Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sixteen Months and Still in Love

Wow! Sixteen months - I can hardly believe it.

I am still every bit as much in love with my locks as ever, but like a lot of people I have been through stages of boredom and frustration - wishing they were different and briefly longing for the days when my hair was not on lockdown.

Sometimes I do want my silky smooth hair that I could comb and brush. Sometimes I do want to wear styles that are no longer optional. I think what a fierce fro I could wear with the length I've got now. I think what styles I could craft from waves and curls and coils if it were loose.

But the reality is that in all of my life before Sisterlocks, I rarely wore the styles I long for now. A handful of times for all, with the exception of straightened hair. I looked back on ten years of pictures and I was wearing essentially the same hairstyle in all of them.

I had variations in color, slight changes in length and parting, but it was almost always a layered shag or bob. That's how my hair grows and it was a look that was flattering and easy to maintain.

When I wasn't wearing that style I had two-strand twists using my own hair or kinky twists with extensions. Those were my staples.

Right now it is hot - summer in the South is sweltering. I've been running errands and having meetings and going shopping for my business and I tell you - many a day I have broken a sweat before I know it.

I'm one of those people who sweats at the scalp. So my head has been drenched with sweat, but did I look like it? Did I have puffy roots? Did my curls fall out? No. So every time I've wished I had a different look, I've remembered those facts.

I have almost no time to spend fussing with my hair. If I didn't have the locks, I would be looking a hot mess a good deal of the time. Not really, because I believe in looking my best, but it would definitely take a lot more time, trouble, energy, and money to keep myself looking good. I am so happy that I discovered Sisterlocks.

I used to wear kinky twists during the summer to deal with the heat and humidity, but my own hair is so much softer and lighter and more versatile - not to mention cheaper, cleaner, and easier to maintain.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From the archives....

We all know that I am always starting some sort of new feature on my blog.

....and then abandoning it.

Does anyone remember the entrepreneurial inspirations?

Granted, I did abandon that one in my quest to live the dream and become my own ei, but anyway, I'm starting another one and we'll try and see if I can keep it up.

I checked my draft box and I have ~drumroll, please ~ Sixty-Five drafts sitting in my box right now.

Wow!...if you had asked, I would have said I had between 25 and 30.


They stretch all the way back to April '07!

If I post them to their original dates, they likely won't get read. So I'm going to use them to fill in some of the gaps when I don't have time to create new posts.

I believe a lot of my thoughts are still relevant, but many of them make reference to older posts by other bloggers. Just telling you all so you don't wonder why I'm talking about old stuff like it just happened.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tiny Locks

You know what Amina?

Just the other day someone said to me, "Your locks are so tiny. It seems like they would break..."

No one has ever said that to me in more than a year, so it was quite the surprise, but my hair was up and you could see all of the little ones around the hairline.

Of course, I explained that unlike other types of locks, Sisterlocks are formed using a patented tool and interlocking method, so they are very strong. I even let her tug on a few to see for herself. She was also surprised that they were so soft.

But girl....Your locks are super-tiny!

Not especially by Sisterlocks standards, but people will probably always comment on them . I just think people aren't used to seeing them - especially in combination with the kind of length you have.

My locks are small as compared to other locks, but they're kind of on the big side for SLs. I never think about this because the only locks I see up close on a regular basis are my own and my consultant's and they're about the same size.

But when I went to my first SL gathering in Charlotte everyone had little ones like yours and I felt like mine were freakishly huge (although they aren't).

I wondered if there would ever come a time when I wished that mine were smaller.

A few days later while I was retightening I thought: NOPE! I made the right choice for me.

I have about 100 tiny ones and it is SO tedious on the self-tite! Other people may not mind AT ALL, but for me - I'd just as soon NOT be bothered.

I have come to like self-tightening, but I would loathe it if I had a head full of small locks.

Monday, July 7, 2008

As if I Needed Another Project

But you know what? I really did.


Need a project.

I recently posted about needing a vacation and how I won't be able to take one in the foreseeable future.

Anyhow, for me the next best thing is a project.

I was thinking about my life and I realized that it's been years since I have learned anything really new.

All of the things I have learned have been variations on other skills I already had. For example, I have learned new dances and new recipes, but I already knew how to dance and how to cook.

I feel like I need to learn something and I have considered many different types of classes (i.e: pottery, knitting, glazing stained glass), but I really don't have the time to show up for anything on a consistent basis. Not now with my business in these fledgling stages.

