My Sisterlocks – One Year Anniversary

Monday, July 24, 2017 marked the one year anniversary of my Sisterlocks install. I am so excited about the look, feel, and ease of my hair at this one year anniversary, and I cannot imagine NOT having the freedom that comes with locs for the rest of my days. 

Before Sisterlocks:

Day 1 of Sisterlocks Install: My hair and scalp were cleansed with a clarifying shampoo and there was no product whatsoever on my scalp or in my hair on the dual-day Install.

Day 2 of Sisterlocks Install: The finished product. My hair was pretty short, but healthy.


One Year of Sisterlocks Freedom: I lost some weight during this year and worried about the overall condition of my locs for about three months, but they survived the transformation of diet and exercise. 

Make-Up Free works well with Sisterlocks (below):

My locs continue to evolve. The grays continue to show up.

Year One Retightening – Wednesday, July 26, 2017: Prepping before bedtime. I must massage my scalp more and manipulate my locs. My retis leave me feeling “tender-headed” and hating the peripheral Retightening process. I cringe…literally, every single reti. 

I’m not sure why these next two photos were filtered like this, but the length and fullness are still apparent.

My hairline (edges) remain intact a year later 😌…not much can be obscured with my broad forehead though. It is what it is…so, I embrace it. 

My consultant will do some targeted “grooming” of my locs-either over my next couple of retis or from an appointment made for that purpose. The grooming will help tame my “frizzy fuzzies” and allow her to assess each loc’s strength and health. We combined a few locs in the front that had weakened.

I’m expecting great things during this next Anniversary year, and a loc growth spurt is among them. I continue to take 10,000 mcg of biotin with my evening meal, and from my consultant’s view, the biotin is contributing to incredible new growth. I’ll be experimenting more with my diet over the next year, enjoying more plant-based nutrition, to see if my overall health improves and to customize my lifestyle to include healthier plant-based choices.

Looking forward to sharing with you all – my hair journey and most definitely, the freedom of Sisterlocks! 

Be well!

‘Leven&AHalf Months – Year One Is Near

Am I the only one who perspires uncontrollably?! I was relaxing in an epsom salt soak and reflecting on how profusely I sweat, and I was sweating while thinking about how much I sweat. Whew! Just today, I was talking to two very close friends about how I sweat, abnormally so, when I exercise outdoors. I’m almost embarrassed to walk one of my normal routes because of the vehicular traffic and numerous traffic lights; they’ll definitely see me out there sweating! There is no hiding from the onlookers. This is no normal sweat, y’all. I promise.

To build upon healthy living habits and to maintain my weight loss, at least five days a week, I am walking and/or jogging 3-7 miles (depending on my energy level and the weather) outside, in the elements. I call myself “training.” My long-term goal is to run a half marathon at 50 years of age. Since I still have well over a year before my 50th birthday, I am taking advantage of the beauty of the great outdoors, mild southern temperatures, and honoring my refusal to be tucked away in a germy, expensive gym. I love to be outdoors, in the fresh air and sunshine-especially during the early morning! However, the humidity in Memphis is oppressive in July and August. It’s the devil, y’all.

My hair though…I really wonder if the sweat is damaging to my hair. With all of the benefits of perspiration, could there be benefits to one’s hair?

I don’t feel compelled to shampoo my locs more often, and I suspect that is because I still do not use any oils on my scalp or in my hair which tend to contribute to excessive buildup. Those additives can be smelly over time, combined with perspiration.

My locks continue to be “bleached” by the sun.  It’s ends are reddish-brown. That gray? It’s not going anywhere, and I do not want to cover the gray using harsh chemicals.

At the near end of Year One, my locs continue to be varied in size and density. Frizzy, fuzzy, fat, skinny, wiry, curly, strong…just a few descriptors.

Most of the ends in the back are locked with curlier ends on the top and sides.

I’m actually very proud of the growth over this year, and I’ll chronicle that growth in my next entry.

On any given day, my hair remains thick and full.

At Year One, I will do the ACV rinse I’ve been hearing so much about…and will consider it an annual “birthday gift” to my locs as a gesture of love.

I’m working on me…still. My Sisterlocks are the easiest part of my daily wellness plan. Effortless and uncomplicated. It’s a good thing because I need all of that energy to be dedicated to the internal pep talk I must have to sustain an exercise regimen.



Ultimately, I did a little research to discover the benefits of perspiration and came across this article: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-amazing-benefits-sweating-you-didnt-know.html.

