A love letter to my brother

Dear Brother,

I address this letter to my brother. Not “my brother“, as an affectionate term for someone with the same skin color. Not as a “brother“, homie, friend. This love letter is to my little brother, my “Irish twin”, my crib mate, my playmate, my scapegoat, my nuisance, my teammate, my enemy, my partner, my roommate, my HERO.

Long before we were adolescents who couldn’t stand each other we were our parents’ “two under two”. Inseparable. We shared a room that after a few years you got kicked out of and no, it’s not because I tricked you into climbing up on the edge of your crib which resulted in you falling out, it’s because I was the only girl. I don’t think we ever talked about it yet, I wonder at what point you realized that we looked nothing alike. According to mom’s notes in my baby book, I knew that I looked different as early as two years old when I saw someone with skin the color of mine but said that “his hair looks like mine.” Considering that my hair was kept pretty short in a natural fro for the majority of my elementary and middle school years it was not uncommon for people to think that we were brothers rather than brother and sister. Regardless, there wasn’t much we didn’t do together in those early days. In our small community, we stayed surrounded by our family, and our friends, all of which pretty much grew up and stayed the majority of our lives. Some may say that we were in a bubble, living in a rural Pennsylvania town. If people looked at our family strangely I definitely never noticed it, did you? If you did, you never let on.

From the playpen to the prom, I got your back bro

Other than the normal brother/sister, love/hate relationship you never made it seem like you were uncomfortable having me meet your friends or your co-workers. Remember when you came down to visit me at the University of North Carolina? I took you to a club. People thought that you were my boyfriend from out of town and wouldn’t believe you were my brother. We even survived a year as roommates after college living outside of Baltimore in a predominantly Black neighborhood. With the same last name, everyone just assumed we were an interracial couple. You endured Neighborhood kids taunting you, singing “Jungle Fever”. You experienced going shopping, eating in restaurants, even running in an area where you were in the minority, often the only White person there. You have some of the best friends in the world, because like you, they never hesitated, or acted weird, or scared when they came to visit you and hung out with us.

I know we chatted about it at points over the years, how having adopted siblings of different races shaped who you are today. What does it mean to you to have a sister who is Black? How do people in your life react when they find out for the first time? Two kids who grew up in the same house in the same community with the same access to education, resources, experiences, and felt safe and secure. We left for college and went our separate directions and the bubble burst.

When strangers see us they don’t see our history, our stories, or our connection. They make assumptions all based on quick glances and their prejudices.

Parris Island, my brother – The United States Marine.

I call you my hero for many reasons. Mostly because you chose a life of service. As a former Marine, who served in Iraq, and a police officer for the last two decades you’ve put your life on the line to serve and protect other people. Any job that requires you to know how to handle a weapon evokes fear that you are at risk of losing your life every time you go to work. It is because of that that my heart breaks when you get lumped into a group of evil persons who do not share your same regard for public service and justice. While I may be targeted because of the color of my skin, you become a target because of the uniform that you wear. I am scared for people of color, and I’m scared for you. Those fears are not mutually exclusive.

Like me, I know you believe that #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter. You provide leadership to the members of your police department. I know you counsel them on many aspects of their roles in the community including race relations. I am proud to be your sister.

I honor you today. As you celebrate a birthday in one of the most troubling times, you were already given the most amazing gift anyone can receive. Your son. Just two days ago you became a father, and just like we know that hatred is taught so is LOVE, teach him to love, to be fair and just, as our parents taught us. Continue to be the incredible man that I call my brother. I love you. Always.

Your sister,


Happy new father. Happy Birthday!

A Special Skill Acquired Once Upon a Sleepover

Going up sleepovers were a big deal. I very rarely got to go but,  there are a few that really stick out my mind from middle school. The one I remember the most was at my best friend April’s house. She was a new girl who had moved to Danville from Oklahoma. The reason why that particular sleepover was so memorable to me is because it was the first time someone ever French braided my hair. In fact, it was really the first time I remember anyone ever doing something to my hair other than me. Other than my mother brushing my hair when I was really young.

At a friend's house in rural PA.

At a friend’s house in rural PA.

I realize my hair was really short prior to middle school and there probably wasn’t too much that anybody could do with it. As I grew it out I experimented, usually failing miserably, to make it resemble the hairstyles of all my friends.  I don’t think their words to describe how elated I was when Mrs. Splane completed her braid my hair.  After that I became abscessed with braiding I braided all of my dolls as well as all of my friends. Eventually, I even learned to French braid my own hair. In time I graduated in to multiple braids, fishtails, inverted French Braids and most recently braids inspired by the Hunger Games.

The satisfaction of a braid well done with tired arms and all - I have A LOT of hair.

The satisfaction of a braid well done with tired arms and all – I have A LOT of hair.

In the days before YouTube all you could do was watch others and learn and when it came to braiding I was an eager student and practiced diligently. In my adult life I definitely don’t braid as much as I did in my youth but it’s often therapeutic and a favorite way to tuck away my hair for travel days.


