Saturday, December 22, 2007

There's No Business Like Show Business

Check out these videos on YouTube. They do an excellent job of explaining the Showhomes concept. The third video hits a spot in the middle where it looks like it's just going to loop through the second video again, but it only has about thirty seconds of the same footage, so keep watching! As always...please leave comments! I want to know what you think!

How to Live Like a Millionnaire Part 1

How to Live Like a Millionnaire Part 2

How to Live Like a Millionnaire Part 3

Be the man....'s my brand new business!

I'm the newest Showhomes franchisee. Visit the website at They are a real estate staging and property management company. Or perhaps I should now say we.

I have mentioned before (but only briefly and in passing) that I love interior design and houses and architecture. Those of you who have read my blog from the beginning know that I lost my job in February of this year, but I saw it as a blessing. I hated that job. It was in no way helping me reach any of my personal goals.

It was boring and repetitive. All it did was pay the bills. It did not challenge me mentally. It did not teach me anything. It did not nourish my soul. However, I was living comfortably enough (financially speaking) that I was not motivated to change. Even though I wanted to work for myself and do something more creative, I kept thinking how irresponsible it would be to 'step out in faith' as some of you have said. I thought that I should have something lined up or at least a more concrete plan in mind before I left.

Yet, I was so caught up in the day to day of doing my job and living my life that I did not look for anything else with any diligence. I had only the foggiest of ideas about what I might like to do...

Write, perhaps, or maybe start my own web design and consulting business. I like that, but a lot of people are doing it and there's not a lot of money to be made on the small time gigs. I would most likely still have to work another part-time job or really hustle to get new clients all the time...or build a really, really strong portfolio and have a business plan and marketing strategy that was far superior to the competition....which I believe I could have done, if I had ever spent enough time on it, but I never did.

I did not have enough savings to live on (the suggested 6 months) if I left and didn't find something else. (Or make the business work immediately.) And in fact, like so many Americans, I had fallen into the routine of living paycheck to paycheck. I'm single and had more disposable income than a lot of my peers and was just in the habit of spending more of it than I should have on clothing and eating out...nonessentials.

Because I could pay my credit cards and other bills (pay on, mind you, not pay off) every month I didn't really pay attention to how much I was spending and the fact that I was indeed living beyond my means and not planning for a solid financial future. Because I have a house that I can afford and a car that's paid for, I just felt more comfortable than I should have.

Losing my job made me face the reality of where I was financially. It made me think seriously about how I was (not) handling my business. I had deceived myself into thinking that keeping that job was the responsible thing to do, when in fact, the stifling atmosphere and the need I felt to seek fulfillment in other ways was actually holding me back more than leaving ever would have. I had settled.

No, worse. I had painted myself into a corner.

I talked about starting a business or going back to school the whole time I was at that job. I kept saying it was temporary, but I look back now and I know I would still be there if I we hadn't lost that contract. If I hadn't been laid off, I would still be complaining about the tiny cubicles and the endless rules....still talking about how I was going to work for myself one day and feeling more and more like a liar/pretender/impostor with every week that passed with me having come no closer to my goal.

A friend of mine used to say all the time: A goal without a plan is just a dream.

And it is so true!

Working for myself was just a dream. Yes, it was something I really wanted to do. Yes, it was something I believed I could do, but I had absolutely no plan in place...just a vague sense of what I liked to do and that if I could just figure out how to get people to pay me real money to do certain things that I enjoy (that don't feel like work)...well then - then I would be on to something.

So: what do I like to do?

Talk (obviously). Write (also a no-brainer). Design things: print ads, layouts, websites, paintings, photo-collages, rooms....on and on that list goes....

I'm really good at sales, marketing, and advertising, as well as public speaking and copy-writing...but I don't actually have a degree in any of those things. Or enough documented experience to apply for anything but entry level jobs. I don't really want to do entry level anything at my age. And truthfully I knew I didn't really want a job at an ad agency or as a media planner or any such thing.

Okay, what else?

I like decorating, but I don't really want to be an interior designer.


I love real estate, but I knew I didn't want to be an agent (not as my chosen career).

So...those are some of my talents and interests. Put them in a bottle, shake them up and what do you get?

Yeah, I didn't know either....

One aimless wanderer?

I spent months feeling like my internal compass was totally broken. I didn't know what direction I should strike out in for the next part of my life, only that what I had been doing in the last 5 years or so was not working for me anymore. And that I was likely to become even more unhappy and discontented in the next five if things didn't change.

I was living reasonably well, but I knew I wasn't living my best life....and you just reach a point when you think to yourself: yeah, this lifestyle has been okay until now, but it's not what I want for myself in the next ten years. I gave myself a fair amount of room to experiment and make certain kinds of mistakes between 20 and 30, and to be irresponsible in small ways, but that is not what I want to keep happening between 30 and 40. There are certain things I have figured out and other things I feel like I should have figured out by now.

One thing I have figured out is that any job that I will deem worth doing has got to challenge me every day. It has to be a little bit demanding and difficult or it will not hold my interest, but I also must have a fair amount of freedom and flexibility. Another related thing I figured out is that I really don't like being told what to do. I like being in control and calling the shots. In the last year I have gotten lots of advice from well-meaning friends and family, even my friendly rep at the local unemployment office.

I was told I should look into property management or being an office manager. I would be good at that, so they said. I have the ideal personality. I'm friendly and outgoing, but also take-charge and get-things done. ..So I'm told.

And I believe it's true. And I gave it serious thought.

And I started thinking: why pay the man or work for the man, when you can be the man?

Not everyone can be the man...but I think I can....

I thought about how I could manage a community or real estate portfolio or run an office (like the one I currently work part-time in) and I could bust my hump working 40 and 50 hour weeks to manage, maintain, and grow someone else's business for a set salary...maybe comissions...or...I could expend the same amount of time and energy growing my own business and representing (and enriching) myself. Also a no-brainer.

So I've been researching careers and business opportunities and franchises, etc.... Studying the success of others...and then, one day I found Showhomes and it was love at first sight! The more I studied and the closer I looked, the more it seemed like a really perfect fit for me. The business model is really a unique idea. Lots of people do real estate staging, but the home manager program and marketing support really sets the company apart. I could have struck out on my own and not bought into the franchise (as some people encouraged me to do). But it was just like: why re-invent the wheel?

I don't mind giving them a percentage if it means I'm going to make more money faster and with less hassle, trial-and-error, and beating my head against brick walls, running down blind alleys...etc..... I believe working with a franchise really lessens the learning curve. As they say: You're in business for yourself, but not by yourself.

No one else in this area is doing anything quite like it, so I have a real opportunity to position myself for leadership in this market. I'm quite excited about it.

So...I know there will be moments of stress. I expect this year to be hectic and lean for sure, but I also expect the rewards and the payoff to be totally worth it. And I'm not just talking about the money...I'm more focused on the reality of having achieved a goal. I get to pursue a career that combines many of the things that I love and I'm good at. It's a true bonus that it has the potential to pay well!

Thank you so much to all of my dear friends who have shared with me great words of encouragement and advice here on my blog and by e-mail and phone calls.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Big News! thing about blogging is this...when you say you're gonna do something, you've put it out there for the world to see and then, of course, the world is expecting you to follow through...

That can be a good thing or a bad thing, right?

It can motivate you to be accountable, or it can be a source of embarrassment when the things you talked about don't come to fruition.

Let's see...what have I said I would do...hmmm...I said I was planning to 1) Lose 40 pounds 2) Participate in a marathon, 3) Visit London over the holidays 4) Organize a Sisterlocks gathering in the area and 5) Start a business/introduce a product for lock wearers.

I know some of you have got to be thinking: what about all of that? But you are too polite to ask, or have simply decided that I am one of those people who is a lot of talk and no action. is the big news that I have been sitting on. It is the ongoing project that has affected (interfered with) everything else.

Drumroll please....

I just bought a franchise!

And I am scared witless!!!

Any of you who know somebody who has purchased a franchise or ever looked into starting one yourself knows that it is quite a process. In some ways scarier and more involved than starting a business from scratch. There are pros and cons to everything. You strike out on your own and you are accountable only to yourself. You own your brand and your ideas. Typically less capital is required, but building a brand and identity is often harder and takes longer.

I started the process back in September and it has been all-consuming. Of course I had to do market research and due diligence. I had to research the company and its principles (and it's principals) and all the while I was auditioning for them. I had to prove to their people that I was worthy of representing their brand in my territory. It's a dance, I tell you...and nobody taught me the music or the steps.