One thing’s for sure, I don’t plan to change my living environment, switch to an indoor facility to train, or stop exercising outdoors to live my best life-now or in the future. I’ll be sweating to the oldies, as an oldie…and that’s just fine with me.

Be well! 😘

My 10 Month Journey – Locked For Life

Your hair…its texture, its state, its look, its health, its feel…tells a story. Mine has been deprived of proper hydration over the past few months; now I’m in a re-hydration mode, and over the summer months, I will be trying to replenish all of the water it needs to experience a growth spurt and the sheen I know it should have. 

My grays, especially in my temple areas, have begun to show up and show out…wiry, uncontrollable, and rebellious. They don’t even want to hide within the confines of a locked tress-they just want to do their own thang. My locks continue to change in form during this tenth month. Not a lot of uniformity yet; thinner and longer locks on the top-thicker, plumper ones along the sides and back. 

I’m amazed by the many “looks” I can create, on any given day, although I do not “style” my locks. They are long enough to twist or braid; however, I believe that styling them in this teenaged phase may weaken my edges and cause undue tension in the back, especially along my nape area. I’ve worn enough updos and styles pulled off and out of my face to appreciate the free style of well…no style. This forehead is here to stay. I choose to celebrate it and its broadness-show it every chance I get. It’s a reminder; I really do have a lot going on up there, in this head of mine. 

Over this past month, I’ve stopped sleeping in the Loc Soc. I’m feeling the 48-year-old hormonal change of night sweats and the weight of denser locks confined in a tight space, so I’ve switched to just satin pillowcases, which seems to work well so far. I rotate crimson and cream satin pillowcases (imagine that ❣️), and they have given me a cooler head without much concern about the health of my locks. At my next retightening, I’ll ask my consultant if she notices any lint or buildup from my transition from the covered head to open air. As an extra precaution against lint, I do not wear caps, scarves, or hats on my head.

There is no appreciable difference in what I do to my hair in the morning. I still take a hot/warm towel (sometimes prepped with a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint or Citrus Castille Soap) and move my locks to refreshen and “style” them in their free-style way. Most of the time, the humidity of my hot morning showers do the trick. I’ve stopped covering my hair with a plastic shower cap now that it is locked. 🎼🎧🎤 I never knew love like this before…

My hair is not fully locked all over, but coiled enough so that I do not have to fear the rain or getting it wet in the shower. The back is more locked than those stubborn curly top locks, so there are still so many different textures apparent within my hair. 

The picture below (black shirt, gold oval pendant necklace) is a good representation of my “workday hair.” A bit more “fluffed” and contained. Still with a bit of edginess and personality, I love the dynamic attitude of locked hair.

This picture (denim jacket, camo shirt-representing with the silver pendant) represents my “weekend hair,” which is slowly becoming my workday hair now that the school year has ended. I’ll be working much of the summer, and casual Monday through Friday will rule the summer work gear. Some days, I just can’t control the direction of one or two locks. I have stopped trying. 

A year ago, right before I decided to lock and started this blog about my hair journey, I was so preoccupied about my image, as a professional educator, and how locking my hair might impact people’s perceptions of me. While I understand that is somehow a real concern in this competitive world of titles, relationships, and performances, I no longer worry about whether my hair speaks something to others before I even open my mouth. My prayer is that I’ll have an opportunity to speak my own truths before they are assigned to me. However, I’ve spent this year learning, and in some cases, the hard way, that no matter who you are, how you look, what you have to say, and how your story has evolved, some folks will create an image, shape an opinion, write YOUR story, and choose to believe THEIR story of you, no matter its truth or fidelity. 

My hair tells a story, my friends, but it’s only a small part of my story. Such a small part…

My “Naturalversary” and Next Steps: It’s A Journey

I celebrated my six month “Naturalversary” in mid-June, in the midst of a career transition and two weeks into my abbreviated summer break. On this past Saturday, I visited my Sisterlocks consultant to do a “length assessment” and to make a deposit on my near future install. I’ll admit; I was a bit excited just to take those baby steps, and I had an opportunity, while there, to chat with a “newbie” about her three month Sisterlocks journey. She was getting “bundled and banded” for a shampoo, and I was intrigued by the process. She seemed open to sharing with a stranger and after realizing that I could ask her any questions I may have, I asked her whether she had any reservations about her decision to move forth with the installation. She told me that it “was the best decision” she had ever made about her hair care and that she had “no regrets.” I couldn’t help but notice that her hair was considerably longer than mine and our textures were quite different. That reality is the reason I began this blog in early-May as I was in the infancy stages of my decision-making process. It has been difficult for me to find a black woman, who looks like me and who dons a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro), as she begins her Sisterlock journey. Someone out there, like me, wants to see the before pictures, the complete install, the early baby loc phases, and the growth progression of Sisterlocks in a very methodical way. As a matter of fact, my self-awareness and personal transparency lends itself to sharing as a way of helping others to reflect on their rationale and reasoning as they grapple with choices. Creating a blog and sharing periodic streams of consciousness was a mere extension of that natural communication process for me. I was so comforted to know that Vivian’s client began her journey completely natural as well, and that her hair was evolving in its natural state. 

