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May 27, 2016

Almost Four Months Natural

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Around the time I get my hair twisted again I will be a full four months natural.  I thought about letting it go au natural for a few weeks before getting them put back in but I still deep in classes, got a conference to attend, and really am just not wanting to deal with it for a while as it continues to grow, gray and thicken up as it so desires.  After I took them down a few months ago it seemed like it was growing slowly and felt all around thicker than it had after I chopped it all off in February.  Right now it's feeling like I have a tiny lion's mane on my head and while yes it's growing it felt more like it was just so much thicker and fuller all over.  The very back when stretched is close to my collarbone or on my neck.  I haven't played with the front too much how about yeah hair at this point.  I'm fighting a cold so I don't plan on washing it tonight but since all the hair is free here are some comparison shots from February 2 to know.  I may keep an appointment to get my ends trimmed on Tuesday or I may skip it until August installation and yet another conference.




The Wash Day Experience

April 21, 2016

Thank You Mr. Nelson

Today I was sitting in my office when an unexpected message came in from a student.  Someone at Paisley Park was dead.  For those of you that don't know Paisley Park is the studio that was home to Prince Rogers Nelson, or Prince for the rest of us.  They weren't sure who it was at that point but within 10 minutes of getting the first message it was confirmed that Prince had died very suddenly.  Short of a bit of a flu a few weeks ago no one really had a reason to suspect the news today wouldn't be another hoax.  They have killed him a few times.  When he changed his name to the symbol, when he left or was squabbling with Warner Brothers and a few other times.  After it was confirmed I can't say what I was feeling to be honest.  Granted I wasn't in a position that I could break down even if I wanted to so I went on with the rest of my longer than normal day and upon leaving the office I just wanted to hear some Prince music and lucked into a few songs before they started the memories of fans across the airwaves.  I stopped at a few stores, couldn't find what I wanted, came home and had dinner.  Touched base with my mother who called me to tell me the news because she knows I love me some Prince but it wasn't a good time to have that conversation. I have to say that I am well loved.  I heard from at least 20 people today who are worried about me because when I say I love me some Prince y'all really don't understand.

I grew up during the Prince versus Michael Jackson drama of the early 80s.  MJ in all his seeming normality and moon walking was loved in my house and acceptable.  When I first saw Purple Rain I had to leave the room quite a bit because my mother thought it was inappropriate for me to see certain things.  It was several years before I saw the whole thing uninterrupted and really couldn't tell you what the big issue was but I knew then the music was amazing.  I saw MJ in concert first and it was a great show.  Great lights, good music, fantastic guitarist with the giant mohawk that lit up during certain songs.  It was a seminal moment for me in terms of understanding what it took to put on a concert.  However, it wasn't THE moment.  That moment happened much later, several concerts later, when I finally saw Prince in concert in the late 90s.  At that point he had released an album every year since 1978 so while I knew he couldn't hit EVERY song I loved it was distinctly possible that I was going to leave the show on a very palpable high.  And nothing I daydreamed about before I got there ever matched what really happened.  Three and a half hours of him singing just his music, no covers, no filler, just him and a few costume changes cause the man played until he sweat through an outfit, and it was completely amazing.  It wasn't until I was home in my bed hours later that I realized he had missed at least 15 of "my songs" lol and I totally didn't care because the set list was everything.  When I went home to see my family that summer Prince followed, ok not literally but he was there in Texas and I went with my stepsister and told her to wear comfortable shoes cause she'd be up and dancing the whole night.  And we were and left hoarse from singing out loud at full volume for another three and a half hours.  It was at this show that I realized something too.  Prince was like Cher or Elton John or Bruce Springsteen.  His fans were from every walk of life and every racial group and for four hours on a given night we were a huge musically linked family.

