Saturday, June 2, 2012

Who thinks they're not prejudiced?

Everyone gets pigeonholed. It's something you just can't avoid, no matter how hard you try. You can do your best to pick out your 'favorite' spot and try to fit it, but why bother? Someone is always going to look at you in a positive light, and someone else will look at you negatively for the *exact* same reason.

Here are some popular prejudices that I've run into (some of these don't apply to me, but that's why they're good to see - EVERYONE gets looked down on for similar things, just usually in different ways):

 - "WOW, you are just TOO SKINNY. Are you anorexic? Do you EVER eat? You should eat. Seriously, there is NO WAY you are healthy."

 - "Oh my god, do you eat anything but horrible foods? You shouldn't be wearing shorts. You're DISGUSTING. Please go have a salad and/or starve yourself."

 - "God, you're too pretty. You must be an airhead/not know anything about X/be a bitch."

 - "Haha, 'depression?' Yeah. That's just an excuse for you to sit on the couch all day and do nothing."

 - "Hahahahhaa. Loser. God, seriously, GAMING/Ren Faires/whatever?"

 - "Ugh. Such a hippy. Go take a shower/stop sucking down unemployment pay."

 - "You like *guns?* God, what is WRONG with you?"

Admittedly, these are very general, and you rarely run into someone who actually says any of that out loud - but if you're vulnerable to a stereotype, you know exactly what people mean when they say something sly and hint at it.. whether they're conscious of it or not.

Everyone has prejudices - and as Avenue Q says, "everyone's a little bit racist." Sometimes, without even realizing it, you reveal a prejudice you didn't know you had. We all inadvertently hurt people around us from time to time, but it's your own personal responsibility to try to limit how negatively you treat the people around you. It can be really difficult, but it's possible.

The best way to combat it is to have rock solid self-confidence, but a lot of people find that really difficult. I've been working on building my self-confidence over the past several years, and the most helpful things for me have been knowing that my friends support me and believe in me, and finding things that make me feel pretty and happy - no matter what other people think.

With that in mind, I bought my first pair of shorts (in a *very* long time) the other day. They were on super sale, and my mental process went something like this: "Hmm. Shorts. How do I feel about shorts? At least they're not 3" seam shorts, those I'd never pull off. But these? .... maybe. OOH, sold. At the very least I can wear them under dresses when we move and I can use them to carry concealed in."

That's right - my buying shorts was primarily influenced by being able to carry a gun while I prance around in my favorite dresses. My husband must be rubbing off on me. Luckily for me, My hips are something like 10" different than my waist, so pretty much all pants come built in with carry room for me. The shorts aren't scandalous - they have a 9 1/2" inseam, so with my super tall frame they come about halfway down my thighs. I still feel ridiculously exposed in them, but hopefully I'll get used to them with practice.

All in all, I knew I had made the right choice when I was complimented by *two* acquaintances the first day I wore them out. It may have been my skull dress (I *always* get told I'm cute when I'm in that thing) - but for once I wasn't wearing leggings or stockings with it. Instead, I just had the shorts underneath. It felt awkward, but good.

Every day is a chance to influence hundreds of people, positively or negatively. The next time you find yourself thinking harsh thoughts, take a moment to see where it's coming from. Is it justified, or are you just reacting off of some base instinct that (if said out loud) would hurt some feelings? You're never going to be able to get rid of those prejudices completely, but understanding the motivation behind them helps everyone to become a better influence and a better person.

What would *you* change about your own prejudices? It's tough to be honest, but if you are, the world can run a little bit smoother every day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nail Polish: Inspired!

I've decided to answer in more length the question that I've frequently been asked lately; which is 'how exactly do you make your own nail polish?' I am in no way to the stage where I formulate a polish with a company and then order x-amount of it bottled, but I am excited to say that I've sold several bottles on Etsy this week, and  I get excited every time I get that email saying that someone bought something.

