Thursday, June 30, 2011

Twist-n-Curl Results

My first "real" twist-n-curl (TnC)

There's a video in the works showing how I did my first twist-n-curl (TnC), but in the meantime, process and pics.

I was so pleased with the results of this, I will *definitely* do it again soon.  Here's the process:

1) Pre-Poo: I did 30 minutes under a heating cap of a homemade pre-poo treatment using mayo + honey + Suave coconut conditioner.  Can I tell you how much I am digging mayo right now?  Hellman's Mayo sales at Target are about to rise.  I actually detangled before I rinsed it out, because it gave such fantastic slip!

2) Wash: After the rinse, I shampoo'ed gently (basically, working the scalp only) with Organix Moroccan Oil Shampoo (purchased at ULTA). That stuff smells so good - exotic and lush.

3) Condition: I conditioned with Mill Creek Botanicals Biotin conditioner. I went through may hair again (while soaked with conditioner) using a wide tooth comb to ensure it was tangle-free, and this went well because I had detangled earlier.  I didn't see much breakage at all in the comb or shower, which is truly rare for me.  I did not leave any conditioner in my hair and I did the final rinse with cool water.  (I find that when I try to partially rinse out conditioner, the results are spotty -- I either leave too much in, or I pretty much wash it all out.)

4) Styling: On slightly wet hair, I then swiped on some leave-in (the Kimmaytube recipe).  Finally, I used Curls by Sisters Smith Curly Pudding to do roughly 40, medium-size twists.  I set my twists on soft sponge curlers wrapped in satin (which you can purchase in a package at Walmart), one to two twists per roller.  I then removed the twists and separated them only once.

Great definition and shine

The whole process took about 3 hours, from the mixing of the mayo pre-poo to untwisting the twists.  I didn't focus any attention on perfect parts, because I wanted it to look random.  Because of this, it took me only 45 minutes to do all the twists (didn't have to work with a comb or stare in the mirror).

The great thing about CBSS -- it acts as a setting lotion and dries rather quickly.  The feel of it in my hands is not my favorite, because it's slightly sticky, but something about their pudding results in amazing shine and definition. The end style is also not hard or stiff at all.

It came out looking sort of retro and like pin-curls (without pins).  I love it.  As far as 2nd day hair, I slept with no bonnet on a satin pillowcase.  The sides are a little smushed, but I expected this.

Day 26: Things You Like and Dislike About Yourself

30-Day Blog Challenge

Yesterday's post was crazy long, so this one will be shorter.  Plus, I'm trying to go workout tonight.  Gotta burn off some of last night's anniversary dinner!

Nine years of marriage :)

1. I'm a good driver. I think I would actually be a great driving instructor!
2. I love being the Wife of Charles. My husband and I actually chatted at length last night about what it means biblically "to husband" and "to wive" (the verb form).
3. I really like my hair.  I have had outstanding results lately (past three to four weeks) using Curls by Sisters Smith as, basically, a setting lotion for twists.  I can't stop raving about this stuff!

1. My feet are flat, which is not cute when dancing or wearing really open shoes.  Booooo.... well, at least I can still use my feet.
2. I can be scattered sometimes.  Right now I have a pile of jewelry-making material on the right side of my desk. The left side boasts a stack of books I'm reading simultaneously. My phone is flashing text messages. My schedule is booked solid, it seems.  I want to do it all at once! Must... focus...
3. I can't think of a 3rd thing I don't like about myself right now.  Is that vain?  Oh boy... help me, Lord.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 25: Something You're Currently Worrying About

30-Day Blog Challenge


By age 12, I was a certified worrywart. One lazy summer afternoon, I found this cool silver arrowhead necklace in my Mom's jewelry box. I went outside to play with my siblings, and, within 20 minutes, somehow it fell off my neck. I was so enamored with the thing and frustrated for losing it so quickly, I searched the dense grass for at least an hour in the Texas heat to absolutely no avail. I was in tears, worried sick over a necklace. Mom, if you're reading this, sorry I lost your jewelry, 'cause it sure was fly... and I shouldn't have been wearing it!

I used to worry about every little thing under the sun. Did the boy I had a crush on in 6th grade like me back? Oh, he's so cute and cool -- dag, what if I trip in front of him?! Will I live to see 16? Aw man... what will I do if I get kicked out of college because of my grades? I cannot go back to West Texas. And what will my parents think? If I lose this job, I could end up homeless. How are we going to pay this bill, and what about this stupid-high interest rate?

All of those thoughts above actually did take up residence in my head. But did all my worrying change anything?

Nope. The boy I was crushing on didn't know I was alive (and he's really not so cute anymore in his 30s). If I tripped in front of him, I don't remember it. I lived well past the age of 16. I came dangerously close to getting kicked out of UT my freshman year, but a class about "how to study" and another on speed-reading actually improved my grades dramatically. My parents found out about my low GPA, but they encouraged me to stick with the program. I didn't lose my job and even when times got rough I had a place to live.   The bills are getting paid, and in less than a year we paid off our highest-interest consumer loan. Praise God!

So I've learned it profits me nothing to be a worrywart. In fact, it's harmful to my health -- impacting sleep patterns, weight, eating habits, and work performance. When I worry, my focus is no longer on the Sovereign God, but solely on my problem. This is not a knock against those who have a medically- or psychologically-diagnosed anxiety issue (such as OCD), but sometimes we are dealing with spiritual problems, so a spiritual solution is -- at the very least -- worth exploring.