I spent every spare moment doing research of some type. On applicable laws, financing, do's and don'ts, what questions to ask... And then there was the question of financing. Franchises are never cheap. And you know what? No one, I mean NO ONE wants to give you money for a start-up.

Franchises are no man's land for banks and investors alike. Every where I went I got the same answer: You've got to put up your own money. Cash out your retirement or other savings or get a home equity line of credit. Take out a second mortgage. If you're still open in a year, come back to us with your financial statements and we'll see.

What? You've got to be kidding me? I called everybody! All of the local banks, national banks, SBA. I looked up programs online.

Many websites say on the home page: this program is not for franchises, start-ups, or businesses open less than two years old.

What to do? Look for private investors? Venture capitalists and angel investors are interested in original ideas and business with a different structure and growth model from what I am getting into.

Anyhow, I finally got the last of the start-up capital I needed yesterday so I signed the papers and sent off the big check! I am scared and will be scared until the money starts coming in. I go for a week of training in January. Even though I have purchased exclusive rights to my home territory, I cannot even begin to work it until the first of February. That's how long it will take me to get all of my training and licensing set-up.

When you crunch the numbers and see how much money you have to lay out month after month before you can expect to see a return on your efforts and investment, it is a really frightening thing!

Wish me luck ladies!!!

I am not intentionally being vague, I just wanted/needed to write about my news and subsequent excitement/anxiety in this post. There will be posts forthcoming on the actual business and what it entails.


I'm scared! I'm scared and I'm happy, but for now, mostly scared.

This is scarier than buying my first house or first car. In one way, it's the same kind of commitment, but in another way, not. The contract I signed was for 10 years of exclusive rights. There are things that are standard in franchising, like your franchise fee that you pay up front for the right to use the name and marks. Because you pay that money up front, it's gone!. Whatever happens - pass or fail; sink or swim; win, lose, or draw - you do not get that money back. There are also minimum royalties. This is money (often a percentage and/or set flat fee - whichever is greater) that you must pay every month, regardless of profits (or lack thereof!) Yikes!

I keep telling myself - Hey! It's only 10 years! I have 27 years left on a 30 year mortgage and people routinely take out 5 and 6 year car notes. (Would you believe I've never had a car payment? No, not because I was rich like that. Just because I grew up in a family that was practical about not buying new cars and not spending loads of money on financing. I've always bought used cars for cash. I currently drive a '95 Honda that I bought for $5,500 in the year 2000.)

So this is scary because I have a mortgage, and now a second mortgage, and a prom note, and the royalty fees that I have to make every month. Regardless. So that can be a long ten years if I find myself struggling! Aaarghhhh!

If I had started my little business that I was thinking about, the worst that would have happened is I wouldn't have made money. I might have lost $1,000 on it tops! With this, I will not have made money and I will find myself tens of thousands of dollars in debt. If I don't make it, I will be bankrupt...I can't think about it.


But it's a business model and opportunity that I really believe in. And something that is fun that I've always wanted to though it is a huge, huge, HUGE gamble, I'm betting it will payoff. But right now there is no way to know how big, or how long it will take to see true profits.
More to come ladies...

...Pray for me!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My First Sisterlocks Gathering

So today I attended my very first Sisterlocks gathering....

And guess who was there?...My friend Carmen. Even though we had never met, I've been reading her blog from the beginning, and we've e-mailed each other, so of course I feel like I know her. She is just as adorable and funny in person as I imagined she would be!

The gathering was organized by Blessed Gem Lady...Isn't she beautiful? She was celebrating her one year anniversary, which coincidentally was today. Also in attendance were several other locked ladies from the area. We had such a good time, comparing notes on products and hairstyles.

Meet Sandra, Lynette, and Lauren, Sl'd 8 months, 4 years, and 10 years, respectively.

Here are Delores and Lauren. Delores has also been Sl'd 4 years. You can't tell from any of the pictures, but Lauren has locks she can sit on. She is also a certified consultant. With all of her experience in wearing and maintaining Sisterlocks, she had lots of good advice for all of us!

In this picture, we have the lovely Andrea and Yolanda. Andrea has had Sl's for 3 years and Yolanda has had them for a year and a half.

Carmen showed up with what seemed like about a hundred Tomoka's Twists. We couldn't decide what we wanted to order for looking at the hair accessories...all of which had beautiful matching earrings. Some of us couldn't even wait until we left to wear them..ooh...ahhh...!

*ladies who were there...I'm going from memory, so if I spelled your name incorrectly or got your stats wrong, leave me a comment and I'll correct it*

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Still in love...8 months

Today I celebrate my 8 month anniversary.

Wow!...right? Time does fly. Still loving my locks and not a single regret.

I haven't noticed m(any) changes in the last month. Length, texture, density - all seem to be about the same, which is okay. I'm trying to develop the mindset where I don't really expect anything to be noticeably different between now and my one year anniversary.

What has changed noticeably is my attitude about my locks. They are less of a novelty to me. I do still play with them a lot, fingering them in idle moments, but I spend a lot less time in the mirror checking for changes. I also spend a lot less time thinking about my hair in I will wear it, whether it looks good.

I still freestyle 98% of the time. I shake it out when I wake up in the morning. I put it up in a ponytail when I exercise, and I check to make sure no stray pieces are sticking up when I pass my reflection and that's about it. Otherwise I don't think about it unless someone asks me a question or gives me a compliment...which is happening more and more often.

In a little more than a week I will attend my very first Sisterlocks gathering hosted by Blessed Gem Lady in Charlotte. I am really looking forward to meeting with other sisters with locks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Interesting Opinion

Check out this op-ed on Sean Taylor's death and tell me what y'all think.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Recommended Reading

My regular readers know that I like to pass on links and articles that were of interest to me.

Periodically I Google Sisterlocks to see what comes up. I found a link to this article which is actually over two years old, but I think it gives a fairly good description of what Sisterlocks are and how they're done (for the curious). It also gives a glimpse of the reasons some decide to get Sisterlocks.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

On Sisterlocks Status

Questions and debates about cost and brand-identity and the associated status continue to be a recurring theme with Sisterlocks. Before I got mine, I never knew this would be so. And if I were not such an avid reader of blogs, I would still be blissfully ignorant. Today I read this post and comments on Mel's blog.

I have recopied my own comments here:

Personally, I'm not overly concerned with the brand and status that is associated with Sisterlocks (as in: I want people to know that I cared enough to pay the big bucks for the installation) because the opinions go both ways on that. Some people applaud my choice and understand it. Others think it was a ridiculous waste when I could have used some other tool and done it myself or gone to the lady around the corner with a latch hook.

But I always tell people that I have SLs because I want to educate them about the method. I think they are unique and I am grateful to Dr. Cornwell for coming up with them and I think it is an amazing story!

I loved reading about her trial and error and how she developed the method. I mean, the whole 'backwards braid'/root-to-tip thing in and of itself is quite a concept! And so are the smaller more stylable locks. Whether they admit it or not, a lot of other methods out there HAVE borrowed from her genius. People can ACT like everyone was doing this all along and she didn't come up with anything new.

But she did. She really, really did! And she shared it with others. Ok, she did it for a price, but can we blame her for that? I don't think so. That's how we do things in America.

I get frequent compliments on my dreads or twists and twice as many questions about them, at which point I briefly explain the Sisterlocks difference. I ALWAYS encourage people to go online and do research. I direct people to the official site and my blog and the LHBE, so they can see how SLs are different from other types of locks and make an informed decision for themselves.

For a lot of people it does come down to cost and that is the reason they choose other methods. Others are die-hard DIYers and can't imagine paying someone else to do something they know they CAN do themselves. Some people decide that they want larger traditionals.

Even though I recently learned to retighten myself using the nappylocs tool, I will continue to go to my consultant (who uses nothing but the SL tool) for the foreseeable future. And if we should ever part ways, I intend to search out another consultant so that I will not be stuck with always having to do it myself.

So mine are still trademarked SLs, but yes, I agree that they still would be even if I never used the tool again or saw an approved consultant because that's what I got at installation. I paid for the parts and got the approved sizing and I have the pattern.

I got locked with about 10 inches of hair and have had exclusive SL maintenance done on at least another 4. There's no WAY anyone can tell me these aren't REAL SLs on my head.

Here's my question: why should it matter to anyone else how I maintain my locks?

