Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent: Preparing for the Big Arrival

Almost a month...that's how long regular bloggers wait to post..........right???

My excuses in a nutshell: clearing out the old apartment, moving into the new house, cleaning the old apartment, cleaning the new house, pregnancy fatigue, anemia fatigue, vicious cold, no internet, unpacking, unpacking and unpacking while being hugely pregnant.

Now I can move onto more important things. Like Advent.

Chris and I are determined to make Advent mean something for us this year. Or maybe I should say finally participating in it's meaning. It clearly already has meaning, I don't need to create one.

Advent is a time of preparation. What better year for our family to decide to take Advent seriously than the year I am in my third trimester for our first baby? Our whole life right now is preparation!

 We're a week behind on getting an Advent wreath (although I'm stealing this great, super frugal idea from my friend Erin's blog) but we've managed to do a daily reading and meditation.

Although I've been adamant about preparing for the baby ever since I found out about her in June, (she has a super safe car seat, some seriously cute diapers and more money in her bank account than I do) I haven't gone manic *yet* (her room is undecorated and completely filled to the max with's kind of ridiculous. I should get on that.) 

Ok, so I'm not that ready for the baby. I still have 9 weeks. I hope. (If not, she will be very naked and sleeping in a dresser drawer for awhile). However, I wouldn't dream of being grossly unprepared financially or failing to buy a safe car seat. These things are super important.

Where is this urgency when preparing my heart for the Advent of Christmas/Advent of the arrival of Baby Reed?

This Advent, I want to prepare my heart for her. What steps am I making to prepare my heart for this beautiful little person who is going to 100% rely on me? How much am I praying for a change within myself so that she can grow up with the Mama she deserves? I'm thinking of starting everyday with this prayer: Lord, please help me today to be more motivated and less neurotic.

Ultimately this Advent, I prepare my heart for Him. I can be neither the wife or the mother I want to be if I don't start here. Line of thought/prayer at Mass this weekend:
-Advent is about preparing the way for Him.
-What are the obstacles in my life that keep me from engrossing myself in my spiritual life?
-Over and over, I couldn't think of anything tangible. Then, the answer seemingly floated down from the rafters in the church and landed squarely in front of me: Myself. I am the obstacle. Here is my first prayer for Advent:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

     -Litany of Humility

Easy, huh?

And maybe one day after daily Mass, I'll go buy my little girl some warm baby clothes. She's going to be pretty cold in that dresser drawer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

a chemical-free household, Part 2: 8 Simple Rules

Here' s Part 1.

8 Simple Rules for Chemical-free, Frugal, Green Living:

1. Simple. A lot of chemical-free living is about going back to basics. This isn't to mean we should turn back the clock on progress and do everything like the pioneers did, or using methods that our grandparents used that stemmed from old wives tales more so than science. It means going back to the last thing that really worked. For example, how did women moisturize their skin before lotion was put in a bottle with tons of petroleum-based products? With pure oils like olive, jojoba, coconut, etc (NOT mineral oils - Oil-free makeup propagates the myth that oil clogs pores because bad oils clog pores).

2. It shouldn't break the bank. If it's not cheaper for me in the long run, I won't do it. It took me awhile to switch certain things, like shampoo, because I couldn't find a truly organic way of cleaning my hair that was cheaper and just as (if not more) effective than my mainstream shampoo.

3. Think long term. I emphasized the long run in the point before on purpose. Sometimes start up costs are expensive. Cloth diapers, for example, can cost anywhere from $300-$800 dollars to start up. However, you'll probably get this money back in a matter of months. In the end, you can save thousands of dollars per kid, not to mention the long term health and environmental benefits. Also, the slightly higher cost of taking care of your body now is way cheaper than paying exorbitant doctor's bills later. Several decades ago, American's spent 17.5% of their money on food and 5.2% on healthcare. Today, only 9.9% is spent on food and whopping 16% is spent on healthcare. (this is according to Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food.)

