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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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Brain Drain: 2.8.2017 1:38

Finding time to write has been difficult lately, but, since I have some time now, I’ll do something simple – just to keep the creative juices up and active. So, if you wanted to read something artsy and invested, this is not that. This is just a life update: me rambling about nothingness. If you are interested in hearing my nothings, feel free to stay a little.

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The spaces between when I write are growing larger but I’m trying not to let it bother me. There are moments when I’m up late at night, wondering when the last time I sat down and typed until my fingers cramped, but I also try to make it habit to remind myself not to force my content. When I do that, the product is less invested in the craft itself, and more so “I just wanted a finished product”. So, I let time tick by as bitter as it can be to bare through it, but it’s worth it – at least, that’s what I try to convince myself. Maybe I should start doing writing prompts and things, so I can keep my creative mind on its toes… Outside of me griping about my negligence, though, let’s talk about things I’ve been liking lately.

Firstly, we have this frequent hiking my family has been doing. If you follow my Instagram, you’ve probably seen a few pictures, but lately we’ve been hiking just about every weekend. If not, we’re out on a mountain somewhere: capturing the sun as it sets, screaming just to hear our voices echo off the cliffs, and taunting my scaredy-cat mom when we change elevation. I’ve always been the outdoors type, so doing this is refreshing. The only problem I tend to have is with my small, unaccommodating wardrobe. Hiking in pants that are either too tight or too loose is not very comfortable. Additionally, my one pair of sneakers are a little too worn for some of the terrain we traverse. Nonetheless, I manage to power through.

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Caption: this may be a little fuzzy but I like the way the city lights look

On the topic of discomfort, I’ll also mention how much I’ve been loving carpets, cushioned shoes, and fuzzy socks. My job requires me to be on my feet a lot so any time I come home, I get almost excited to step onto the carpet or put my fuzzy socks on after I shower and lotion my feet. Forgive me if this sounds weird to you, but just sympathize with me for a moment: it’s the same as finally coming home to bed after being tired all day. The amount of relief is just amazing. As I write this, I mean it when I say, “I am at peace with the world to be sitting down with fuzzy socks on”.

Oh, and speaking of work, allow me to mention my go-to breakfast-at-2pm (because-I’ve-been-asleep-so-I-don’t-doze-at-work) meal that I’ve been eating. It’s just a simple egg sandwich with cheese but I’ve been using feta and muenster cheese. The first time I made this, it was just out of curiosity. But from the way the cheese stringed when I broke the sandwich to the yummy taste, the cheese fanatic in me was screaming for seconds. Now, if I’m short on time but need to eat something, I just cook up some eggs, folding the feta cheese in, and put some muenster cheese on top.

It feels unfitting to write content with this kind of voice; I’m used to creating and investing a lot of energy into content so as to avoid sounding small, juvenile, or anything similar. But right now, at 1:38am, I wanted to write to clear my mind. And, of course, it isn’t 100% clear but it’s significantly less frantic than it was beforehand. Writing is peaceful, especially when you let it flow, like so. I think I’ve said all I wanted to mention for now, though. Hopefully, I’ll sleep well (once I do sleep). Does anyone else almost exclusively write late at night and/or early in the morning?…

Exfoliating into the Nether

I can’t remember when I first got into making a body scrub, but I do, very clearly, remember why. Every so often I like to pamper myself and include a body scrub in my day, most frequently when I would shave my legs. I would use the scrub from knees to heels and found my skin to be smooth, supple, and hydrated. To this day, I still have a good body scrub in my arsenal, but its formula has changed over time. I still reap the benefits of using a body scrub either way, but the change in ingredients yield different sensations and results.

Sweets

I believe I started experimenting with different formulations when I was doing my research on coconut oil early on. I saw something that said coconut oil makes a great shaving cream (which I didn’t really believe). But I gave it the benefit of the doubt and started with a really simple recipe. It was based on other things I’ve found but of course I put my own spin on it. I used equal part sugar and solid coconut oil, adding a droplet or two of honey, a few drops of tea tree oil, and a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Now, this was the era when I tended to try things without doing hefty research as I do now. But I’ll make up for it by listing some skin benefits of sugar and cinnamon here (references listed after this article):

Like honey, sugar is a natural humectant. A humectant draws moisture from the atmosphere and into its environment – the skin. Sugar is also a natural source of glycolic acid. Glycolic acid helps in loosening old skin cells for removal to reveal new, healthier skin cells. Using sugar as an exfoliant is best for sensitive areas of skin because it is less abrasive than salt, another natural exfoliant. Sugar granules are round, thus providing a gentle scrub. Cinnamon is probably responsible for the supple appearance of my skin, as it improves blood circulation at the skin’s surface. Cinnamon has also been found to have some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, making it an effective mild acne treatment.

