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Make Your Own Shampoo October 31, 2013

Blessed with great oil glands, I spent much of my adolescence fighting with hair that, even when washed, could sometimes leave me looking like a greasy punk.  It wasn’t until late in High School that my mother and I discovered that the trick to keeping my hair looking consistently clean was to change out which shampoo I used every few days.  With two bottles in hand, it was possible to look professional, rather than “geeky”.

Whether this would change when I began making my own shampoo, however, was a big question mark.  Knowing that experimentation would be necessary, I ensured that plenty of store-bought “poo” was still left in the bottle and waited for the weekend.

My first formula was by-the-book:  ¼ cup of unscented liquid castile soap, ¼ cup of water, ¼ tsp. of grapeseed oil, and five drops of essential oil for aroma.  That this was too much oil, even when “diluted” was immediately evident.  I woke up two days later looking too much like Severus Snape for my own comfort.  Quickly washing my hair with the store-bought stuff, I decided to wait for the following weekend to continue experiment.

In my second attempt, I decided to see what would happen if I used the same formula, but eliminated the grapeseed oil.  This worked marginally better and with courage, I entered the new workweek.  About midway through, however, the same greasy look began to reappear and I knew it was back to the drawing board.

In its third incarnation, I had the wacky idea to replace the ¼ tsp. of grapeseed oil with ¼ tsp. of baking soda.  (I’m not entirely certain why I decided to attempt this, other than that my mouth felt better after I used it in my toothpaste… so it must be good for hair.  Right?)  Much to my delight, this did work (though I’m not certain of the scientific “why”) and, for the next few weeks, I happily washed away with the new formula.

Then, one morning, I woke up to discover that it had happened again.  With frustration, I examined my little bottle of essential oil and wondered – what if I used a more acidic variety.  A few hours later, I returned with a tiny bottle of lemon essential oil.  Remixing the shampoo, I added ten drops.  It was double what I normally added, but it was a risk I was willing to take.  And it worked.  Months later, I’m using the same formula and am delighted to report that the heavy oil is gone and my hair has attained that “fluffy” quality that I was seeking.

I’ve included my “greasy-hair” shampoo formula below.  Try it, improve it, and share your results in the comment box.  And if you don’t have oily hair, but still make your own shampoo, feel free to share your formulas as well.  I look forward to hearing your story!


Shampoo Formula for Oily Hair

¼ cup water

¼ cup liquid castile soap

¼ tsp. baking soda

10 drops acidic essential oil (lemon)


“Of the People, By the People, and For the People”: Why I Am to Blame for the Shutdown of the U. S. Government – Part II October 24, 2013

Ask me to tell you a bit about the legislation that has passed through the House and Senate this last year and I’ll have to be honest with you: I can’t.  Truth be told, with the exception of the few highly controversial bits which have made their way onto the evening news (and even most of those didn’t pass in 2013), I have no real idea what my elected officials have been doing.

Transfer this scenario to a business situation and it becomes outrageous.  Can you imagine a store manager hiring an employee, telling him he liked his ethics and then leaving him alone without any supervision or direction except to step in periodically when he made a mistake?  It sounds ridiculous, yet too many of us do just that after casting our vote.  Happy to have “our candidate” in office, we sit back, relax, and leave the steering to our representatives without even once questioning how well they know the very people they are serving.

This lackadaisical approach became evident to me when in the course of a dialogue with a friend she mentioned that she had actually written to her elected officials regarding an issue which concerned her.  With a tone of lament indicating that I really don’t have time for such “radical” involvement, admitted that I hadn’t.

Oddly enough, she didn’t let me off the hook. “It wasn’t a long letter,” she explained.  “They don’t have time to read epics.  But it was long enough to clarify where I stood and why.  It took only a few minutes to write and I sent the same letter to each of them via e-mail.”  (Click the highlighted links if you’d like to know how to contact your Senators and Representatives.)

It was clear that she recognized something important which I had been ignoring: that it’s our responsibility to ensure that our representatives know what we expect from them, not their responsibility to drag that information out of us.  This, of course, highlighted another important problem: if I am responsible for giving direction to those who represent me, then I am also responsible for knowing which direction I want them to go.  And that’s a question that I can’t answer unless I’m willing to invest at least a little bit of time in learning about and understanding what is actually going on in Washington.  (I say “actually” because it’s all too easy to get our news from secondary sources: a special interest group we sympathize with, a nightly news broadcast, or even a good friend who we trust to “stay on top” of the issues.)