4. Give yourself time to implement these changes. My house isn't 100% chemical-free, but it's come a very, very long way.  There are also a few products in our house that we haven't found adequate replacements (like toothpaste and deodorant -although we no long buy anything with aluminum.) Making changes can be overwhelming. Sometimes you might find a product that is better than what you were using, but still has an icky ingredient or two in it. I think that's a huge step. The less toxins we're putting in our bodies, the better off we are. Keep seeking out that truly chemical-free product and I'm sure you'll eventually find it (and probably love it more than what you used before!) If it's stressing you out, take a break and start searching again later. 
Which leads me to my next point...

5. You're more likely to stick with changes if you implement them slowly and easily. 
I have been trying for awhile to go completely paperless in the kitchen, but we're in the middle of a (very slow) move to a bigger house that needed lots of cleaning. Cleaning both the new and the old place and trying to move has been stressful and put a hold on going paperless. I'm not dropping it all together, but just waiting a few weeks until we're settled in the new place. This way, the new habits will stick and not be associated with stress, because it really isn't stressful to give up paper towels.

6. Redefine old definitions, particularly of cleanliness and beauty. Does something need to smell like chemicals and artificial fragrance to be clean? Instead of buying Febreze or Glade plug ins, try sprinkling baking soda on your rugs, boiling some cinnamon sticks on the stove, or just airing out your house by opening all the windows for a few hours. Insanely cheaper, non toxic, and will release all those germs you've been imprisoning in your home.
     Beauty. I'm not going to say go completely without makeup or hair products. It's okay to like to be all gussied up. I do think there is a huge problem with women not feeling beautiful because they don't have their hair perfect and their "face" on. I know I want to teach my daughter to be comfortable in just her own skin so she doesn't feel the pressure to look a certain way to be beautiful. I also know that this mostly dependent on how I talk and act about beauty in regards to myself and others. If she decides that she likes to have her hair fixed up and wear makeup, I hope that I can point her towards products that won't put her health in danger for the sake of beauty.

7. Read labels & educate yourself. I can't emphasize this one enough. The words "natural" and "organic" are completely unregulated in non-food products. Many products mix in essential oils and organic ingredients with the same old yucky ingredients. 
     It does no good to read labels if you don't know what you're reading. Here's a good basic guide on what to look for and avoid on labels. It's important to know not only which ingredients to avoid, but why you are avoiding them. You may end up making a scale for yourself of what products you want to avoid at all costs and which products you are willing to use on occasion. If you can't find a completely chemical-free product, you might be able to find something in the meantime that has a lower risk. 

8. Be reasonable. When I started doing this research, I didn't run out and throw away every product I own (I'm way too cheap to do that). When my old soap ran out, I just replaced it with the new product. I didn't need to replace every product either. I think with going chemical free comes a simplicity - so many things I use have multiple uses.
Another note on being reasonable...if I'm at someone's house and they have hand soap or lotion that isn't chemical free, I don't snub my nose up at it and follow with a huge lecture on the danger of chemicals. I use the product. Our bodies have an amazing ability to get rid of toxins.  The only exception I make to this is when it comes to little children. After my own research, I've determined that it is crucial for my kids to be as completely chemical-free as possible. Little bodies are still doing so much crucial development that they can't process toxins like older children and adults. (The amount of harmful ingredients in basic baby brands like Johnson & Johnson, Baby Magic and even Aveeno is appalling to me.)  Again, this is my own conclusion from the research I've done. It's a choice I'm making for my family.

My philosophy on both food and topical products is to eat/live as healthy as possible about 85-90% of the time. (I love to occasionally wear perfume & eat pizza rolls.) You are welcome to not agree with this. Like I've said in my introductory post, there's no set way to live, eat, etc. The only position I think that is hard to respect is the unconscious consumer. If you've done your research and decided that ______is safe for your family, that's ultimately your decision.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this, even if you disagree with me. :) Part 3 coming soon!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a chemical-free household, Part 1: Introduction

I've have started several different posts about going chemical-free in our household, but I could never quite concisely introduce the topic. To make this less overwhelming for you (by you, I mean me) I'm going to do this in multiple posts.

