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Us Humans: Yeka Original Series

If there’s one thing that I’m known for saying amongst my circle of friend, it’d have to be the way I felt before I graduated high school. I went to a college prep school that offered AP and IB. We all know what AP is, advanced placement. But imagine “advanced placement” competitive tests, the kind where you’re competing for the top score with your classmates, but instead your competing with the top schools of the planet. That’s my description of international baccalaureate, IB. It annoyed me so much that students walked around as zombies because they pulled all-nighters regularly to maintain their grades. Whenever I was asked if someone should sleep of do work, my response was always something akin to “health is more important that a good grade” and I stand by it through every walk of life. And someone might read this thinking, “well of course” and yes, thank you for agreeing but I don’t just mean the physical.

If I had just a quarter for every time I came across someone who alluded to the concept that work ruined their mental health, I could probably monopolize both of the Americas. This, among other things, is why I hold mental health so dear and important to me: because we don’t talk about it enough. And anytime it’s mentioned, it’s always the isolated cousin. It’s past time to start the conversation properly because the more it goes silent, the worse it gets.

Us Humans

Us Humans Graphic

Us Humans is a blog series, hosted by the Yeka Blogsite, in which I aim to give insights into the reality of various mental health related issues. This goes from talking about various stigmas and myths to describing what it really is like to live with a mental illness. There are currently three available installments, which can be accessed from any of the links below:

To Whom It May Concern

Covert Madness

I’m Not “Antisocial”

Some of these and future posts may be connected to “Exclusives” content which will be available from this site. These may be continuations or further expansions on a given topic if I feel lead to discuss it. This can also be secondary work inspired by a given piece such as poetry or spoken word, a splurge I may have came up with, or even something I drew. All of this will be available under a new tab, “Us Humans Exclusives” and will also include corresponding links to the related installment.

The Story Behind

Perhaps this idea was born on a whim, or a product of a passing thought while doing homework, or any other reason. I really couldn’t tell you where the idea spawned from, I only know what I want to make of it now that it’s manifested. It should be an agreeable opinion that the public seems to value physical health more than mental health, unfortunately. And, maybe, it’s because such issues are covert and invisible at times, but just because they’re unseen does not make them unreal. So I want to make these things real to readers. I want to give insight to those who may know little to nothing about how things like anxiety, and dysphoria, and attention deficits may affect someone in any given way.

Many of the topics I’ll cover are personal to me in some way. I may mention something like depression that I or my friends battle with and I want to be open about that. Not because I want to vent but because I want to make it known that I am not alone – that others are not alone. I want to make it known that things like depression are way more commonplace than it seems. I want to make it known that mental illnesses cannot be as easily dismissed as the flu. I want to make it known that mental illness is very common, and very real.

I hope that with my words I shed a little more light on the topic and ease others to be more comfortable to start the conversation as well. I intend to expose the complexity that often goes unseen to those who may not struggle with mental health as others. I hope to show that people don’t have to be shaking, trembling, unresponsive, or physically inept  for you to know that they are mentally ill. Because it shouldn’t take contagion to know that someone is sick; listen and you will know, but you have to actually listen.

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If this interests you, be sure to follow the Yeka site at myyeka.wordpress.com to have access to the series installments as they’re published. For Exclusives content, be sure to follow this site to access that as well, either directly or via email using the form along the side panel.

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My Signature DIY: Whipped Shea

If you’ve been following my posts long enough, you may remember that one post called “Things I’ve Done” or something like that. I talked about opening my Etsy shop, which is currently decommissioned while I sort through details, among other things. The main reason I opened the shop was to sell one of my staple DIY products and probably the one product I’m best known for amongst my circle of friends: my whipped shea hair and body butter. This is the lengthy description I typed around the time I put my Etsy shop together as to how such a great product came to life and why I continue to use it (original content with very light editing).

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Caption: a “beta” picture before I got around to printing colored labels

My Whipped Shea Hair & Body Butter is packed with amazing benefits that are just too numerous to summarize. With that in mind, I thought I’d shed a little light of expounding on how this mix came to be and why I love it so much.

The original intent for my Whipped Shea mix was solely to nourish my hair, so it began as a rather simple recipe. Coconut oil, castor oil, honey, and olive oil are some of the oldest ingredients in the book for many people, myself included. Coconut oil has always been popular for hair and skin for a number of medicinal qualities it has: it is anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and is a great natural sun protectant. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy all of this? Luckily, there was some around the house when I had first began my hair journey, so I picked up on using it. I had also found a bottle of Jamaican Black Castor Oil at home and was intrigued. I read on the bottle’s label that it’s a very multi-purposed oil, being useful for both hair and skin as well. I know Jamaican Black Castor Oil most for its extremely restorative properties, a claim based on both many readings and months of witnessing it at work. If there is any product that became a staple the moment I used it, this would be #1.

