It’s Just Hair Right?

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve shared a lot about my experiences since starting this blog. I’ve shared experiences on waxing, breastfeeding, insecurities, marriage, homeschooling and more. I’ve never truly described in detail my journey with natural hair. After growing my locs out for 11 years, I recently had to cut them down quite a bit, and it sparked a lot of emotions.

Hair is a very serious topic when it comes to the black community. Black men take their hairlines and beards VERY seriously. When it comes to black women and our hair?! It’s a completely different dimension. We carefully choose our stylists, products and styles. Our hair is versatile and includes many textures and lengths. Simply put… we just DON’T. PLAY. GAMES when it comes to our hair. Although hair can be gone in a second… although our confidence is supposed to come from within… our hair can make or break us.

For me, it all started back in the Winter of 1989 when my mother gave birth to me… I’m just kidding! I won’t take you back that far, but I will start with my sophomore year of high school. I absolutely loved getting a relaxer! I looked forward to my 6-8 week mark in order to get a touch up and style. Some of my high school friends may remember me calling it the “swoosh-swoosh” after I received my treatment because of how it used to sway back and forth when I turned my head. After a while I stopped looking forward to hair salon visits because a trim always turned into a hair cut. Then all of a sudden, major breakage happened. We assumed it was because of the stylist, so my mother switched me to her hairstylist. Because of the amount of damage that had been done,  I received my first, true hair cut. Majority of my hair was cut to about mid-ear level, while the back was short and tapered. I was not happy about no longer being able to wear a ponytail. But it eventually grew on me.

Overtime, my hair began to grow back slowly, but shortly. Then it happened again. Major breakage. But this time it was worse. I woke up one morning with hair as low as an Amber Rose cut on the left and backside of my head. The hair wasn’t in my scarf, wasn’t on my pillow, and wasn’t in my brush or comb. Still to this day, I couldn’t tell you where my hair went, but it changed my life forever. My mother consoled me and quickly made an appointment with the dermatologist. He told us that the chemicals from the relaxer were just too strong for my hair to handle. My stylist was so helpful. We began adding weaves to my hair so that it could cover the damaged parts until it grew out again. Eventually we cut off the remaining damaged hair, and she referred me to one of her close friends who specialized in natural hair.

I didn’t reach out to her right away. I made a lot of visits to the African Hair Braiding Gallery first. It was the summer time, and since I had no idea what I would be doing with my hair, I decided to protect it with braids. During that time, I began to research locs. This was during the Lil’ Wayne era, and I found myself not liking the idea. It seemed like more men were rocking locs, and they were being worn very basic in my opinion. There was a lack of care, and I was not a fan. I didn’t want to commit to a style that I believed to be more permanent and not know what to do with them. Once I dug deeper and found beautiful women wearing locs of all sizes, lengths, colors and styles, I made the decision to loc.

In August of  2008, I began my loc journey. It took a ton of confidence to rock my “baby locs,” but I did it. These days, individuals are able to get the instant loc’d look with permanent and faux loc extensions. Some also wear wigs and braids over their locs while they are waiting for them to grow a certain length. While I think it’s super creative and inventive, I think starting that way takes away from the experience of having a true loc journey experience. Being able to watch your locs form and grow. Being able to get your first ponytail and then style. It’s an experience I’m glad I got to have. I experienced all of this from my sophomore to senior year in college. None of my friends wore their natural hair. Everyone still wore braids, weaves and relaxers. I went to Penn State, which is a predominantly white university, so within our maybe 4% black community on campus I can only remember one other loc’d female. I honestly felt like a unicorn. It was a good and bad thing. I was different, which meant I didn’t look like everyone else. But I didn’t look like everyone else! So I went back and forth between being confident and a little insecure.

Two pregnancies and several ups and downs later, I’d been loc’d for a total of 11 years. I was finally at “butt-crack” length and super proud of it. However; due to postpartum hair loss and a lot of stress from life, my hair was severely damaged at the roots. Locs were super thin, dropping out of my head like flies, and more. Goes to show you… Things can look great on the outside, but be absolutely terrible on the inside. I wore head wraps nonstop to cover the thinning and spacing in between my locs. So my buns were still very full and tall from the length, and they also still hung long past my waist when worn down. No one could tell. I was so embarrassed, I refused to go to the hair salon until I felt like I had enough new growth to grip and add into my existing locs.

After 11 months of hiding, I finally scurried up the courage to book an appointment. My actual loctician was booked for the next two months, so I tried someone new. I’m not a fan of change, but I’d been following this business just as long as I had been getting my hair done by my loctician. I felt comfortable with trying them out. The shampoo assistant reassured me that regardless of what would happen during my appointment, I wouldn’t walk out looking the way I did coming in. And she was right.