To be clear I was listening to Prince like a fiend as soon as I could buy my own stuff so while the concerts showed me I had a place that was home his music had already let me know there was someone somewhere that kind of knew what I was thinking and feeling.  I named one of my final papers in undergrad after a Prince song, Elephants and Flowers, and fully explored who I was and how I had settled into my identity as a young black woman who was open to a number of things that others like myself were not and how while I wasn't ready to share that with the world I knew that when I did there would members of the Prince collective out there to embrace me.  And there always were at concerts, message boards, random meetups, music swaps what have you.  They were my people and will continue to be in the future I know.  They appreciated my ability to write in Prince speak (replacing random words with numbers and symbols).  They inspired my first AOL screen names which were of course in Prince speak.  They encouraged and loved on my second tattoo--the eponymous symbol we were graced with for a while that created it's own storm The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.  They returned bootleg music to Prince with me and we were rewarded with random trinkets.  They debated why this version of that song was better and they were just all in all everything wonderful about what music can bring together.

I jokingly say that I stalked Prince during the One Nite Alone tour.  I saw him four times (Chicago, Louisville--met and talked to him there, Indianapolis and D.C.) on the main tour and then someone mentioned that he was having the Celebration at his house again.  Celebration being a huge party in honor of his birthday that was a week of concerts, workshops and meeting of fans from across the globe.  I met so many people there and had a once in a lifetime experience.  From watching the cute old ladies from England get excited about being able to go grab Prince cds that were out of stock in the UK, to the super cute Italian lesbians, the bromance who came at the behest of one's girlfriend who knew he loved Prince but had no desire to sit through the week of shows, a friend from a message board who upon meeting felt like an old friend who had never not been in my life and a former mentor who woke up earlier than she had to in order to hang out a bit between my music and sleep deprived haze.  If I had never seen Prince in concert again it would have been worth it for that moment to have happened.  I did see him again in Indianapolis after I crossed with a few line sisters and again it was worth being hoarse at the end of the night to be on the floor and singing at the top of my lungs.

I'm sure if I process too long I'll start crying which may be why I'm writing this as I let my Zune work through 800 plus Prince songs.  I used to think I'd crack up into tiny pieces if this day came and in a weird way I'm kind of happy.  I lived in an era where there was a being named Prince Rogers Nelson and he was amazing.  From the 1970s blow out to the 80s jheri curl the 90s various forms of fierceness to his most recent afro, his hair always looked better than mine.  Not sure if y'all remember this suite but he was rocking a white and red polka dotted shirt and fly red suit on the cover of Rolling Stone one year that my behind wanted so bad I couldn't explain.  We were the same height but he was decidedly smaller than me.  I might have to recreate that look one day after all this gym love finally finishes paying off.  Fuck that I'll get it anyway and wear it cause Prince would have lol so I can too.

I thought about something else earlier.  After I finished undergrad and was living with my father while I worked on my master's degree MTV was running a show called FANatic during which super fans of stars and artists were connected with their idols via the show.  My brother told me to submit something cause yeah giant Prince fan so I did.  And like a month later I got a call from a casting director with MTV who had some follow up questions for me but thought I might be a good fit for the show.  And then a week or so later there was either a call or an email to let me know the show wa being dropped.  Not because Prince wasn't interested but because he didn't like the idea of his fans being called fanatics.  That was around the time that the Prince Fam label was born and took over.  We were as much his family as he was ours.  So I'm really sad right now to lose my family and at any point in the future I may not be as composed as I am right now.  But all I can say right now is thank you to the man, the energy and the forces in the universe that made it possible for me to have experienced Prince for 37 of my 40 years on this orb we call earth.  I'll be around if y'all need me.  I'll probably be working on my last tattoo which I can see in my brain had been trying to figure out how to incorporate little elements of all the important relationships and people in my life into.  I've just been reminded of another link in that chain.  I've got another 780 songs to get through so don't mind me. 