Olive oil is often associated with how much shine and smoothness it brings to the hair and skin. Of the three mentioned oils thus far, olive oil is arguably the lightest in texture. I have always had issues with keeping my hair nicely moisturized, detangle-able (if that is a word), and overall smooth. After reading on and learning about olive oil and its benefits, I had to include it in my DIYs. With these oils alone, my tangle issues began to melt away and my hair health increased like I hoped, but moisture retention was still a bit of an issue. After going back to the drawing board, I came across this magic, mysterious term, “humectant”. A humectant draws water from the atmosphere, promoting moisture retention within the hair strand. Learning this, I went to find which products were best to do the job. Many things I found were Glycerin, Vitamin E oil, and honey. Because it is also a household item, naturally I chose honey. Not only is honey a great natural humectant, it is also an antioxidant and antibacterial. Another great fact of pure honey is that it has a really extensive shelf life when properly stored.

When I first adapted these four products into my haircare regimen, it was used mostly for a DIY hair conditioner mix that I threw together. For my first hair DIY, it was… functional. The natural texture of my hair began to peak through and the elasticity of my hair strands increased as well. These four basic ingredients were so good to me and my mane since my hair reversion.

I can’t remember an exact date or time period, but there was a day when I came across Shea Butter and Tea Tree Oil. I know I came across the two around the same time, but I believe it was from watching a video by one of the many hair gurus I follow. African Shea Butter has been used for ages and is best known for its buttery smooth texture. Shea butter is derived from the nuts of the Karite Tree, indigenous to parts of Africa. Shea butter is a considerably medium butter, meaning that it’s not so thick that it takes long to melt down but it isn’t so thin that it smooths like olive oil on the skin. Shea butter has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is also rich in many vitamins our bodies would greatly appreciate. Shea butter is best used as a sealant for hair because of its thickness, especially for those with thinner hair or higher porosity.

Around the same time I learned more on Shea Butter, I came across essential oils. There are so many on circuit, ciphering through all of them would take forever. But there was one that stood out to me: Tea Tree Essential Oil. Much like the rest of these ingredients, it has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties, but what I hadn’t seen yet was a product with anti-microbial properties. Anti-microbial is a fancy way of referring to a product that can fend off the growth or activity of microorganisms growing or deteriorating the health of a given product. I found that tea tree oil is a great preservative for this reason, but also makes for a great bug repellent or small pest control (something that I had quickly made use of, and seen decent results from). I grabbed hold of shea butter and tea tree oil as soon as I could because I had a new DIY in mind.

Taking all of these ingredients and a hand mixer, I made my second haircare DIY and the first edition of my Whipped Shea Hair & Body Butter. I loved every ounce of this stuff. Every mix came out differently but I knew which consistencies worked best for me. I liked my whip to be a frothy batter initially because once it settles, it becomes a thicker butter that melts upon contact with the skin. Applying this to my hair after washing kept the moisture in for anywhere from 5 -7 days and made my hairstyles smooth, fluffy, and bouncy. After my showers, I would always rub some over my face, as I still do to this day. I noticed my skin to be softer and more radiant, as well as seeing a few dark spots start to fade.

The last addition to the mix was Jojoba oil, which is actually more of a liquid wax. Jojoba oil is known to be the closest to mimic the body sebum, a natural oil produced anywhere hair grows. Sebum is purposed to coat the hair strand and protect it from the environment, a reason some may find “water washing” or a rinse-only hair regiment to aid in helping sebum do its job. However, a fair alternative to a rinse-only method is incorporating jojoba oil into your routine, something I decided to do.

I have been using this body butter ever since I found out how my body can benefit from all of these ingredients, and haven’t looked back since. The health and quality of my hair and skin have been increasing thanks to this DIY product. Naturally, I received inquiries about the product; of course, I responded with presents. Thus, I decided to add it into my Etsy shop for any who wish to try it as well. Hopefully, all who do will witness the amazing additive benefits this product has, and will continue to support KraftyCatZiller.

Don’t let popularity guilt-trip you.