If they look nice and neat it doesn't take anything away from the brand or the image. If I paid for an SL installation, it isn't a lie. It's not like passing off moissonite or CZ for diamonds.

I CAN understand the concerns about someone who wasn't officially trained and didn't pay for the class (or who never uses the tool and super-secret method and patterns) selling their services under the SL name like Muslimahlocs mentioned. That smacks of dishonesty and false advertising.

But on the self-maintenance front, I don't think it should matter at all!

I also visited Maryee's blog today and enjoyed her insightful post on the cost of Sisterlocks.

So What Do You Think?

This post is 0% about my hair, but it is about locks.

You wouldn't know this about me because I've never posted this info, but I love movies! Good movies, bad movies....epic films and awful TV movies that show up on Sci-Fi...Classics with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford...quirky comedy/love story/fantasy movies like The Princess Bride....Cartoons, excuse me, animated features. My tastes are really all over the place!

Anyway, I am a regular visitor to IMDB. I love that site!

How many times do you find yourself looking at a movie and wondering what else you've seen a lesser known actor or actress in? You wrack your brain trying to recall, right?

Well, no more. Simply visit IMDB: type in the movie you've just seen them in, or their name if you know it, and you can get a list of every movie they've ever been credited in. It's awesome!

The site also has trailers of past and upcoming movies, reviews, gossip, message boards -everything movies!

So I was on the site just minutes ago and I saw a trailer for a movie called 10,000 B.C. that is scheduled to be released in March. If you watch the trailer, you'll see that quite a few of the characters seem to be dreadlocked. And they are the long, thick, I've-never-combed-my-hair-in-my-life dreadlocks.

Now, if you've followed my blog and read comments I've left on others, you'll know that I am the first to say I think there need to be more locks in the media....and I appreciate when directors and costume designers have a vision for a film that includes locks as a symbol of power or freedom or strength or individuality. Sometimes actors and actresses decide that locks will represent their character better than other hair styles. And that's all good.

However, sometimes (often) locks are used to represent people who are on the fringes of society - dirty or homeless or drug-addicted. Wayward or rebellious or some other bad influence. And this is not good.

I haven't seen the movie. My guess is that the trailer I saw is less than 60 seconds long, so, I can't pass final judgment on it, but, from what I've seen the locks seem to represent caveman grunge and savagery, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Opinions, please.

Friday, November 16, 2007

On Sisterlocks Affirmation

Thanks to all for your lovely compliments on my retightening efforts.

I was pretty proud of myself, but I know the challenge spots I had and I couldn't really see the back that well to examine my work once I'd finished. I wasn't sure how well I had preserved my parts because I did it completely by feel and didn't use clips at all. But today I went to my consultant for her to check my work and for her to finish up the area where my hair grows thickest and my locks are smallest. I didn't want to ruin that area just in case I was going about it wrong because it would have been hell to fix!

She went through it all and told me I'd done an excellent job - as well as anyone who's taken the class! Yay!

That made me feel really good.

Funny, though, the novelty has already worn off and I am perfectly happy to continue visiting her for retites for the foreseeable future. Like I have said before: I like the pampering. I enjoy her company. She lives nearby and her prices are reasonable! Why ever wouldn't I?

I will self-tighten areas that need touch-ups between scheduled appointments and I expect that this will actually shave time off my visits, cutting them down to 45 minutes to an hour.

It's not about the money or the time spent, but it's kind of nice knowing I can cut both in half.

I always end up staying at her house for another hour or so after she finishes my hair anyway, so that won't be much different.

I also had my Sisterlocks identified earlier in the week. So many people still don't know what they are that it always excites me when someone does. I had just placed my order at Panera Bread when the locked sister behind the counter with beautiful shoulder-length traditionals said to me: "Your sisterlocks are gorgeous, who does them?"

We went on to talk for the next 20 minutes. (It's a good thing I'd ordered cold food and business was slow!) She said that she'd wanted SLs when she started hers 4 years ago, but couldn't find a consultant nearby. We even swapped info about my lock maintenance vs. hers. Her loctitian charged more than twice what my consultant charges once her locks got length!....At which time she went the DIY route.

She says she contemplates converting to SLs from time to time, but can't yet bring herself to part with her length and start over. In any case it was nice to meet someone who knew I had Sisterlocks!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Wanting More Length

Recently Helga wrote that she wanted more length, a common lament among those of us with locks, no matter what length we started with - from short to medium to shoulder length and beyond.

Helga mentioned an "overfocus on growing long hair that some Black women can be obsessed with," an indirect quote from one of her sisters. And I hear (and read) many comments to that effect from women with locks as well.

Many people say that when you decide to lock it should be for other reasons. Why? Who says? Isn't it an individual choice? Does it matter? I think we should show ourselves and others that black women can achieve great lengths with their natural hair. If that is someone's primary reason for locking, so be it. Is anything lost?

I want longer hair too! - YESTERDAY - And I am not ashamed to say so! And you know what else?

White girls and Latinas obsess about their hair length and thickness too. A lot of them wear extensions and hairpieces also. And they don't feel ashamed. A lot of them battle curls and frizz every day, so it isn't just us.

Do we have more of a struggle and more dissatisfaction and more outside influences that tell us our natural hair isn't good enough? I do believe so, but I also think the gulf is not as wide as some people imagine. (In terms of the numbers of individuals who do not like the hair they were born with. I mean, really, the entire beauty industry is built on making us - women of all races - dissatisfied with our natural selves - add to that cultural influences and stereotypes and community expectations, and well, you see where I'm going with this argument...)

Wanting longer hair isn't the only reason I decided to lock or the main reason. I wanted healthier hair and greater freedom and more options, and to that end I have been EXTREMELY satisfied with my locks from day one.

But wanting longer hair is one reason I decided to start locks. And I believe it is a valid reason and we should not feel bad about it. Why shouldn't AA women have hair down our backs that WE GREW if we want it?

P.S.: Helga, and whichever sister made the comment, please rest assured that I did not misunderstand your statements or take them out of context, it just gave me an opportunity to 'speak' on something that had been on my mind for months. I hope you don't mind....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On Doing it Myself - Part 2

My nappylocs tools came on Friday and I started on Saturday. I ordered two in case I lost one, but it was a good idea because some of my locks are smaller than others, so I pinched one tool with pliers to work with the smaller locks and left the other one original size. It was not my initial intention to tighten my whole head, but once I started, it was kind of addictive. It almost couldn't be easier. I really do like the tool. It is a breeze to use.

I was able to tighten up all of my locks that were threatening to slip out and I even started two new ones! I have hair that crawls something awful, so at first it was quite a challenge not to marry locks, and I did form at least a dozen unholy unions, but with practice I began to get a feel for whether I had caught stray hairs from adjoining locks before I pulled the lock I was trying to tighten all the way through. When that was the case, I would simply pull the lock and snagged hairs back out and start over fresh.

There were several I didn't catch in time, but since I had snagged only a few hairs (it was never more than 10 strands), I kept a seam ripper (yes, for sewing) nearby. I'm not saying I recommend that anyone else do this, but I just cut the stray hairs. The seam ripper is smaller and more precise than scissors, and I found out by trial and error that there is no good way to untangle locks that you can't see. (I actually had a casualty...and that is a post unto itself.)

I have so much more respect for my consultant now. (Which is amazing because I already had a tremendous amount of respect for her skill and expertise.) My hair in the back is really hard to work with. I shouldn't say that. That's not what I mean. It's softer and finer than I realized and actually quite prone to slipping while the lock is being tightened. Once it's in, it's in, but you kind of have to wrestle it in, and you can't really strong arm it because it is fine and the locks are small, so you kind of have to finesse it.

And she's always made it seem so easy.

It was quite challenging. I started at the back too because for some reason I thought it would be simpler than the top. Now I don't even know why. I think I intended to do only the back because it grows faster and I did want to leave something for my consultant to do at my next appointment, but then once I started it was fun, so I kept going.

It was a very challenging project, but it was an intriguing challenge and I felt like I was learning and getting better at it as I went along.

It was a really interesting experience. Although I loved my loose natural hair, I've felt more in tune with it since I started locking. And I feel differently about it again now that I can and have tightened it myself. I feel even more in touch with my roots...literally, tangibly.

When I gave up the relaxer I learned new things about my hair texture. I gained new appreciation for it's softness and strength. And when I started locking, it was the same way. I discovered new characteristics. I thought that now I knew all there was to know about how it feels and behaves, but alas, no. As I retightened I discovered new things about it yet again.