Waiting for my hair to lengthen has been a test of will and sheer patience for me. I’m quite accustomed to making a decision, any decision, and acting on it immediately, so when Vivian told me in early May to come back later, well…let’s just say that I was not at all happy. This recent visit was different; my hair has definitely gotten longer (and healthier), and I believe it has thickened (particularly at the roots) where it is curliest and closest to my scalp. Vivian inspected my hair, scalp, and length and proclaimed, “You’re ready!” 

For about five seconds though, I paused, “Am I?”

Since my first visit to the consultant in May, some realities about my career as an educator have surfaced, and once again, my hair has become an obsession, along with my professional image. For a black woman in academia, image and perception are real identity concerns. While the success ladder is a steep one, I pause because there are not many sisters in school leadership who choose to wear their hair natural. However, I happen to be surrounded by many role models of natural beauty who have made their mark in our local public education system, those who stand tall, run in stilettos, and jog in Tiek’s through the hallways of schools everyday; those who walk the walk, talk the talk, and lead by creating leaders. I’m comforted to know that all of my natural mentors, my Natural “Board of Directors” (to coin a phrase used by my APP Director, LaWanda) are just an email, text message, FaceBook post, or phone call away…some I see in my building, others I see in my community, in the business of sorority meeting, at the local Kroger’s. Recently, I asked one of them, Tara, “So, I am wondering how those baby locs will look…and how to integrate my new look with my new leadership journey. My director talks to us all the time about image, perception, and maintaining a professional “look.” I know many successful black women with locks, but have you encountered any bias related to your hair?” Brief in her response, but the affirmation I needed, Tara replied, “Not one bit. Your locs won’t look much different than your fro.” From her reply, I gained that extra bit of certainty that my transitional journey will be a familiar one for me, not like the Big Chop which rocked my world for a few pivotal weeks last December. Due to the length of my natural hair, my install should be very reminiscent of my current look. In fact, some people may not realize even that those microlocs will represent, for me, individual seeds of highly anticipated hair freedom.

I do not anticipate that the shift, from my ‘fro to Sisterlocks, will be a dramatic one for me, but the freedom I have enjoyed wearing my hair in its natural state has been life-affirming and intentional along my personal hair journey. When people say to me, “See, you can wear your hair like that. Everyone can’t pull that off,” it makes me wonder from where, exactly, does this disdain with our natural hair originate. Unfortunately, it is one of the reasons I can’t just enter school leadership equipped with a lifetime of knowledge AND remain unconcerned about my image because my hair is a primary player in the perception game.

Below is my one and only attempt to wear a headband with my TWA. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Karen Lynn, quickly warned me about the dangers of headbands and edge destruction. Her exact words on my FB post were, “Come thru! Come thru! Looks very healthy. Gotta be careful with the bands as they may damage the edges.” I can appreciate a sister who IS a true sister…Lord knows, I need my edges with this broad (big) forehead. 

Below is the condition of my hair during yesterday’s deep conditioning ritual, post-length assessment for my install.

One of my favorite pastimes after rinsing out the conditioner is combing through my hair with a wide-tooth comb and inspecting my hair before I put one drop of oil, cream, or gel in it. This is the hair I was born to love, and the transitional phases of Sisterlocks will enable me to celebrate my hair, chemical-free and minimal product-free, for years to come. 

The delight and reality of gray hair in my late 40’s…. I’m still on the fence about coloring my future Sisterlocks. I really want to enjoy and celebrate my natural hair, my natural color, my naturalness.

Stay tuned as I chronicle my Sisterlocks installation process. I’m excited about the endless possibilities, the evolution of natural beauty, the transition of professional image, the role-modeling potentialities for black girls, and how I standardize my personal image for myself and others. 😘😍

You Would Be…If Only…

How many of us have heard the accusatory words, “You would be…if only…”? The words imply not only that you’ve done something wrong or that you’re not quite good enough, but that the person stating their opinion knows exactly what would cure your deficit and make you more acceptable in their sight. Even if stated in a loving manner, these words, more often than not, hurt us.