The fact that a certain item or activity gets so much attention can give weight to exclusion. But the reality is not everyone can always be apart of everything every time. Remember that it’s okay not to be able to go to that event; it’s okay that you can’t do this particular thing; it’s okay that you don’t know this particular person or item. It is okay not to be in or “hip”, and you should not let this instance guilt you into forcing it to happen in the future or allowing it power over you.

Infusing Oils with Citrus Pt 2: Stitching Success

Note: Here’s a link to part one if you missed it or want a quick refresher

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In the first half of this crazy experience, I shared the full process of my first attempts with oil infusions. If you want a condensed version: it was a mess. I did come up with a product after it all, but it doesn’t end with that batch. So, in this second half, I’m going to point out all the mistakes made and how I rectified them in a third attempt.

All My Errors

Let’s start with trial one. In trial one, I (unknowingly) was infusing petitgrain essence with my oil by using fresh orange tree leaves. I cut my choice leaves, rinsed them and towel blotted them, then let them sit in the same bowl I rinsed them in overnight to dry. To reiterate and fill the gaps of information that my lazy self excluded: I took the leaves out of the bowl after rinsing, laid them out on paper towels, used more paper towel to blot them once and a half, lightly wiped down the bowl with more paper towel, placed another paper towel at the bottom of the bowl before dumping all the leaves back in and leaving them to dry. The next morning – despite my efforts – there were a few droplets of water that I figured were negligible, so I blotted them away (with more paper towel – it’s okay if you called me wasteful a million times by now). Then, I proceeded with the rest of the infusion procedure. Stick a pin in this, and let’s jump to trial two.

In trial two, I used fresh “l’orange” zest to infuse orange essence. The important thing to note in this instance is that, firstly, oranges are citrus fruits and, secondly, this was fresh produce. We all know citrus fruits are those tree fruits that are considerably “juicy” and occasionally tart or sour, so we can assume that citrus fruits tend to have higher available water content. This assumption, in addition to the fact that my produce was fresh and the fact that I didn’t use some drying process to rid the produce’s water content, can allow us to deduce that there may have potentially been water exposed during the infusion process.

You see, water exposure when working with oils can create difficulties both known and unknown. In context, we know that water and oil don’t mix; we also know that bacteria love moist environments. So, how comforting is it to know – or even be able to validly speculate – that bacteria may be growing in your infusion? It surely was unsettling for me to see strange black gunk floating around in mine.

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It went something like this. There were two substances that started to appear in my infusion. Once I started looking into what it may be, I found that the first was simply precipitation. Simply put, some of the olive oil just condensed on itself and amidst the oil droplets I put in my hand was a small chunk. So, with a little heat, it melted back down to its liquid state and was more applicable. Then, chunks started not to disappear when I rubbed them around my hand, and that was concerning. Finding an answer for this took a little more digging, but eventually came across the term “botulism” (BOT-choo-liz-um). Botulism is a rare form of food poisoning that most commonly occurs from improper care of homemade kitchen products. Of course, my product wasn’t something I was ingesting, but I definitely didn’t want to take any risks. The botulism bacteria are a naturally occurring bacteria which is usually inactive unless under certain conditions. And according to my overthinking and speculations, I might have created those conditions – but I wasn’t going to wait to find out.

While it lasted, it was a nice, lightly fragrant night serum, but it was best to dump it and make amends to my mistakes.

Trial #3

To be fair to myself, I poured out all the bottle’s content to have a good look and make sure it wasn’t just me being paranoid as usual. I poured them into a small container bowl on top of a paper towel, so I could see the difference in solids within the oil (don’t ask how many paper towels I use in a day). One of the solids were more of a lighter brown; this was the oil precipitate that melts with body heat. The other was more of a deep, opaque brown; this was the substance in question. I poured the dying batch down the drain with a hint of sadness. Instead of jumping right into making a new batch, though, I took my time this go-round.

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I washed my recycled amber dropper bottle with a touch of bleach, and soaked it in a warm water and vinegar solution to thin any stubborn oil clinging to the container. I’m actually not sure how long I let the bottle parts all sit in the solution, but I’m sure it was longer than a few hours. I poured out all of the solution and gave the bottle and its pieces a final rinse before towel drying and then setting them to air dry for a day or two more. In the meantime, I read up on different methods to safely infuse oil when using fruit peels. Once I figured out my new method, it was a matter of gathering the materials. Luckily, we had just stocked up on mandarin oranges (for some strange reason, despite there being an orange tree out back), so I had a snack and saved the skins for later.

