My Natural Hair Journey

Natural HairI’ve always wanted to chronicle my natural hair journey from the start, complete with a well-edited YouTube video montage and beautiful background music.

Unfortunately, that would’ve taken more spare time than I ever seemed to have on hand, so I’ve opted to give a quick update instead (complete with pictures). :)

My motivation:

After the combination of chemical hair relaxers (which I used to straighten my hair), hair color treatments (to cover those grays) AND caramel-colored highlights (definitely pressed my luck with that decision), my hair became severely damaged and unhealthy.

I wanted once again, to have the healthy hair of my youth, before the chemical processes and subsequent hair damage.

So, I decided to “go natural” (chemical relaxer-free).

Another major reason for my decision: my daughter’s comment that she wanted her hair to be “straight like Mommy’s.”

Uh oh!

Could it be my daughter didn’t realize my hair’s natural state was NOT straight?! More importantly, her comment told me she was lacking a full appreciation of her naturally thick, long, curly-coils.

It also revealed how much my daughter looked to me for her hair goals and inspiration.

It wasn’t enough to tell her how beautiful her hair was, or point out the bevy of ways in which she could wear her hair.

I would have to show her what it looked like to embrace her natural hair.

Seeing me wear my hair naturally curly/coily or in twists; in a twist-out (a wavy style obtained after removing the twists); or wearing it straight (by blowing it dry and heat styling), would be the best way for me to show her, rather than just tell her.

The result:

The plan was a success! :)

I’ve been chemical relaxer-free since October 2011, and transitioned until my big chop (cutting off the remaining relaxed/damaged hair) in May 2012.

In order to speed up my hair growth and return to hair health, I chose to limit heat-styling (the application of direct heat to my hair with blow drying, flat-ironing, etc.), to the three occasions my hair stylist thermally straightened my hair to trim my ends (November 2012, May 2013 and January 2016).

I’m happy to say, my hair is healthier than it’s been in a very long while.

This natural hair journey has been quite the experience, and I’ve learned so much along the way. So has my daughter, for that matter!

The most significant lessons have been the importance of planning,  preparation and persistence… followed by learning to go with the flow!

Now, my daughter and I fully embrace the variety of textures and wide range of hairstyles we both can achieve!

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Sounds of the Season – We Three Kings by Earl Klugh and Stefan Dickerson

A Jazz NoelThis is one of my favorite Christmas songs of ALL time!

It’s the wonderfully mellow, smooth jazz version of We Three Kings by Earl Klugh and Stefan Dickerson.

I find it both relaxing and festive.  :)

When I’m ready to take a break from rushing around… I make myself a cup of tea, get comfortable and play this amazing song. I hope you enjoy it too.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!  Warmest regards,  Dayo Lanier

Embracing Change

IMG_3398Funny thing happened on the way to planning out my life and mapping its course… a God-directed change in plans occurred.

I was well on my way to getting our house, my email inbox and our family’s schedule, more organized (organization which included writing blog posts more consistently and finally cleaning out the garage… though, not necessarily in that order), when I found out that we were moving again for my husband’s job!

We were headed for a wonderful opportunity at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN.  Go Vols! :)

But before we could begin this new chapter in our lives, we had to go through the daunting task of relocating first—also known as, the painful part.

I’ve found the process of moving to be less painful when you can embrace change and learn to get comfortable with the unknown… I’ve also found that I’m not particularly great at either of those things.

On a cerebral level, I know that change is the only constant in life, but from a comfort standpoint, I like for things to stay where I put them.
Being uncomfortable makes me uncomfortable, and moving is discomfort to the tenth degree.

Nevertheless, I was well aware that I couldn’t just blink and find myself settled in our new city.   It was going to be a process and it was going to take a lot of work—work which required me to trust God’s direction and His wisdom.

If you’ve ever moved, you know that it’s quite the undertaking. In fact, I liken it to childbirth—a painful experience with an outcome so joyous, it allows you to forget the discomforts of the journey… until the next time.

And that’s what happened to me. I forgot about the discomforts.

I forgot about transforming our lived-in home into the model home version of itself. I forgot about trying to keep it looking that way at all times, despite having a dog that sheds enough to stuff a pillow. I also forgot about trying to get my teen and my tween to partner with me in keeping the house looking spotless (there was lots of grumbling and yelling involved in that endeavor).

In order to keep my sanity in check and my outlook positive during this time of transition, prayer was a must. Leaning on these Bible verses helped, as well:

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Proverb 3:5 (NIV) – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.”

In the end, we were able to sell our old house and buy our dream home in record time. And while our move wasn’t seamless, it was worth it.

Our recent move:

1.) Reminded me that I can’t get so locked into my own plans, that I forget to make room for what God wants to do in my life.

2.) It revealed the peace that comes from trusting an uncertain future to an all-knowing God.

3.) And as I finish this blog post while looking out the window of my new home office/music room (pictured above), it showed me that when I loosen my grip on what I think is best for me, my hands are open to receive the blessings that God has in store.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Overcoming Perfectionism

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I was working on this blog post a couple of weeks ago, with the hope of publishing it before leaving to attend the Austin Songwriter’s Group Songwriting Symposium (awesome conference, by the way!).

As my ‘Things-To-Do-Before-The-Conference’ list grew longer, and the time frame to complete said list grew shorter, I began to feel the stress that comes with realizing there is absolutely no way to complete a three-page list of To-Do’s in one day!

Fortunately, I was able to pause long enough to recognize the irony in the situation.

Here I was working on a post about overcoming perfectionism, yet I was trying to complete the post and a million other things, as thoroughly and dare I say, as ‘perfectly’ as possible. Only then, was I willing I give myself permission to relax into a creativity-filled weekend with other songwriters and musicians.