A little back story - how did I get even interested in going chemical-free?

Whoever said "Necessity is the mother of invention" had it right on our case. A lot of our simpler, greener lifestyle initially happened by chance. Overweight and feeling gross? Let's look into what the heck we're eating. Is the monthly budget tight? Let's see how can we streamline our household products/toiletries more cheaply. I was having horrible skin problems, so we looked at what chemicals we were using in our soaps, which made us investigate other toiletries, detergents and cleaning products. My dad has has had a long, painful battle with cancer. Something that shakes up your life that much makes you think - how did this happen? Not that his cancer was caused by these products, but who knows? If you've had cancer or know someone who has battled it and seen how ugly it can be, you want to run away screaming from any products that have been linked to the disease. He started doing research of his own and sharing alternative products with me. (By the way, they work better and are cheaper than anything I was using before. More on that later).

Recently, I was passing along my basic knowledge of cloth diapering to an inquiring friend. This spawned an out of control conversation about living economically and chemical-free. She asked questions way faster than I could answer them. Each time I began an answer, it opened the door for another question. How do you answer a question like, "If it's not safe for us, why do they sell it?" to an extremely overwhelmed person who wants your years of research on living chemical-free in 20 minutes? After the conversation she told me that she wasn't going to remember everything I said and I needed to send her a long email and take her shopping to point out which products were good and which ones were not. 

It was my turn to feel completely overwhelmed. It has taken me YEARS to become a conscious consumer (and I'm still learning so much). Even if it was possible to take on the daunting task of giving her a complete education in one sitting, I wouldn't. I know the only way these changes have worked for me is that I have done them gradually. They started with something or someone inspiring me to _______ (cloth diaper, eat better, etc.) which led me to tons of research and subsequent trial and error when implementing it into our lives. I've taken research and advice and combined it with my own conscience to decide what's best and safest for our family. 

There are a ridiculous amount of ingredients that are not banned in the U.S. that are linked to cancer. These ingredients aren't in just "occasional" products, like oven cleaner. Substances known to cause cancer (as well as reproductive problems and hormonal imbalances) are in our makeup, soaps, diapers and baby shampoos.

Before I get ahead of myself, here's a video called The Story of Cosmetics  from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (not just makeup, but shampoo, lotions, shaving cream, baby wash, etc.) I think it's a good introduction to being a conscious consumer in general.

I'd really love to know your thoughts so far. Another post is coming soon!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

a solicitation for advice

As excited as I am about the baby coming, as intensely as I have researched labor & delivery, parenting and discipline methods, breastfeeding, etc. I am still truly terrified of one thing - the baby registry. I immediately recoiled in horror at the enormous list of "must have" items that Babies r Us provides. Freaking ridiculous.

All that "stuff" just overwhelms me. I have a strong dislike for stuff. I like items in my home that are useful and beautiful. I hate junk. I get stressed enough making the obligatory Christmas list (more on that in a later post). I feel that creating the baby registry is like someone saying "Hey Nicole, can you make a list of all of the absolute essentials that you need for your child to be a well-rounded person. Be sure to make good choices even though this is your first kid and you really don't know how you are going to parent your child specifically." I've added pressure to myself by wanting to have safe, useful, practical things that can last through multiple children, fit a "green and frugal" lifestyle and also not take up too much room in a small house.

The more I research, the more I remove items from my registry. And re-add them. And remove them again. So I'm turning to my readers for help. Even though most don't publicly follow my blog, I know you're out there. When I run into you somewhere and you know what I think about certain things and what is going on in my life, I know you are reading this ;) Seriously though, it thrills me! But it's time to come out of hiding and help an ignorant mother-to-be out. My burgeoning belly is apparently a signal for everyone in the world to give me unsolicited and (sometimes harsh) judgments on my parenting decisions. Here is your chance - I'm asking for advice.