I was informed that my hair was way too long and heavy for my hair to continue to grow healthy. There was too much strain on the current state of my roots, and they would need to cut it. They asked me if I was ok with that, and my response was “I came here with high hopes that you all would be able to restore my hair to a healthy state. If that means it needs to be cut, then by all means, please do what you need to do.” I almost got carried away and said, “Well if we’re cutting, thing let’s go drastic and go for a bob!” Glad I didn’t though lol. I would have been in tears! In that moment, I was super confident with the cut. It didn’t mean too much because I had loss so many locs, cutting them would be no biggie.

I was wrong. While my head felt much lighter, it really hit me when I looked in the mirror at home. I was shocked at how much shorter it was than my previous length. I honestly loved people saying “Oh my goodness, your locs are so beautiful and long!” although I knew there was damage. I had always wanted to see how long my hair could grow. I was actually obsessed with it. I didn’t want to post pictures because I was still growing accustomed to the new me. I was still figuring her out. You would think it wasn’t a big deal because clearly I’ve been this length before! Way before my hair grew to the length it did before I cut it. My hair had become my comfort zone. “Oh you’re having a major breakout?” It’s ok, my hair looks good and long.” Girl look at this mom pouch?!” “It’s ok, my hair is longer than anyone who may try to judge me for it!” Terrible, I know. I was using insecurities to make me confident.

I’ve now realized that all of the length that was cut off was dead weight. A whole bunch of poor self care, disappointment, past hurt, insecurities, and stress. It would have been ignorant of me to hold onto things that were straining and damaging my roots. My foundation. It was much deeper than hair.

To some, this post is highly dramatic and extra. For me, it’s therapeutic. I thought I’d rid myself of all my insecure thoughts. I did with my weight, but not my hair. But now I have!IMG_8366.JPG

 

Finding the Green Within: A Plant Based Vibe Added To Our Homeschool Routine

We have finally reached the end of our first year of homeschooling, and I am thrilled about the new activities that we are incorporating into our summer learning and what we will continue next school year. When Taniya was in public school, she was fortunate to have a program that came to visit once a month that taught them healthy eating and cooking. I genuinely want to incorporate her in cooking many of our meals, but I find myself getting anxious because of the time it takes. Most of the time I am in a frenzy trying to get the meal complete by any means necessary. I’ve spent all day teaching, chasing after Jayla, getting them outdoors to play, preparing breakfast, lunch and all snacks, and washing dishes each time. By the time I’m ready to cook dinner, I need it finished in enough time for my husband to be in bed early for his work day, and my children in bed early so that I can have my free time (wine). I began to feel bad, until an old friend came into the picture.

Liz and I went to middle school together and reconnected about 8 years ago when we both first became mothers (her; a year before me). Motherhood joined us, but I became more likened to her motherhood journey when I saw her brand develop over the years. She is the owner of Greenwithin, where the goal is to create opportunities for her community to explore and adopt a plant-based lifestyle. She recently expanded her footprint to include connecting as many individuals living the Washington, D.C. area to plant-based meals using locally grown produce from a local garden. Her goal is to be able to host events where she is able to educate the youth and their families with a hands-on experience.

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Once she has her entire program in place, we will be first in line to take part in the experience, but for now I absolutely love the one-on-one experience. Taniya’s first lesson was a simple fruit bowl. While she may not have liked each fruit that was included, she was taught how she could use any fruit to create a colorful and healthy meal. The fruits that were used on this occasion were champagne mangoes, blueberries, banana, watermelon and kiwi. She cut them with a reusable wooden knife like a pro.

Taniya and I love watching Food Network. One of our favorite shows is Chopped Junior and Chopped (the original). Because of the amount of hours she and I have spent watching that show lol, she is well aware of what a good presentation is when it comes to cooking. I was very pleased with how much effort she put into the placement of the fruits with the assistance of her great teacher, Liz. The outcome was both beautiful and tasty! Jayla and I waited patiently and then enjoyed every single bite.

I was also very happy to let go of the teacher role for a bit, and to watch Taniya be able to take her time to learn and cook without being rushed (by me). It was enjoyable for her also because it gave her a moment to say “this is just for me.” I always teach my children to share, but I think it’s great to give them moments where they can say “this is just for me and not my sibling.”

My husband and I were already very enthusiastic about living a more plant-based lifestyle, so now the goal is to get Taniya on board. We don’t plan on having a completely meatless diet, just a more fresh and natural colorful diet. Jayla would adapt well as I have only recently introduced meat to her, but Taniya has had years of an on-and-off again poor diet. When I had Taniya home with me for the first year and a half of her life, her diet was consistent and healthy. Once I began working and she was in school, we were always on the go. It was only her and I, being as though my husband was over-the-road and I always went for quick meals. That usually meant eating out. Once I became a stay-at-home wife and mother at the end of 2016, it felt good to hear her say, “Mommy, can we eat something outside of the house? We never eat out anymore!” Now I’m ready to hear her say, “Mommy, can we try adding a little more kale to our salad? We always have spinach!”