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When I was ready, I gathered up all my tools and materials, which included something new. While working on something else that calls for jojoba oil, I decided to substitute it for grapeseed oil. Not only is grapeseed oil cheaper and more accessible, but it’s been said to be considerably lighter and absorbs into the skin just as easily (I’ll link articles with more information on grapeseed oil below). Comparatively, grapeseed oil is a lot less like olive oil and a lot more like jojoba oil, when it comes to texture and application behavior. It was actually a good decision in my opinion, and so it shows as I use it.

 

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As mentioned, this trial called for an extra step: the drying process. It was simple but a little tedious, since I had to make sure I didn’t burn the skins. Originally, I laid all of my skins on a small toaster-oven pan covered with foil and let them heat in the oven at 200°(F) for about 15 minutes at a time. I also used this time to sterilize the container I would be using by simply placing the open glass jar in the oven as well. After the first 15 minutes, I took out the tray, turned each piece over, and put them through another 15 minutes. Once the timer sounded, I put all the skins into my freshly sterilized jar. However, there was condensation on the wall of the jar, an indicator of present water content. So, I continued to heat the peels, eventually switching from using the large oven to using the small toaster-oven’s bake setting instead. After the tedious process of removing a few at a time (since some pieces took longer to dry than others), I was finally able to put all the peels in the jar without seeing condensation. Now, I could finally add my oils.

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I poured enough oil in the jar to cover all the peels, and figured I’d also use heat to jump-start the infusion process. I put the jar in a hot water bath for a little (less than an hour), and later removed it and left it to cool. When I was ready, I added two choice essential oils: lemon oil, as I did previously, and tea tree oil as a preservative. I kept this batch in a dark, cool place to infuse. I did fill my dropper bottle with some of that first batch, but later changed out batches because I wanted it a little more potent. I don’t remember seeing any signs of aging for a good month with this infusion. My personal preferences, however, is to only keep unstable solutions for a month max. But, while the actively infusing batch may have been discarded, I’m still going through that second fill, to date. I use it every night after washing my face and applying toner. Not only do I love the soft feel my face has and the improvement of my skin, but it’s, oh, so nice to know there’s no potential of bacteria growing in my infusion. In fact, I haven’t seen any solids, and it’s almost like I’m only using grapeseed oil itself. I still catch a whiff of roasted orange peels now and then, though.

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As always, I remind myself that it’s important to slow down and be patient when working towards a new DIY. I tend to get overwhelmed with the excitement of having a new product and all its benefits, I forget to actually make the product as best as I can. No matter: experience is a great teacher, though, only a fool goes to learn from it. And as foolish as I may have been in the start, I leave the experience with new knowledge and wisdom.

Links & References

Question

If you’ve infused oils before, what oil(s) have you used? If you haven’t, what oil(s) would you consider using?

Becoming A Siren | JTHL

If there is any hairstyle that I’m known for amongst my friends, it’d have to be box braids (or singles as I call them), specifically my black braids with green streaks. But, for the millionth time, recently I decided to be venturous with braid colors again. Up until this past summer, I have had green, orange, dark blue, burgundy, and honey blonde braids. In every case, though, these colors were all complimentary colors. My braids were predominantly black (usually a 1B) with strands of color peeking through. But then I came across this website. I had never seen so many different colors of Kanekalon hair on one screen and I wanted to try them all. I revisited that website countless times, making various pairings of colors I could see for myself until one day I finally gave in and bought a few packs of hair.

I had decided on a color scheme one would associate with the ocean. I was calling the look “becoming a siren” (because “mermaid” was too mainstream). I went through all the shades of blue and green that were available at the time, trying to create the perfect color gradient from a light tint of blue to a darker shade of green. It took me at least a week before I figured out which colors seemed to create the nice transition I was looking for. I wanted enough blue to remind you of water and marine life, but enough green to capture the actual color seawater tends to reflect (which isn’t always a commercial blue, but more of a soft turquoise). Once I was satisfied, I ended up purchasing six packs of hair. Three were green, two were blue, and one was a mix of blue, green, and a hint of purple. I also added a 7th pack later when I discovered the website also sells glow-in-the-dark-hair. I just had to have it; all or nothing, right? The hair didn’t take long at all to arrive. I ordered the hair on a Sunday and by Wednesday I was opening my mail. I was more than excited to start my hair. Seeing the packs of hair in person, you notice how vibrant the colors are and how true the colors are to their advertised picture (which can be rare in the e-commerce realm). Conveniently, I had already pampered my hair the Friday before, so my hair was in plaits. So, the coming Thursday, I decided to start my hair (in case I don’t sound impatient enough). I had a ribbed chair in my room at the time that I draped the packs of hair over, so I could keep everything separated. Installing the braids was not the difficult part. Keeping the mess to a minimum, however, was absolutely trying. But beauty has its sacrifices, and this one was well worth it in my opinion.