I'm still going to my consultant in about a week so she can look over my work, and I have a few locks that need repair.

I didn't know what to expect of self-tightening. I still don't know what this will mean for me in the long-term. It is relatively easy, so I have no longer have any anxiety about what might happen if Phyllis moves away or there ever comes a time when retightenings become a luxury that I cannot afford. And that is priceless freedom.

I still like the idea of having someone else do it, but as I suspected I might, I really like doing it myself. I have my hands in my hair all the time anyway. I love the texture and I enjoy monitoring the growth and changes. Now that I can retighten, I get to have my hands in my hair for a purpose, and I like that. It isn't just idle fondling. Combine that with my love of handicrafts and my obsession for neatness (and the fact that I like the feel of freshly tightened hair) and I may be doing it myself from here on out.

It is so different from doing twists or braids or straightening myself because it doesn't have to be done all in one day. I worked on it a little every day until now, and truth be told, I am still not completely finished, but it doesn't matter. No one can tell but me. It isn't the same kind of chore as other types of self-maintenance because it can be done a little at a time. I can tighten 5 locks or 25 locks or 50 locks.

There were times when my arms got tired and my fingers cramped, and I simply stopped for the day. I stopped and didn't have to start again until I wanted. I like knowing that if one or two feels looser than I like, I can just reach right up and do something about it on the spot. I like not feeling like I should wait until my next appointment. Some of my hair grows really fast and can be tightened at three weeks, but some of it doesn't need it for 6, so I've been holding out for 5 weeks to make it worth our while. There's no sense making an appointment for her to tighten half my head, especially since it isn't just the back or the front. I have fast and slow growing patches all over.

Now I don't have to do that. I feel like I might just find myself settling into a pattern of tightening them up as needed and only going to my consultant once every three months or so to make sure I haven't totally obscured my parts and that my pattern isn't completely corrupted. (I suspect there are at least 5 locks I might have tightened backwards, although I'm not sure what I did differently, but somehow when I was done, they didn't feel like the others...hmmm.)

Still loving my Sisterlocks, and the $35 I spent on the nappylocs tools was one of the best investments I ever made.

Still in love...7 months it's been forever and a day since I posted photos, and that's because it's been forever and a week since I took any.

But here they pics from my 7 month anniversary and my first self-tightening.

My ends are still curly....

I think I'm at a stage where it's looking fuller instead of longer.

My first self-tightening. I think I did a pretty good job! Especially considering that I was self-taught. I just purchased a tool and read directions from the Internet. Then I simply went for it. I'm very pleased with the results!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

On Doing it Myself

True to my long-winded self, my comments kept coming, so I decided to create another post...

So, if you're just visiting, skip to my post, The Power of Peer Pressure, and read that post and comments first.

N: I always wanted to know HOW to maintain my own locks. I would never have gotten them if I thought I would forever be completely dependent on another person to do them for me. I just didn't have the strong feelings about it that some of the locked sisters had...meaning, I didn't chafe at the idea of having to pay another person to do my hair, indefinetely, even. It's what I've always chosen to do. Even though I could quite effectively style and maintain my hair both when it was relaxed and natural, I always went to a beautician, and never considered it a luxury or an obligation.

As for maintaining my sisterlocks, I never had any doubt that I could learn the method and be shown the pattern and be on my way. Whether or not I could maintain my SLs and the cost of having someone else do it never factored into my decision because my consultant quoted me such reasonable prices and she was not secretive about the pattern or how to do it.

This having been said, she did not teach me how to do my hair, but she let me watch her retighten someone else's...and I can honestly say that I still didn't know what she had done. She let me watch her work on a client's head, and she let me watch her retighten her own locks, and it still looked like some sort of magic to me...the way knitting does.

I have said before that Phyllis is super-fast, so it's just like she sticks the tool in the hair, flicks her wrist and is done. I remember saying to her the first time: but what did you do? She amazes me.

I knew from the official website and my initial consultation that there was a class and that when I was ready I could learn the art of self-maintenance, and that was the end of it. I had no anxiety about that aspect of getting Sisterlocks. I was more worried about size and texture, etc....

Perhaps I was a little naive, but I just figured I would take the class when I was ready. I would learn to do my own locks, and that would be all. I didn't worry about what-ifs at all in the beginning. (Not of that variety, anyhow.)I had never visited any of the discussion groups, I only knew about 4 or 5 bloggers, and none of the loctitians I knew used tools.

When I decided to get sisterlocks, I knew nothing about latching or nappylocs, so I never questioned what I would do. I didn't know I had options, so my choice was simple: I would take the class at my first opportunity. (When the desire and the money and my availability to go all came together at the same time.) I never even worried about necessity of circumstance.

Eventually, I thought about it: what happens if I move or she does? That was more because of the negative experiences of others, I think it would not have occurred to me to wonder so early on otherwise, but still it never worried me. It was just a thing at the back of my mind, a bridge to cross at some future date.

However, as I began to read more blogs I became aware of the whole Sisterlocks vs. Nappylocs issue. Hmmm...who knew?

I've read comments from people on both sides of the issue and I have my own opinions about it, which I have most often kept to myself. I've really adopted a 'to each her own' attitude about most things concerning locks. I know how I want to wear and maintain my own locks. I know what I want them to look like, and so on.

I am still infinitely happy that I chose Sisterlocks over other methods for starting locks, but locking is such an individual process, I don't really feel a need to weigh in heavily on what other people choose to do. I will share my experiences and offer my opinion when asked, but other than that I don't much feel the need to comment on what others should or shouldn't do concerning their locks. Or what methods, products, techniques are superior or inferior.

I will never feel like I overpaid, or that I was promised anything that wasn't delivered. My Sisterlocks experience continues to be so much better than I thought it would be and so much more than I expected. This is largely because of the friendship and support I have found online, but also because I feel like it was very much the right time in my life for me to undertake this journey.

While I have not ever complained about the cost of my Sisterlocks or spoken out about the cost of the consultant or retightening classes, my decision to order the nappylocs tool as opposed to taking the retightening class comes down to two factors and one of them is cost. And not so much cost as value. (The other one is ease of use, and they are really intertwined.)

By the numbers, of course, it's simple. $15? $250...hmmm...not really a tough choice, especially when I have read so many comments about people finding the Sisterlocks tools difficult to use and feeling like they weren't taught anything they couldn't have picked up on their own. I didn't want to spend money on the class only to come home frustrated because I didn't like using the tool and feeling like I didn't learn anything I couldn't have figured out on my own with practice and some friendly advice.

If the mood ever strikes me, I am much more likely to spring for the entire cost of a consultant's class. Even though it is much more money, it seems to me to be a better value overall. $250 just to have somebody show me something I can probably figure out myself with a little experimentation, just seems really steep...but I don't feel that way about the things that are taught in the consultant's class. Then there is the camraderie and the friends you, that is still something I may undertake in a few years.

This may seem like a totally ignorant statement because I have never even tried to use either Sisterlocks tool on my head or anyone else's, but it just seems like it would be difficult to learn to use on my own head. It seems to me that if I learned in a class how to work on a mannequin and got the hang of the parting and the different patterns, then it would be easier to transfer that knowledge to working my own head.

I'm kind of a visual learner, so I feel like I could pick up the technique well by watching and then doing it on a head in front of me. Then I think I could do my own hair, but I think it would be harder for me to go to a class and learn how to do my own hair by feel. However, I freely admit that perhaps I don't understand how the class is taught. Maybe they let you watch someone else who has the same pattern. That would make sense....In any case, it simply seems like the best option for my current needs and circumstances for me to learn use the nappylocs tool.

I always understood the desire to know how to do one's own hair, it just wasn't a sticking point for me. I didn't feel like I wouldn't be happy until I learned. I know I won't have that feeling of freedom and relief that others describe at learning how to self-maintain, but I do believe that is because I have such a good relationship with my consultant, and everything about my retightenings is positve.

I do not feel dependent on my consultant (although, in point of fact, I am). I guess I do not feel dependent in a negative way. Phyllis and I have become friends. We enjoy each other's company. Her home is welcoming and comfortable. It is a very short drive from my house. Her prices are reasonable, so everything about my installation and retightening sessions has been pleasant from the first day until now, and I suspect things always will be until we part ways. And even at that we have promised to keep in touch for life.