April 10, 2016

Operation Serena Fine Update

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As I was looking for photos to compare my current shape with my former shape I was reminded yet again that I really don't take a lot of photos of myself.  I've mentioned the scale and I are battling in that it doesn't move much no matter how good I am with my food or diligent I am with the working out.  That's frustrating to be sure but whenever I send a random photo to a friend of something unrelated or a former student or colleague sees me I get a resounding you look great or you look way smaller.  One or two of them might be biased but probably not all of them.  I'm sure you're wondering what all that has to do with this post and I can understand that as well.  I don't mention #operationserenafine all the time because it just doesn't cross my mind to most days.  But in light of my finally taking a photos and total win related to this whole process it's time for an update.






So you can see my body transforming more here than I noticed on a day to day basis.  The top left photo is me and one of my line sisters in early 2013.  I was in town for a job interview and we had a good time out at dinner.  She is partially who made me get off my butt and say screw it let's do this.  The top right photo is late 2013.  If I have any from 2014 I can't find those bastards but as adorable as I am in said photo I was way too heavy for my frame.  The bottom left photo is me in January of 2015.  Smaller yes but I look kind of frumpy to me and still rounder than I'd like.  The bottom right photo is a few days ago, maybe a week.  I hadn't realized that my stomach looks different, my neck and chin look different and I'm standing straighter.  Gray hair still in effect but yeah different body.  Here's a shot of that without the collage.






I'm not done by any means, there's still weight to lose and muscles to tone but yeah I'm enjoying the journey and even with the crazy scale battles it's worth taking better care of myself.  I just took part in one of those we'll pay you to participate health screens at work and all my numbers were much better than when I did it two years ago.  All except my blood pressure which seems to spike to all hell at the doctor's office and no where else.  I'll still follow up with the doctor about that though.  Oh and I have to thank whoever thought of and chose to market the Mio Drops for flavoring your water.  I haven't ever really been a big soda drinker and after I abandoned most juices because of the sugar content I migrated over to a V8 option thinking it would be a great alternative.  That is until I met with a nutritionist who said it was full of sugar and calories and I needed to find a plan B or C maybe.  That mostly left water and if you know me you know I super hate water.  It hydrates yes but it tastes like absolutely nothing which isn't helpful.  I know it's supposed to taste like nothing but if you want me to keep drinking it then I need something to make it more interesting.  I spent six months at least on the Crystal Light is everything bandwagon, probably over a year, and if you can avoid the lemonade flavors and that horrible aftertaste then yeah they were decent but they were only in packets and just not making me happy.  I tried Hawaiian Punch drops as well as Minute Maid drops and while they took care of the flat taste they were not stocked regularly and not terribly cheap.  Enter the product that I am now using and just scored a great price on.





There's no weird aftertaste.  The size and shape of the bottle means it can easily go into a bag or my pocket as needed.  They have a bunch of varieties and you need to test each one to figure out how much of a squeeze you legit need for the bottle of water you are drinking because some are stronger in flavor than others.  I remember a lemonade with them as well that also had a weird aftertaste so I think it's something about lemonade flavors in general.  Overall, I love most of the ones I've tried except the energy ones.  Good God those are nasty.  Mio is most definitely not cheap which sucks.  Around here it ranges between $3.29 to 4.69 for a bottle.  The store I frequent the most has random sales on it that knocks the price down to $2.69.  During those sales upon occasion they have a buy six save a dollar on each which knocks them down to $1.69 each for every six you buy.  And because both Mio and the store want me to keep buying them I get coupons to save $1.50 for every four I buy each time I buy a few.  So yesterday I grabbed all my coupons (4 for savings of 6 bucks) and grabbed 18 bottles to make sure that I got my $1.69 deal on all of them.  So before coupons the total was 30.42 for 18.  Knock it down to 24.42 after coupons.  Now divide that by 18 and the product that is normally $3.29 just became $1.35 or so per bottle which is normally enough for me to flavor eight 24 ounce bottles of water. 