So let's start out with what I *do* use.
This is my current collection of supplies: glitters in the back in tubes and baggies, shimmer powders and flakes to the left, and nail polish colors and base to the right.

I like to mix in jelly jars because they're easily cleaned out and re-used to mix (or for food, after I've cleaned them out eight times and then washed them with soap about the same), and because that lets me make a big batch for sale all at once. If you're just getting started, mix in an empty nail polish bottle that you already have so that you don't waste too much.

I start off by going to my color chart, where I keep a swatch of every complete color I've already made. This gives me a good idea of what types I've already covered, and what I can work with or build on.

Then, I look for a source of inspiration. Today, it was my little sister, Maia. One of her favorite colors is orange, and she's not that much into sparkly things. With the name I've already picked out in mind, 'Maia Papaya,' let's get started!

Select a basic color you want, and decide whether you want it sheer or completely opaque. Then, start mixing, a little bit at a time!

I wanted to make a really nice warm orange that's on the creamy side, so I started mixing an orange with a creamy yellow.

But it needed a little more depth to the color, so out comes the darker and shimmery orange.

Mix it all together really well, and then add the nail polish base to make it as sheer as you'd like.

Then, it's time to pick your additives. What glitters do you like? What ones will really spice up the color you've selected? Maia isn't into super glittery things, so I just added in some red sparks, which will give it a nice red shimmer.

And then it's time to mix, mix, mix again!

Those bubbles you see in the jar are air bubbles that will 'pop' out with time. The best way to mix nail polish so you don't get those is by using a stick or 'rolling' the jar between your hands until everything is mixed evenly. Once you've got everything mixed up to the point you like it, it's time to bottle!

And no nail polish is complete without having some pictures of it being used.

So now I have a wonderful new color, Maia Papaya, added to my color chart, and hopefully you understand what goes into making personalized polishes a little better.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nutella-Rum Cookies

While Merk is off, I like to bake a few times a month. Really, I'd bake more if I could get away with it, but you saw my last post - my body shape can't afford having me baking all the time. I take the proceeds down to one of the local farmer's markets to my friends there so that I'm not stuck with a full batch of something weighing me down.

Today, I made an adaptation of the flourless cocoa peanut butter cookies from Baking Bites, one of my favorite cooking/baking blogs. She talks about the cookies being chewy and tender, but my recipe isn't that way at all. My cookies came out supremely fragile and light, almost like a meringue, and ended up dissolving on the tongue with an amazing delicacy of flavor.

Here's what I did:

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg

3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup nutella
1-1 1/2 shots rum
1/2-2/3 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line your baking sheet with a Silpat (or use parchment paper if you have no Silpats. If you have no Silpats, though, put one down on your birthday gift list because I can't live without mine). Beat egg and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add in cocoa powder, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Once fully incorporated, dump the nutella in and mix well. At this point, you'll have a very thick fudgy batter. Drizzle in your rum and sprinkle the chips in, and mix until fully incorporated.

Scoop into 1" balls (but leave a lot of room, these things spread) and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until shiny and crisp on the outside. Pull from the oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling off. BE CAREFUL, as these cookies are extremely delicate. This is why you used parchment paper - if something gets stuck, you can very gently loosen it with a spatula or even peel the cookie off the sheet.

This is a recipe I am going to come back to time and time again - it's quick, uses few ingredients, and the result is a cookie like I've never tasted before!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Habits are a lot tougher to beat than you'd think.

Let's face it: I'm fat. It's something I've been coming to terms with for most of my life, and I have so many issues surrounding and involving it that sometimes I feel overwhelmed. Merk worries about me - both for my physical and mental health. He sees the difficulties I have going out and meeting strangers, especially those connected with his work. For years, he's told me that he just wants me to be healthy and happy, and we still have discussions and difficulties arising from this theme a few times a year.