I always say that she is so calm and untroubled by things that she transfers a lot of that serenity to me. She doesn't worry and fuss, so neither do I. Having said that, it feels good to take the opportunity to learn to do my own hair now, while I am in this positive space, when it is completely optional and not born out of true necessity or dissatifaction.

My seven month lock-a-versary is coming up on Monday. Can you believe it?

The Power of Peer Pressure

So....everyone is learning to retighten their own hair and I was feeling left out! Last night I went online and ordered my very own nappylocs tool!

I can't wait for it to get here. I want to try it out right away!

I had my locks tightened by my consultant 3 weeks ago, which means I will be due again in two weeks. Phyllis is from the Midwest and she informed me that she intends to go home for the Thanksgiving holidays. Okay, no problem. But then she says she might be gone for 4 or 5 weeks. Oh really?

Well, doesn't that put a kink in my normal retightening schedule? And isn't it all about me?

So, I'm going to have to go a week longer before she leaves or possibly wait a week or two for her to get back...Bummer!

Then there are those locks around my hairline that always want to slip at three weeks....what about those?

I have two locks at my nape that need retightening now, but I was just in her chair last week for lock repair. (One of my straight-hair locks had developed an almost two-inch hole! I could stick two fingers through it!) Someone is probably out there saying, "That's because you didn't braid and band...." But you know what? For all the time I've saved in the past 6 months not braiding and banding, it's a small price to pay. Even if this happens to five more or ten more, it's not a big deal to me.

It took her about 10 minutes to fix, maybe 15. And my lock is perfect again.

But I said all that to say that I am reluctant to go back and have the twins tightened this week, and then turn around and go back for my regular visit in two more weeks. It just seems a little obsessive. Of course, it is my obsession, so it doesn't bother me. It is being perceived as obsessive by others that I wish to guard against.

Phyllis is ever-gracious and wouldn't say a word, I was fingering the locks that already need tightening and thinking ahead about how she is soon to be unavailable, I just decided that I would go ahead and order the tool and be done with it.

I used to twist my own hair, so I don't believe I will have any problem maintaining my locks when necessary. Somehow, I can't bring myself to put a latch hook in my head. I am just really averse to the idea. I'm not sure why. I guess because it just seems awkward and unwieldy, in spite of the suggestions for modification that people have made. It just seems too difficult, and like more trouble than it's worth for me. I can see myself snagging and tangling and marrying locks, getting a 'crick' in my neck and cramps in my thanks!

I also tried using a hairpin and I don't know where I went wrong, but that wasn't working for me either!

When I was younger I used to sew (both by hand and with a machine), and I did needlepoint and cross-stitch, and latch hook rugs, so I am familiar with handicrafts and the necessary skill and dexterity, but it is different holding something in your lap in front of you where you can see it, and working on top of your own head where you have no choice but to go by feel. However, everyone says the nappylocs tool is like sewing, and that idea appeals to me. I like sewing. That sounds easy and simple and comforting.

I expect it will be like twisting my own hair and that once I establish a rhythm, I will find it quite enjoyable. I may even be able to go 6 or 7 weeks between tightenings. I go in at 5 now because I get locks around my hairline that feel really loose and floppy and I just don't like that feeling, but it's only about 20 of them that really bother me. I don't much care about the thickness through the interior. I rather like the volume I have when I'm due for a retite. If I can tighten those few looseys myself, I can probably go another week or two....but, we'll see.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Um...Is that your pet tarantula?

So I sauntered sleepily into my bathroom in the wee small hours of the morning and found this joker staring me in the face!

Not a happy surprise!

Also not a tarantula. The species is known as the Carolina Wolf spider. I never saw one in my life until I moved into this house 6 years ago. They are so large you can literally hear them walk across a floor! The one in the picture I took is probably a full three inches long including legs and body. It could wrap itself completely around a small egg. I started to slip one under the bowl for perspective, but I chickened out and grabbed the deodorant stick from the counter instead. That's a six cup bowl that buddy is under. That's right - 1.5 quarts!

The first time I saw one I was home alone at night. It was October and I had the lights down low. In the far corner I saw two large green glowing eyes emerge out of the darkness....I kid you not...that's exactly how it happened!!!

They reflected the light like cat eyes. I could see them a full 15 feet away at the opposite end of the room!

I'm really not making that up, check out what Wikipedia says about them, "Their eyes reflect light well, and one way of finding them is to hunt at night using a flashlight strapped to one's forehead so that the light from the flashlight is reflected from their eyes directly back toward its source." Although why anyone would want to go hunting for them at night is beyond me!

I flipped on the bright lights and spotted the largest spider I'd ever laid eyes on indoors that was not part of a science project or museum exhibit. It looked like it belonged in somebody's kid brother's terrarium, but here it was running free across my living room floor. I was too scared to even try to kill it. It looked big enough to fight back! What if I tried to squash it, but it didn't die? All I would succeed in doing is making it angry. Then it could lie in wait for me, or come after me in my sleep!

I did the same thing back then. I put it under a glass bowl, so I could sleep in peace. Needless to say, I called the exterminator the very next day. All I could think was that one day I'd come down my basement stairs, or walk through a dark doorway and find myself tangled up in a huge web with one of these critters in the middle. I was horrified.

The exterminator put my mind at ease by explaining that wolf spiders don't web. They live in underground burrows, sometimes with trap doors. "How do they hunt?" I asked. "They're so big and fast", he said, "they can pretty much chase down and pounce on anything they want to eat." Which is exactly what the Wikipedia article says. That's why they're so named, because they stalk their prey like wolves.

They are solitary, so I don't have to worry about nests and infestations, just the occasional weary wanderer wanting to withdraw from the weather. He said that I could spray chemicals to kill them and try to keep them at bay, but they will come in to the house seeking warmth every fall when they weather starts to cool.

My house is a split foyer and partially underground with a daylight basement. On the front side of the house, there is earth up to the height of the windows. On the back side of the house you can walk out. Because of the design and elevation of my house I will see more of them than someone in a newer development with fewer trees and shrubbery, or someone in a house that lies completely above ground.

The Wikipedia article goes on to say this about them. "Also unique among spiders is their method of infant care. Immediately after the little spiders hatch and emerge from their protective silken case they clamber up their mother's legs and all crowd onto her abdomen."

Unfortunately I had the opportunity to witness this phenomenon first hand as well. A few years ago I was on the landing at my front door when I saw a very large specimen. Its body looked strange...all bumpy and bubbly and kind of diseased. I could not have known what was about to transpire.

I was talking to my then-boyfriend on my cell. I was less afraid of the spiders by this time (they stay pretty much to themselves and are basically harmless if not provoked), so I went to grab the broom to sweep it out the door. I had the short kitchen broom in one hand and the phone in the other and was nonchalantly chatting with my boyfriend about the spider and telling him the story of the first time I heard one walking across the floor and saw the glowing eyes appear out of the darkness, etc.

I had my niece open the solid door and screen door. I touched the spider with the broom and the next thing everyone heard was a chorus of screams. What seemed like hundreds of baby spiders scattered in every imaginable direction across the floor and up the walls! My niece and I were both barefoot and wearing our pajamas and were in deathly fear of being overrun by these eight-legged mini-monsters. (Ever notice how God made the most of the weirdest-looking creatures small? He knew we couldn't handle it - looking at eight-eyed, fanged, and otherwise scary things all the time. Anyway...)

My boyfriend said it sounded like the two of us were being murdered with an axe.

I honestly couldn't stop myself from shrieking. It was like the screams were being ripped from my throat. Seriously, it was one of the freakiest things I have ever seen in real life. It made my skin crawl like the worst kind of creepy scene in a horror movie....but, you know, that's what bug spray is for.

After they died I vacuumed the bodies and recovered my senses and collected myself, knowing it would be a funny story to tell later.

So yeah, every fall I can look forward to sharing me home with the wolf spiders. They don't usually bite and tend to avoid humans, but....eww!

Almost actual size! The real ones are bigger, not smaller!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Gal-to-Gal Update

I'm a Gal Pal (which means I'm on the mailing list), so I was e-mailed this link today.

If you have a moment, check out the stories. One is about a mother who came up with the idea of selling pink lemonade in October to raise money for breast cancer, and the other is an interview with Jeanne, one of the Founding Gals of Design-her Gals. You may have already seen her interview if you followed the link from the official site.