To give you guidance, this is my (current) parenting philosophy after nannying countless kids and considering our current lifestyle. (I'm allowed to change this after my baby is born...a mama's got to be able to learn and grow too!) I'm going to start out with the intention of baby wearing, cloth diapering, breastfeeding and room sharing (a form of co-sleeping).  I'm not opposed to things such as playmats and bouncers, but I do want minimal junk in my house. I prefer to have a small amount of toys that are safe, simple and encourage creativity.

Please. Educate me. Wear the comment button out!

Curses and Blessings

Yesterday was a curse and a blessing.

There were several accidents on the way to work yesterday, making me late. Curse.
I got to listen to Danielle Rose a little longer in the car - her music always makes Baby Reed dance and she's even starting to obviously have favorite songs. It's such a joy getting to know her personality already! Blessing.

While nannying, I fell down the stairs - 6 and 1/2 months pregnant and holding a five month old baby in my arms. Curse (and painful).
While I lay at the bottom of the stairs crying, I realized that I had managed to protect both my huge belly and the baby in my arms who, coincidentally, was cracking up laughing - his new favorite activity. Baby Reed almost instantly started bouncing away, assuring me of her safety. Huge Blessing.

Our apartment is a disaster. We're living in the old apartment while all of our stuff is in the new house. (Read: We have all of our furniture and neatly packed boxes at the new house, while the floor of our old apartment looks like the carpet violently threw up all of our possessions.) Curse.
Deciding to make lemonade out of lemons, we turned our bare living room floor into a picnic ground completely with sleeping bags, fluffy pillows, cannelloni, apple crisp and a viewing of our favorite movie. Blessing.

This morning I woke up in so much pain from my tumble down the stairs that I could barely get out of bed. Curse.
My little girl continues to dance away in my belly, oblivious that her mother is a klutz with a messy house who inevitably falls asleep by 9pm - the only blessing I need.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I washed my face with oil

I think I have officially crossed into a full-fledged "crunchy" person. And I am loving it.

I'm always looking for more frugal, chemical free ways to live. I'm not an alarmist who immediately threw out all of my old beauty products when I found out about the chemicals in them. I've been gradually switching out my products over the course of several months. I've switched my soap & shampoo and numerous other toiletries. I'll get into what specific products I've been using in another post, but my main product right now is Kirk's Castile Soap, a super cheap soap with no yucky ingredients. I use it for washing my hands, body, face and even for shaving. One time I was desperate and used it as a shampoo, which worked pretty well also. 

Although my skin has cleared up SO much, I feel like pregnancy has made it dull and dry. I haven't been able to find a reasonably priced, chemical-free facial moisturizer either.

I was browsing the archives of Simple Mom, one of the many blogs I frequent when I came across a post for the oil cleansing method. That's right. Cleaning your skin with oil. Before you swear off my blog, please read this post and my comments below on how it worked for me.

Instructions on how to do this are on the link I posted above. It's basically a combination of castor oil and olive oil. My skin has been so unbelievably dry (and I didn't have any castor oil at home) that I actually used pure olive oil. I'm such a believer in the oil cleansing method that I'm going to buy some castor oil as soon as I have a chance for a deeper clean (castor oil is supposed to draw out dirt and unclog pores).