There was a trip I took to take Merk lunch six months ago, when I asked to see the gym on base. We were about to get out of the car when I suffered a panic attack. Needless to say, we didn't go in.

I recently took an airplane ride from the other side of the country where the seats were 17.2" wide. Get a ruler and take a look at how big that actually is - a lot of people will fit that. I pretty much didn't. It was horrifyingly embarrassing. A six hour plane ride feeling like a hippopotamus stuffed in a clown car, feeling sorry for the poor German man sitting next to me. He was very kind about it, but it didn't stop me from feeling horrible.

It is really tough to change a bad habit, especially when it's one you've been propagating for over 10 years. Especially when it's one that you've been trying to ignore.

I go for walks a few times a week, but it hasn't changed much. I try to eat well, but it never seems to be well enough to make a change. There was a brief time that I had scheduled sessions with a personal trainer - I was loyal to going to them until I got the super cold from Hell and could barely move. It's hard to work out when every two minutes you're hacking so hard that people are concerned you have the Black Plague.

I'm trying to change the bad habits again, and it's a day-to-day struggle. Today was day one of going to the gym - it's further than I'm really comfortable going, but it's open 24 hours a day so I can go at 2am when there's no one there. We'll see how I manage this time, but there are no guarantees.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

'Old' vs. 'Young.'

I spent some time with one of my aunts last night for the first time in years. We caught up, talked about my grandparents some (the main reason for my visit out to New Jersey), and briefly flipped through the photos of my not-wedding party from last October. She wanted to know what it was that Merk did, where he was, and the usual questions that follow a line of conversation like that.

After finding out that things are tricky with re-enlisting right now, she asked the question that I expected to hear - whether or not I wanted him to stay in the military.

"Yes," I said, "as long as he wants to stay in."

"Isn't that dangerous?" she inquired.

"I don't care about the danger, I just want him happy."

"That's young," she said.

That's the first time I've ever really wanted to smack a family member in the face. That inclination didn't fully crystallize until several hours later when I was thinking about it, but let's break this down. My aunt feels that my outlook about Merk is 'young' because it apparently perpetuates a 'feeling of invincibility.' I didn't have the opportunity to explain my side to her, as conversation moved on very rapidly (my parents were there, and my mother almost immediately changed the subject. I'm pretty certain she realized that was not a good topic to be on), but let's go through that now.

Merk works a very serious job in a very serious place. He plays down the danger whenever we talk, but let's face a fact here - he's currently over in the Middle East. Even if he is in the most safe area out there, it's still dangerous right now. Someone could decide at any moment to bomb the base that he's localized on. He could go out into town and be maimed or killed just because he's white.

There's absolutely nothing I can do about that. Nothing. He's on the other side of the world, and even if I wanted to keep him safely cocooned in plastic wrap, there's no way to do that while he's over there. Yes, he's in danger. Yes, he could die or come home paralyzed or missing an eye or a limb. It's the chance he takes so that he can do something that makes him feel worthwhile.

Let's face a fact here. I could go outside, right now, and be run over by a car. It doesn't matter if I stay on the sidewalk or go running out into traffic - it's a legitimate possibility. The elevator in this antiquated hotel could fail and I could plunge four stories to my maiming. Danger is everywhere, but most people ignore it because they've learned how to minimize their chance of being hurt.

That's what Merk's training does for him. Yes, he's in danger, but he has been given the tools to minimize the danger that he is in. My primary concern is whether or not Merk feels fulfilled. I want him happy and feeling like what he does matters. Few people these days have that luxury, so as long as I can manage that for him, it's what I'll do. If being 'young' is worrying more about whether someone feels worthwhile than about how much danger they're in, I'm going to stay young as long as possible.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Boxes are da bomb!

Let's get one thing straight: I love getting packages. This is not the usual like that most people feel for getting something in the mail - it's a problem. I. Flippin'. LOVE. Packages. It's something that's easily kept under control when Merk is in town, because he and I do tons of stuff together.