Courtesy of Quotesgram.com

So many times, I have reflected on myself, my friends, my family and the countless conversations about what each of us would change about ourselves, if we could. Some of the changes are purely physical-my spider veins, his skinny legs, her love handles. Or the conversation might center on emotional strength-my weaning patience, his lack of commitment, her intolerance for diversity. Perhaps the issue is deeper-Am I enough? Is he stronger than he thinks? Is she capable of moving in the right direction? All point us to a place of questioning ourselves, our intentions, our efficacy, and our innate ability to make smart choices. What makes the situation sticky? It is our insistence that the opinions of others really don’t matter to us. But should they?

Courtesy of Inspirations.allwomenstalk.com

Many of us have suffered in familial relationships where we have felt the discouraging sting of not being accepted fully because of how we act or look on any given day. Experimentation or just “being ourselves” is often discouraged, and we are reminded that how we look and act represents “the family,” “your people,” or “the legacy.” I’m not a parent, but I can imagine the agony any parent might associate with the actions or activities of their offspring which may cast a disparaging light on the family. As an educator, I’ve often attended parent-teacher-student conferences and heard the very words, “We didn’t raise you like that.” The admonishment is just as embarrassing to hear as it is to make; the implication is that you would be pleasing to me if only you did what I raised you to do which is always the “right” thing.

Courtesy of Picturequotes.com

In romantic relationships, control often is exercised by one partner or the other when stating those disapproving words, “You would be…if only…”. While we know that we teach others how to treat us, if someone you love disapproves of you, it is not only hurtful, but unsettling to your sense of well-being. Unfortunately, insecurities may settle in and become the basis of our future dealings, which may, in fact, cause irreparable harm if the relationship is new, developing, or uncertain. Sometimes, the actual words may not be spoken, but a disapproving glance, the silence associated with an anticipatory acceptance, or the communication of distaste to others builds resentment and detachment in romantic relationships.

Courtesy of Cartoonstock.com

In friendships, we say that we want transparency and honesty; however, when we hear those words, “You would be…if only…,” we feel judged. Unconditional acceptance, while it is desired, is not truly expected from our friends. We hope that verbal criticism is constructive, in our best interest, and extended in love. What happens when it’s not? What happens if your friend criticizes the fit of your new dress, and you disagree with her assessment? What if the issue is semi-permanent, like your new platinum blond hair against your cocoa brown skin? The criticism takes on a whole other feel. Not only is your new hair color an issue, the skin you’ve always been in is now an issue. Or is it still really about the hair? Can you truly be a friend if you withhold judgement when your friend is traveling a slippery fashion slope? Can the friendship survive a dose of honesty that is based on an opinion?

Truly loving yourself comes from being self-aware and forgiving of your flaws. It means that larger than average nose you inherited from your dad’s side is loved. It means those curvy hips and thighs you got from your momma are cherished. It means those teeny tiny boobs you were born with are yours to adore. It means that propensity you have to use strong expletives to signal disapproval is managed. Can you be proactive and physically modify that less than perfect nose, those challenging hips and thighs, the small breasts, your fussing and cussing side? Sure! When you encounter another, who attempts to place a value on your connectedness based on how you act or look, you may re-examine your flaws. This re-examination can be healthy, particularly if the flaw causes dissension or a disagreeable nature that prevents others from connecting with you. Sometimes change is what we need.

Courtesy of Pinterest.com

Now that I have made the best hair resolution for me, which just so happens to be the decision to never again chemically alter my natural hair, I needed to get through a period of uncomfortableness with what my hair represented, not just to me but to those I choose to love. Every day, I grow more certain that I could be anyone except me if I don’t learn how to balance my perceptions. Before I big-chopped, I had all of the lengthy conversations in my mind about the image of me. Although I’m just six months into my journey, I’m still amazed when my friends or family ask me about coloring my hair, cutting my hair, or “styling” my hair. Yes, I’m always pleasantly surprised when anyone says, “I love your hair, Andi!” I’m even more thrilled to hear, “I love that YOU love your hair, Andi!” And even if those words are never uttered by those I love, deep down inside, I continue to expect the freedom from judgement…I expect the “You would be…if only…” thoughts to remain somewhere dangling in their own head, and more appropriately, on their own hair.