I thought the pink lemonade stand was a wonderful idea. The best part is knowing that the concept is so basic and inexpensive, it can be duplicated in almost any community across America.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Gal-to-Gal Virtual Walk

All of us know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most of us have had our lives touched directly or indirectly by breast cancer. Who doesn't have a mother or sister or friend or co-worker who has not battled the disease?

A lot of us with locks created Design-her Gal avatars at some point in time. If you have not yet heard of Designhergals, take a moment to visit the site and read about the Gal-to-Gal Foundation, a charity that benefits Stage IV breast cancer patients.

And please, join the virtual walk. It's a marvelous idea. You can register with a $3 donation. That's less than a cup of gourmet coffee or a fast food meal.

Look me up! I'm Natasha L. in Greenville, SC.

Help them reach their goal of 1 million gals by the end of the month. When I signed up a few days ago, there were only 560 walkers. Now look how many have joined, and some are big name celebrities.

Like Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Update on the Twins

Some of you will remember that early on (it was around the time of my first or second retite) I got two pairs of new locks at the front of my hairline and at the nape of my neck. I playfully declared them twins and named them.

Well, as problem-free and well-behaved as the rest of my locks have been, those four are giving me fits. I don't know if it is because they are so much smaller and shorter or what. The two up front (Artemis and Apollo) both want to stick straight up all the time now - they must be hitting adolescence - and the ends have been open and scraggly-looking as opposed to the neat coils I am used to with all of the rest of my locks.

Apollo just formed a knot, not a ball, mind you, a knot. I am resisting the urge to cut it in hopes that it will become a ball and thicken and close. It is a true micro-lock and at the end it terminates in about 10 strands of hair, so I had this teeny-tiny knot and then about another half inch of wild ends. It wouldn't be too terribly bad if the lock would lie down and blend in with the rest, but it really does stick up like a genuine, bona fide cowlick!

I finally couldn't take it anymore and cut the half inch off back to the knot.

I didn't want to, but I will have to rely on bobby pins to hold these babies down for who knows how long.

Then there are Sergei and Svetlana. My consultant has had to put them back in at every retightening. Those two have slipped out like clockwork each time between the third and fourth weeks. I'm not sure what happens, but I think it is something to do with the ratio of locked hair to new growth. Because that hair is shorter and thinner than the rest, but grows incredibly fast, it's like it reaches this point where I have a lot of new growth and it sort of wiggles it's way out of the pattern because there's a lot of 'play' or 'give' or 'slack' with that inch or so of unlocked hair.

This happened three or four times before and last time I decided I would just go back and have Phyllis retighten those two at three weeks. She kindly obliged. I had several additional little coils at my nape - little ringlets of hair that kept pulling free from their assigned locks.

Now that I have locks, I am really bothered by having any loose hair at all. It really bothers me, so I had twisted them myself just so they weren't tiny beady puffs. (It was really not that serious and I should have just ignored them.)

I wanted to ask Phyllis to see if she could make them into locks, but I felt silly because they are such tiny tufts of hair and no one ever said it all needs to be locked up...and I didn't want her to think I was being a ridiculous perfectionist, so I didn't ask.

But she knows me so well now that she did turn them into locks without me having to say a word. She chuckled a little as she did so, and I didn't even want to know what she was thinking. I know I amuse her with some of my silly little hang-ups, but she loves me anyway.

I now have a total of 9 locks that have been started since my initial install. All of them are at my hairline and are formed from strands of hair that kept pulling free from surrounding locks. They are all very short and very thin and I am interested to see what will happen to them, whether they will develop and mature or whether they will need to be combined later on. I think it is very funny too, because I was so adamant about not having any very thin locks and now I have 9 - all at my own insistence!

I am one week from my 6 month anniversary. I suppose I will post new pics around about then. Assuming I have not run myself completely ragged....More to come on the entrepreneurial efforts.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Separated at Birth?

Oh wait...we're not the same age...

I know this is gonna be mighty hard for y'all to believe, but I wrote yesterday's post without any clue that Renea had beaten me to the punch! I read her post and comments mere minutes ago after Muslimahlocs told me about it.

The other day Renea mentioned our posts being harmonic...Goodnapps, Cashana, Brunsli, and I have often been nearly on the same page about some things, but this is just freaky!!!

I wrote my post about SL expense because it was on my mind after talking to a few people who were interested in them. I had referred them to my blog and to my consultant. I wanted to put some advice out there in case they visit my blog before I have an opportunity to speak to them again about price.

I decided to write a post about the 'expense' because so many people love the look and concept of Sisterlocks, but then shy away because of the cost. I started composing my post in my head on Wednesday, but didn't get to type it out until yesterday!

I was floored at how similar our sentiments are!...Too weird!!!

But also not (really weird) because the cost analysis breakdown is really the most logical way to look at it. I did a lot of research on my own before I ever talked to any consultants. As soon as I understood the method of installation, I immediately knew Sisterlocks would not be cheap - especially with my shoulder-length hair.

I didn't even expect to be able to get them for less than $700 right off the bat, simply because the process is so labor-intensive. As someone who has done crafts and design work and consulting (and occasionally hair), I completely understood that an SL consultant needs to be compensated for her time and attention to detail.

Personally, I never thought twice about the cost of Sisterlocks as a determining factor for whether or not I would get them, but like a car or appliance or any other big ticket item you intend to keep, I do think it is wise to 'shop around' if you have the option, all the while keeping in mind that you do get what you pay for.

I think this is particularly important for people who have longer hair or thicker hair or hair that might not lock quickly or easily.

A bargain is only a good deal if you get the SAME item or service at a lower price. It is not worth the savings if you get an inferior product at a cheaper price point.

I still can't get over how similar the posts are, and that I addressed some of the points that Goodnapps brought up and that I used the term sticker-shock like Brunsli. And Meikmeika talked about how the time savings makes them worth it just like I did - we even both used the term 'fret'. I swear I hadn't read a word of it when I wrote my post!

Are we all becoming psychically connected through blogging?


Saturday, September 15, 2007

On Sisterlocks Expense

Some people talk to a consultant and get a quote and just think: that's a lot of money to spend on a hairstyle. They don't realize that it really is an investment, not unlike a home improvement. It's something that stays with you and pays dividends over time.

I can't say how much I feel like I've earned back already in terms of time not spent fussing with and fretting over my hair! Literally hours every week that I can spend doing other things. And I actually spend less money on products and maintenance. But I know that is not the case for everyone.

I was just writing a letter to a friend (who is also natural and looked into Sisterlocks in the past, but she mentioned it in passing and I never got to ask her why she decided not to get them.) I was telling her how much I love mine.

I talked about the fact that I used to spend a minimum of three hours styling my hair whether it was twisted, loose curly, or straight. When it was curly, I had to wet it every morning and put anti-frizz and curl-defining products on it, so that was at least 45-minutes every morning. When I wore twists, I could never twist my whole head in less than three hours or untwist it for the retwist in less than 2 - that wasn't counting the actual wash (which was usually 10 - 15 minutes.) And when it was straight, I would spend about half an hour combing through it with detangling, straightening leave-in conditioner before spending another 45 minutes blow-drying it. Then it was off to the salon to have it flat-ironed, which took another hour and a half! If I decided to deep-condition or do a hot oil treatment before straightening, that added another half hour.

Now, I wash my hair in the same 15 minutes - sometimes in the shower, sometimes not, and keep getting up! I don't have to do anything else to it if I don't want to and it still looks good. I just can't even put a price on that. My retightenings are done at 5 or 6 week intervals and cost the same amount (including tip!) as my salon visits did at 2 or 3 week intervals.

I also save because I will never have to purchase extension hair again. I had stocked up on shampoo and oils and conditioners (I caught all the products I use on clearance a few weeks before I decided to get sisterlocks), so I don't know the next time I will have to buy products. (I may want to try something new, but I will not have to buy products for years...because I use so much less of everything now!)

Sophia broke it down in a recent post about the cost of Sisterlocks compared to a good weave or set of kinky twists or micros. She said, "It amazes me that a woman will pay $300 for a weave or braids that last for, at most, 2 months. She will get the weave/braids redone at least 6 times. 6 x $300= $1800 for 1 year. Once I reach my year mark with SLs, I will not have spent nearly this much. And outside of the initial costs, SLs are relatively affordable."

I used to get kinky twists put in once or twice a year, and my Sisterlocks installation was the same price as having fake hair put in. You all have seen how my hair grows, so even if they were put in well, I could never keep them for longer than two months without my roots looking really ghetto simply on account of my new growth. It was alright though, because that was about my limit for the fakeness. I was constantly aware that I had hair on my head that was not my own and I was always ready to be out with it and have my hair loose where I could really wash it again.