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Photo Source

 

Finding all this information, I wonder why I never used sugar and cinnamon for more than just my legs and feet. But knowing me and my DIY tendencies, I’ll probably experiment anyway. Back then, though, I used the scrub before proceeding to shave just to truly test coconut oil as an effective shaving cream. On its own, I think it would best suit someone with less hair to shave, but it does provide good enough slip for a razor glide over. I did use a cheap shaving cream over it the first go-round. Later, I decided to exfoliate after shaving as to leave my skin smooth and soft. I let a rag soak in hot water while I exfoliated, and would steam my skin afterwards by ringing the rag and leaving it damp. The sugar and cinnamon granules are water soluble so rinsing them off (or wiping with a damp rag) sufficed.

As nice as this all-natural and easy-to-make scrub was, there was the problem of shelf-life. I didn’t have as much an issue with preventing rancidity as I did with preserving the integrity of the mixture. As we know, coconut oil is a solid at cooler temperatures and melts when heated. Before I moved, I could get away with using coconut oil because it was typically cooler anywhere in the house. Living in the south, however, doesn’t maintain the same circumstances. Alongside this, we also know that sweet things attract not-so-sweet critters. So, making and using this particular scrub in large quantities isn’t very smart. This is the part where I “revamped” my scrub, as I’ve said to others.

Pink & Purple

My most recent body scrub recipe uses Himalayan Pink Salt as the exfoliant and my whipped Shea as the oily base. Not only does this solve the issue of rancidity, but I don’t have to worry about cooling my scrub before use since Shea Butter has a higher melting point. I’m not sure how I first heard about Himalayan salt, but I do know I’ve been meaning to mess around with it for some time. When I did my research on it, it sounded very similar to clay, namely bentonite or rhassoul; the main reason these clays are great detoxifiers is due to their ionic nature. Bentonite clay, for example, is a negatively charged clay, ready to attach its anions (negatively charged atoms) to cations (positively charged atoms), A.K.A such toxins on our skin. Similarly, Himalayan salt undergoes this exchange while leaving behind trace minerals that our skin will thank us for.

Himalayan salt is probably best known for its pretty color used to decorate a space, typically as a lamp. However, a rock lamp can actually assist in purifying air quality by attracting moisture from the environment. Referring back to ions (charged atoms), the oxygen atom in water is an anion. Salts typically are composed of sodium and chlorine, where sodium is the cation. Thus, the salt lamp is quite literally filtering out the air we breathe by attracting our oxygen, and only holding onto the impurities in the air (source: my chemistry class). Aside from all the science, Himalayan salt is also best known for its therapeutic qualities and is often included in a warm bath.

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Photo Source

I have yet to take a salt water bath, but the more I read that “it’s like bathing in the ancient Himalayan seas at home”, the more enticed I become. Thus far, I only have my body scrub. Now that I’m more accustomed to wearing more cosmetics on my skin (specifically, sunscreen), I don’t mind the increased abrasiveness. I don’t exfoliate much more than my face very often, so I basically need it anyway. The proportions of my recipe are still the same, where I use equal parts fine grain salt to oil base, but I also added a few drops of lavender essential oil. When I first made this, not only did it smell divine, but it just looked nice. It made me feel wealthy and I bought my salt from Ross. When you mix everything together, you’re left with this pretty, pink concoction.

I tested it on the back of my hand initially to see how I like the coarseness, and I did feel the difference with comparison to sugar. Though some may, I wouldn’t advise using this on the face because that skin is delicate. Using it on places with tougher skin would be best; if you’d like a coarser exfoliant, use medium grain salt instead. Later in the week, I tested it on my legs, as I’ve always done (minus the shaving aspect). I used a bar soap to cleanse the skin, and followed with my scrub after blotting away some of the water from rinsing. I had a bowl of hot water sitting near me with a hand towel soaking in it; once I finished lathering the scrub, I rung the towel out and steamed my leg as before. I have to mention – I am obligated to mention – the incredible scent that is released into the atmosphere when doing this. If you’re like me and you love the smell of lavender, you will enjoy this so much. A part of me wanted to do this a second time in one sitting because it was just that nice.

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Immediately after, my skin was smooth to the touch, and just felt a little more alive than the rest of me in that moment. I followed up with another experimental creation I was testing as well, and put on some fuzzy socks afterwards. The experiment is something of a product from trying my hand at emulsions, but I’ll save that for another rambling. I haven’t given my new scrub a name yet, but I feel it deserves one. I plan to use it again (and again, and again) in the future because it’s too good to let it waste away. I’m also pretty sure I’ll end up making a lip scrub with sugar as well. I’ll come forward and say I did a mini-test with the salt scrub on my lips and I have two things to say. Firstly, avoid letting this hit your taste buds at all costs like the plague, a message from a fool who took their lessons from experience. Secondly, the scrub left a weird tingly sensation, more akin to a mild sting or burn. I wasn’t sure how to interpret it, but I’d like not to repeat it. In short, Himalayan salt does not make a great lip scrub. I think I’ll stick to using my luxury scrub on the tougher, less vulnerable parts of my body for now. It’s been great thus far, and I see more magic in my future.