April 2, 2016

Hair, hair, everywhere

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Woo fresh twists means interesting sleeping tonight.  I have been behind the gun for days which is mostly to say I've been slacking on taking care of things.  I finally called the braid shop on Thursday which is GOOD because if i hadn't I'd be rocking mini fro until next Friday otherwise.  It's not a bad thing to rock mini fro but it wasn't the plan.  I tend to go in on Sundays but the shop is closed tomorrow so my Saturday plans went out the window and off to get fresh twists was the plan.  This is going to be a pic heavy post.  For some reason I'm taking way more photos of this natural hair than I did when I was relaxed.

This is what happened when I got the twists completely out of the my hair.  Minimal hair loss and I'm looking like Don King's granddaughter.  And another shot the next morning.









So I'm happy that it appears to be growing but I know the first real test will be the wash cause the shed hair and any tangles will come to light then.  And they did so while I did better this go round there is still a lot of room for improvement.  I did a mini prepoo, about an hour, and not overnight because I didn't want to go to bed with super wet hair and the longer I wait to wash the more likely it is that my hair will still be at least damp when I pass out.  I washed with Shea Moisture and Moroccan Oil again.  I used the Aphogee, Moroccan Oil and Mizani conditioners in the shower to cap off my shower routine.  I waited until my hair was about 90 percent dry and slathered in a few different sprays, leave ins and finished with grape seed oil.  Here's a comparison shot of morning after wash in February and evening after wash in April.  Oh and a side by side of the twists.





I tried to get about the same angle on the fros to see what the hair looked like side by side but that was harder than I thought it would be lol.  It's growing and doing an odd thing of being more black than gray after graying it up hard for the last few years.  On the upside the stylist in the shop that I love second only to the owner is who did my hair today.  While it took six hours the work is always better than when I have two women doing it and they can still take about that length of time.  So now I'm ready for the week and either tonight after my head stops feeling so heavy or tomorrow I'll work it out again.  How goes your wash days?


The Wash Day Experience

March 21, 2016

Finally Wash Day

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I really did mean to wash my hair last week but my lazy took over and it was a non starter last week.  I took some time to research how to do this better than just hopping in the shower and hoping for the best in terms of the weight on the twists and my hair with all that fresh water.  I chose to follow a mix of advice but got spray bottles from Sally's and filled one with two of my favorite shampoos, old standard Moroccan Oil and a Shea Moisture shampoo that is geared for naturals that I actually like--big deal there cause I have not loved Shea Moisture products, and warm water.  The second was just water to rinse the shampoo from my hair.  I sprayed my scalp all over and rubbed with the pads of my fingers and soon my scalp was 1) wet and smelling good, 2) getting clean and smelling good, and 3) just happy because my scalp was getting rubbed.  Don't tell anyone but if you want to kidnap me you don't need to do it by gun point or drug me.  Just convince me you want to rub my scalp and then do so until I fall asleep.  I'm good to go promise.  After I felt like I had done a decent job of cleaning my scalp and the crown of my head where the hair is longer I moved on to the rinse.  That was slightly more traumatizing than I planned because the wetness just seemed to keep spreading and I was hoping that my almost seven week old twists could stand it.  Then I hit it will all of the conditioners and leave ins in this photo.  My spray bottles are there too.  I didn't need to get the giant bottles but I loved the handles on these.  I'm very odd in the textures that I like to touch and work with and the ridges on this one just worked better for me. 


Right now I'm chilling with my hair resting on a towel even tough I squeezed a lot of the water off before I even got to the conditioner stage.  Since the enter length of my hair isn't wet this feels so much better.  And my scalp and the hair that is most definitely protruding from the twists feels good.  It's a great way to end a post gym day.  I will try to stay up another hour before I put them into a loose ponytail and then cover my hair up with my bonnet.  Yeah for clean hair and not a totally wet back and neck ache from all of that flipping water.  Here's me.


Have a good night everyone.