Now, this does not mean we should walk around with no cares whatsoever. A normal level of anxiety can be helpful. For example, nervousness about an upcoming job interview or assignment can actually help us prepare to do our best.

God really is in control and we don't have to wear the "worrywart" label. Even if things do not always turn out as planned, in every situation there is an opportunity for growth and character-building. This doesn't mean we will NEVER worry, but it does mean we don't have to be consumed or defined by worry.  We can cast the label aside.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28, KJV

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11, KJV

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. - Romans 5:1-5, KJV

This is a looooong post, but if it helps even one person, then I believe it's worth it.

Video-of-the-Day: GirlsLoveYourCurls

I am currently a cheerleader for natural hair vlogging.  One day soon, I hope to make it off the bench and get into the vlogging game myself.  Put me in, coach! Look at me, I can be, centerfield... (you need to have been around in the 80s to know about that one).

Today while perusing comments about banding and stretching technique at, I noticed a plug for a vlogger (a.k.a. YouTuber or video blogger).  Upon reviewing just one of her videos, I knew I was about to become a subbie (subscriber) for GirlsLoveYourCurls:

Nadine, who happens to be Ghanian raised in England, cracks me up.  In addition to having a very cool accent, she's skilled at showing her Ghanian-influenced natural hair techniques while infusing her own personality and humor effortlessly.  To me, this is a winning combination for a hair vlogger.

Per her YouTube profile:  I would love for this channel to empower parents and caretakers, so they can empower their children, by teaching them how to take care of and LOVE their natural hair! This light hearted channel aims to give tips, ideas and encouragement to caretakers of children with naturally curly, kinky, beautiful hair.

Nadine also happens to remind me of two of my best friends and several of my Liberian in-laws, which I know sounds kind of weird, but it makes her videos that much more endearing to me.

I'll have to do a post later about banding and stretching, and perhaps I'll try this weave thread thing on myself... which should be... interesting.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy her vids.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 24: Five Words/Phrases That Make You Laugh

30-Day Blog Challenge

Only five!?  Alright, I'm changing the rules a bit.  Here are five things (e.g. segments, commercials, clips, whatever) that make me laugh:

1) The Office - Dwight's Fire Safety Drill (<-- click link, because they disallowed embedding on this one)

Oscar crawls into the ceiling and says to Angela:  Stay alive!  I'm going to get help!
Angela: Help me up!
Oscar:  I can't!  You're too heavy!
Angela:  I only weigh 82 pounds!

2) Pinky the Cat - "He's a very loving cat."

3) Darth Vadar Volkswagen Commercial (Super Bowl 2011) - this one is cute. I am a Star Wars fan.  Not the kind who would dress up as Princess Leia at an SW convention... though her side buns are totally do-able with natural hair.

4) Tom Tom Darth Vadar Commercial - "You may dispense with the pleasantries."

5) The Cosby Show - The Locomotion - I do believe this is one of Phylicia Rashad's best scenes.  "Go cover yourselves immediately!"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 23: Something That You Miss

30-Day Blog Challenge

Hot combs are mean, like Gargamel and Gremlins.

I want to say I miss the days when Mom used to do my hair, but then I remembered the awful hot comb.  There it sits, at my seven-year-old eye-level, resting on red hot burner coils.  She applies the grease.  I clench my eyelids and try to be as still as stone, holding my ears down with my fingertips, knowing the burning hot comb is approaching my face.  It almost touches me!  I breathe an audible sigh of relief as she makes it through a section of hair in one pass without scalding me.  During the less successful passes, I yelp -- still trying to be frozen in time, so as not to get burnt again -- while the steam and grease sears my scalp, making that awful sizzling-hissing sound.

Lord, Jesus.  Yeah, I'm so glad those days are over!  That said, I really miss having my hair combed by somebody else on a daily basis.  I like doing my own hair, but doesn't it just feel better when someone else does it for you?  It's the same rule as sandwiches and salads.  They just taste better for some reason when someone else makes it.

The feeling of a scalp massage -- whether by fingers, brush, or comb -- is like bliss for me.  *Begin dream sequence* Ahhhh... I'm sipping from a coconut while getting my hair combed out... on a beach... with the cool breeze blowing through my afro... in my mind, right now. *End dream sequence*

The fact that this doesn't happen often has nothing to do with the fact that I'm natural.  My kinks and coils do not get in the way, as evidenced by local massage therapists skilled in scalp massage, natural stylists, and my husband. Just last night, my husband spend about 30 minutes just talking with me while picking out my fro.  BLISS!  Baby, if you're reading this, now you know what I want for our anniversary:  pick out my fro at least once a week, every week, for the rest of our lives.  You will get mad wife credits.

I put in some SheaMoisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie.  He used this old school wooden pick with metal teeth that I swiped borrowed from my parents several years ago.  I'm telling you, this afro pick has got to be like 40-50 years old.  I think my parents used it in college.

My vintage afro pick

It was just totally off the chain good.  So yes... that's what I miss, but hopefully I'll be getting more of what I've been missing soon and often.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 22: Your Academics

30-Day Blog Challenge

Ah, academics.  I've always been kind of a nerd and I enjoyed school for the most part, especially English, art, math, and journalism. I was one of those GT kids who took a lot of field trips.  I really didn't have a heart for Chemistry and Physics in high school.  Still, I know I could have achieved more if I had applied myself and been more committed. Apply yourselves, grasshoppers!