This is part of the reason I had apprehension about starting sisterlocks. I would always reach a point where I was like: ugh! I have to take these braids/twists out! I have to feel my own hair again! I have to comb through it and brush it and run my fingers through my own hair!

I was afraid I wouldn't like having the individual locks. I was afraid I would want them out that same way after just a few months. But it wasn't the grouping into sections that I was averse to: it was the artificiality and stiffness and added weight of fake hair. I hated the tension and pulling. Even the best human hair was still not my hair. Now that it is all my hair and it is soft and light, I am not bothered at all.

But, I digress, I was talking about sisterlocks expense. If you know you're going to keep them - even for as little as two years, they're worth the investment!

Anyone who is concerned about the ongoing costs of maintenance can definitely save money by retightening herself. Even though my consultant's prices are extremely reasonable, I know that sometimes every little bit of savings helps. A retightening can be equivalent to several tanks of gas or groceries!

It is often mentioned that sisterlocks are considered a brand or status symbol in some circles. I was not aware of this at all when I decided to get mine. I wanted to get mine done by a certified consultant simply because I knew that I did intend to keep them for years and I didn't trust simply anyone who said, "I does hair," to throw some locks in.

If I even began to think I could have done my own hair and have it turn out as beautifully as Jaidalon's...(I swear, the neatness amazes me!) or, if I had a friend or sister who could have hooked me up like Creyole did Mrs. Dee, I would have done so.

But I am just not so inclined (to do it myself) and I am not so well-connected. At this moment in time, I am not at all excited at the prospect of retightening my own hair. I would like to know how to, so I never find myself stuck looking unkempt because the local consultant is too busy, charges an arm and a leg, is underqualified, too far away, or non-existent.

Having my hair done is and always will be in the same category as massage and facials. Yes, I suppose you can do it yourself, but it isn't just maintenance to me, it is also pampering and a service. I am so willing to pay for the convenience of not having to do it myself. I'm the sort of person who would have a live-in housekeeper and cook if I could afford it. And a nanny if I had kids...(not in this life!*), but I do like having other people do things for me, even when I know I am perfectly capable of doing them myself.

* On the re-read, I felt that I should clarify that having a domestic is out of reach - it could read as if I dislike children!

I say this in closing to anyone who wants to get sisterlocked and finds herself sticker-shocked... 1) Think about the quote your consultant gives you for the installation. 2) Find out how much she charges for retightenings and how long she expects each session to take. 3) Figure out how often you think you will need to re-tighten. However often you got relaxer touch-ups is usually a good rule of thumb. Some people do as often as 4 weeks and others can stretch it out for 8. 4)Figure out how much this will cost you in 6 months and 12.

Now, realistically figure how much you actually pay for the hairstyles you currently wear. Count everything for 6 months and a year. Relaxers, touch-ups, braids, weaves, and all forms of extensions and fake hair (including pony tails, wigs, falls, etc., even if you're getting them at the local beauty supply for $5.99, they still add up!). Think about how many times you buy OPH, use it and throw it away, or go to the salon for a style that doesn't last a week, and you have to go and have it done again. Think how many times you pay good money for a style that you sweat out or that gets ruined in the rain or humidity.

Think how much time you spend creating and maintaining those styles or waiting in salons and braider's shops (or kitchens or living rooms).

And really count the cost.

Because you often spend this money $20 or $40 or $60 at a time, you don't realize how quickly you have spent $500 or $600 or $1000!

Now, these calculations don't work for people who do their own hair for what works out to be free if they don't use extensions and are masterful at styling or always rock hair that is short or totally natural and chemical-free, but I think those women are definitely in the minority. I think most of us spend a great deal of money on our hair, and a great deal more than we realize because we don't ever stop to add it up.

Why bother? It's like lamenting the high price of still have to buy it.

If it still seems out of reach, or you just can't bring yourself to spend the money, by all means, look into doing it yourself if you have that kind of talent, or find someone who does. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money. I understand that. I was totally ready to get sisterlocks, and I thought they were worth it, but I had to wait 6 weeks to find the money. (Still ended up cashing out a small 401K. I did not just have it lying around!)

And, if it somehow goes against your principles and upbringing, I understand that too. I'm just asking you to have some perspective and consider how much money you already spend, and compare that to the price of getting and maintaining sisterlocks. You may find that the gulf is not as wide as you had imagined. Don't count them out off-hand without crunching a few numbers, and don't be judgemental about people who did choose to get them.

Oh, and do shop around! I was quoted a wide variety of prices on my length of hair. There were some people who would have charged me $400 - $500 more than my consultant did! And I have read about retightenings that take 5 - 6 hours, so if it does seem outrageously expensive, maybe it is. I hate to say it, but there do seem to be a few consultants who are price-gouging.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I welcome yours on this subject....from readers with and without sisterlocks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I like your hair...

So it did happen....

Exactly one month ago I posted about how nice it would be if curious people would ask questions about my hair instead of staring rudely without speaking. Well, I had just determined it would be that way and decided to get used to it.

But just today one of the students at the school where I work approached me in the break room and said, "I like your hair, who does it?"

I was nearly floored! I was so excited to get to talk about my Sisterlocks to someone who wasn't already a friend or acquaintance! I explained that they were Sisterlocks and a little about how they're done and invited her to my computer to show her pictures on my blog and on the official website. I also gave her the address of the LHBE and my consultant's phone number.

She told me that she does braids and had heard of Sisterlocks, but had not seen them before. I told her how much I love mine. She was wearing a head wrap, so I didn't see her hair, but she told me that she was all natural and looking for an alternative to braids. I told her she should definitely look into Sisterlocks and do some research. I am looking forward to talking to her again to see what she decides.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

My First Relaxer

In spite of the fact that I have such fast-growing hair, I have not had long hair since I was 5. I was and still am extremely tender-headed. You can imagine what struggles my mother and I had when I was little with a head full of thick curly hair that was past my shoulders. So, out of frustration, she took me up the street to get my first kiddie perm.

I distinctly remember not wanting one. I had an aversion to the smells in the shop and the salon lady was mean. My mother actually didn't make me get one that day.

But then, it was soon time to wash and style my hair again and we went through the struggles and she promised me that if I got a perm then it wouldn't hurt anymore when she tried to comb it after a wash.

And she promised that if I didn't like it, I never had to get another one.

So, we made a deal. Of course I didn't understand the concept of new growth and that even if I never got another one it was still a permanent change to all the hair that was on my head. And I could not think forward in time and know the problems that would result from having two textures of hair. But I don't feel bad about that. I was 5 and there are adults who still don't get that concept.

I'm telling y'all... My hair is fine and soft...but sometimes it fronts like it is tight and kinky. (I don't even rappers who grew up in the suburbs, but front like they're hardcore from the streets...not namin' names or nuthin'...)

So it was one of them days when I got my first relaxer. And the stylist decided that I needed, not a kiddie perm, but a super perm, and that she wasn't going to leave it on for 5 minutes or 10 minutes, but for 20.

I told her it was burning and she said, "It's supposed to. That means it's working."

I said , "This hurts!" She said, "Stop whining!"

I started to cry. She called me a spoiled brat.

Now, I know you must be wondering where my mother was.

Like I said, this shop was literally a few blocks from our house in D.C. and we walked there. She was there for the application and the first few minutes and everything seemed to be under control, so she went next door to shop for a few minutes. It couldn't have been more than 10.

When she returned I was in tears in the sink chair getting the relaxer washed out...along with clumps of my pretty thick hair...

I told her what happened and she told that lady off like I have never seen! But the damage was done.

My hair had to be cut to just above my shoulders and she gave me a surprisingly cute style and of course we didn't pay...but later that day my scalp started to ooze pus from the chemical burns I received and the next morning I woke up with scabs all over. My hair was glued to my head in places.

All my mother could do was brush it back in a ponytail.

So after my first relaxer, we still couldn't comb through my hair until the scabs healed. By that time I had an inch of new growth and two textures and it was still a struggle. Isn't that ironic?

I don't blame my mother. She couldn't have known that would happen. She was doing the best she knew how at the time.

Needless to say I didn't get another relaxer for years.

But when you have trauma to your hair and scalp like that, the hair continues to break off from the ends and to fall from the scalp in patches for months. And even the new growth comes in weak and sickly. I thought my hair would never be right.

