Friday

On asking yourself, "Self, what's your deal?"

Of course it's happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?

I've always loved this quote from Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so much that I've considered getting it as a tattoo. Back when I got the idea, it called forth my belief about the power of words and creativity, the legitimacy of what one imagines.

But I'm mercurial, believing nothing for too long before questioning it. I read books like The Secret that convinced me of the power of my thoughts and intentions, and then read others like The Untethered Soul that proclaim the path to spiritual freedom is not being deceived by fears and beliefs inside your head. Two conflicting worldviews, each with anecdotal merit at some point in my life.

I've dabbled in the Enneagram and have mentioned it before, at least in one of my videos if not on the blog proper. It's a fascinating system of nine personality types. Within each type there are levels of functioning. I'm a Type Six, The Loyalist, and there are behavior patterns typical of all Sixes and patterns specific to Sixes functioning at healthier or less healthy levels. The goal is to function like your best self.

A Six's main motivation is security. Sixes "look to structures, beliefs, allies and authorities to put their anxiety at rest," according to the book Personality Types by Don Richard Riso with Russ Hudson.

Sixes contradict themselves at every turn. They want to be independent and can be rebellious, but they "have difficulty trusting their own minds, their own ability to know what to do without reference to ideas that are not their own." I blame my Sixness for my polling of my committee — my unfortunate inner circle — whenever I'm stressing about something that I think but almost certainly isn't major.

The Loyalist part comes in, as I understand it, when Sixes find something on which to pin their hopes for security, be it a job, a lover, a church or anything else. Sixes want to believe in something and feel certain.

When I think of Type Six, I think about Katniss Everdeen. All Katniss cares about is a secure life for her family. Like any Six, she's keen in her awareness of what the rules are, who is in charge and what is expected of her. In all things, she looks for who she can count as an ally, but she fears being betrayed. For all her self-questioning and general dislike of herself, contradictory Katniss relies first on herself.

So I've got this quote that I love, but I don't know how it fits in my worldview. My worldview changes. That's probably normal and healthy.

I know that my mind can be an enemy when it wants to convince me to be frightened and fight back even if I'm just punching walls or the air, accomplishing nothing but tiring myself out. But I know my mind can be an ally. Everything I have, I got because I wanted it and set out to get it. Came up, that's all me, just like Drizzy said.

But why should you believe anything happening in your head when, clearly, not everything happening in your head stands up to logic?

Because you are the ship traveling through your universe. You are the vessel carrying you. That's why I'm so into this self-discovery business. I want to get why I think the things I do, wrong or right, because whatever I believe about my life is true. I'm the one experiencing it. So if I have a belief or feeling that's an unhealthy fallacy, I have to validate its existence as part of me before I can abolish it from myself.

As a Six, where do I find my security?

That's what I'm trying to figure out. Like Katniss, I'm my own best ally. Like the evil Queen Catherine on my new favorite show Reign, I believe "History is written by the survivors. And I am surely that." I think my sense of security feels so unstable because of the very thing that keeps me going — a sense of destiny, that I'm meant to live a BIG life, but not knowing exactly how to get there. (I think my destiny has to do with writing, but I've written enough for today without getting into that.) I believe in love. I believe in a just God. I believe the universe has a sense of humor. I believe in kindness. I believe in being a light amid the darkness and negativity. I believe I'm powerful. I also believe I'm human and insecure, and that I will forget all my beliefs and freak out on a whim at least five times a week.

That's just the Six in me.

Tuesday

Long may teenage drama costume departments 'Reign'

I've expressed interest in royalty, anachronistic fashion and France, although you wouldn't know the latter by seeing how behind my Duolingo app says I am on my French lessons.

For the last few days, I've been loving The CW's Reign, a dark romantic drama about Mary, Queen of Scots that takes liberty with historical facts and fashion.

There's much to unpack about a show that uses a prophecy by Nostradamus as a major plot point, invents a bastard half-brother for the purposes of a love triangle and turns a sickly teenage runt from your AP European History books into a dashing playboy. Then there's the madwoman in the castle, the romantic entanglements of Queen Mary's ladies in waiting, and intricate and violent double- and triple-cross plots.

