DIY

A while back I had started getting into homemade beauty products. After my husband and I returned from a month long lomi lomi immersion at Ho’omana Spa Maui, I became more aware and more enthusiastic about using organic and natural products. Overall, just trying to keep it simple and reflective of what’s in nature. One of the courses we took while on Maui was on ancient Hawaiian plant medicine. In it we learned how to make a number of different things for the face and body that are beneficial.

Around the same time, at our old martial arts school, we had the opportunity to partner with the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Our martial arts lineage had a recipe for dit da jow, zheng gu shui, and this herbal tonic that a doctor over at the college worked with us to translate. Apparently the recipe we had was barely a guide. It had notes that were phonetic but also a bit quirky so it took the doctor a bit of digging to figure out what herbs were meant.

Dit da jow and zheng gu shui are pretty common herbal medicines and it’s not uncommon to see kung fu schools with various recipes. We used to get a family recipe from Brendan Lai’s Martial Arts Supply when they used to have a storefront in the Mission District of San Francisco. It was really good. Around that time, I think we were learning leg sweeps and my calves were so torn up. Ugh, awful. I looked like a weird leopard. The folks at school recommended the dit da jow and I seriously became hooked because it rapidly reduced my healing time. And, I think when you’re a woman doing martial arts, there’s just a certain amount of scrutiny about various bruises you may have collected that you just don’t want to deal with.

Anyway, we ended up partnering with the doctor to do a seminar at our school. As luck would have it, the school had been broken into, so quickly relocated the group to a nearby park since it happened to be a nice day. We made the three formulas right there in the park and the concoctions have been stewing ever since. I hear it’s kind of like wine in that it’s supposed to get better the more you let it sit. This batch has been stewing for about two years now.

Making the hit medicine and then being exposed to ancient Hawaiian la’au lapa’au has helped me to see opportunity in a lot of different areas. My family is a big influencer on my pull to grow and make things. At our old house, we had a backyard that was pie-shaped and contained lots of cool things like pomegranate trees, plum trees, and soon we put in raised bed vegetable and herb gardens. We were always pickling or jamming things. Then, my brother got into beekeeping so we had a hive on the property with access to raw honey. And one of the plants that grew well in the California coastal climate was lavender.

So, one of the things I first tried to make was a solar infused lavender oil. The bees LOVE lavender and also a lot of spearmint and lemon thyme we had. I used dried lavender from the yard as well as olive oil and coconut oil and then stored it in a mason jar which I kept out on the porch for about three weeks. It actually probably has some moon energy too because I wasn’t taking it in at night too, so there’s that too. On a later batch, I also added in lemon blossoms and orange blossoms from our little potted citrus trees outside.

The solar oil just has a light tough of the lavender, though when I tried calendula flowers in oil (after hearing they were really good for skin), that combination is much more potent – like a really heavy marigold scent.

When my brother gave me some of the beeswax from the hives, I got to thinking about salves and lotions. He had suggested salves since they are easier to make. I had originally intended to make this dit da dow salve or my dream was to make a lotion out of it. Since dit da jow is a liniment, I find it difficult to rub into the skin. It’s super watery and gritty from the herbs/minerals in the formula, so I would always have to take this extra step of mixing it with one of my lotions or oils in order to rub it into the skin a little better. But the lotion or oil I would mix was always a little off on consistency and had the chemicals or scents of whatever carrier oil/lotion I was mixing it with at the time.

With the wax, I started looking up recipes for lotions since I prefer that and how it’s less sticky than a salve. There are a lot of simple recipes out there. I had one in this book of herbal remedies that used a solar calendula oil to make a “rich, luxurious cream”. It’s similar to this basic recipe from Wellness Mama only you use the calendula infused oil in place of the almond/jojoba oils listed.

In my first try, I really learned the importance of prep and tools. Wow. I must have burned myself a number of times…

The wax I had was not like what you get at the herb shop that comes in small little beads that melt easily – think shredded cheese into a roux. My wax was a huge chunk that looked like it came from a block of artisan cheese. I thought I could cheat a step and just melt the whole thing in saucepan. Nope, it gets wax all over the pan that’s near to impossible to get off. This is where I felt I learned a new found respect for the double-boiler. Also, having grated wax to begin with. That would have made the process so much easier and avoided some hot wax splatters on my skin. Ouch!