After wrapping up high school in West Texas, I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Journalism - Broadcast News.  My favorite classes were the hands-on broadcasting classes I completed with my small cohort during the last two years.  Radio was the bees knees!  After graduating, I worked for one of the networks for a few years up north, and then moved to NC with hubby.  I always knew I wanted an MBA, and (finally) came to fruition a couple of years ago at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC.  At present, I'm a student of Maranatha Christian College and Theological Seminary in Durham, which I must say has been my favorite learning experience, hands down.  In the fall, there is a planned class on Christian Parenting, which I highly recommend, even to those who aren't parents yet.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 21: Hopes for the Future

30-Day Blog Challenge

"On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand."
From the classic hymn "My Hope is Built On Nothing Less" by Edward Mote (1797-1894)

My greatest hope is to please the Lord, that in the end He would say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Daughter, you have been faithful over few things.  I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into My joy!"  Then, I will do cartwheels and backflips.  For real.

And I realize I can't get there if I'm distracted by the things of this world (including too much focus on natural hair).  I can't be disillusioned, depressed or downtrodden.  I can't be a complainer or a procrastinator.  I can't be so easily annoyed by people.  And the most important thing I can't do is try to do it all on my own.  I need God.

All of You and none of me, Father!

I can't just be a God-stalker.  I've got to have a regular, consistent prayer life to enrich my relationship with Him (in fact, to have a relationship with Him at all).  I've got to die to myself daily.  I've got to stand every day and in every way.  I just thank God for His grace and mercy renewed daily... because I need it.  I need God.

Any other "hope" I can think of -- to have children, to retire young, etc. -- is just icing on the cake.  Sweet life fluff.  The number one thing I hope for is to be with The Lord.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 20: Your Fears

30-Day Blog Challenge

Rather than focus on fear, I prefer to examine the concept of courage.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD. - Psalm 31:24, KJV
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. - Joshua 1:9, KJV
"Read what my medal says: 'Courage'. Ain't it the truth? Ain't it the truth?"

Repeatedly in His word, Our Loving and Mighty Father tells us to be strong and courageous.  Have you ever noticed how often those two go hand-in-hand?

When we're strong but lack courage, we muscle up but can't follow through in the clutch.  Here I am, a full-grown woman who can leg press 700 pounds, but when I see a spider or a mouse my first instinct is to cringe.  #embarrassing

Courage without strength reminds me of the 5k I ran last year.  I did the Couch-to-5K plan for a good six months, but then took a break from working out for about a month before the run.  I achieved my goal of running the entire distance, but I was so out of shape I was not able to do my best.  There were points during that run when people who were walking were moving faster than me!  #evenMOREembarrassing

Both of those examples are physical, but I think it's more important to consider how fear vs. courage works for us in a spiritual sense.  Just to give one example, imagine the powerful shift that would take place inside of each of us and the strongholds that would be broken if people overcame their fear of what other people think.

When we operate in Godly strength and courage, we understand and believe what God says about us and we move forward, executing in faith.  I think David is a great example of one who was both strong and courageous.  He was not perfect, but he knew who he was and he operated fearlessly to the glory of God.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 19: Five Items You Lust (?) After


Ok. Lust is not an admirable verb, so I'm just going to squash it now. Let's re-write to say "Five Items You Would Like to Have." I am content right now with what I have, but I'll play along.  Going off the top of my dome on this one.

1) A brand spankin' new (or vintage) Corvette or Camaro. Ask my husband, and he will tell you. When I see one on the street, I say in my best husky voice, "Hello, baby. Come to mama."

2) Huetiful Hair Steamer w/Facial Attachment.  It's probably good I don't have one of these, because my husband would never stop shaking his head. I would be steaming and beaming all the live-long day.

3) To Appear on TLC's What Not To Wear.  I know.  This isn't really an item.  But do you know what I could do with $5,000 in NYC?  I would go off the grid and end up in Paramus, NJ.  Stacy and Clinton crack me up, and they give good advice about shape, color, pattern, etc.  I know some balk at the idea of spending that much on clothes and hate shopping, so if you're that person and you get invited to be on the show, SEND ME.

4) A lifetime supply of raw organic shea butter, because it's just that good.

5) A very large canvas. I'm talking about something about 10 x 15 feet.  There is a space in my living room crying for a very large piece of artwork.  I stare at it for about an hour, and then go crazy with painting.

Easy DIY Bracelet Tutorial

I came across this detailed video tutorial by DearNaptural85's for making a simple bracelet.  Here's a link to her video, which I recommend even for the *ahem* craft- or DIY-challenged:

DIY: Boutique Fashion Bracelet Tutorial

and here's my video response of a bracelet I made yesterday!  Mine is styled differently, but this is what makes DIY so much fun.  You can select colors, textures, and beads to match your personal style, and it doesn't have to cost much at all.  I'm fairly new to making videos, so I appreciate views, comments, constructive criticism, etc.  :)  Thanks in advance for checking it out.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 18: A Problem That You've Had

30-Day Blog Challenge

I love cartoons, but I'm having a bit of a time finding the ones I can use without getting sued.  The cartoon below happens to be free for me to use (Thanks, Dave! wherever you are), and it speaks to one of my problems:

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

My problem is not past tense "had" but rather one I still have:  procrastination.

*Sigh* Procrastination is a nasty, rotten scoundrel.  He is a direct descendant of laziness (sloth).  They have a legacy of leading to things piling up.  Things like laundry, mail, yard work, and assignments.  I am telling the truth to shame the devil.  Procrastination can lead to lateness, which is not godly.  It effects other people adversely when we're late.  This is another thing I'm battling.  But anyway...