Technically, I had my first BC when I was 6. My mother decided to just start over!

After that, it was decided for me that my hair would stay short to medium. It was always about ear-length to just above my shoulders. I was told that when I could do it myself, I could grow it longer. That I didn't like, but what could I do? It was preferable to fighting with my mother about the hot comb or braiding or the box kit relaxer or whatever was the thing to do at the moment.

By the time I did start doing my own hair around the age of 13, there were so many cute hair cuts to try. Y'all remember, short hair, asymmetry, and the Halle Berry were in during the early 90's.

I liked shorter hair. It looks good on me. And I like change. Because my hair does grow so quickly, I never had any reservations about cutting it short (or trying new colors or chemical processes) because I knew it would grow back. I can go from twa to shoulder length layers in a year. So, I tried a lot of different styles during my teenage years, some of which were damaging and required me to start over completely.

I've lost track of the number of times I did that.

Even after I went natural I still periodically tried texturizers and softeners and silkeners in efforts to loosen and control my curl. I have said before that I have several different curl patterns on my head (as most of us do). I was on a quest to bring some sort of uniformity and predictability to them.

I'm here to tell you. Chemicals are not the answer. I never used chemicals - no matter how mild or gentle or 'natural' they claimed to be - that didn't fry my scalp and take my hair out at worst...And at best, they would leave my hair stripped and fragile and thin and limp. Which condition I couldn't abide, not after having known the fullness and thickness and body and bounce of my natural hair.

Renea called me impatient. (And it's okay, I take no offense.)

One reason I have not had long hair is the string of unfortunate encounters with chemicals (including hair color...I'm gonna try to find the pics where my hair was yellow, red and orange like Kelis.) But the other reason I have never had long hair in my life is my own impatience. I get impatient while growing it out and decide I will cut it. Color and cuts are the most instant changes you can make.

So one or the other would always get me. I would either get desperate for change and cut it. Or I would try something new with color or straighteners and it would break off. And hair has not been past my shoulders in 25 years...

And I see this as my opportunity to learn to exercise patience and discipline with regards to growing my hair out. It is not so much that I want to have long hair swinging down my back. (Although I do love the look of long locks!) It is more about proving to myself that I can do it. It is a challenge to myself.

I have promised myself that never again will I resort/revert to chemicals to manage/style/straighten my hair. And for the next few years I will not cut it. I have never in my life gone more than 1 year without making a drastic cut of anywhere from 4 - 6 inches, or put myself in the position of having to pick a length and stay there while test patches that broke off caught up with the rest. (Thank goodness for high-density hair! I was always able to conceal the breakage quite well. No one ever knew but me and my stylist.)

So, there you have it, another installment of my personal hair story.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Five Month Update

So it's time to post my five month photos and I wasn't feeling it at all. Everyone knows I posted a month ago about wanting more length. I look in the mirror and I feel like I see the same thing I've been seeing since March!

Cashana took the words right outta my mouth when she said, 'Don't get me wrong..I love my Sisterlocks, but I'm bored.'

I'm thinking of doing some new highlights for a change, but I am hesistant for two reasons. First, color is chemicals and I would love to be chemical -free. (Just on principle.) And second, I did highlights right before I started my SLs and they have been a good way to track my growth. However, I think my desire for change will win out.

Ok, but I promised pictures.

People have been telling me that my hair is growing, but I couldn't see it. It amused me that Aya commented on the length I have in front because that's where my hair really seems like it doesn't grow! The length I have on top right now is just a little bit more than what I started with, and that's why I've been frustrated with the sameness. But today I decided to sort through my myriad pics that were in different places not unlike Sunsail's.

And guess what I found when I compared photos?

My hair is growing! A lot!

I couldn't wait until 6 months to post these and I was having trouble with my collage software, but here they are. You get the idea...

Day 1

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

Month 4

Month 5!

Words to Live By

...Words I live by, anyway. You will notice a recurring theme on my blog. And I feel like it is a principle that applies equally to important choices like making the decision to lock and to frivolous choices like what movie to see on a Saturday night.

How satisfied we are with any decision and its outcome depends largely on our expectations.

I never thought I would have hair down my back and instantly. I didn't even want that. But I do know that my hair grows quickly. So, when I posted about wanting to have more length, it was because I didn't feel like my hair was growing at the rate that I'm used to.

I didn't expect that it would grow longer or faster because I have locks now. My hair was already natural and fast-growing and healthy. If anything, I prepared myself mentally for it to seem shorter. (I tried, anyway.) But, like I said in the previous post, I was tracking my monthly growth by my highlights, and just by feel between retightenings and I thought I would see more. So I was disappointed because I did not see what I expected to see.

My comparison photos have shown me that most of my growth is in the back and on the sides where I can't see it on a daily basis, but it actually is growing at the rate that I expected. So now I am satisfied. Not because my hair is longer - because I am getting the results I expected.

It's still on the shorter side as locks go.

Except when I do this...

Or this...

Yeah. I'm silly. I know it.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Entrepreneurial Inspiration #1 - Taryn Rose

Have you heard of Taryn Rose? (read her bio and view a pic)

She left a career as a surgeon to become a seller of shoes. Why?

Here is a quote from Maria Bartiromo's article, 'The Risk Taker', found in the April 2007 issue of Reader's Digest. "Rose found her heart was no longer in medicine. 'I felt like a part of me, the part that loves to learn new things, that likes adventure, would be dying.' "

Now, how many of us can identify with those sentiments? Cluizel and Muslimahlocs come most readily to mind after having recently read their posts about dissatisfaction with their chosen careers, but it seems to be going around. I know they are not the only ones who feel that way. In the six months I have been blogging I have noticed a trend.

If one of us locked bloggers feels a certain way about a thing, chances are 5 of us or 12 of us or 20 of us feel exactly the same way, and that is just the reading I get from those who give feedback by e-mail and leave comments. There is no way to measure how many others read and feel kindred, but make no permanent record of it.

Taryn Rose started with a $200,000 SBA loan in 1998. Today Taryn Rose International is worth $28 million.

The article continues, "Rose realized the only thing stopping her was, 'fear of failure. I could hear my friends and family saying, "Why did you leave a secure job?" If I failed, would I be okay facing them? And I thought, So what? I can go back to do a fellowship. I started to accept that it would be okay to say, "I failed, but I tried." Once I was comfortable with that scenario, the fear dissolved. I realized that I feared regret more than failure. And after you embark on the path you choose, there is nothing acceptable but success.' "

And I thought of you, Carmen. I remembered the words of inspiration you have on your blog, "Nothing beats a failure but a try."

But you know what?

We won't fail. There is always much greater motivation to make something work when it is for us. For our happiness and fulfillment, to take care of our families, our children, than when it is to enrich someone else or provide security for their futures and their offspring.

I like her words, "After you embark on the path you choose, there is nothing acceptable but success." (italics mine)

That statment is powerful. Power-full. Full of power.

It's time we decided to make choices that will help us 'get ours.'

For more on the practical steps Taryn Rose took to start her business and build her brand, see the complete article here.

As for the shoes she makes, Manolos they're not, but they also aren't your grandmother's orthopedic uglies. If I had reached that point in my life where comfort trumps style (and I could afford them), I would wear them. Right now, I am likely to be seen one of two ways: in 4 inch heels or barefoot. So I will probably pay for it later, but alas, that time is not yet....

No one says you have to quit your job tomorrow or throw caution to the wind, and most of us do have a degree and a skill set that will give us 'something to fall back on' if we have to. But each of us who has a dream deferred or an original idea or seeds of discontent should at least try to follow the proverbial path not taken.

Entrepreneurial Inspirations are going to be a regular feature on my blog. I was inspired to start it by the always intriguing Sophia and her Beauty Inspirations. Since so many of us have entrepreneurial leanings, I would like to feature successful women (preferably minorities, though they do not have to be african-american) who have made it in business by finding a formula that has allowed them to make money whilst following their dreams.

I am passionate about this. I frequently stumble across stories on my own because it is a subject that interests me and I am always doing research, (I am currently in the process of creating my own product and building my own brand...shhh don't tell's in the earliest newborn fragile stages where I am most afraid of failure and lack of follow-through and commitment on my own part....) but I welcome submissions from readers. Please feel free to tell me of anyone you have read about that you would like for me to feature.

It is my goal to post monthly, but I will post bi-weekly if I have enough stories.