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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