I am happy to report I have actually gotten better at not procrastinating.  I realized I needed to literally schedule things for myself.  I use Google Calendar to do this, which is also conveniently linked to my Droid phone, so it's almost always at my fingertips.  I also utilize a To Do List app on my phone, which helps me a lot when I visit places like Super Target... which is one of my favorite places to procrastinate.  Super Target is the light, and I am the dumbfounded moth.  It's those sales on the end caps, man! They get me every time.  And of course, the Internet is like the mansion where procrastination lives.

Another solution for procrastination in the area of cleaning or yard work is the 15-minute rule.  Throughout each day, I purpose myself to focus on one room or specific task for 15 minutes.  I actually set a timer, and when the buzzer goes off, I stop.  The key is to be completely focused on what you're doing for that entire 15 minutes.  It's actually quite impressive when you see how much you can accomplish in a kitchen in 15 intensely focused minutes.

I hope this helps someone else, and if you have any tips or ideas to share on how to combat that old stinky procrastination, I'm all ears (or eyes, since this is a blog).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 17: Something that You're Proud of

30-Day Blog Challenge

I appreciate the blog challenge, but the next time I do one to bring me out of a writer's block, I think I'm going to make up my own list of questions.  Maybe several of us could collaborate on a list.  Is there a hair blogger's challenge out there somewhere?  A Christian woman's blogger's challenge?  How about a Star Wars or trivia geek challenge?  By the way, I did not know until today 10x more slaves went to Brazil than the United States.  How did I not know this for so many years!?!

Oh... I haven't answered the question yet... *blushing*

The things I'm proud of go so far beyond just me.  I'm thrilled about a lot of accomplishments, but I can't think of one thing I did completely on my own.  There was always help, even when I may not have recognized it.  God was at work in anything and everything about which I could be proud.
Wedding reception in Rhode Island, 2009
(I love this picture of him
with that gorgeous smile)

I think the one thing I'm most pleased by is the transformation of my marriage over the last five years.  It's nothing short of miraculous.  People who know us know our testimony.  After four years, our marriage was literally in the valley of the shadow of death.  It's amazing how the wedge starts from something (seemingly) so small, and then it becomes a canyon before your eyes.  Can you imagine what it would be like if a crack in your sidewalk tonight became a complete split through the middle of your home?  It was like we could see the disaster, but we really didn't know how to handle it, where to go, or who could help us... for real.  Sometimes you can do all the "right things" and seem OK, or you feel like you can muscle through it, but inside you're weak and writhing.  That was us.

I won't go into all the details, but we came to a point where we were absolutely desperate for a lifeline, and the Lord provided.  After some intense Christian counseling, tons of prayer, patience, forgiveness, deliverance and healing, I am so happy to even be able to say we will soon be celebrating nine years.  Thank. You. God.

I had no idea my response to this topic would take this direction, but I'm glad it did.  Minister Charles, I love you and I've got your back.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 16: Something You Always Think "What If..." About

"What if God gave me a brain transplant at the moment I got saved?"

He could just wipe my brain, like they did in Men in Black. I'd forget all the junk I mentally ingested -- the songs and memories that pop up in my head at strange times (like during prayer!), the images embedded in my head, my old ways.

Zap me, Tommy Lee!
But instead His word says, "Be not conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God."  The word "be" indicates there is some action necessary on my part in this transformation.  At the very least, I have to allow God to work in my life and through my life, and make my mind accessible for change.  The process will be even better if I'm an active participant in the transformation process.  This means I have to replace old ways of thinking with new ways of thinking, and I actually need to have a "thought process," not just "collections of thoughts." 

Day 15: Your Zodiac/Horoscope and If You Think it Fits Your Personality

Ever seen those P4CM "Generation EX" t-shirts?  I could wear one saying I am an EX-horoscope reader.  Here's why:

1) First and foremost, it's not biblical.  As Christians, God calls us to be holy, and He makes clear horoscopes don't line up with His plans for us (See Deuteronomy 18:9-14).

2) Horoscopes are too subjective to have any credence.  You can read your horoscope for any given day in five different newspapers, and they will all say different -- and often conflicting or inaccurate -- things.  I know because I tried it.

3) Along the same lines as #2, other people's horoscope readings can make more sense than the one specified for you.  I say "specified" lightly. If you're a Pisces, try reading the Libra horoscope for a month.  It's so generic, it could apply to anybody.  And therein lies another problem with horoscopes -- the same reading is supposed to apply to me as well as the other 583,333,332 people in the world born during the same 30-day period as me (7 billion on earth divided by 12 months)?  **long pause**  Really?!  Ok.

I realize the zodiac thing "works" a little differently, but it's basically the same concept.  Supposedly, I'm pretty much just like every one else born in the same year as me, and then every one born in 12-year increments before or after me is pretty much just like me as well.  Yeah... right.  Are you just like everyone you graduated with from high school?

Womp-womp-wooooooooomp <-- that's the sound of the horoscope bouncing into the garbage bin.

Instead of reading horoscopes, I focus on what God says about me.  He says I'm a king and a priest, a holy nation, more than a conqueror, a channel of Christ's life, healed, delivered and set free.  And no horoscope will ever be able to give us what God has and continues to give us -- His love!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 14: What You Wore Today

30-Day Blog Challenge

This is supposed to be Saturday's post, but I was pretty bummy.  I'm posting my Sunday church outfit instead.

My favorite neutral hands-down is gray.  Today I decided to go for a gray and orange ensemble with plenty of texture and pattern. Picture it with a chunky bantu-knot-out hairstyle:

Sleeveless neon orange blouse: Marshall's
Gray textured pencil skirt: Marshall's
Metallic wedge sandal: Target
The top has horizontal pleats.  It's a little bit sheer at the top, so to avoid exposing my bra straps through the blouse at church, I layered the lightweight scarf over my shoulders and safety-pinned it into an "infinity loop."  The skirt comes just to the knee.