Caption: I was sitting on my floor at the time.

Just as I did the last time I used Kanekalon hair, I made sure to pre-taper the ends of each bundle of hair. I pulled up my laptop, found a good few movies, a Korean Drama series to binge, had a snack beforehand, gathered my styling tools, and got to work. The most tedious part about this go-round with braiding my own hair was separating locks of hair from their respective bundle. Once I got into a rhythm, I decided parting several pieces at a time would be more efficient. But I was also more focused on improving my technique as well. I wanted these braids to look more polished than my black and green signature look. I wanted to look like a sophisticated entity emerging from the water, preparing to seduce you and lead you to your own demise. So, try I did. I started at the front of my head, which is significantly different than anytime I style my hair. But I did this for two reasons. Firstly, I was weary I wouldn’t have enough hair (which I did) and, secondly, I wanted to judge how big I wanted my parts and braids (which I eventually stopped caring for once I went to the back of my head). Once I had gotten a general idea for how I wanted my braids to look, I fell into the rhythm of braiding and let myself relax with the sounds of a main character falling in love with their unachievable love interest. The first two back rows of braids were one consistent color. Afterwards, I finally opened my glow hair and started adding strands at the ends. The glow hair was more “piecey” than the rest of the hair, probably due to the chemicals on it that allow it to glow (a reason why it was added farthest away from my actual hair). This made it much easier to separate. I ordered the glow hair in the 12″ length, just so I’d have a feel for the hair for future reference.

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Caption: I’m pretty sure I squealed when I took this picture

Around two days, a K-Drama, several movies, and multiple bathroom and snack breaks later, I finally finished my entire head. I probably would’ve finished sooner, but I decided to be good to my body somewhere on Friday morning and actually sleep in between the process. Once I finished, the first thing I did was to give myself a nice long break from doing anything overly strenuous with my hands. If you ever want to build the muscles in your hands and wrists, I definitely recommend a braiding marathon. I think I actually went to sleep afterwards, it’s the only thing that’d make sense at least; I don’t remember doing much else during the day. In the evening, I finally went to seal the ends of my braids after doing some cleanup. Surprisingly, cleanup was minimal; it was nothing more than dusting off my bed and clothes, storing away the leftover hair, and putting all my tools back in their places. I had an old sheet lain on the floor under the chair that held my hair, so I dusted everything onto that since it was going to be washed later. After cleaning, I went to boil some water to seal my ends, did so, and towel dried as usual. My braids were uncharacteristically straight (for me, that is), so I did one last thing before turning in for the night officially. I used all the perm rods, curlers, or rollers I had to give as many braids as possible at the front of my head a bit of flare. For the back sections, I put them into big buns.

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Caption: Ignore the photo quality and the mess in the background

Sleeping actually wasn’t as difficult; I made sure to do the buns up in a way where I can actually lie down. By morning, I felt a bit more energized than the past few days and was excited to wake up and see my new hair. I took down the various types of curlers first and, I will say they did their jobs well. Unfortunately, using a bunch of different rollers and expecting uniformity is a little unrealistic – but I did it anyway. To make up for it, I came up with a simple, yet classy and wearable style: a classy half bun, with two streaks to frame my face and expose some of the curly texture they held. I loved everything about my hair and I couldn’t wait to leave the house and show it off. It was a Sunday, so we had church; I feel bad for wanting to be showy more so than attend church. I couldn’t help it! I actually felt confident in how I looked for once and I think I deserve a little pride here and there.

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I kept in the braids in for around two months. I had great timing in when I had installed them, as it was then when we later moved. Braids are always my ideal style for pool season anyway, but more so in any case where you can’t do your usual hair regimen. I kept my scalp cleansed and hydrated as normal, also being sure to care for the length of my hair. When time came, I finally took my hair down, and I never felt so heartbroken. Is it weird to develop an emotional attachment to synthetic hair? If so, know that I am your local weirdo. I was relieved to finally be able to give my hair a good cleaning and deep condition after so long. However, I continue to miss my siren locks to this very day. Somewhere in the future I may redo them for nostalgia. But let’s not forget the numerous other colors I first saw as well. Maybe I’ll do something different with another pairing…

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Caption: yes, I did buy cosmetics specifically for this look…

Links

Colors I Used

Last

Completed 11/30/2017