When he's out of town, though, watch out! It's not like I go insane and buy up tons of crap, but the stuff that I've been putting off because it just doesn't seem important? That stuff normally makes an appearance within a few months of him leaving. Like a replacement bra for my favorite worn-every-day-when-it's-not-stinky one. I was depressed last week when I noticed that the underwire on it had ripped its way out of its casing along 1/4 of the cup. Seriously, how did I miss that?

So once I noticed that, it was a slippery slope. It is far to easy to go trolling online to my favorite store and -- oooooh, it's buy one, get one half off? AND matching underwear that looks like it should be comfortable but is still cute?! Oh, my! Long story short, a few days later I was waiting for a modestly sized box. I love the impetus it gives me to check my mail box every day, the anticipation of bringing the box inside and staring at it for a few minutes while the cats investigate. I adore carefully cutting through the tape and exploring the contents. It's almost like receiving the box is 3/4 of the pleasure of the item itself.

Imagine my happiness, then, when Merk sent me a box a few years ago while he was on deployment. This thing was HUGE. At least 2 1/2 foot square, it arrived when I was asleep. My delight upon opening the door to see such a monster of a gift on my doorstep was immense. What in the world could he have sent me? After bringing the mystery box inside, I place it carefully on the floor and force myself to ignore it for a few hours. I spend some time with our cat, Frak, and water our only plant, a stunted pine tree about 1 1/2 feet tall that my mother had gifted me for the previous Christmas.

Eventually, the monolith waiting in the middle of the floor can no longer be ignored, and I get the scissors. I cut through the seeming yards of tape and lift the cardboard flaps. I paw delicately through the layer of Styrofoam peanuts lining the top, and freeze in confusion. Cocooned lovingly within the box, I have uncovered two dozen Aquaglobes.

Two. Dozen. Aquaglobes. If you didn't catch it when I mentioned it earlier - Merk and I owned one plant. One. Why would I be sent two dozen Aquaglobes in the mail? Believe me, I didn't have an answer for that one. The only response Merk came up with was, 'I got a really good deal!'

That's right, we're a very special pair. I love getting packages in the mail, and Merk can't control himself around a deal. He complains that I will never stop telling this story, and it's true. I never will, and that's because right then, standing in front of 2 1/2 cubic feet of blown glass that I (mostly) had no use for, I realized that sometimes I didn't want the box.

It's how I talk myself out of getting things I don't really need - I just tell myself that Merk will send a box of Aquaglobes in retribution.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's like painting... with science!

Unbeknownst to most of you who will read this, there is a movement taking place. No, I'm not talking about Occupy. I've never been very politically savvy, and I doubt I ever will be, so let's table that discussion.

Right now, there are hundreds of people who are unsatisfied with the colors available to them for nail polish. I know, it's trivial, but for some people it's at the very least something that they can get creative with. As my mother will attest, I love to get creative. Back when I was young, I would spend hours mixing random things together to see what would happen. My room at my parents' house is painted three different shades of green with a yellow ceiling. The curtains are orange/red, and the bedclothes are about six different colors.

It is not a room most people find relaxing.

So when I started exploring the world of nail polish, it didn't take me too long to come across the world of frankenpolish. An obvious reference to Mary Shelly's well-known character, the term refers to mixing bits of existing polish to create your own unique shade. For those of you who know me, you will realize I find this to be a very appealing idea.

I have started to mix colors of my own, and it will take me a while to find my individual voice - but, hey! That's what artistry is all about! I'm still in the middle of finding a good 6-8 recipes that I like well enough, and then I'll try selling 5ml bottles on Etsy for a while to see if I stack up to everyone else on there.

It's a challenge to come up with something that will be individual enough to sell well, but I'm always up for a challenge! I can't wait to see what I come up with, and I'll keep you posted on my creations. For now, the only color that's near enough to muster is up on facebook. Let me know what you think!