March 15, 2016

Six Weeks Natural

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I was reading another blog and realized I hadn't really been going wooo one more week natural.  Granted that could be because my hair has been in this fabulous twists the entire time but I'm super enjoying being called everything from Storm well now that I think about it's really just been Storm but as kick ass female superheroes go she's nothing to shake a stick at.  Plus, I am enjoying looking a bit younger than I somehow was with the jet black twists.  The one thing I have noticed, and that could be a total fallacy at this point, is that my hair seems to have grown out more in the last six weeks than it did when I was relaxed or when I was consciously not relaxing it.  I really don't want the twists to be tighter when I go in next time but yeah that was something that caught my attention.  And my hair really really likes moisture as much as humanly possible.  The best combination for my twists is Jane Carter Solution re*store moisture mist (which I was super irritated to see marked off to half price after I had bought a few bottles the month before) and Infusium23 Repair and Renew Leave In conditioner with Avocado and Olive Oil.  I think my Ulta is getting ready to phase out Jane Carter because all of the products that I might have been interested in were in the sale section.  I bought way more than I should have but I have Ulta, Sally's and one random beauty supply store that doesn't have as much for the wanting to be natural collective.  They do have a ton of braiding hair but not the Xpression in any kind of gray mix.  And even if other folks can't embrace it I appreciate all of this gray hair still willing to grow out of my scalp.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had planned on having enough braiding hair to get through the rest of the year but my brain hadn't calculated hair growth, varying the size of the braids, and maybe just touch ups if I had something special going on.  That sent me on another panicked hair spree because ebonyline still hadn't put the hair back up for sale on their website.  None of the other sites recommended by Sensationnel had the hair in M51 and a few places that did seemed a bit sketchy.  I stumbled on a brick and mortar store on the east coast that had the hair today and after a brief conversation with them I bought a crap ton more (that's an legitimate measurement somewhere I'm sure).  Because of a mix up with their website the owner must have felt like they had to ship immediately because within an hour of placing the order I had a shipping notice.  Yeah for that.  And if you want to check them out they are at BSW Hair Store and have a pretty wide stock of things and an actual store you can go into which helps if you live in that area.  I know my hair won't be in twists the entire next year but it will be up more than it's not until I can rock a giant afro.  Gotta be prepared for whatever random mood swings my hair opts to go through until we hit that point.

Tomorrow I'm going to wash my twists using the spray bottle method I've seen a few folks try because I really was dreading putting water and thus increased weight on my hair.  I'll try to take photos and updates after I get home from the gym and work tomorrow.  The gym was going well until I tweaked my shoulder and finally had to see a doctor cause the pain wasn't going away.  Turns out you shouldn't keep doing upper body workouts when you've tweaked a major muscle group.  But to my rationale it was loose in the gym and after I came home so there was no pain until I went to sleep and it was like yeah naw kid.  I'm better now and while I may let tomorrow just be a cardio day since we're on break I may make an appearance every day for the rest of the week.

How's life with you ladies (and gents maybe)?


The Wash Day Experience

March 6, 2016

Seriously Sleepy Sunday

Things have been crazy around here as of late.  Well no more crazy than normal really but it's been keeping me too busy to do much of anything.  I have made it to the gym more days than I haven't and only missed one workout this past week which puts me one workout off my goal of getting to the gym 150 times (or at a minimum three times a week) this year.  If I stick to the plan then it will be closer to the 170 range but I'm not holding my breath that life won't interrupt or like Friday I'll just be so exhausted that I come home midday, fall asleep for several hours, get up and cook and then go back to bed a few hours after eating.  I got back into the swing of things yesterday though after spending the vast majority of the day cleaning up and throwing away things that were never going to be read or used.  I also packed up a rolling suitcase of things I said oh this would be good for this or that class but keep tossing into a pile that never makes it to my office.  They will be on my bookshelf and off the floor tout suite.  All in all, busy as the day is long isn't throwing off my routine too much thankfully it's just making me tired as heck.