We could even use this as a springboard to talk about how batty our history is, with all these teenagers and their whims who controlled the world and ran around getting everyone who irritated them beheaded.

But the show. The show is ridiculous, and I love it. What I love most is the fashion.

Everyone on Reign is quite attractive
Rather than adhering to Renaissance authenticity, the show takes silhouettes and textures inspired-ish by the 16th century but modernized with contemporary pieces you could shop for right now. The girls wear designer gowns, brocade fabrics, crochet dresses, sheer capelets, bejeweled boleros and elegant headpieces. They wear custom corsets, but everything is flowy, with nothing more voluminous than a tulle skirt.

I don't pretend to know anything about 16th century European fashion, and apparently Reign makes insultingly inaccurate fashion choices for people who are versed in sartorial history. And I'm sorry. I'm really, truly sorry, but it's just all so pretty and fun. As a rule in my life, I love everything far too much immediately to worry whether it's poor quality and a sign I'm classless or intellectually slumming it. I hold myself to stupidly high standards, but I am so easy to please in my consumption of entertainment. So yes, give me Free People blouses and Alexander McQueen gowns and floral crowns straight outta Coachella. I will watch for hours.

Reign style inspiration

I adore the Reign look, inaccurate as it may be, because it's romantic, ornate and can be a source of inspiration in my wardrobe. Something like an embellished hairpiece or regal jacket can be added to what you already wear. And I'm definitely feeling that the look is a perfect way to incorporate the chain maille jewelry that I'm learning to make.

Some of my accessories, including my handmade chain maille earrings

This Tumblr has shopping information for outfits and accessories worn on the show, and this blog by one of the recappers for the A.V. Club is merciless and hilarious in its incision and derision.

Do you watch Reign? Does historical authenticity in costumes matter to you when you watch a period show?

Friday

Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow: Formula X For Sephora nail polish in Turbo, and a weekend update

I've never liked the color yellow, but last week, I became obsessed with getting a bright yellow, glittery polish after browsing Sephora's Formula X offerings. I'm trying to expand my palette.

This color is called Turbo from Formula X Electrics. The shade that I wanted originally was called Highlighter, from the same brand and quite similar, but maybe leaning a bit more toward gold. But it wasn't available at my Sephora, and this one was for some reason $2 less, so I just got it. Really, they're like the Olsens. They can pass as identical even though they're fraternal. This is why I keep a man around — for perspective about the negligible difference between colors.

Formula X For Sephora Turbo Swatch
In natural light.

This is four coats. Three was OK, but I thought the color looked more cheerful, less ratchet, at four. At three, it looks sort of radioactive, but at four, it's more canary yellow and very pretty, and 100 percent opaque.

With flash. Inexplicably hiding the bottle. #idontknowwhatimdoing

This was the second time that I painted my nails this color in as many days, and as I'm typing this, I'm on Day 2 of my third try. I blame my top coat. I've been using CND Air Dry for a while and I've at last decided that I hate it. There is so much hate in my heart toward that top coat. At first, I thought it was cool because it self-levels and forms a shell on top of the polish and looks very smooth. But then it starts to shrink away from the tip of the nail, exactly where my chips start, and my polish starts cracking like egg shells within the day. I'm now trying Sally Hansen Insta Dri.

***

I'm off on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Despite the fact that the cold and snow gave me every excuse to be my usual hermit self, I made a point of socializing. I very badly need to break out of my crazy-making rut and give my brain less reign over the rest of me. Stupid brain.

So on Wednesday, I went to a knitting/drinking meetup and met some awesome chicks. It's fun to sit at a restaurant with a bunch of people who are knitting. Other diners don't know what to make of you, and if they side-eye you too much, you can go and poke them with your knitting needles. I'm working on a ribbed hat with a ball of self-striping Noro yarn in black, gray, purple, pink and yellow.

On Thursday, I went to have coffee and browse some shops with my friend Sophie and her little boy, Felix. To call him an adorable, precocious little genius is an understatement. I had so much fun with the two of them, and Sophie was far too nice about me being almost an hour late.  