So what then?

For years I have wanted to learn to speak Russian. I joked about it way back when I first talked about my blogger identity (and the twins - sergei and svetlana: click here to read the 'birth announcement'). And I have made random comments to Sunsail from time to time.

"But, BlackRussian," you say, "You have already learned two languages in your life time, isn't learning a third still a variation on a skill you already have?"

To which I must reply, "Pish-posh and don't pester me with petty things like irrefutable logic. I am trying to feel like I am breaking out to do something O-Riginal, O-Kay!!!"

So I'm going to try my hand at learning to speak Russian. I really want to. I think it would be the coolest!

Since my name is Natasha, I am frequently asked by Russians and Eastern Europeans if I know that it is a Russian name. I always say, "Da." And then I am asked, always in jest, if I know how to speak any more Russian, to which I must inevitably reply, "Nyet," as those two words and 'vodka' don't really count.

I would love love love to surprise each and every person who asks me that from now until the day I die with the ability to actually hold a conversation in Russian.

I love hearing my name on the lips of a Russian. Hearing it pronounced with the proper accent - mm...there's nothing like it.

Two things have always discouraged me: 1) I'm a visual learner. I love to read and write...and I was totally stumped by the Cyrillic alphabet. The thought of learning new words, new grammar, new syntax and a new alphabet??? Most daunting, indeed!

Those other extra characters that don't even look like the ones we use just really put me over the edge. It was enough of a challenge learning Spanish and we have so many cognates and words in common - it's pretty easy to figure things out even of you've never seen or heard them before.

Not so with Russian - at least not in it's written form. I knew I stood no chance of figuring out words intuitively and by sight.

So it remained one of those goals filed under 'cool things to do before I die', like learn to sky dive or fly a plane. Yeah, it would be pretty awesome to say that I could or that I had, but somehow not really worth the time and trouble it would take to apply myself to making it happen.

Obstacle number two was this: I knew from my attempts to learn Spanish that all the self-study and classroom instruction in the world is no good if you don't get to practice speaking a new language with natives. It just won't take hold.

Who speaks Russian in Greenville, SC? I only meet Russians when I travel.

Well...Monday I found out about the Atlanta Sisterlocks Meetup. I was visiting Naturally Sophia's Blog and that's how I found out about Meetup. She had the cute little badge on her site (and now I have one too!)

So once I figured it out (and got over myself, because I was like: another social networking site, really? Can any good come from this? I'm not against them in principle - there are just so many of them now, competing for your time and attention, it's like: who can keep up?!) and got the hang of creating profiles and navigating the site, I looked up Meetups in Greenville, SC - and lo and behold, there is a group that meets regularly to speak Russian!

Supposedly it is a mix of native speakers and students. So today I trotted myself down to the Barnes and Noble and bought me a book that teaches words and phrases phonetically. (I opened it up to a page that completely took the mystery out of the Cyrillic alphabet and I was hooked!) I also purchased a set of Pimsleur CDs.

I swear by the Pimsleur Method. It was essential in my Spanish studies. I don't really know how it compares to Rosetta Stone.

Pimsleur teaches you a new language in the same way that you learned your own native tongue. You listen to and overhear conversations spoken by native speakers. You learn new words through repetition, association and context.

You are also asked questions at regular intervals. They require you to think of the answer and figure out what words to use for a proper response, just like real conversation. It is much more engaging than other tapes that have you recite phrases because you have to reply like you would in conversation.

It is a very natural process. There are no books or written materials - you simply listen and recite - with emphasis on authentic pronunciation.

The theory is that introducing written materials hinders your ability to learn authentic pronunciation because you still see written words and associate them with English and your brain wants to pronounce them the familiar English way and you spend weeks and months trying to overcome that and form new associations, but if you learn a language first by listening - like children do - and introduce the written word later then that doesn't happen.

It kind of makes sense to me. Also seems like it would help to circumvent my hang-ups about the alphabet.

I know you must be wondering this: If I am such a believer in learning the language without the written word, then why did I buy a book and get excited about it?

Because I know myself, and I know there will be times when I will want a quick reference for a certain word or phrase and I will not be able to recall it from the CDs. In books like this, words are grouped by type and function, as opposed to alphabetically like dictionaries, which would be of no use to me with my current lack of skills.

From what I understand, Rosetta Stone operates on a similar principle of repetition and association, but they do introduce written words simultaneously with pronunciations and I think they pair them with pictures. I'm sure that works, but it seems like more than I need right now.