Off tangent and potentially TMI for those of you that don't want to know about my workout routine but I have noticed something the last month or so when I go in for my workout.  I normally sweat in my scalp which is super annoying and why those dri wick bands from Goody were such a Godsend when I found them through influenster a few years ago.  Can't find those damn things to save my life now and they are hard to rock with the twists but I'm off tangent.  So I am used to sweating in my scalp and it's just the drawback of trying to be healthy.  Well the rest of me is periodically drenched in sweat as I workout.  It gets progressively worse until I hit the elliptical at which point it's like girl will you take a shower please.  Thankfully I have the treadmill time after it because while I'm still moving the treadmills are all under giant overhead fans so I'm at least mildly dry before I put on a jacket and head out to my car.  This matters on a few levels for me other than my workouts are clearly having the desired effect and I'm staying super hydrated so yeah for that too BUT and here's the problem.  It's killing my sports bra game.  Good sports bras are not cheap especially if you are on the busty side of things.  My favorite red one just got damaged while I was doing laundry and as I can't get it in that size anymore I'm super pissed and now have to remember to always wash them in a lingerie bag.  I'm having to wash them more because no matter the routine I come home and those things are wet for a while.  I ordered a few last night and was happy that I had a 25 percent off coupon.  Now that my red one has been limited by the broken hook I need to get one more to make it through a week of working out without having to rewash all the bras I own lol.

Ahh well, those are the breaks right?  How is life treating you?

February 15, 2016

What Happens When New Hair Arrives?

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The receiver freaks out of course. The receiver in this case being me.  I was finally able to find out from the folks at ebonyline that they did in fact have the X-pression Ultra braid in my gray and black tresses so I placed an order after some randomness because the M51 is not on the website (which is down as of a few hours ago) right now.  Well we sorted it out, item gets packaged out to ship and then nothing cause USPS is sucking gigantic monkey balls right now.  I randomly checked the shipping status before work this morning and it went from pre-shipment to at the sorting depot in town with no information in the middle.  It also says the box won't arrive until tomorrow, ok fine nothing to worry about because hair is still done up.  I checked delivery for an item shipped and said hmm let's see if it's at least made it to the right part of the city and yeah it had--my front porch.  Thankfully this is a non teaching day so I grabbed the box and realized it wasn't nearly as big as I expected it to be considering I had ordered enough packs of hair to get me through the rest of my planned installs this year.  That's probably sounding a little crazy BUT I like to be prepared and not waiting until the last minute to try to order things because stuff tends to be out of stock when I want it.  There is still the possibility that I won't be able to find it when I need it this year in case I need more hair during each install than I did this first run through.  Regardless I'm concerned that they didn't send as much hair as I ordered so I check the packing slip and nope the numbers match so then I look at the hair.  The hair itself looks the same BUT the packaging is totally different.  You'll see in the photos that follow.  New package is made in Togo, old package is made in Bangladesh (super funny considering it's the one that says it's the African Collection).  The hair is packed differently, old package being wider so the hair appears to be thinner and new package is more compact so it feels kinda fluffy in the package but the texture is the same, the color is the same and the giant Xpression across the front seems to be identical.  However, I was still wigged out and started looking across the internet to figure out what had happened and if I should be concerned.  Most sites were not helpful like even a little bit.  Outre is who was credited with the new packaging but their official site doesn't have an M51 listed.  And remember ebonyline was down so I couldn't remember the brand they said they would send in addition to Sensationnel depending on color chosen.  So I went clicking around all over X-pression braid haven and finally stumbled on THIS SITE which included the following text:
You will receive either OUTRE X-pression Ultra Braid or SENSATIONNEL X-pression Ultra Braid depending on our stock.
They are exact same products in different packagings so please don't be alarmed when you receive two different looking packs!

LOL so my panic decreased but I just wanted to share my super crazy freak out moment.  How goes your hair care week?