Guys, I'm not the best driver. Pittsburgh is the worst city to drive in, because it was designed by people who I can only assume were drawing where bridges should go with a crayon held between their teeth while drunk and being spun around in a chair by another drunk person. GPS is useless because it tells you "right," and that doesn't always mean "right" in Pittsburgh. You can stay on what you think is the same tine of the fork in the road and realize that you've gone on a different road and be rerouted a way that adds 15 minutes to your trip.

And it was snowing. I may or may not have crashed into a curb.

***

Before I let you go, I'd like to invite all my blog girls — you! yes, you! — to swap sidebar ads with me! I've been swapping ads here and there but realized I've never announced it as an option. If you'd like your beautiful face and blog link featured, please send me your button (200x200 is best, but anything with a width of 200 is fine) to emeraldsandstripes@gmail.com, and you can grab mine to your right. Woo hoo, sidebar party!

Hope you all have an awesome day.

Sunday

Don't feed the monster


There are stretches of time when I'm convinced I'm in danger.

Anxiety is the worst facet of my life, and it's a giant one. It takes over and replaces a bright, bubbly person with a crumpled, crying heap whose heart threatens to blow up. I get so scared. I concoct these elaborate, grandiose doomsday scenarios triggered by the smallest stimulus. I don't do this for fun. I don't do it on purpose. I'm not bored and courting drama.

As far as my brain is concerned, I'm naked on the rack in a public square, being slowly ripped apart, and everyone is pointing and laughing.

There are times when I'm fine, and times when every day my adrenaline is surging as much as if I barely dodged getting hit by a car. It's a constant case of the mean reds.


Complaining about anxiety makes me even more anxious. Because people want you to just snap out of it. They think you're crazy. Self-indulgent. Or a total narcissist who gets off on the paradox of megalomania meeting crippling self pity.

My anxiety is a monster. I've tried everything I can think of to tame it. Prayer. Hypnosis. Yoga. Therapy. Medication. Music. Knitting. Drawing. Reading. It all helps, to an extent. If you told me underwater square dancing to dubstep while wearing feathers was the guaranteed cure for anxiety, I'd go get me a chicken and start plucking.

I'd had it under control for a while, and then I cracked. And when there's a crack in my psyche, it spreads. Bad stuff seeps in. I'm fully aware how ridiculous I'm being, but I can't reel it in.

I can't tell you how it started, because I've always been easily riled. As a kid, I'd vomit when scared of new places. That evolved into stress-induced migraines. I went through a phase where my hands would shake so bad that I couldn't hold a pen or turn the pages of a book. Confirmation bias that the world is dangerous has made it worse, for sure: everything from the fatal shooting of a teacher at my school in sixth grade to my family life growing up to my volatile past relationships contributed to my fear of everything.

So in therapy a few years ago, we talked a lot about not feeding the monster by doing things that trigger the anxiety or worsen the attack.  For me, a big source of anxiety is overanalyzing social interactions. If there's a string of text messages that I know I'm going to keep rereading and stressing out about, I delete them so I don't have the option to do that. Sometimes, I can shut down a thought pattern by labeling it as destructive rather than constructive. I can play "real or not real" like in Mockingjay and go through basic facts and observations that make me feel grounded.

But the monster has been allowed to gorge, and I haven't kept up with my strategies. Now it's time to put it back on a diet. There's a core in me that nothing touches, but the monster and anything it manifests as has been clawing close to that center.

If you're anything like me, remember this passes. It's hard to remember when it's happening, and I'm just now emerging from a bad spell. Give yourself a break. Don't feed the monster. Because that's what makes it become real.

Thursday

Just like a circus


I got Urban Decay's 24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Bobby Dazzle, a glittery silver, over the holidays with a gift card. I haven't gotten much use out of it. The paintbrush-style liquid liners are much trickier to use than the marker style I prefer.

I got the idea to use it with another liquid liner to draw alternating stripes on my upper lash line. Milani's liquid liner in the shade Infinite was sitting around on my vanity, so I grabbed that one and went to work.

I did my left eye first. I drew a slightly angled line at the outside corner of my eye, about as high as I would flick up my winged liner. Then I drew a blue stripe alongside it. I tried to make each line curve down and start a bit lower on the eyelid than the line before it, so that it would look like a solid, smooth shape once complete.

