down. Sometimes we're the ones who let others down. There's forgiveness even for us all, and hopefully time to re-book.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Could Never Do That Until I Did It.

The first few days of my new naturalness have been easier than I expected. While I've been looking forward to this for months, I still anticipated some uncomfortable moments (see this previous post and see that I mean).

Have I seen some surprised reactions? Sure. Have I seen anyone faint or drive their car into a brick wall? Fortunately, no.

Perhaps the only barrier to taking this leap into virgin territory was my own mind? I used to think I could never cut off all my hair. My head is too big. I'll look like an alien. (Quiet.) I could never let me hair go natural. It's too big and bushy (which I didn't really know because it had been relaxed for 25 years.) Most of my arguments were based on what I thought people would think.

What I thought people would think. Think about that.

What are you doing in your life that you wish you could quit, you know you should quit, but you won't because of what you think other people will think?

What are you missing out on in life because you worry what other people might think?

I didn't think I could do this until I did it... And I'm glad I did.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Just Hair, Right? (Short and Fluffy)

Tuesday was a big day for this girl. I finally did what I said I would do since January. And now that I've done it, I realize that it was something I should have done a long time ago.

Josh at Dionysus Salon & Spa cut off all the relaxed hair. I was unafraid. He kept asking me if I was OK, but I was. In all these months of my transition from relaxed to natural hair, I think I became detached. As I mention in a previous post, I tried the safe route of just getting a slight trim a few weeks ago. That was far more traumatic than the big chop.

It's not just about hair. It's about me being OK with being myself -- with all my idiosyncrasies. I'm not like anyone else and that's OK. Living in a culture that seemingly rewards individuality and the independent spirit, it can still be hard to look and think differently.

And do I look differently! Camille, my oldest daughter, called to me from around the corner when I got home today -- before she could see me. "Daddy said you were going to cut your hair today? Whoa!" she said, squinting her eyes as I entered the room. "You look cool!" Camille is known for her honest critiques.

As I tucked Madeleine, the middle child, in for bed I asked her what she thought of my new hairdo. Her big brown eyes made a huge circle, outlining my hair. All she said was, "I love you, Mommy." Maybe she's heeding the age old advice, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," but I will take that as a positive feedback.

Claudia, my youngest daughter, said, "Your hair is short and fluffy. I like it."

There is it, y'all!
I sure DID cut off all that hair!

Am I a rebel looking for a cause? When I started this blog, I acknowledged that I would be one of thousands of "hair bloggers" and that I would probably have very little new to add to the conversation. I cut my hair for myself (and my children), but I know that some people will wonder what my newly-cropped 'do represents. It's a journey: my natural hair journey. I can't quite put into words what this experience means to me. I'm still figuring that out.

Do I Have the Nerve?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I made an appointment for my big chop, freedom cut, whatever you want to call it. I had a feeling today that I needed to make a stop on the way home from work Friday, and I'm trying to listen to my feelings more often.

I told the stylist I met with today, that I'm tired to dealing with two hair textures. It's time to jump into the deep end -- the big reveal! Every time I run my fingers through my hair, I grow a little more impatient. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shear Embarrassment

My co-worker was surprised to hear that I enjoy going to the dentist. “It’s like a tooth spa,” I’ve always thought. And in today’s economy, you can’t take dental insurance for granted!

The hair salon however, is a different story. With my thick hair, I’ve heard it all from exasperated, frustrated hairdressers.

“Your hair is so thick. I’ve never seen anyone take so long under the dryer.”
“Your hair is so thick, it’s soaking up all the perm. I’m going to need to go back to the back for more.”
“Your hair is so thick I need you to move away from the window. You’re blocking all the sunlight.”

OK; I made that last one up, but it’s close to my real experiences. Even when my hair was relaxed root to tip, going to the hairdressers was never a walk in the park.

This weekend, I had an experience that tops the rest. Or maybe it’s the opposite of tops because it really sucked.

Looking in the mirror recently, my hair just looked scraggly – thick roots and thinning ends. Without an appointment, I waltzed into the nearest Super Cuts. All I wanted was a trim, but what I got was shear embarrassment.

This new/old natural hair is foreign to me, I’m still learning. But I expected the ladies at Super Cuts to have some experience with trimming thick (perhaps unruly) hair. I explained to the stylist that I was growing out my hair from a perm and this would be my first trim in several months. I admitted that I shouldn’t have waited so long for a trim, but “you know how it is…”

Ana refused to cut my hair wet, instead she complained about how bushy and thick it was. There’s no privacy in Super Cuts, so Ana had an intrigued audience as she struggle to get a brush through my hair and made heroic attempts to cut my hair.