I thought it would feel weird and greasy, but the more I rubbed it in, the more luxurious it felt. My skin was just drinking it up saying, "Please never dehydrate me again!" After a quick steam with a washcloth, I just used the same washcloth to wipe the oil off of my face. I did have to rinse off the washcloth a few times and gently re-wipe portions of my face, but in the end I didn't feel greasy AT ALL.

a chemical-free facial
softer, smoother, flake-free skin
inexpensive (I dipped two fingertips in olive oil, and that covered my entire face)
smelling like an Italian restaurant for a couple of minutes (this may be a minus for you, but it                      
made me really happy...and started a craving for Italian bread with herbs)

Minuses: none

I seriously cannot stop touching my face.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Being a Good Steward, Part 1: Money

Stewardship: 1. responsibly managing the resources within one's control: can refer to environment, money, time, etc.; 2. a virtue intended to make one feel guilty for buying a $4.00 cup of coffee that comes in a non recyclable cup in the drive-thru while having the car running and the A/C on high.

I used to focus so much on what I lacked in: money, talent, etc. Recently I feel like a veil has been lifted and I can see how abundantly blessed I am instead of what I am lacking. This realization has come with the responsibility I know have of being a good steward of all I have been given, no matter how big or small the amount.

Not to brag, but I am very bad at many, many things. Dancing, reaching things on the top shelf, initiating small talk, leaving voice mails, playing tennis and (according to my husband) loading the dishwasher - just to name a few. I can live with these failures.

Making a budget and sticking with it should not be something I fail at doing. The way I deal with money impacts my family immensely in the long and short term, not to mention being irresponsible with it is a slap in the face to my husband who works so incredibly hard. We have lived by certain money rules for awhile that have kept us from getting in trouble, the main one being to use credit cards like they are debit cards and to pay all of our bills on time. We're good at this rule. Our credit score is awesome. Too bad this is only step one of being good stewards of our money.

Every time we tried to establish a budget we either disagreed about nearly everything, failed to make the budget realistic, or just didn't stick with it. I think a lot of this was my attitude towards the Big Scary Budget. I would try and approach it with my head held high, but would quickly run away with my tail between my legs, crying in a corner while emotionally eating a Chicken Biscuit from McDonald's (which was not in the budget). The budget would blow up in a scene similar to this:

Chris and I recently attempted to tackle the BSB again, this time with much success. We agreed on almost everything. After clearing that hurdle, the next one was fast approaching - sticking with the given budget. As the end of the month comes near, I see that I did an OK job. I have a lot of fine tuning to do over the next few months, including finding a way to organize and keep track of everything more efficiently (If you have a system for budgeting that you use, please share in the comments below!)

In the past, every time I couldn't do the budget perfectly, I would quit. Right now my methods are probably laughable, but they are working. We're well on the way towards our main goals of saving like crazy, living below our means and giving to charity/tithing every single month.

It has been difficult to change. The tough thing about realizations is that they call one to action, to make tough changes. However, I shudder at the thought of being one of those people who remains stagnant, never growing or learning, always struggling with the same thing. I think I'd choose painful inner growth spurts over being stagnant any day.

Now I'm going to go turn off the lights in the other room and maybe crank the AC from 72 to 75. Hey, I'm a work in progress.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The private life

Ever heard the phrase "Dance like nobody is watching?" likely implying to be free, uninhibited. I'd rather dance only when nobody is watching.

I've had to take those Myers-Briggs personality tests for one thing or another since high school. Sometime around the middle of college, the results bar shifted from full on extrovert to slight extrovert and finally tipping the scales to the introvert side. I don't know if I've always enjoyed the privacy of both my personal space and innermost thoughts this much, or if I'm just realizing it now.

Example- I go on campus one day a week for class. My class is boring, but I love to learn. This may sound odd, but I also find it a bonus that I don't know anyone on campus. At the beginning of the semester, I got there an hour early, found a parking space and headed to the cafe to satisfy an intense craving for a cheeseburger and fries. I enjoyed ordering my greasy burger and paying for my substandard service because I could do so with sweet anonymity. I would slip into a chair at a small table and stick my nose into a book until class began.