Black and white scarf: Marshall's
Sterling silver bead necklace with metal overlay: TJMaxx
Sterling silver drop earrings: TJMaxx

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 13: Your Opinion About Your Body and How Comfortable You Are With It

I'm comfortable enough to post pics and share my current weight.  First, some comparison photos:

Summer 2002, Dominican Republic

Summer 2004, San Diego, CA
Spring 2007, Austin, TX (Hook 'Em!)
Fall 2010, Durham, NC

What a timely topic for today's 30-Day Blog Challenge.  I just started working out again -- joined a gym, walking, running, playing tennis, etc. In fact, I've worked out more consistently AND frequently in the last two months than I have during the entire first half of 2011... and I feel absolutely fantastic.

Body image proves to be a sticky-icky subject, especially for women (much like the "concept of beauty" post from Day 2).  Most women I know can think of at least one thing they don't like about their bodies. Some women want to lose weight while others (who might be reluctant to speak up for fear of ridicule) want to gain weight.  I have heard little girls and teens talk about dieting, and, much to my disdain, studies continue to show eating disorders are on the rise in the young black female community.

I'm 5'10", 35 years young, and as of three weeks ago I weighed 218 lbs.  When I was 18, I weighed a mere 165 lbs.  I gained most of my weight after I got married, and then even more when I got a job requiring me to sit in front of a glowing screen for 8-10 hours/day. The number on the scale has always been less important to me than how my clothes fit and I have hovered pretty consistently between a size 12 and a size 16 dress, depending on the designer of course.  I don't own a scale and I weigh myself infrequently - maybe once every 6 months or if I go to the doctor.

I could complain about the weight I've gained, the way my jeans fit, the spillover belly, or my "wings" (my affectionate term for back fat), but really -- what's the point?  I believe there comes a time when we have to actually attack the problem by fully embracing the solution. 

Despite the fact that I'm 50 lbs heavier than I was when I graduated high school (yikes!), I love my body.  It's healthy and strong.  I'm am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God.  I do not take for granted the healthy support system I have in friends and family.  My Mom has always been health conscious, and she's never berated me about my size.  I have several friends who are active and will exercise with me, and they make it so enjoyable.  My husband shows me lots of love regardless of my size, and we like to work out together as well.  I know that not everyone has this same kind of support, but I tell you... whenever you start feeling down about your weight, especially if you're a little heavier than you want to be, I encourage you to recall the words my grandma said to me several years back, in her deep Southern accent:

"Girl, you're fat and fine!"  (you have to say it like it's one word -- fatandfine!)

You tell 'em, Grandma.

Day 12: Five Guys Whom You Find Attractive

Hands down, the man I find most attractive is my husband.  The fact that he loves the Lord just makes my heart leap.  And he makes me laugh.  And he's really sweet.  And then he's hot on top of all that.  aw yeah!

Not that it really even matters, but here are the four others who are easy on the eyes.

Day 11: Your Family

*Sigh* I'm waaaay behind on my writing, but like I said at the beginning of this 30-Day Blog thing, I knew it really would be a challenge for me.  There's so much living to do.  I'm working out and getting some important things done around the house.  But without further delay, today's topic is My Family.  More after the pic...

Photography by Amy Gillis, Wimberley, TX (December 2009)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Product Review: Chagrin Valley Shampoo Bars

Product:  Chagrin Valley Shampoo Bar
Company Site: - plenty of details and answers for just about any soap question you can imagine

Babassu & Marsh Mallow
Photo Credit

Ingredients:  They vary depending on what type of soap you choose, but according to the Ingredients page on their site the products "are made with natural plant oils and botanicals, which are absorbed into the skin naturally, creating healthy skin the way nature intended... There are four basic natural ingredients used in Chagrin Valley Handcrafted Soaps; base oils, natural additives, herbal infused oils, and pure botanical essential oils." For a complete breakdown of their ingredients, including the purpose and qualities of each ingredient, visit their site.

Prices: $7-8 for a full bar, $2-3 for a sample bar
Shipping:  Chagrin offers flat rate shipping.  My four (4) full size bars + two (2) sample bars came in flat rate envelope for $5.95.

I've purchased twice from Chagrin and the first time was about three years ago. The most difficult thing shopping with them is deciding which soap to buy. They have so many options, scents, ingredients, and the pictures just grab me (if I could eat soap, it would be on). I bought whole bars of Ayurvedic Herb, Honey Beer, Mud and Clay, and Babassu Marsh Mallow, and samples of Chocolate Orange Twist and Bananas and Cream. I gifted the Mud and Chocolate to Mom.

I tried the Ayurvedic. The scent is herbal, if that makes sense.  I like it, but then I tend to like somewhat exotic scents.  When using the soap, the trick is to cut a chunk off, as opposed to using the whole bar each time you wash your hair (bar melts faster if it's all wet).  I cut a small cube about the size of a quarter using scissors.  I wet my hair, wet the cube of soap a bit, and then ran it down the length of my hair (root to tip) until it started to lather.  Ohh, the lather!  It's rich and frothy.  I rinsed and repeated and the end result was squeaky clean AND soft hair, and my scalp was free of build-up.  I followed up with conditioner, moreso for detangling/slip than for replenishing moisture.  My Mom, who has a 4b TWA and is a faithful baking soda + water then ACV gal, tried the Mud bar this past weekend and *loves* it.  She said she didn't need to use conditioner at all afterward. Just a little styling product and she was done. Days later, she says it's still soft and shiny.