I wear the hair. It doesn't wear me.
Finally, she declared that she had done all that she could and I would just have to come back another day when I had straightened my hair. That would make it easier to comb.

Right… You remember the part about growing out my perm, right?

Rather than giving Ana a tip in the form of a few choice words, I left Super Cuts asking myself if I really knew what I’d gotten myself into. Could I really handle caring for my natural hair? Why not just save myself the embarrassment and get back on the relaxer ticket?

After some encouragement from my husband, and more time to think, I realized that I could make it work – hatchet job and all. It’s not so much the hair, but it’s how you wear it.

I will burn Ana's business card in effigy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

JC Penny Coupons Good for Salon Products

Found in today's Houston's Chronicle
 If you like salon hair products, but you don't like the price, you should know that JC Penny often issues coupons that are accepted in their salon. The coupons (like the one picutred here) are usually for $10 off a minimum purchase of $25. Not every JC Penny has a salon, but locations are listed online.  If you like brands like Paul Mitchell, Redken, and Biolage you'll find them there. Happy saving!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cut to Grow

No doubt the water pressure all around The Woodlands Sunday night the water pressure plunged significantly. In our household, loads of laundry and hair were washed in preparation for the first day of school.

Back-to-school means getting back into daily routines, including "fixin' hair." That's never been an event in our home heralded with smiles and laughter. Sunday night, things were better. We recently took Camille and Madeleine to have their hair trimmed and it made such a difference. Combing hair Sunday night was so much easier. Trimming the ends reduces tangling, I learned.
Ready for the new school year

This is something I actually learned last spring when Camille had her hair trimmed for the first time. It may seem surprising that I didn't know this, so I'll give you some background. I don't believe my hair was cut before I got bangs in the seventh grade, and even after that I might have gotten my ends trimmed once a year. It just wasn't something we did if you wanted your hair to grow. And long, flowing hair was consistently the goal at any cost, however unattainable!

My latest lesson on this natural hair journey has been sometimes in order to grow and appreciate something more, you have to cut the old, dead stuff. Maybe there's a lesson there for life in general as well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Monday. Don't Give Me Any Problems!

This blog post was supposed to be about my first experiment with mayonnaise. Instead, you'll hear how I narrowly avoiding possibly committing a violent crime.

It was Monday morning, and I was preparing for another trip to North Dakota (doesn't that just sound like the beginning of a nightmare?). I took a shower and washed the glorious curls from my hair (see previous post. Thanks for all the supportive posts on Facebook) and was prepared to recreate the look at home with bendy rollers I bought at Target.

You know all the unbelievable homemade beauty solutions you read about in magazines like mayonnaise for hair conditioner -- I'll get to that later.

When I got out of my shower, my hair was locked tighter than a... a pair of Spanx. The hairdresser not only wrapped my hair around bendy curlers, but she had also twisted my hair before wrapping it around the curlers. Then when my hair dried, and she removed the curlers she twisted it all with her fingers again.


It made me want to grab a pair of scissors and chop off all my hair. It made me want to do something very violent to the hairdresser. I'm proud to say that I used my better judgment, and did neither of those things. I combed through my hair -- slowly and painfully -- and set my hair in the rollers.

About an hour later, the results were much better than I expected. I have wavy curls that I could actually run my finger through. It's touchable.

What products did I use?
Carol's Daughter Tui Hair Oil
Bumble and Bumble Tonic Spray
Hair Milk Lite Curl Booster

The mayonnaise? Yeah, I tried that mixed with a little Paul Mitchell Detangler. I wouldn't recommend it. Let's leave it at that, friends.

I think this works for me. It's as humidity resistant as any hairstyle I could find. Humidity just makes it bigger.

You like?

If anyone out there has had success using mayonnaise as a hair conditioner, tell me about it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Natural Hair in the Professional World

I should start out my clarifying that I have not EVEN gone totally natural. I'm in transition. But that doesn't stop me from being offended by the reactions and presuppositions people have to natural hair in the workplace.

Today's staff meeting was my new 'do debut for my teammates (there are only four of us, so a grand debut is not in the cards). I walk into the staff meeting and my boss says, "What did you do to your hair?"

"I'm trying something new," I quickly replied.

"Do you like it?" she asked, without missing a beat.