Then one horrible day, I hear my name. Don't panic, Nicole is a common name. I pull myself from the world world of Anne of Green Gables and see a vaguely familiar face hovering above my once private table. We exchanged the typical pleasantries. However, instead of saying hi and moving on, she proceeded with a full blown conversation. A long one. It wasn't an easy conversation either - this person was a casual acquaintance primarily in middle school and the beginning of high school. I never knew what to say to her back then, and our ten year absence from each hadn't remedied that. At the end of the awkwardness (or so I thought), she proceeded to tell me her schedule (I don't know why - were we supposed to hang out now even though we never, ever have before?) and then said four awful words: "See you next week." As she walked away, I felt my chest tighten. All I wanted was 30 minutes a week to read my children's book and dunk my fries in barbecue sauce laden with high fructose corn syrup in peace. I felt like I had been robbed.

I'm not anti-social, I just feel like I need extra time to recharge and process. I love spending time with family and friends. I feel invigorated after having a good conversation. I'm really open in small groups and with people I know. However, large gatherings with lots of small talk drain me. In college, I would get really excited about parties and then feel really anxious to go home after 30 minutes. Then I needed hours to unwind from the taxing activity of standing there holding a drink in my hand, trying to think of something intelligent to say. I think it took me 20 years to realize that fatigue I felt after social gatherings was from trying to be a lot more extroverted than I am.

If you disagree with me because you've had a conversation with me where I would not stop talking, I was either a) really passionate about our conversation b) very comfortable with you c) hopped up on caffeine.

Of course, sharing my feelings on the internet may not seem like a very "introverted" thing to do, but a blog is in fact an introvert's best friend. It gives an outlet in an extremely controlled space. I can premeditate everything I'm about to say, and then hit delete whenever I want. If only real life worked the same. Until it does, I can be found reading Anne of Green Gables in my car while eating a lunch I packed at home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mothering Instincts and Queso

I think the mothering instincts are kicking in.

On the way home from my six month check up (baby is doing awesome, by the way), I decided to fulfill the craving I had been having for two days for Chik fil a. (As an almost vegetarian before this pregnancy, I sure think about meat an awful lot lately. I dreamed last weekend about bacon followed by another dream two days after that about hamburgers.) I had this manic craving for a chicken sandwich that had to be fulfilled. I sat in traffic forever before I almost made it to that blessed chicken store when I got diverted by -Izzo's. I pulled a sharp right turn into the parking lot. The chicken sandwich gradually danced out of my thought bubble to be replaced by fabulous, gooey nachos. Yum. I haven't had an overwhelming amount of pregnancy cravings, but I've been having them more recently. Also, I hadn't eaten a long time. Pregnancy + cravings + manic hunger = this story.

I ordered the nachos to go, but when I got in the car I realized that home was nearly 30-40 minutes away. So I ate just a few to satisfy my rumbling tummy (and then a few more.....and a few more) and headed on the road. I placed the queso in the passenger seat next to me. I was about 25 minutes into the drive that I realized that every time I braked, I protectively shot out my hand to save the queso. Whenever there was a lull in traffic, I found myself lovingly rearranging the queso so that it didn't tip over.

Sometimes I worry about what kind of mother I'm going to be. If I care about my kid as much as I cared about that queso, I think I'm going to be okay. Especially if my baby is particularly delicious.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Modesty, thoughts on being a "prude" and the New Feminism

I've seen lots of posts on Catholic blogs, articles and message boards on modesty. I've heard so many different views on modesty including but not limited to the following babble: "pants are immodest, skirts are fine, pants are fine if not too tight, skirts should only be below the knee, you shouldn't wear sleeveless, it's a man's problem if he can't avert his eyes, if you've got it - flaunt it, no skin two fingers below the collarbone, cleavage is fine, cleavage is the devil, breasts are for breastfeeding - get over it, no ankles, no wrists, nudity is the best option because it defies our over sexualized culture, elbows are too sexy to be seen," etc, etc.

The discussion gets extremely ridiculous.