The next part of the recipe that I find to be the trickiest is when you’re supposed to combine the oil-wax mixture with aloe vera. Since I ultimately wanted to combine the dit da jow, I really needed to follow these more complex recipes that had a cooling and second combining process. Enter, the blender. By the way, don’t use a blender to make lotion, it’s really terrible. What happens is the oil-wax can cool too quickly as you’re mixing in your blender and then it gets all piece-y and chunky in your blender. Plus, the blender ends up getting a lot of body product junk on it.

Heed my warning! Don’t use the blender. Probably I should have just used one of those handheld immersion blenders and bought separate equipment for making body products. So, what resulted was a lotion that was very moisturizing, but had these pockets of wax that you really had to rub into the skin. Now when we moved and were making it through our first winter in the Rockies, the extra protection barrier the wax created was kinda nice. It helped my dry skin a lot, but other than that, it wasn’t a functional every day lotion.

I consulted a friend who’s a cosmetic chemist to see if there was any way I could salvage what I had done. I mean, here’s this homegrown lavender and beeswax and it would have been potentially just totally wasted. Luckily, she said I could go through the heating and mixing process again and that should fix it. And it sorta did, but it was still off. Then, I had one tub that was very liquid-y with bits of wax not quite melted and incorporated. And another batch that was super sticky waxy.

Between my friend’s advice and this other site, I also incorporated a couple tips to get the kind of lotion I wanted. I definitely have a new appreciation of chemistry and emulsifiers after this.

So here’s how I fixed it.

I got the double boiler set up and also a whisk.

I monitored the heat really closely while pouring in my waxy lotions and whisked the heck out of them. Not fast, but consistently so that the waxy lotion was at least better blended.

Then, I’d add the liquid-y lotions more and more while still mixing and making sure everything was blended.

The problem was I had more liquid-y lotion than waxy so I also decided to incorporate this other face lotion, I’d gotten from Lush that was kinda like a salve but left a powdery finish. If I wore more makeup, this product would have been really good as a primer. Or, if I was in a really humid climate, but since it’s dry where I live now, I knew I’d never really use it.

I think by combining this product into my lotions, it helped out so much. And I found out later because you can’t use beeswax in a lotion in place of your emulsifying wax. Wow. Learn something new every day!

Still, the process taught me so much and while it may be a long time before I attempt a lotion again, I have more of a sense of this process now and what all is involved in it.

What really makes me happy though, is knowing exactly where these ingredients are from. I hand selected all of them (except for the Lush stuff). When I wear the lotion, I know that there’s infused oil from my old backyard and wax from the bees. It’s a nice feeling for something I will probably use up in a couple months.

lotion

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#19

my left shoulder linked me to the world

as one pivotal point connecting my intuition to reality

it allowed me to extend my hand easily

 

and then it was hit

and then this left shoulder froze up

and then it didn’t want to move any more

and it rebelled against any kind of movement that connected it

 

the anger it felt

it just went through the motions

leaving it to others to take care of

since it knew what happened when it tried

 

it wanted to heal

it just didn’t know it had to

and every time this shoulder twisted forward

it would only go so far

 

we all knew it could do more

 

still it scoffed at anything imaginative

or big

or difficult

as something for other shoulders to attempt

 

sometimes the simple act of this shoulder being in a room

sometimes this shoulder attempting in a small way to move

sometimes it began to uncover something new

 

it is learning to unthaw

that its toughness is not a brick wall

and can be melted

and when it does

its reconnection

will

be

magical

 

because this shoulder connected my self and intuition and hopes and dreams

to reality

stretching out as it does so freely

to eternity

 

 

 

 

#16

Ok, so I need to go out of order in order to make some headway with this poetry challenge. So be it.

 

the spaces in between

cause no rattle

no, the soft tissue wrapped

strong yet pliable

the rhythmic pulse

and a quiet whimper

more of a strained wheeze

though this sound is not typical

as the whimper fades away

a hum emerges matching the sound of horizons

and deep forest spaces

and places considered sacred

#9

symptoms:

constantly running

in some respects a good thing

constantly turning and thinking and speculating

you try to hold it in your mind but it transforms into something else

diagnosis:

i see now that you have trouble being stationary

do you feel as though you are carrying something you can’t get rid of?

an invisible monkey holding onto your neck with firm grip?

yes, this prevents the thoughts from releasing properly so they swirl endlessly instead

you probably have tension in your upper traps from the weight that isn’t your that you carry

treatment:

we need to give you tasks to do

big and small, endless juggling at first

we see that you are nimble

and also we recommend a kind of surgery

well to a degree — it’s non-invasive

one of the things will be to relax enough that we create an opening next to your neck

it’s like bone setting

once we get space in between the monkey’s grip and your neck

we latch onto the invisible monkey with a firm grip of our own

it’s a swift pull and then it’s off

you should notice instant relief in your neck and upper back muscles

over time thoughts will cycle through regularly

prevention:

1) nature

2) breathing deeply

3) gratitude

4) action

5) walks and other forms of physical exercise

6) meditation

7) eating right (less sugar and alcohol which are the monkey’s favorite)

conclusion:

just because you have an invisible monkey strangling your thoughts and keeping them from circulating

don’t let it keep you from a normal, happy life

invisible monkey is treatable

you can be free

#6

i don’t care who gets the ring

who wears it

who has the lamps and the cleaning supplies and

don’t you know there are hearts now everywhere?

like the kind that said hellooooo

and after a long yawn

and that the stuff is no longer here

i don’t care

split it a million ways and could all be moved to the garbage dump

swimming in the Pacific gyre

sea of memories of times when they just sat

or spoke to tell story

and my heart goes up up

up up

rate goes up up

up

increase the value of the living beings i once (still do?) knew

as each inch of carpet is dissected like delicacy

everything has it’s price

but it won’t bring them back

neither will the picture frame

the desk

The vacuum

neither will the claims and tears and arguments of what a human heart is capable of feeling

that she didn’t have a limit on how much she put out

as did he

as did she

as did all of them

and my blood boils when i think of how we devour the unimportance of

what’s left

dilated and honed in pupils my heart beats at rebellious pace

to high pitched scream

in order to be grounded once again

in the midst of this greedy confusion

i hate

talking

about

this stuff

#2

plastic granite table filled with phat beats

ridge around the edge

cut up yourself up

when you bump and try to fill this

feast of plenty

feast of a thousand songs

playing in plentiful unison

heartbreaking to soulful whisperers in the dark

in the darkness you look better

you can see you

how a book of matches keeps you level

you can see how you support the flashing lights

grumbling motors from faraway streets

yes, inside the bottom of a blue lit cavern

and below you behind a makeshift skirt

hidden treasures abound from journeys near and distant

hours spent enlisting, refining, the dusty discs

spin on the platters two at a time

transcendent sounds

banquet of healing

you take us to another space

simple as you are

we will spill on you

laugh, holding each other til dawn

dance by your side

bass makes you shake

fold you up and snap your legs back into place

you a lightweight so we just

hang out by the wall until the invited come again

and we decide the menu

all night 

sweat

room full of magenta purple 

bright light pans every corner

tiny moving reflections circle the room

expanding into points warped by their orbits

and 90s house beat

vibrating basslines that carry us across

warm mid levels

with synthetic piano 

dancing shadows move in a small room

crowded 

empty

each one alone even in the of warmth of togetherness 

while the beat goes on

singer calls over the anthem something we can all relate to

but the joy is personal 

we hold it in

don’t express it except through

constant movement 

as the music builds

beat gets thick

basslines so heavy that it would be impossible not to move

filling every corner

every cell

every thing

even the floor

the light

imbued with sound 

that becomes the bodies

becomes the space 

becomes each movement

burning strong

the beads rolling down sides of faces 

until eyes begin to realize where they are

music transforms

a gust of air spreads love

relief

and then the people dance not too the music

not just to the music

but the moment of connection 

when eyes are seen

hands are felt

smiles are revealed

slowing down

occasionally 

the signal from the body

the initial conversation 

what it does to get your attention

the questions it asks of you

and the mind moves slow

the muscles don’t feel like struggling 

like pushing

they look for smoothness

smooth edges

no jagged points

and no bumps

and when they come 

body closes it’s eyes

and tries to let go of the tightness in the throat

body tells the mind to rest

that it’s ok to do what it can

tomorrow is another day after all

the time for rebuilding

night time is for recalibration 

body breaks into a million pieces before the sun rises

when it does

i go to collect them

the heart goes first

the nice thing is that it’s the first thing to come back

and it’s beating distinctly by the time the rest of the body is in order

night time is a time of reorganization 

memories solidify

information downloaded into muscles, sinews, bones

but you never remember where you are in the split second that you regain consciousness 

the realization dawns

when you’re lucky

when it’s quiet

you can segue into morning

past the darkest hour

into the first light of day

sun around the corner

coming up from the mountain 

and as the rays of light fill the sky

that’s when the body comes back to place

it has rested

it has recovered

it has reassembled

in order to live a new day

to move mountains

maybe the immediate pain

could trigger a release

that would be so much greater

than the miniscule point experienced

and you would see the kind of shift

that would move mountains

and then you would truly know

you are capable of so much