I went in search of a few sources to help me stay informed and found a few that are actually quite useful:

  • For information on legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, take a look at www.house.gov/legislative where you’ll find a calendar to keep you up to date on what’s taking place on the House floor and in committee.
  • For information on the U. S. Senate, check out http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/ where you’ll find links to floor proceedings, committee hearings, and the Congressional Record.
  • For a quick look at the bills, themselves, check out the Daily Digest which provides a condensed list of all the bills currently under consideration in both the House and Senate with a link to the text of each piece of legislation.
  • And to look for the text of a specific piece of legislation, visit the Library of Congress and follow the search cues.

There are, of course, some other great sources, but these provide a start.  Taking the time to peruse them is the first step for citizens who, like myself, are willing to acknowledge that what happens in Washington isn’t Washington’s fault, but our own.  Involvement is what sets our system of government apart.  So let’s get involved, make a difference, end the gridlock, and get the government running once more.


“Of the People, By the People, For the People”: Why I Am to Blame for the Shutdown of the U.S. Government – Part I October 17, 2013

Filed under: Government — acgheen @ 12:00 am
Tags: , ,

It’s been two weeks since the shutdown of the U.S. Government and during that time I’ve witnessed a fairly wide variety of responsive behaviors.  For some, the shutdown has been only mildly influential.  The worst they’ve experienced as a result is an inability to access a few useful government websites.  For others, the effects have been earth-shattering, leaving them scrambling to find the money to pay their bills.  Oddly enough, however, the most prevalent response seems to have less to do with lifestyle and far more to do with blame.

There is no denying that the shutdown has resulted from a combination of poor legislation and bad budgeting… but on whose part?  Human tendency is to see the bulk of the blame as lying with the other side and sadly, such beliefs often degenerate into name-calling and fact twisting.  Under which presidency (because we all know that the chief executive is entirely responsible for everything congress does while he is in charge) did spending increase by the greatest dollar amount?  Under whose supervision did spending increase by the greatest percentage?  (I love the way a simply rephrasing of the question can dramatically alter who seems to have handled the money most ineffectively.)  Are the Republicans to blame?  The Democrats?  Elected officials in general?  Or is there more to our present dilemma than meets the eye?

As I pondered this question, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt. We live in a “democratic republic” (at least, that was what they called it when I was in school) and one of the key features of our political system is citizen involvement.  We have no hereditary governing class; those who hold office do so because “we the people” have placed them there.  It is patriotic citizens like myself who bear the burden of this responsibility.  We read the literature.  We listen to the debates.  We go to the polls.

That said, I have to admit that my contribution as a “responsible citizen” is often far less than it ought to be.  With some shame, I confess that I usually cast my vote based upon a candidate’s stance on a relatively narrow range of issues.  Does he support more funding for education?  How does he feel about gun control?  Will he vote to protect the rights of every American or of only a few?

The result is that I find myself asking, “Is it really enough just to ensure that I’m happy with a candidate’s basic philosophy?”  If it is, can I really be certain that his stance on a few issues is sufficient to guarantee that he’ll fully represent my beliefs and convictions once he finds himself in Washington?  And who is responsible if he doesn’t?  Is it his for failing to do the job I sent him to do?  Or is it mine for failing to ensure that I’ve elected the right person?  Or worse yet, is it mine for taking such a hands-off approach to a governmental process designed to involve each of us?

 (To be continued…)


An Introduction to Oil Painting Part II: “Wanna See My Panda?” October 10, 2013

This last week exposed new depths of talent which, to me and my family, were hitherto unknown.  Namely: I painted a panda.  For most artists, this is no great feat.  For me, it was the height of creative achievement… largely because I had no idea that I was painting a panda at the time.

It had begun with my instructor handing me a visual aid containing an abstract grouping of streaks and blotches in varying shades of gray.  The piece, she informed us, was entitled “The Birth of a Planet” and, despite my best attempts, I failed to see anything resembling a planet in the painting.  Still, I’d never painted with oils (or anything else) before, so who was I to question an expert?