However, all of these comments and views have one huge thing in common - they all focus on modesty in regards to clothing (or lack thereof). Although I have a loose outline for myself in dressing modestly that continually evolves over time, I'm not going to discuss that aspect at all in this post because I think people are missing the picture that how we dress is only one aspect of modesty.

 Lately, I've been getting a strong feeling of anger/embarrassment after different situations and I couldn't figure out why. I was trying to chalk it all up to pregnancy hormones, but in the end my husband cracked the code. I won't get into details, but there was a situation that ended up with me in tears, feeling angry, embarrassed and ashamed all at the same time. Originally I thought I was upset just because of something someone said to me that I thought was really inappropriate, but in then end I realized I was more mad at myself. I had said something that opened the door for the aforementioned comment. I started thinking that if I had acted and spoken like a lady, then I would have been treated as such and the person probably never would have said what they did.

I've been doing lots of reflecting and praying on being a mother lately. Chris pointed out that it made sense that I felt the way I did since I had been focusing so much on motherhood and modesty lately. (by modesty here, I mean how I present myself in general, not just dress). I've always really struggled with balance in this area. A lot of my friends know me as candid, but that doesn't mean I need to be known as crass. I think for awhile I thought this meant that I needed to be closed off, but that would be against my personality (and being "closed off" isn't a reflection of modesty either.) If my gift is to be honest and forthright about things, I can still do so modestly.

For example: I think one thing a lot of Catholics are afraid to talk about (or think that they are supposed to be afraid to talk about) is sex. And we shouldn't be afraid to talk about it...modestly. Talking specifically about what goes on behind closed doors or participating in the vulgar "street talk" about sex? No. Talking about it as a beautiful sacrament, an important component of marriage and something that can be so holy? Yes.

The following comment is not a stab at anyone in particular. I'm sure most people thought nothing of it, I'd just like to address it. Last October, many women on facebook posted their bra color without explicitly saying what it was (Their statuses would say "blue lace" and that's it.) It drove a lot of guys crazy until they cracked the code on why all of their female friends were posting colors as their statuses. It made me a little uncomfortable at the time so I didn't participate, but I had no idea why. Call me a prude. By the way, all of this was in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This October I got another message informing me of this year's little "trick" for the women of facebook: posting in your status where you put your purse when you get home by saying "I like it on the______" and naming where you normally place your purse. It is undeniably meant to imply something else. I really wanted to not be a weirdo and to think it was funny like everyone else did, but I was really taken aback and immediately thought that I was just being an old lady again. Then I had that little moment where I imagined how I would feel if I posted it. My feelings were much clearer this time - I would feel immodest.

At the same time, I completely understand why a woman would post this. I've dressed and acted immodestly before (extremely and "sort of" immodestly at different times in my life) and I understand the range of reasons from wanting to be provocative to not really understanding how I was being immodest. I also understand this isn't an extreme case of immodesty. A male friend of mine posted this as his status in response "Hey ladies I'm sure there's better ways of spreading breast cancer awareness than making sexual innuendos." He followed this by giving links to Breast Cancer Awareness organizations and a guide to doing a self-breast exam.

I don't think that people's facebook statuses need to be something explicitly, consciously "holy". I don't think being a modest woman is at all about being mild, weak or quiet. I think women are allowed to be strong and vocal pillars. However, I think the way secular feminism is trying to accomplish this is backwards. I don't think defying puritanical sexual repression by being sexual explicit is constructive. This isn't just a "religious" thing either. Aristotle wrote extensively about virtue with one of his main points being balance. As a plug for a later post, read up on the New Feminism, which I think employs this idea of balance exceptionally well. Here's a brief introduction:

"The New Feminism rejects the temptation of imitating models of 'male domination' in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation...[John Paul II calls] women to value their "feminine genius" as mothers and caregivers as well as their participation in politics and economics. He describes the 'feminine genius' as including empathy, interpersonal relations, emotive capacity, subjectivity, communication, intuition and personalization."