Would I buy it again?  Absolutely.  It does what I expect a shampoo to do -- cleans my hair and leaves my scalp feeling refreshed. Another huge plus is the detail they provide on their website.  From testimonials to product descriptions to FAQs, they seemed to have thought of everything, which makes the online ordering experience a lot more concrete (as opposed to sites where you might have to guess about things).

Here's a video one of my favorite vloggers (MsVCharles) did using a Chagrin Valley Bar.  

Note: Chagrin did not pay me or endorse me in any way for this review.  When I find a good thing, I like to share it.  :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 10: Put Your Music Player on Shuffle and Write the First 10 Songs that Play

30-Day Blog Challenge

(Song, Artist, Album) I <3 my Android mp3.

  1. I Need You Right Away - Fred Hammond, Love Unstoppable
  2. Oh My Lord - Sho Baraka, Turn My Life Up
  3. Invade - Trip Lee, Between Two Worlds
  4. So Amazing - Tye Tribbett & G.A., Stand Out
  5. Nobody Greater - Vashawn Mitchell, Triumphant
  6. Here I Am - Kevin LeVar & One Sound, Let's Come Together
  7. Say Yeah - J.R., Life By Stereo
  8. Forward - Mali Music, The 2econd Coming
  9. Over My Head - The Fray, How to Save A Life
  10. The Space Between Us - Shawn McDonald, Closer

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 9: How Important You Think Education Is

Hmm... I agree with Tia about the grammar of the Day 9 title. I might reword it to say "My Thoughts about the Importance of Education." :)

High-quality education is definitely emphasized and expected in my family.

Me with Dad & Mom :-D

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 8: What You Ate Today

30-Day Blog Challenge

Late last night, our church ended our annual corporate 50-Day Pentecost Fast, which I talked about briefly on my other blog.  It was most certainly a sacrifice to avoid meat and wheat.  I just never knew wheat was in so many food products.  The sacrifice offering was worth it to draw closer to God, to become more like Christ in my daily walk, and to grow in spiritual maturity.  I learned so much during this fast, but there were two takeaways which stood out specifically for me:

  • Learn to love genuinely and fully.  A genteel southern upbringing will teach you how to be nice to people in just about every situation, but that's not the same thing as love.  
  • Think about the way I think.  For many years, I've been able to act a certain way around people, but in my heart and mind I might have been thinking something else and not saying things that needed to be said.  Certain thoughts absolutely have no right to rent space in my head, and those thoughts must be evicted, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If I'm going to think it (stew in it, dwell on it) for more than 30 seconds, I need to tell that person.  I actually had the opportunity to put this into practice recently, and doing so blessed me.  It wasn't as hard as I expected, and it even improved my relationship with those people.
And now, what I ate today:
- A KIND bar - because I didn't feel like making breakfast.  These are so good (and filling).  You can find them at Trader Joe's, Earthfare, and sometimes TJMaxx and Marshall's at the check out.
- Pineapple Fried Rice w/chicken, onion, egg, and sweet peas, from one of our favorite Thai restaurants.

- Small cup of Breyer's Oreo Ice Cream.

Pretty pathetic, huh :)  I guess I wasn't very hungry yesterday.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 7: Five Pet Peeves

30-Day Blog Challenge

Five Pet Peeves (in no particular order)

Photo credit
Friends don't let friends chew like cattle.
1. People who chew with their mouths open. I don't want to hear it, and I certainly don't want  to see it. Please, puh-lease breathe through your nose and close your mouth, if you can. So if you see me staring at you incredulously from across the table, you know the dealie.

2. People who treat wait staff poorly. I notice this most often at restaurants. People make an unnecessary mess at the table, tease the waiter, talk badly about them within earshot (how about giving them direct, constructive criticism instead?), and then leave a piddly tip, even when the service was fine. Rude!

3. Men showing their underwear. Brothers, just stop already. It's not cool, attractive, endearing, or masculine to sag your pants. Be an innovator. Start a new trend, because this one has been driven into the ground (pun intended) for like 20 years now. Remember Kris Kross? Notice, however, that we never see their underwear in this video. There is a difference between baggy pants and saggy pants. You can actually wear baggy pants with this novel thing we call a belt, so we don't have to see your unmentionables. Now, saggy skinny jeans simply perplex me.

4. Parents who let their kids do anything and everything. One night not too long ago, I was sitting in my car in the Target parking lot, chatting with my sis on the phone. I saw this little boy -- maybe age 4 or 5 -- run out toward an SUV parked in front of me, but there was no adult nearby so it seemed odd. He went to the side of that SUV, pulled his pants all the way down, and peed. I was floored.  It was out in the open.  He was not hidden at all!  Then a woman, probably in her late 20s or early 30s, walked past him to put her cart in the corral, glanced at him like she didn't know him, like nothing was wrong.  Then both of them got into the SUV and drove off. What. In. The. World.

5. A sense of entitlement. I work in staffing so I see and speak to a lot of candidates. Most have an appropriate amount of confidence blended with humility during job interviews. However, sometimes I meet candidates who make it quite clear we would be idiots if we didn't hire them. Most of the time, we don't hire them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 6: Your Views on Mainstream Music

My Views on Mainstream Music

A few years ago I got rid of 95% of my music collection. Wrapped up on all those jewel cases and cover art was a lot of my old self--memories, repetitive thoughts, and feelings.