The left side was pretty simple to do. Getting the right side to match took me multiple tries (and these liners stick around, so they're hard to remove!). What worked best was starting at the lash line and drawing up on that side, when I had been starting at the top and drawing down with ease on the left side.

This look reminds me of the stripes on a circus tent. I'd love to see it in black and silver, pink and white, green and blue. 

I could have done one solid base layer and painted complementary stripes on top. However, I think this type of liner is prone to feeling tight and cracking, and that's more likely to happen by making one long horizontal chunk. This way, the liner feels comfortable and stays put.

Try this the next time you want to do something with your eye makeup that looks impressive but is simple. What color combination would you try?

Tuesday

Sh*t Men Say

Voyage of the Mee Mee


Let me state for the record that I desperately love Amanda. I once told her that I'd blate her so hard and then blarry the hell out of her. If she told me to jump, I'd say, "How high, and shall I bring you a soda on my way back down?" She's just a cool chick.

So of course I'm doing the link-up she's running with Duh! Danae! The hiccup is the menfolk in my life were all pretty busy talking me down from a prolonged anxiety attack recently to say anything too ridiculous. Or I just wasn't paying attention. Or, as my guy friend said when I was complaining about having nothing to write about, "Just slap a short intro on there about how awesome your men are and post it up."

And while they are awesome, they are also funny and ridiculous. I like to think that's because I'm funny and ridiculous and they follow my example. Here are some recent hits:

My husband
On housework:
Me: "Babe, just relax!"
Eric: "No, this place must be spotless for the child!" (Editor's note: We don't have a child, nor are we expecting one. But Eric says we need to stop being slobs before we even think of procreating, so that and thrift shopping are his new jams.)

My bestie in Pittsburgh
On an awful person: "Mah. He's a pissant fuckface shitheel. I'm turning in, but I mean it — he's a potato bug."

My bestie who happens to be gay
On Jeremy Renner formerly being a makeup artist: "I don't know if he's fap worthy. Ryan Gosling knitting ... that's what I'm talking about."

On Jennifer Lawrence's Golden Globes dress: "I'm not a fan of the bridal bondage look."

And that's all that's fit to print. I'll take better notes next time! Stay sexy, don't be a potato bug.

Friday

Anachronistic fashion inspiration

Were I the richest woman on the planet, my wardrobe would look like a museum of fashion history merged with the costume department of a science fiction film.

Consider it a side effect of my Doctor Who obsession. Or my research of steampunk and cyberpunk for the novel I started writing for NaNoWriMo (and still have to finish). Or just my deep appreciation for fashion and archetypes and how looks evolve.

There's something really sexy about over the top, impractical, out-of-its-proper-time style. That's why Dita Von Teese is so beloved as a style icon — she really commits to this retro mood and era in everything she does, and that's so glamorous.

I love so much from so many eras, even eras that are just hypothetical! I love high Victorian lace collars. I love futuristic silhouettes with modern (and somewhat kinky!) materials like latex and neoprene and metals. I love sexy cutouts. I love curve-enhancing jumpsuits and rompers and high waists. And corsets. I know women have been liberated from societal pressure to wear corsets, but can't we just wear them for fun sometimes? Hell, I even love eighties neon and plastic jewelry.




If you could travel in time to any style era, what would it be? Do you think there's any item that you could incorporate in your wardrobe that's reminiscent of that era?

Thursday

A citrusy cocktail. Because I hate winter.

I felt like having a cocktail last night — a rare treat, with Pennsylvania's draconian liquor laws and my infamous, nonexistent tolerance — so Eric and I stopped at a spirits store during our day off errands.


I'm so over these polar vortex shenanigans. While my first instinct was to get some drink ingredients for something wintry, we were both totally over these cozy, wintry flavors. Anything butterscotch or caramel or pumpkin spice or peppermint would just be rubbing the cold misery in. I just wanted to have something seasonally inappropriate and distract myself from the fact that crying about the weather won't offer any relief, since the tears will just freeze on my face.

Like the sun emerging from dark storm clouds. GET IN MY BELLY.