That might be helpful once I've learned to speak in conversation and decide to get around to trying to learn to read and write it. I might invest in the program if I decide to take my studies to the next level, but right now I want to become fluent in conversation. I want to get my feet wet and go to one of the local events.

I'll be sure to keep you posted on my progress.

Ladies, I gotta say you all are really good about not calling me out on the things I start and don't finish....So...yeah...we'll see where this one goes.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Not this year....

So I was all hyped to go to the Sisterlocks Homecoming.

I've been thinking about and planning for it all year.

However...as everyone knows, I started the business.

I was hoping to have found a qualified partner or hired a personal assistant by now to be able to handle things for me while I am away or if I get sick, but not so far.

I had a really promising meeting with another stager who has her own business the other day. We see eye to eye on a lot of things and we have many of the same goals and principles. We intend to work together on a few projects and see what happens after that.

But...that's not helping me in the here and the now. Just because of where I am in the cycle of business operations and marketing, I can't afford to be away because I can't lose momentum. I have to follow up some hot leads and I have some obligations to existing clients and there is no one here to work on it, but me....which fact I defintely hope to change in the next 6 months.

....So I can take that week-long vacation to the Carribean!

We'll have to meet some other time Muslimah. I am quite disappointed.

Friday, July 4, 2008

To Post or Not to Post?

Amina asked me if I'm really back. Apparently so.

I always have lots to say. I have abundant opinions on almost everything.

Seriously, the main reason I haven't posted was because I know y'all want pictures to break up what otherwise amounts to pages and pages of journal entries, and I haven't had any.

Believe it or not, I haven't taken any since February...yeah...I really fell off on the comparison shots. It has just become less important to me to track the changes in my locks visually. I know they're growing and I know they're changing and I don't need pictures to verify.

I don't have the watched-pot syndrome I had in the beginning, but I guess I really should take some pics for those who follow my blog. I'll try to get around to it.

It seems I was missed, if only by a dedicated few, so here is my compromise: You know I hate taking pictures! But I will. However, I'm not promising to post them right away.

I'll continue to publish posts as I write them, and one of these days, I will come back and add pics to all of the posts that need them (really, I will...notice I didn't specify when, though...hmm....some time before 2009....) It's either that or watch me drop out again until September, at least!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Black Russian Needs A Vacation

The way you need a vacation just when things get really stressful and hectic and you feel like you haven't got a moment to spare for yourself.

Last week I read a novel. A fluffy chick-lit beach read.

I actually bought it last year.

Last year this time I was in Miami. It was supposed to be a fun getaway with my best friend and boyfriend at the time, but everything that could go wrong - did.

The boyfriend and I broke-up about a month before the trip, so he didn't come, and all of the things I'd planned for us to do together were no longer going to hold the same thrill. In retrospect, I really should have cancelled - but I got a really great deal on the vacation package, and I'd booked it online, so I thought I couldn't cancel. (Re-read the fine print after things began to go wrong and found out that I could have without penalty....That was disappointment #1)

Our reservations were all wrong. We didn't get the room we expected. Many of the things that were promised as part of our package deal were available only if we paid additional fees.

One of those things was a beach chair with towel and umbrella.

My friend is Scotch-Irish and extremely fair-skinned. She needed an umbrella. I refused to rent one for $10/hr when I could buy one for $12 and use it all week. So, she covered up with a towel from the room and a big floppy hat, but still managed to get burned in the 30 minutes it took me to walk back to Collins Ave to buy an umbrella. When I came back she was red and glowing. She actually turned purple by the next morning and was sick in bed.

I felt awful and I was pretty scared for her too.

We were also promised free wi-fi. Both of us were planning to work a little from the comfort of our hotel room during the heat of the day and venture out for shopping in the afternoon and dinner and dancing during the evenings.

We felt like there was a bait and switch and so would not pay $25/day for Internet Access. What??? And so we had trek all over South Beach looking for hotspots with laptops in tow - just to check our e-mail!

It wasn't all bad. There were plenty of bright spots. We met some awesome people and made lots of friends. We discovered a great Mediterranean restaurant that we ate at every day, but there were enough hassles that we never got to relax on the beach and read books on the beach like we planned.

So I came back home and put the book on the shelf.

I didn't read it in all of this time because there were so many other (more productive) things I felt I should be doing.

I should be studying. I should be teaching. I should be working. I should be volunteering.

What does it contribute to anyone for me to read a silly novel?

