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.

The Mommy Track

I am not a mommy, but someday I will be.

My father has a subscription to U.S. News and World Report. The cover story of last week's (Sep. 3, 2007) issue caught my eye, "The New Mommy Track." Here was the lead-in on the cover page, "The old rules didn't work, so more women are finding ways to change them. Neither superwomen, nor soccer moms, mothers are negotiating flexible schedules or finding entrepreneurial solutions to the career-family dilemma." To read the complete series by Kimberly Palmer, click here.

The article features a lawyer, several women in sales and management, and a few who started their own businesses. Sadly, no minorities were featured, but I think that ties in directly to an observation found under the heading "No Leverage" in the related article, How Moms Get on Track. "Women working in low-skilled jobs, on the other hand, usually find flexibility only by lucking into employers who accept it, says Leslie Morgan Steiner, editor of Mommy Wars. 'Men and women at the lowest income levels don't have any leverage', she says."

A disproportionate number of the AA population have not been able to take advantage of educational opportunities that grant us the luxury of bargaining with our employers. Too many of us are just glad to have a job (or 2 or 3) that pays the bills and are struggling to keep it (them).

That needs to change. When any one of us figures out a formula for success, we need to share it with one another, and freely.