I set to work, filling in broad sections of the canvass with the proper paints, working hard not to apply any of them so thickly as to leave a textured look.  According to my teacher, the great artists painted initial vistas exclusively in earth tones, using paints they’d mixed themselves from the local soil, before applying far more expensive colored pigments.

Aside from stops to correct me for holding my brush too close to the canvass (“Stand back from your painting,” was her repeated mantra), to show me how to use turpentine to neatly remove misplaced paint from my picture, and to remind me of the difference between “background” and “details”, it seemed I was doing fine.  So fine, in fact, that she even asked me if I’d ever tried oil painting before!  (I doubt that she really wondered about this, but it flattered my ego just enough to get me past the abstract art which was filling my canvass.)

Once we had finished, she moved between the pictures, examining each one, then instructed us to please turn our artwork onto its side.  “What do you see?” she asked, carefully daubing black eyes, a nose, and an extra ear onto the work of one of the students.

My heart leapt inside me; It was a panda!  I had painted a panda!  (And a pretty cute one too!)  Grabbing a tiny brush, I followed suit, adding in the real details down to the nails on the panda’s toes and the whites of his eyes.

Of course, this was all that my family, friends, classmates, coworkers, and passing strangers heard about all week.  Partly, of course, because I was pleased to discover that my father’s repeated repossession of my crayons had not actually played any role in inhibiting my artistic opportunities and partly because I was so tickled at having actually painted something that looked identifiable.

At the same time, I couldn’t quite get past the lesson to be learned: in life, just as in art class, we can’t always see what we are creating.  The strokes and colors don’t always make sense to us and we aren’t guaranteed to like the half-painted picture on our canvass.  In fact, we may even be tempted to give up in frustration!  But just because we don’t see where we’re headed, doesn’t mean we should lose hope.  If we trust the Master Artist, the end result will be far more than we could ever hope or imagine!  If you want proof, just ask to see my panda!



An Introduction to Oil Painting Part I: “The Birth of a Planet” October 3, 2013

I’ve always dreamt of being an artist, but my attempts at portraying what I see (either physically or in my mind) have always come up just a little short.  I attribute this largely to my father who squelched my artistic tendencies while still in their infancy.  Apparently, he felt my repeated use of the wall as my canvas was sufficient cause for repossessing my crayons.  Repeatedly. I was in grade-school at the time of the last repossession and, with a sense of martyrdom, resigned myself to the fact that I would never be a truly great artist.  I would have to look elsewhere for purpose and fulfillment.  And I did.

Just recently, however, I was perusing a catalogue of the enrichment classes offered by a local college and found “An Introduction to Oil Painting” among them.  A friend of mine (whose artwork is nothing to be sneezed at) had suggested oils as an excellent medium for experimentation.  “They’re very forgiving,” he had explained.  “You’ll probably discover that you’ll like it.”  After some contemplation (which involved asking just how likely my father would be to repossess any of my oil paints), I decided to invite my sister to join me in taking the class.

Our first lesson was basic: we discussed “values”.  These are essentially the different tones which can be achieved when paints are mixed, in our case “Titanium White” and “Ivory Black”.  Our instructor (who was trained by a friend of Norman Rockwell’s) walked us through oiling up our canvasses in order to ensure that the paints could be smoothly applied.  She then carefully explained the proper process for mixing colors on our palette.  (Lightest colors are mixed first, always starting with the lighter color as the base and adding in small quantities of the darker pigment until the desired “value” has been achieved.)  She followed this by handing each of us a “visual aid” – a sad looking black and white abstract which she had dubbed “Birth of a Planet”.

I admit to being a bit disappointed.  I’m not a huge fan of abstract art and, in my heart of hearts, what I really wanted was a piece that I would be proud(ish) to hang on my wall.  Instead, I was going to test my limited artistic skill on a 12×16 canvass that would find its way into the back of my closet, buried under other unwanted bits of stuff.

The purpose, according to our instructor, was to keep us focused on form and technique rather than upon recreating an exact representation of an actual object.  So I decided to go with the flow and give it a try… (to be continued).


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