Links & References

Question:

Which exfoliant interests you most? Are there other exfoliants unmentioned that you like?

Half Glass of Lemonade

A little more than a year ago, I wrote a post titled Growing My Own Lemons. I’m not sure what state of mind I was in when I wrote it, but a part of me feels it wasn’t a very clear one. Reading back over it, though, I want to revisit it. So, on a whim, I am writing this.

Props to Myself

I had three major goals as listed in the original post: to mature economically, to get back into my hobbies, and to build on my career path. At least, that’s the short of it. To start, I’m pretty sure I’m currently not exactly where I wanted to be back then, but I’ll give myself credit for advancing in any degree. Over the year, I’ve acquired my license and currently share a car with my dad. Although it isn’t ideal, it’s a start nonetheless. I’m used to the traffic I had on the east coast; the drivers here are… they’re somethin’. Outside of the crazy drivers, though, I did find my way back into my hobbies. As I’m sure shows through my content, I’ve been really invested in photography lately. Before now, all my picturesque attempts were done with my phone (and to me, they were amazing). But there’s a strange, “official” feeling when you do it with a camera. I do have many other hobbies that I’m trying to find my way back to, but this baby step is still progress. As for the last point, I will admit, this is an area I’m still struggling to fulfill. But I suppose that provides a nice segway into the next portion of this post.

Proposal #1

As previously stated, I’m not one for new year’s resolutions. But this year, I did make one. Thus far, I’ve been holding to it pretty well, but the goal is to hold through to its completion. My singular new year’s resolution was (and is) to learn at least one new language. I have a plethora of languages I want to learn and an extensive list of reasons why to learn each – I can’t help it, I just love linguistics (I’m exposing my nerd, I know). So, while it’d be nice to be fluent in multiple languages by the end of the year, I decided one is a good minimum. I’ve intermingled my study plan between two different languages, but my main focus of study is on Korean. I have used a couple different sources in the past, but currently I’m using the book Elementary Korean from Tuttle in conjunction with other dictionary-like sources. All my books are borrowed from the library until I can purchase them on my own. In my free time, I try to either complete a full lesson or complete a couple exercises. Currently, I have my study plan set for studying Korean as much as possible throughout the week, with Friday being either my rest day, or my “study another language” day. So, every so often (when I remember to), I pull out Duolingo and study some Italian. I will admit, there have been days I skipped out on studying because either I was tired, distracted, or slept in, but I do make sure to make up for lost time.

Proposal #2

If you follow any of my socials, you’ve probably seen me talking about printing my photography a lot. And, well, it’s because I want to do that. When I go out on a photography spree – either by myself or while with others – I sometimes skim through the photo set and pick the ones that I feel are good enough to share. When I find some that are, I take my small photo printer out at home, and do a sort of test print. Currently, I have a triad of photos that I would love to share and I have already thought of a name for this photo series. Having said all of that, I guess this goal is to get my Etsy back up and, this time, make it functional. I’m still working out a few kinks and knots , but I think this is something I really want to work towards. When I do finalize things, I’ll make a post here as well, of course. I would love to sell my photography in small and large prints, and even as canvas prints as well. Alongside what I intend to post and sell directly on Etsy, I may open the opportunity for customers to put in special orders for pictures found on my blog that may not appear on Etsy. For this proposal, I’d greatly appreciate feedback.

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Caption: the first set I intend to sell, called “Palms” (guess why)

Proposal #3

Read and write more content. I miss reading. I miss writing. I miss literature as a whole, and I want to get back into it. Yes, I write content for my blog, but there are other projects – unfinished writing projects – that I have and want to finally return to and complete. I miss delving into the worlds other authors create, conjuring up ideas, and implementing them into the worlds I create for my characters. I miss the thrill of writing fiction, I miss realizing how much I must hate my audience to put such a sad scene into a piece – I miss it all. So, note to self: pick up more books. Go to the library and rent more novels. Open up your templates and world-build like crazy. Talk to your friends and roleplay to your heart’s content. Do it for your love of creation.

I want 2018 to be my year, finally. I want to own it and make it mine. The ultimate goal is to milk as much productivity out of it as possible, and when I thought I’ve juiced it all, ring it some more. I have to. For me.