We already had some grapefruit and some Rose's Grenadine. I like flavored vodkas (especially cake-flavored vodka) and wanted to try a new one. Eric's lack of enthusiasm for the cotton candy variety led to me picking Pinnacle's Strawberry Shortcake offering. It is super sweet, almost rendering a mixer unnecessary. Almost.


My experiment was delicious. The sweetness of the grenadine and the vodka goes great with the tartness of the fruit. All you need is the juice from half a grapefruit, 2 glugs of the flavored vodka (I can't be bothered to measure out ounces, so just put in a shot or two) and a splash of grenadine. Shake over ice and strain into a martini glass, and if you're feeling fancy, garnish it with a slice of grapefruit.

We tried another experiment, with whiskey and pureed blackberries, but the whiskey just overpowered the blackberries. I would have tried the blackberry puree in the strawberry shortcake vodka, but it instead went into some Greek yogurt.

Some lime chips, mango salsa, hummus and my grapefruit cocktail made the feels-like temperature feel like a minor concern.

I made you a pressie — A worksheet to recharge your mojo!

There are times when I hate answering questions about myself. I have this very twisted notion that I'm going to answer them wrong! But introspection with a purpose is something I want to focus on this year. I'm trying to put my energy toward anything positive and uplifting about the world and my sense of self.

That's why I made this fun little worksheet and filled it out! It's one way I'm tuning into the best of myself to give my mojo a boost. You can download a blank copy here and fill it out for yourself, or post it on your blog and link back to my site. I recommend downloading it and then editing it on PicMonkey or some other image editing program that allows you to make text boxes.



Feel free to copy the link so your readers can fill in their answers, too. Want to share your finished project? Leave me a link to your blog in the comments!

Wednesday

My mandatory sappy New Year post


A new year isn't really a new beginning.

But it's a great time to remind myself to tell a new story, one that starts in medias res. 2013 was a better year than several before it. I'm happy to have the events of 2013 as my backstory. 

This time a year ago, I was in Santa Fe, enjoying a chill get-together with my close friends at our little apartment, while thinking to myself, I will be somewhere else next New Year's Eve.

Sure enough, by May, I was in Pittsburgh. And as weird and woo woo as it sounds, it feels like I was always heading here. When I look back, I see the clues. I stressed and cried and worried for so long because I was unhappy where I was and with how my life was going. But as soon as I did the whole "surrendering it all to God" thing, I got an email about a job that I thought I'd never hear back from.

Well, here I am. And I am so happy to be here.

The beginning of 2013 was fun. One of my favorite memories is from when I took the most fantastic trip of my life with my husband, visiting family and friends all over the East Coast — and going to the Harry Potter theme park! — and spending a nice chunk of time in D.C., which I had always wanted to visit.

I also remember going to see a tarot reader early in 2013 in Santa Fe who I had visited once before. I  asked her all sorts of questions, trying to get my not insignificant amount of money's worth. I asked her about jobs and babies in particular. The psychic said that I definitely needed something to do, and that having a baby would be a wonderful choice, and that she could see me getting a new job but staying in Santa Fe. Not what I wanted to hear, the staying put in NM part.

I guess I did have a baby, of sorts, and a new "job" that started in Santa Fe: this blog. My little but mighty corner of the Internet has given me so much motivation. I needed an outlet, I needed to be creative and I needed something to look forward to, and my website has been all that. Every time I get a comment, or when a co-worker will say they loved something that I wrote, or when a friend I've lost touch with says she watches my videos and always wants to go buy everything that I recommend, I do a happy dance. If you're reading this, thank you. Love you. Mean it. Virtual hug!

I have positive feelings about 2014. I'm in a great city. I have an awesome job. I'm meeting wonderful people. I have big plans and dreams with the man I'm in love with, who is my best friend. We got closer than ever this year, and he's taught me so much about kindness and unconditional love. I'm so happy that, God willing, I'm going to have him as my midnight New Year's Eve kiss until I'm old and gray* (*probably dyeing my hair crazy pastel colors on top of the gray and still doing Curlformer sets, but still. When we're both old).

Here's to telling a wonderful story in 2014, wherever your story is starting.