But last week, I said, 'so what?' I'll squander a few hours reading a book that will in no way enrich my life or make me a better person. It was rather like a mini-vacation. I really enjoyed myself.

And the other thing was this: Every time I looked at the book it reminded me of the vacation that wasn't. Yes I got away (and to one of my favorite cities at that) but rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation completely eluded me.

But I finally got over that too.

But that wasn't at all what this post was s'posed to be about.

Although my faithful readers have gotten used to me and my digressions.

I do need a vacation. Haven't had a good one where I came back feeling refreshed in I don't know when. Feels like never.

And I don't know when I'll get to. I keep taking short trips that are related to work or some other obligation and I am never gone long enough to really unwind, you know?

But I have rambled on long enough in this post, so I'll have to follow it up with another later on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In Response to Southern Girl...

What? My words of wisdom aren't enough for you???

Pictures? You need pictures?!?


(JK) Southern Girl called me out because I just put up two posts after a three month absence and I have no pictures.

Y'all know I was never the best at posting pictures in timely fashion - words I have in abundance... Pictures, not so much... and that is precisely why I haven't posted in soooo long.

I have about 12 posts sitting in draft right now and most of them require pictorial accompaniment but I haven't had time to take pictures or upload the ones I have taken.

Plus, when I started my business I bought a new laptop, a new camera, and a new phone.

So I've had a huge learning curve on all this new stuff and some pics are on my desktop, some pics are on my phone, some pics are on one laptop, some pics are on the other.

I was pretty slack on posting pictures anyway, but now I am especially challenged and I have less time to boot!

Like Southern Girl, my smallest locks are also at the crown. I had them installed that way for fullness too. I refer to that area affectionately as 'the thicket'.

In the beginning it was my least favorite area to retighten. It was most prone to tangling and married locks, which I refer to (and not affectionately) as unholy unions.

However, once I realized that there was no reason I had to wait 4 weeks or 6 weeks or any set amount of time to retighten, everything changed.

I retighten that area as needed. That means very often. That area - the thicket - probably accounts for about a third of my locks - so we're talking about 100 or so. I retighten 5 to 10 locks every 2 - 3 days. Sometimes I'll go in and do all of them, then I won't need to go back again for 2 - 3 weeks.

But my hair grows fast enough that I do have enough growth in that time to merit another tightening. In fact, I really need to do it that often to stay on top of it.

Unlike my consultant, I can't see what I'm doing and I have to work entirely by feel and I don't really like bothering with clips, so I never separate my parts properly. I also rely on feel to make sure I'm staying within the established grid pattern.

So it is especially important that I don't let the thicket get out of hand. I try to keep the passes with the tool to a minimum: 3 - 4 (and sometimes 6) loops through the base of the lock as opposed to the 6 - 10 I would face at 6 weeks.

Yep...more words and still no pictures.


The LWC strikes again....

I've had in mind to do a post on my own lock-splitting experience for about three months now, but I have been too busy. I was thinking about it again this morning, and then I found myself at Amba's blog where she recently wrote about it.

Doesn't that happen ALL the time in the blogosphere?

I was the first one to insist that I didn't want micro and mini locks, and I still don't want them all over my head. (Since I have started self-tightening, I have been especially happy with my decision to get larger than standard sisterlocks.)

However, I find that small locks have their place. I've started about twenty locks around the edges of my hairline since my initial locking and all of them are small because there just wasn't a lot of hair available, but it was more than I wanted to leave loose.

And I like them, they're fine. They are more of a pain to retighten than the larger ones, but since there are only a relatively few, I can manage it.

I split six of the my locks around the time of my one year anniversary - three on each side of my head.

The hair at my temples is really fine and soft, so I had Phyllis make those locks the size I wanted them to stay - medium.

The locks behind my ear didn't swell. They are almost the same size they always were. The locks in front of my ears did.

They got much thicker than what I wanted. It was okay when I wore my hair down, but I didn't like the look when I wore it pulled back or up, which I do a lot! Daily.

So I took them down. It wasn't that much of an ordeal, a little time-consuming, but not a terrible experience over all.

I had my consultant make each lock into two and they are micro-mini now, but I know they will be just right a year from now.

I don't foresee that I will need to split any more, but it was nice to know that it wasn't a negative experience or a grueling process.

There are probably another 6 or 8 that I COULD split, but they're such happy healthy locks and they're in the middle where no one sees, I only feel that they are larger when I retighten, so I'll probably leave them alone.