Very interesting indeed…

Taking note of that irony allowed me to adjust my expectations and prioritize my efforts. I understood that in that moment, taking care of the urgent and important items on the first page of my To-Do list, was probably more important than diving into the ‘Lofty Life Goal’ section on page three of the list.

I also accepted the fact that things didn’t have to be ‘perfect’ before I left for the conference.

Perfectionism, in psychology, is defined as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

In his book, “The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life,” Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., examines the difference between the Perfectionist, who rejects failure, and the Optimalist, who accepts it. He proposes viewing perfectionism and optimalism as lying on a continuum, rather than being distinct qualities that are entirely independent of each other.

“Perfectionists and Optimalists do not necessarily differ in their aspirations, in the goals they set for themselves,” writes Ben-Shahar. “Both can demonstrate the same levels of ambition, the same intense desire to achieve their goals. The difference lies in the ways each approaches the process of achieving goals.”

“For the Perfectionist, failure has no role in the journey toward the peak of the mountain; the ideal path toward her goals is the shortest, most direct path—a straight line. Anything that impedes her progress toward the ultimate goal is viewed as an unwelcome obstacle, a hurdle in her path.”

“For the Optimalist, failure is an inevitable part of the journey, of getting from where she is to where she wants to be. She views the optimal journey not as a straight line but as something more like an irregular upward spiral—while the general direction is toward her objective, she knows that there will be numerous deviations along the way.”

“The Perfectionist likes to think that his path to success can be, and will be, failure free, a straight line. But this does not correspond to reality…”

I could not agree with that description more! Without a doubt, the Optimalist viewpoint is a much more growth-minded, forgiving and achievable approach to attaining goals and to living life.

As a recovering perfectionist, I work hard to recognize and ward off all-or-nothing thinking—the type of thinking that tells you, “If I can’t do this perfectly right now, I should probably put it off until I can.”

When perfection is your aim, you strive to avoid mistakes at all costs. The idea of embracing mistakes as a part of the learning process, as a necessary step on the road to success, feels foreign.

For me, perfectionism has also proven to be the breeding ground for procrastination and the enemy of creativity (not good when you’re on the way to a Songwriter’s Conference)! ☺

Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that baby steps are better than no steps, and that progress always trumps perfection. Most importantly, I’m grateful to have learned these lessons just in time to teach them to my children!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

On Being Content

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Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. – Philippians 4:11 (NKJV).

After deciding to live life more mindfully and authentically, the next step was determining exactly what I needed in order to be content.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines contentment as a state of happiness and satisfaction. Its definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus is ease of mind: satisfaction. Both sound good to me!

But contentment is not just trying to be happy or avoiding feeling sad. Contentment is a decision that evokes an attitude. It involves focusing on inner satisfaction regardless of changing external circumstances.

For me, contentment begins with gratitude—being aware of all of the ways in which I’ve been blessed—and ends with using my unique traits, qualities, experiences and insights, in order to live on purpose and be a blessing to others.

It involves making time for soul-renewing endeavors in a way that works with my temperament (introvert that I am), and keeping my needs and the needs of my family, in mind.

As Eleanor Roosevelt pointed out, “Happiness is not a goal… it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” And perhaps Dale Carnegie said it best: “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”

Enjoy your weekend!

In Pursuit of An Authentic Life

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On my quest to discover ways to live my life more authentically—to use my God-given gifts and talents more wisely, and to incorporate my passions and the desires of my heart more seamlessly into the fabric of my everyday life—I came across the book, Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach.

On the page titled Our Authentic Lives, just before the first chapter, was the following quote:

“I have a sense of these buried lives striving to come out through me to express themselves.” – Marge Piercy

Two thoughts came to mind as I read that quote: “Wow, that is perfectly worded,” and “Me too!”

While engaging in the hustle and bustle that is life—handling family obligations and other commitments (church, organizations, activities, extended family, friends, etc.)—I noticed that the things I enjoyed doing and felt passionately about (music, dance and writing) were repeatedly relegated to the bottom of my “To Do” list (and sometimes, didn’t even make the list).

What was worse, I was the one responsible for putting them there!

Somewhere along the way, I deemed my passions to be “something I’d like to get to,” instead of priorities, hobbies rather than necessities that feed my spirit.

That mistake is easy to make when you’re living life in a mindless fashion—racing and rushing about, busy doing instead of being.

I knew I needed to find the time for the things I enjoyed, but part of the problem was the wording of that intention: “find the time…”

Time can be elusive, and “trying to find time” proved to be an exercise in futility.

Making the time for the things I love, and making them a priority, however… that was altogether different. With that slight shift in perception and intention, I had a much better chance of realizing my goals.

Having a plan of action was the first step, but forming that plan—thinking about what I really wanted and needed—required me to stop chasing behind my life and to start asking myself the important questions.

Do I really need to do all that I’m currently doing? If not, it was time to let go of those optional things that weighed me down without replenishing me.

If they were required, who could help me with this? Could my husband and children do more to help? (Answer: always). And could I be less of a control-freak to allow them to help in their own way? (Answer: sometimes).  :)

These questions led to family discussions and managed expectations overall. They led to the acknowledgement that self-care is essential, and that working together as a family to ensure that each member’s individual needs are met, is vital.

Making time for the activities I enjoy (in essence, making time for myself), required me to examine my commitments and adjust our schedule, with the goal of improving my quality of life and that of my family.

Through this process of slowing down and restructuring, I’ve realized just how important my interests and passions are to my sense of well-being.

And with this newfound clarity, the understanding that actually doing what’s been placed in my heart, allows me to fulfill God’s purpose for my life, through being my authentic self.

Wishing the same for you in this New Year!