A girlfriend of mine recently found out that she was going to have a daughter and when she saw my braids asked if I could teach her how to braid hair.  I think we all know how great it is to have someone else do your hair. And I’m sure that it’s a wonderful bonding experience between a mother and a daughter. I think I was always a little bit jealous of April to have such an awesome mom who could French braid hair.  Of course I adore my own mother but I wonder how different our relationship would’ve been if we had bonded over things like hair and make up and other girly activities. In the years since I’ve left home I’m now the one who goes home and beg my mother to let me do her hair and make up. Rather than practice on dolls I now practice on my god sister Katie, who is often a willing guinea pig.  She, along with countless children I’ve babysat, or cheerleaders I have coached, have benefited from the skills I learned as a child at a sleepover.

I can’t wait to have my own little girl one day but until then I will keep braiding my own hair and anyone else who asks.  Curly girls can rock the French Braid too – OUI!


I can’t lie sometimes I do get bored with curls – okay I am one of those people who gets bored with just about everything eventually.  In any event, when it comes to my hair some days I have more time on my hands or I see something I want to try and I am determined to do it.  Since I began blogging I have used my @justacurlygurl Instagram and Twitter accounts to follow inspiring #girlswithcurls all over the world.  I also have recently turned to YouTube for inspiration and tutorial….yes I know I am late to the game.

Faux Bangs

Experimenting with bobby pins to create faux bangs.

I have always been intrigued by people who have bangs.  I even once bought a wig so I could see what I looked like with bangs, but it was straight hair.  I was always worried if I cut my hair while it was straight that it would look crazy when it was curly.   At one point a couple years ago I let a stylist put long layers in my hair and it almost looked like bangs when I styled it right curly.

3 years ago in MN I had some serious layers which when curly gave the look of  bangs.

3 years ago in MN I had some serious layers which when curly gave the look of bangs.

More recently, I found an alternative way to try faux bangs with my good friends the bobby pins.  Thanks to a random search on YouTube I successfully created bangs on Easter morning when I was celebrating with my bestie and her family.  I think it made an interesting frame to my face.  What do you think?  I may try it again one day with a ponytail.  I think that would be interesting.  Having this blog is certainly getting me to pull the trigger on trying some new things and I must say I like it.  I know I have a tendency to get lazy with my hair especially 2-3 days after washing.  The messy bun (a topic for a future post) is a frequently used style during the week and in the gym.  I am seriously trying to step my hair game up.

It’s funny how being more adventurous with my hair is helping me do the same in life.  As a constant overthinker and analyzer I am often gun shy when it comes to new things.  I resolved to try more and say yes more often in 2015 and so far I am keeping that promise to self.  So bang bang – I will keep pulling that trigger.  I will NOT however be cutting my hair and making bangs permanent anytime soon.  I like it but I didn’t love it.  So I will keep trying new looks.  Let me know what you think!


I just had a childhood flashback while washing the dishes. Growing up my Dad was a Boy Scout leader of a local troop and all of my brothers participated in scouting.  As the only girl I often was forced to tag along on camping trips since my mom assisted with the troop.  I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 and I remember being on a scout trip and one of the boys said my hair looked like a Brillo pad. He along with other teased me the whole weekend and threatened to use my head to wash the dishes. 

It’s funny how things stick with you from childhood – especially any name you are called. However, children remember good things too.  Like I always knew that being adopted and looking different than everyone else meant I was special. How did I know that?  Because my mom and dad told me all the time. But being special didn’t seem fun if it meant someone was going to use my hair to wash dirty pots and pans.

A couple decades and a million ounces of conditioner later, I know full well my hair is NOTHING like a Brillo pad, however my hair is a total sponge.  I laugh anytime I read directions on hair products. “Use a dime size” “pour a capful” “add a bit” Ha!  I usually triple or quadruple the amount suggested and then add more later.  Of course the longer my hair the more product I use.  My hairdresser from home, Cynthia (you’ll hear her name a lot), was the first to call my hair a sponge.  Notice different than my childhood tormentors she called my hair and not me the sponge.  She said my hair soaked up everthing. Water – she had wring out my hair several time before styling.  Relaxers (yes had a few back in the day), heat (try sitting under a dryer for 2 hours and still having damp ends), color, shampoo, conditioner, mousse, gel, curl cream, oil, you name it my hair absorbed it like it was a plant in the desert.

Because of the amount of hair products I use I am always stocking up when my go-to stores (CVS, Sally’s or Ulta) have sales. I love that all of them allow me to return products if I find they don’t work for my hair or I just don’t like them. As long as they are 3/4 full any of those stores give me my money back.  I can’t afford to throw away money with the amount I buy.  Since I typically wash my hair twice a week I always buy 2 conditioners for 1 shampoo.  When I find a styling product that works like Tigi Curlsesque (formerly Curls Rock) curl cream in the turquoise and black pump bottle I buy a bunch. 

So if you take anything from this post know that compliments and positive reinforcement go a long way with anyone but especially children.  When you are growing up and you have any feature that’s different and/or draws attention other kids can be pretty cruel and we need the love and support of our family and friends.


head full of hair – total sponge

And if you or yours have a ton of hair like me don’t ever follow the label when it comes to directions or if you do…double, no triple it. 🙌