I believe with the continued guidance and motivation from Liz and Greenwithin, Taniya will be thrilled to live a more plant-based lifestyle. I plan to choose a day and time where Taniya can have more of these moments together in the kitchen where she and I aren’t in a rush. I don’t want her growing up thinking that her experience in the kitchen has to always be rushed and stressed!

If you’re interested in learning more about Liz’s efforts and seeing some of her amazing recipes, follow her on Instagram @greenwithin and twitter @plantbasedvibes.

 

Home Is Where the Support Is

Now that I am finally back to momming, wifing and blogging like I used to, I thought I would give a little update on my mental, emotional and location status. Six months ago, I wrote News Flash: We’re Moving!! My family was making a huge move to South Carolina and preparing for a crazy transition. While I was nervous about the move, I was excited for the change of surrounding. Well we made the move, but we moved right back to DC.

South Carolina was beautiful to be honest. I loved being able to walk outdoors with no shoes on, hearing all of the birds chirping and simply experiencing all of what nature had for me. There weren’t any loud bangs or drilling from construction… no loud horns from traffic… and I repeat… NATURE! While dangerous, we saw several alligators in the neighborhood, some turtles, blue jays, red robins and more. I was able to connect with some amazing moms down there also. They were stay-at-home moms who also homeschooled and I instantly clicked with them in-person. With them around, I didn’t feel as alone. However, they weren’t “home.”

Taniya began to like the new area, but quickly grew to miss DC where my mother and her friends were because she wasn’t doing well with making new friends in South Carolina. She was able to make a few, but it wasn’t enough to keep her from dreaming about when she’d be able to make another visit home. I checked in with her bi-weekly to see how she was coping with the transition, and her answer remained the same. I like it here, but it’s not home. I miss my family and friends back home.

Jayla was NOT doing well at all. During the day she was her normal self, but at night?! It was the newborn stage all over again! She had just turned one before we moved and began to sleep longer during the night, as well as drinking almond milk. When we made the move, Jayla struggled falling asleep, woke up every 1-2 hours, and heavily depending on breastfeeding. I knew that it would take some time because it was a different environment, but three months later there was no progress.

I continued to lose sleep rather than gain. I was homeschooling, unpacking, tending to a sensitive and teething toddler, tending to an excited but timid 7-year-old, missing my husband while he was away on the road while also trying to cope with the transition as well. It got so hard and so dark very quick. I couldn’t handle it emotionally or mentally. That’s when postpartum depression (I Am Not A Burden) hit me hard and I felt like I was slowly dying in the inside. I was not happy at all.

Because it was a new location, and I was just getting familiar with my new mom friends in person,  I didn’t feel comfortable with leaving my children with anyone. This resulted in me having both of my daughters 24/7 with no breaks. I had no alone time and I was breaking down. My support system was back in DC. Those who knew when I needed an hour to myself… Those who would call and ask if they could stop by. They weren’t near. We arrived in late November. By mid February I new South Carolina wasn’t our home. Home was where my support was. I was ok with that.

The great part about moving away was learning that I don’t have to mother alone. Taking care of my children is not up just to me, it’s up to my village, James and I. It truly does take a village to raise children. For so long I had it in my mind that because I decided to become a mother, that it was my duty to do and be everything. I was so wrong. That statement doesn’t mean that my village is supposed to take care of my children all the time. It means taking care of my husband and I also. Taking the girls for a little so that we can have some time to pour into each other as husband and wife. Giving me some time to myself and allowing me to come back to my children refreshed. In order for this to happen, I had to become comfortable with knowing that I needed help and asking for it with confidence.

The hard part was making accommodations to move all of our things back to DC. It took a lot, but it happened. We’re back home with my mom for the time being and I’m in no rush to move. I want us to take this time to get a game plan in place and build ourselves financially. Moving back and forth in a 4-month span took a toll on our bank accounts so we don’t want to make any sudden moves.

All in all, I’ve learned that “You live and you learn.” I felt so dumb for how everything played out, but I wouldn’t have grown the way that I did had we not made that move. Moving away put so many things in perspective for me and has truly forced me to create boundaries in order to protect my family and I.

Through this experience, God truly forced me to evaluate myself and how I operate. I need to have people around me who I can ask for help and not feel like I am burdening them. I’m always a listening ear and supporter emotionally for others. I need to make sure I have people around me who can do the same for me. And most importantly… self care! I am so important! I have to remember that. One of my biggest fears is my children losing me at a young age. If I keep up with the lack of self-care shenanigans, that will become a reality.

I didn’t plan on writing about our moving back home because I was embarrassed about our plans not going well after making such a big hoopla about it. But I began to feel more confident and gain more clarity. I also kept running into people who kept saying, “what are you doing here? I thought you were in South Carolina?!”