"I do," I replied blithely. "It feels more like me."

This exchange might have gone unnoticed to others in the room, but it was something I had been anticipating. My boss lady is a very corporate type in many ways. Nothing else about my appearance has changed since my first day of employment. I expected her to comment of my hair long before now. I've been growing my hair for a while, and many days I didn't know what to do with it. Bad hair days? I've had more than my share. Some days, honestly, I know my hair has looked a hot mess because I've been fighting an uphill battle alone: trying to go natural in the midst of summertime humidity without professional help.

The fact that she never commented on my hair during the last six or seven months tells me something: curls elicit a unique response from people. It made me wonder if you look like you're trying to conform to the norm, even unsuccessfully, does it still earn some respect? Some credibility?

Maybe curls are a statement that say, "I won't be suppressed!" As long as I was at least trying (however unsuccessfully) to straighten my hair, I was still sending a message that I accept that norms. I have no piercings or tattoos. Maybe because I've been so "mainstream" all my professional life, different reactions to my appearance seem so unsettling.

Curls -- messy curls -- defy the norm.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little Afro Annie

Yesterday, I tried a new look. I'm not fully committed to it (as if you couldn't tell from the photos).

Since I haven't mustered up the courage for the big chop, I'm still looking for styles I can pull off during my transition. I trusted a new stylist, who recommended a tight roller set. You know the bendy rods that look like something children would play with? She used the smallest ones I think I've ever seen.

It's been years since I subjected myself to a roller set, mostly because of how long it would take to dry my hair. Yesterday, I sat under the dryer for more than 90 minutes, and there were still sections of my hair that didn't dry completely. The rods were wrapped tight and it was painful.

As a result, I have the tightest curls I've every had in my life. The stylist assured me the curls would loosen over time. "You could wear these for three weeks," she said. If that's how long it takes for these curls to not look like little Afro Annie, then I've definitely made a mistake.

My children greeted my with laughter. My oldest daughter said, "You look like Claudia (the youngest.)"

I'll post photos over the next few days to share how well these curls loosen with time. I have my doubts!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Hair is My Legacy

Somewhere in an earlier post (as if I've written so many), I shared that, for me, the journey to natural hair was also a journey of self-acceptance. Learning to live with and love my natural beauty can't happen without it.

I won't contradict myself with this post, but I have to admit there are more important reasons I'm on this journey: three more important reasons, actually. These three reasons are learning the most important lessons in life right now. They're my daughters. Three little ladies. These little ladies with their curls. It's a parent's job to instill their children with confidence and a sense of pride. One day, I realized what I hypocrite I'd been, telling my daughters to be proud of their curls. All the while, I was having my hair straightened.

If you’re a parent you know children watch everything you say and see everything you do. It wasn’t the legacy I would want to leave with my children. The day I realized that I was lying to my daughters was the day I realized that I had to do things differently.

After I committed to this journey, my husband admitted to my that the girls all thought I had naturally straight hair.

"Hee haw!" That's the sound of the jackass I felt I'd been all these years! A royal jackass for lying to my daughters.

My eight year-old is still waiting for the day that I have curls that are as long and thick as hers. It will take some time, but I'm anticipating the day when I can be an example for my daughters.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WTF Am I Doing?

November 2010
Today at work, I ran across a photo of myself at an event I coordinated. My first thought was, "That's a nice smile. All that practicing in the mirror is finally starting to pay off."

My second thought was "And my hair looks really good in this picture too. Wait! WTF am I saying?! WTF am I doing letting my perm grow out?! ACK!!"

This was not a moment of doubt. After some thought, I realized that this was inertia trying to hold on.

Inertia is that little voice in your head that says, "Is spending four hours in the salon every six weeks that bad? Are the chemical burns on your scalp that bad?"

Inertia says, "Perming your hair is so convenient. So predictable. It's what we've always done. We like predictable!"

So far in my natural hair journey, I've focused on learning to appreciate my natural hair and to develop a new standard for beauty. Today it occurred to me that in this process, there might be bigger lessons to learn. Some might say, "It's just hair, for goodness sake. Who care? You're so vain." Today I was reminded of the power of inertia in my life. Maybe the hair is a sideline issue? Maybe there are greater lessons still to learn?

I hope!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

But Why?

In my last post, I failed to mention an important point about the experience of trying and failing to straighten my hair before going out for a big event, and that is "why."

Why was straightening my hair even on my radar?

Because I was dressing up and wanted to look my best; I wanted to be glamourous.