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Photo Collage: A Warm Christmas

1.6.2018

Christmas 2017 was extremely different than any other Christmas my family has had. I’m used to being indoors, surrounded by my extensively huge (and loud) family, since it was too cold to go out anywhere. The only other time this was different was that one time we took the trip down to my grandparents’ house in Florida. But since we don’t live on the upper east coast anymore and instead live in the very opposite southwest, we don’t worry about cold. And as vastly different as that is, it leaves many opportunities for us to actually leave the house. And so we did.

flicks and fish

This Christmas, my grandparents, cousin, and second older brother came down to visit. And over the course of the holiday where my grandparents were here, we did a lot of fishing. I’ll save my griping for a Facebook post or something, though, and instead share some cool things. Like wild donkeys.

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The first place we went was Lake Pleasant, a regional park about two hours away from us (I think). Now for someone with as small an attention span as me, it did get a little boring. But I tried to make the most of it and just allow myself to absorb the beautiful landscape.

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Outside of me being artsy as per usual, my grandparents did their fishing, though, it seemed my granddad was the most engrossed in doing so. My grandmom couldn’t have been more fed up, from the hook getting stuck between rocks at the sea floor, to the occasional fish stealing the bait and leaving, to the ducks also trying to eat the bait.

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two generations

It was nice to get out of the house at least, despite returning with empty buckets and cold noses from the sea breeze and night chill. I took a lot of pictures, threw a lot of rocks, and spent time outside of my room, which anyone who knows me knows I need here and there.

feisty fish

Monday, Christmas Day, we did more fishing. By now, everyone was kind of in full gripe mode for a few reasons, but we had to swallow it and go anyway. We went back to Lake Pleasant and fished different coves.

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These spots had more walking space, which meant more of the cove could be fished at a time, which my father made use of. But the more I looked out on the water, I couldn’t help but wish I owned a kayak. It was one of those scenes where you envision something specific, and that image is so vivid it almost hurts that it’s not real.

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When we relocated to the second spot, we finally came to a conclusion about this park and fishing: we need a boat. I remember, before we moved, I was walking past my younger brother who was trying to fish using my dad’s fishing rod when the water started to ripple. He said he hadn’t thrown anything; the water just… started rippling. This happen at least three times before we assumed it was just some feisty fish, messing with our emotions.

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pink clouds

The speculation was later confirmed when we moved. My mom (who always makes friends with strangers somehow) was talking to this other guy who had been camping at that spot and trying to catch fish for more than a week. He had one singular fish which he was using to try and bait other fish closer but thus far had no luck. That was the only part of the conversation that I truly tuned in for; after hearing that, I was ready to go home.

ghosts n’ gold

The last time my family did anything on the 26th, we were in Canada, taking advantage of some amazing Boxing Day sales. This year, we went to a ghost town.DSCN1558I’m not exactly sure how my mom found this place, but she did. It’s called Goldfield Ghost Town and I believe it used to be a gold mine as well. Now, it’s this little hub of shops that sell cool nick-knacks and souvenirs. I was tempted to make a purchase a few times, but I was saving my money for clothes shopping later that day.

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mammoth saloon

DSCN1565As would suit, the area is full of western themed buildings inclusive of a little train. I’m not sure where it goes, but I assume it’s like a mini-tour, where the guide talks about the history of the mine and how this area came to become a ghost town. There was also a reptile house that I wanted to go through but we weren’t prepared to spend. However, I know what to prepare for future visits.

a grand finale

No visit to Arizona is truly complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon of course. At least, according to my mother.DSCN1599The last time we came to the Grand Canyon, my mom was persistent in taking us to this one part called “Hermit’s Rest”, which was closed at the time. Luckily, this time it was open. A fair portion of the time, my mother was nervously criticizing us (my father included) for taking pictures from arguably daring places. The fact is, any time we come here, mom, I’m gonna want the best pictures I can get.

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cactus willie’s
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upward gaze

After a while, it started to get a little chilly so no one else wanted to get out of the car anymore. But before giving up, I had to get a picture of the water in the canyon I had seen. I knew water was down there, but I never managed to get a good picture until then. They’re a little low quality but I captured it anyway.

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pool
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sunset

My cousin left before we visited the canyon and my grandparents had caught the flu, which began its rounds around the house. But everyone had some downtime and slowly got better, so I think that’s good. There’s a few speculations as to where it came from: either improper sanitation after so much fishing or just their bodies acclimating to new elevations. Regardless, everyone’s slowly recovering to good health. It’s sort of weird to think about this Christmas in comparison to Christmases in the past. But for me, personally, it was more livable, if that makes sense. A little bit of family, a little fresh air, and just a hint of chaos — not too much.

Let’s see what the new year brings.