Popular, commercial music, in my view, is ultimately created to make money. Radio stations have to sell ads, artists have to sell music, and they're both going after a certain demographic, so they pair up. It's designed to make us feel something so we'll spend a little to repeat it at our leisure, or call in and request it from our favorite DJ.

I can't speak for others, but I've definitely attached memories and feelings to music. Anita Baker, Marvin Gaye and early solo Michael Jackson remind me of my parents. Tears for Fears, Bon Jovi, New Edition and the Go-Gos remind me of grade school and lazy summers in West Texas (there was no urban station where I grew up, and MTV was just getting started).  Kwame and Mary J. Blige (What's the 411, hon) remind me of my best friends from 8th grade and the early part of high school. The Roots and Tribe Called Quest were common when I was in college -- I think I went to at least four of their concerts in my early 20s.  Certain songs remind me of old boyfriends or the times when I was living, quite frankly, a crazy lifestyle.  The music mirrored me, and I mirrored the music.

I used to pull out specific songs to promote or coddle whatever feeling was tugging at my heart at any given moment. When I wanted to reminisce about an old flame, get hype before a party, or feel cute, there was an app for that. Other artists were perfect for days when I felt moody, depressed, angry or filled with angst. Now, maybe not everyone is so affected by music, but once I realized I was and that I did not want to be caught up in it anymore, I knew I had to let it go... but that did not mean I stopped loving music.

Now I listen to what I call "the music of life"--the stuff that promotes godliness and right living. First and foremost, the music of life helps promote praising and worshiping God.  It reminds me of where I've been and prompts me to thank Him. It reminds me of who I am according to what God says, which can spark repentance, forgiveness, and other positive change. In so many cases, it helps me remember scripture -- the bread of life -- and sooths me, comforts me, and empowers me. Some of my favorites lately are Mali Music, Kevin Levar, Shawn McDonald, Meredith Andrews, Ashmont Hill and Sho Baraka.

Does that mean I think all mainstream music is bad?  No, not all of it is, but I'm much more selective about what I support (read: what I buy). I listen to the lyrics and pay close attention to the sentiment or thought the artist is promoting. If it doesn't promote life, then it doesn't have any place in mine.

One of my faves:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 4: Bullet Your Whole Day

 30-Day Blog Challenge

Hmm... I guess I should have looked at this in the morning instead of at 10 PM, but away we go:

  • DH woke me up, and I told him about Part 2 of my continuing dream about life in New Jerusalem. Picture thousands of Christians with unique powers--flying, walking on water, and speaking to each other without talking. Fabulous dream. Isn't it cool when dreams continue, even with weeks in between occurrences?  Does this happen to anyone else?
  • Turned on my "strictly worship" playlist (e.g. Kevin LeVar, Shawn McDonald, William McDowell, Hillsong), and spent time alone with God at the kitchen table.
  • Finished putting mini-twists in my hair.
  • Worked.  :-)
  • Visited Goodwill in search of denim jackets (thanks, Lakeesha!). Sleep not on Goodwill, my friends (see this post on my other blog here about Goodwill). I found some cute things, but didn't buy.  Common brands:  new items (some with tags still on) by Lands End, J. Crew, and Ann Taylor, just to name a few.
  • Initiated our first Costco membership and bought an Acai Berry Cleanse product from the vitamin section.  Is that TMI? My mom said this stuff works, and she's very particular about what she puts in her body. It's a 10-day regimen. Perhaps more on that later... perhaps.
  • Went to church for a deliverance meeting, corporate prayer, and fellowship.
  • DH and I swung by Smoothie King (last week of the Pentecost Fast).
  • Came home. Lit a Volcano candle I bought recently at Anthropologie.  It was on clearance for less than $10. Get thee to Anthro, they have a bunch of stuff on clearance right now.  
  • I'll wrap up the night writing and reading blogs, tweaking my section of a paper due next week, sending out meeting minutes, and reading a borrowed book called "Pigs in the Parlor" by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's a Dry-Dry Hair Day

Obviously, I am not exempt from bad hair days.

One of the reasons I'm blogging more regularly these days is to track what is and isn't working for my hair.  Now when I first chopped off my locs to experiment with the loose natural look, I diligently kept track of everything I used, uploading pics and reviews to my fotki regularly.  I was all over the message boards, e.g.'s 3c, 4a, 4b, etc.

Then somewhere along the way -- probably around the time I was finishing grad school -- I really lost track of my methods.  I made the mistake of deleting some product info from my fotki, thinking it was irrelevant/outdated.  Now in hindsight I wish I had kept it.

Day 3: A Book You Love

30-Day Blog Challenge

Ok, this one is just too easy.  I love the Holy Bible, the KJV to be specific.  I love it because it holds my "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth," and His Word is meat to me.  He makes all things new, and the Bible never gets old.

Some others:

  • Non-Fiction:  Victory Over The Darkness by Neil Anderson - this book was right on time for me when I needed to understand who I was according to what God said about me.  
  • In the suspense/thriller category, I like Intensity by Dean Koontz - because my dear Dad introduced me to this author and I've always enjoyed his work.  This one in particular was a page-turner.  I think I finished it in less than two days.  I must admit, I haven't read anything by him since.  *blushing*
  • From grad school, my favorite was The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, who has since written other books... which I have not read yet.  This is bad!  I obviously need to read more.  
I tend to do more periodicals than books these days.  Why didn't someone tell me about Ready Made magazine when it first came out!?  I found it at Target the other day (it was the only copy on the shelf) and I am sold, I tell you.  SOLD.