Couldn't my natural texture be glamourous? Of course it can, but I wasn't being very present-minded that night. In this process of embracing my natural hair texture, each day I'm learning to reset my expectations. It's a process. Some days I take a step forward. Other days, I take a step backward!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Outgrowing My Old Tricks

Yesterday afternoon, I got dressed for one of my favorite events each year: the PRSA Houston Excalibur Awards Gala.

I had a dress I loved, cute shoes, loads of Stella & Dot jewelry to boot. Then it came time to do my hair. I'll get out my old hot rollers and curling iron and straighten my hair just for tonight. 

I wish I had a photo. Things didn't go well. My hair refused to be tamed by the heat. My hair is outgrowing my old tricks.

So here we are; at somewhat of an impasse my hair and I. My new growth wants to curl, but my old, permed hair is still hanging in there. I can't seem to successfully style either. The two do not agree. 

I ended up wearing my hair in a twist, which I am doing most days. But I'm getting tired of the in-between time. Is the big chop right around the corner?

Outgrowing My Old Tricks

Yesterday afternoon, I got dressed for one of my favorite events each year: the PRSA Houston Excalibur Awards Gala. 

I had a dress I loved, cute shoes, loads of Stella & Dot jewelry to boot. Then it came time to do my hair. I'll get out my old hot rollers and curling iron and straighten my hair just for tonight. 

I wish I had a photo. Things didn't go well. My hair refused to be tamed by the heat. My hair is outgrowing my old tricks.

So here we are; at somewhat of an impasse my hair and I. My new growth wants to curl, but my old, permed hair is still hanging in there. I can't seem to successfully style either. The two do not agree. 

I ended up wearing my hair in a twist, which I am doing most days. But I'm getting tired of the in-between time. Is the big chop right around the corner?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today's Look - Twist Outs

Today I'm trying twist-outs for work.

I washed my hair as night with tui herbal shampoo, conditioned with Redkin Smooth Down butter treat, combed through my hair with wide-toothed comb and a little black vanilla leave-in conditioner, and let it dry overnight in twists. This morning I took the twists down, and sprayed with a light oil.

I think it looks OK now. The question is, will it last all day or will I roll it up in a bun by lunch?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Long is Your Transition?

In the natural hair vernacular, the transition usually begins with a conscious decision to make a change for the better and stop relaxing your hair. The decision to transition is a milestone. Right?
A typical transition style for me -- a French twist.

Not in my case. My transition began haphazardly. My last relaxer was in December 2010. I travel a lot of work, and I forgot about an appointment I had schedule for a re-touch in February. I meant to reschedule, but one thing led to another (i.e. more work travel). The next thing I know, it’s been more than two months since my last perm. “Let’s see how this goes,” I thought to myself. It was the longest I’d gone without a retouch in some time.
My French twist from the back. Yes, I have pretty thick hair.!

At this point, it’s been six months since my last perm. I don’t have the nerve to do the “big chop.” The old, permed hair is something familiar, despite that fact that is it so unnatural. This is the hair I’ve known for more than 25 years.

Although I know the time will come, it’s hard to muster even more courage to chop.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Charting Virgin Territory

This is me, December 2010; hair freshly relaxed.

I’ve written the first entry for this blog countless times in my head. It usually starts with a question: Why would I do this?

My personal journey toward natural hair has been in the making, if only on my mind, for years. Saying “I recently found the courage to go natural” sounds silly at first but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been afraid to be ourselves at one point or another. Fear of ridicule or rejection is something a lot of us have lived with, but we think that we’re passed that because we’ve grown up, lost weight, had our ears pinned, or covered up that thing we used to be teased about when we were younger.

My truth is that I won’t outgrow that fear until I’ve learned to accept myself for what I really am. Ask anyone who knew me in school, and I was the girl with the big hair. In elementary school, I had puffy braids. In middle school, it was big Texas hair (courtesy of foam rollers). By high school, I had a relaxer, discovered hot rollers, and you couldn’t tell me anything.

Kidding aside, I was always self-conscious about my hair. I couldn’t control it. It made me different. Now, I’m a mother of three little girls: each with a different hair color and texture. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t tell them how pretty their curls are, or how their hair makes them unique. Those are wonderful and encouraging words to tell them, but what message to they get when they look at my hair?

I’ve found the courage to start this journey now because I realize through my words and deeds, I’m shaping my daughters’ perceptions.

It’s time for this mutha to walk the walk – not just talk the talk.