 

img_5392

Me, Loving The Skin and The Hair I’m In

Andi’s Hair Journey: The Beginnings

After years of short, relaxed cuts, shoulder-length bobs, micro-braids, and even a short-lived Big Chop in 2013, I began a hair journey of mishaps, blunders, and wonders over the past 18 months.

Here I am in January 2015, fresh-faced, at my allergist’s office with a roller set:


Here I am later that same month at my sorority’s Founders Day Ecumenical Service: 

After months of personal hair care and indecision about what I wanted to do with my hair, by March 2015, my hair was relaxed, neck-length, thick, and relatively healthy. I spent about six weeks in micro braids, and I began “lightly” relaxing my hair on my own. It was presentable, but not exactly “hair-dresser straightened and styled.”  Desirous of a change and trusting my new hair stylist and colorist, I made a sudden and drastic transition during Spring Break from a very dark brown natural hair color to a lighter reddish-blond color. While I liked the initial lighter color, my hair would undergo several changes over the next year and a half.

Here I am getting color, for the first time in over 15 years (March 2015):

Color 1

Looking cute! Here is the finished result of my color treatment (March 2015):

Color 2

I took pretty good care of my tresses; almost never applying heat unless it was being professionally shampooed and conditioned, and I pin-curled or slept in magnetic or soft satin rollers to maintain a basic and conservative “style.” Eventually, the light color started to fade and dark roots grew. I was forced to make another hair decision. To color or not to color?

Color 3

Later in the summer of 2015, just before the start of a new school year, I took the color plunge once again…this time, lightening my hair considerably.

Here I am in July 2015-a blonder blond! Brows and all!

Color 4

It was a change…yes, a drastic one, and I didn’t love it or hate it. On most days, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it and there wasn’t much I could do at that point. It was simply VERY light, and I tried to camouflage it with several different styles. Once the color “calmed down” and deepened a bit (thank goodness!), I found the color more tolerable. I even experimented with different textures and curly roller sets, too.

Textures 1

Textures 2

Textures 3

So, after a few months of wearing the blondest blond (for my taste), I did what I always do when I have no idea of what I want to do with my hair…I returned to micro braids.

Hard to believe it, but underneath that dark braiding hair is a blond living and breathing! November 2015-digging the braids once again:

Braids 1

 

Just Relax…or not?

I was probably 12 or 13 years old when I had my first trial with chemical treatments designed for black hair, the dreaded Pro-line Curly Kit. Back then, the Jheri curl was “in,” and I wanted my hair to be curly and cute…not even aware of the sheer volume of glycerin curl activator and daily maintenance it would take to wear the style. Luckily for me, the curl didn’t “take,” and the results were something stringy, something straight, something definitely over-processed; a mess.

Shortly thereafter, when I got my first “kiddy relaxer,” I remember the styling freedom that came from that boxed lye relaxer. When people speak of straighteners for hair, they often preface it with “the need” vs. “the desire” to chemically straighten the hair. I’m not convinced I needed a chemical straightener back in the early 80’s, but I surely wanted one. As an only child, I was always a bit mature for my age, and having relaxed hair was just one of the many hair “rites of passage” that I would undergo over the next 35 years.

Some people think that I “went  natural” to make a definitive statement against chemical straighteners or women who choose to straighten their hair. Not at all. Black women are beautiful in all the ways we choose to express our unique beauty. Our hair is how we individualize our beauty, and I refuse to become hyper-critical, negative, accusatory, me donning a ‘fro and judging my sisters. It’s just not who I am and no amount of convincing will ever make me transform into “her.”

Because my hair has been chemically straightened for most of my formative years, I thought it was time for me to seize the opportunity to spend the second half of my life, career, and sense of being in a natural state. I “big chopped” for that very reason. More important, as I age, the desire to do less with my hair in the future means I need to do more for at least two more years. When I turn 50 years old in November 2018, my hair will be the LEAST of my preoccupations. I don’t plan to own a comb; won’t need one.

The desire to transition from chemically relaxed hair to my hair in its natural state over time was not my chosen method to get to where I am on this date. I only had one choice back in December 2015-to big chop or to not. The duality of easing into my natural hair seemed counterintuitive. Length had never been my hang up, so the thought of slowly cutting my permed ends as my natural hair grew longer was like the anticipation of wanting to lose 30 pounds and sacrificing, indefinitely, all the yummy stuff I enjoy eating. I lacked the patience.

Here are some photographs of my relaxed hair in all of its glory:


Wedding Day: March 2012

December 2011

October 2011

January 2011


March 2011

May 2015

June 2012

June 2015