Day 2: Something You Feel Strongly About

30-Day Blog Challenge

I feel strongly about concepts of beauty.  

I'm about to date myself but when I was little my parents gave me a Cornsilk Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas.  I loved that doll. She was black and cutie-pie plump with a head full of smooth, straight hair.  I threw her up in the air and that hair would cascade and bounce, just like those ladies in the Pert shampoo commercials.  I vividly remember following my mom around the house one day saying (repeatedly), "I want my hair to look like this!" After about the fifth time, she said something to the effect of "it's just not going to happen." But at that moment -- and for years afterward -- corn silk hair was the only hair I wanted. These were my "Facts of Life:" I preferred hair like Blair's, but mine was more like Tootie's. 

Photo Credit

This is grossly simplified, but here's my perspective: Early in life we are spoon-fed a lot of imagery and messages about beauty.  The people closest to us -- fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts and uncles, etc. -- tell us verbally and non-verbally what they find attractive and beautiful (or undesirable and ugly). We develop preferences, insecurities, and hang-ups.  We are taught beauty subjectively.  Documentaries like this one show us at the same time little ones are learning to tie their shoes, they've already mastered how to associate something as arbitrary as skin tone with qualities like kindness, intelligence, and success.     

This isn't as much a racial thing to me, though black women and girls certainly due have their specific issues.  When I'm not hearing or reading stories about black women and their hair, I'm hearing conversations about white women and their thighs, or women in general regarding their weight, chest, waddle, height, zits, love handles -- the varieties of beauty issues are just endless.  What pains me most is when I hear little girls comparing themselves, and then adults confirming (sometimes unconsciously) that one child is prettier than another because of (fill in the blank).  Sometimes I compliment little girls on their hair or skin, and they are absolutely shocked that I see it as beautiful. I could understand a little girl smiling or being a bit shy as a response to that type of compliment... but when the response is "shock," my heart sinks a bit.

I can't put everything that I feel regarding this into just one post.  I am still guilty of looking at my own body -- even though I'm healthy, Praise God! -- with disdain at times.  Shame on me!  I know that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and He knew exactly what he was doing when He created us.  I just wish we could all see ourselves as He sees us.  His lens is much clearer and sharper than ours.  And there is (or should be) so much more to us than what we look like.

Eve Ensler sums up my sentiments about this splendidly in this clip from the documentary "America The Beautiful" (which I recommend to those 18 and up)...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 1: Five Ways to Win Your Heart

My first post for the 30-Day Blog Challenge

Ways to Win My Heart

1) Be in love with the Lord.  Just this morning, I had breakfast with a dear friend.  As she sat down, she was literally gushing about her morning devotional time with God.  She talked about her alone time with Him, her study on faith, and how He gives it to us and grows it in us.  He continues to reveal things to her about Himself, herself, love, people, etc.  She was so enthralled, and I was so touched, I actually had to tell her, "Lady, it sounds like you're in love!"  That blessed me, for real.

2) Have a sense of humor.  This is one of the first things that drew me to the man who is now my husband.  He's got this wonderfully flexible wit -- sometimes he has dry humor, and at other times he's musical (almost rivaling Broadway).  He does impressions.  He makes funny faces.  I don't believe a day has passed since 1998 when we haven't laughed together at something... even during the lowest points of our marriage. I think we should all be able to laugh at ourselves and at the quirks of life sometimes, and not be overly-serious.

3) Compassion.  With so much drama and ill-will in the world, it's beautiful to see compassion in action.  God is gracious and full of compassion (Psalm 145:8).  This type of caring can be as simple as smiling at someone who is obviously having a bad day (because you never know if you're the only person who will smile at them on that day).  I also love it when people go out of their way to show how much they care, and even more so when they know they aren't going to get "credit" for it.

4) Big-Eyed Animals. Ever since Bambi, I've been a sucker for doe-eyed animals.  Think kittens, puppies, bunnies, and My Little Pony.  Horned toads, subway rats, geckos -- hmm, not so much.
Photo Credit
I used to have one just like this!

5) The Truth.  I know very few people in this world who are willing to tell me the truth in love.  When you come across someone who will do this for you consistently, keep them close and respond in kind.  There are so few who love us enough to tell us the truth, even when it hurts, but it's truly a gift.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The 30-Day Blog Challenge

For me, sometimes blogging is kind of like this:
cartoon from
Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Enter "The 30-Day Blog Challenge," which I first read about via Tiashauntee's Her Best Hair blog.  Here's the list of topics:

I'll answer one each day in the form of a post.  Some of these topics are a bit outside the norm for me, but it will give me a chance to answer creatively.  Care to join?  Please let me know so I can visit your blog.  I'd love to connect with you.  :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dry twist out

I'm due for a wash and deep conditioning treatment this weekend, but in the meantime I'm enjoying playing with my stretched, dirty (eep!) hair.  Last night while watching So You Think You Can Dance online, I twisted my hair using no product.  Since I loaded it up with shea butter the past couple days, I figured I could probably get away with using nothing.  It worked out pretty well when I took it down this morning -- resulting in a chunky, undefined fro, kinda like Maxwell's Now album cover.
Photo credit

One thing I've learned about being natural is that even when the style doesn't turn out quite as planned, you can still own it confidently and enjoy your hair for what it is.  I am *soooo* not the expert on styling, but I do appreciate the flexibility my hair allows for many different looks -- everything from tightly-coiled and shrunken to stretched and completely blown-out.  Defined curls are nice, but I'm not going to fight my hair if the curls explode.

Just have fun with it.  :)