In short, being modest or virtuous in general doesn't mean being serious and prudish with no laughter in your life. Before you call someone a prude, think about this...Doesn't the word prude stem from prudent? I'm pretty sure that's a virtue, thanks. If that's your best insult, I think you're wise. Take that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

that's what *great* spouses are for

Lately I've been having dreams that a) I'm a single mother b) Chris has to go out of town immediately after the birth or c) for some other unknown reason I'm alone and unprepared with a newborn baby. The scenarios vary but the message is all of the each dream I am a horribly inadequate mother, thrown into this whole parenthood thing all alone with no support system and no life vest. I keep trying to tell my subconscious that I'm not embarking on this new journey alone AT ALL. I am positive my dreams are 98% a reflection on my own jitters about being a first-time parent. 

Contrary to my crazy pregnancy dreams, Chris has been an absolutely fantastic husband. Aside from being an amazing hard worker and provider, he has gone noticeably out of his way to be an extra gentle, helpful and understanding husband.  For example- I was supposed to make dinner tonight, but by the time we got home I was all pale and low on blood sugar that I had trouble functioning. Chris hopped right in the kitchen and whipped up some yummy eggs and toast that I just finished enjoying. He is not allowing me to feel guilty. This is quite a learning process for me.

I'll post again soon, but I think I'm going to cut this post short to go enjoy the long coveted pregnancy pillow that my husband just bought me. I am seriously refraining from posting a thousand exclamation marks after that sentence.

What the heck.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

same blog, new name, better focus

I've been having an itch for quite awhile to change the name of this blog. I found the content out of line with the name - the blog was no longer about just my husband and I as newlyweds, but it wasn't my random rantings either. I didn't want to make it just a pregnancy blog, I WILL have this kid eventually and I do, contrary to popular belief, like to post about more than the little life growing inside of me (although, this is by far the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. If I went to space, every post I did would have in there somewhere "You know, when I was living in outer space...")

My favorite posts are about those little revelations (or smacks on the head) that God gives me about how to become who I was created to be - a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc. I thought although "Smacks on the Head" would be an amusing title, the one I chose is a little more appropriate (and less violent).

In Fulton Sheen's book, The World's First Love, Fulton Sheen explains our humanity versus Mary's humanity extremely well. Paraphrased in a much less elegant way than Sheen says it: Imagine there is a Perfect Picture of each one of us that shows who we were created to be. We all fall short, in varying degrees, of that Perfect Picture. Between that Perfect Picture and our Actual Picture, there is a minus sign. However, between Mary's Perfect Picture and Actual Picture, there is an equal sign. Mary is exactly who she is created and called to be.

That is what this blog is about: my very slow business of becoming who I was created and called to be, my Perfect Picture.

An early thanksgiving

Warning: Avert your eyes if you have a weak stomach for sappy pregnancy gushes of emotion.

It may come across on my blog that this pregnancy has made me the most vain person to ever walk the earth. (Although if you caught a glimpse of my unkempt appearance these days, those suspicions would be quickly squashed.) It's hard to rip my eyes and thoughts from my ever-changing, swelling, queasy body - especially when the fiend, my Digestive System, demands my constant attention. I feel like the most boring person in the world because my conversational topics are limited to pregnancy, naps and reading. I consider the day an accomplishment if I got out of my pajamas, did a (little) housework and made dinner for my poor husband - who has had to make himself a bowl of cereal for dinner on my than one occasion during the last few months.

Things have been slowly happening for awhile to wake me up to the outside world. Although I do have some 2nd trimester morning sickness, it's not quite as severe as the 1st trimester. Either that or I've gotten used to my new companion, Constant Nausea. More significantly, as the baby has started to move, I find myself focusing less on my body as just that - MY body - and more as a grateful vessel for that amazing little life growing inside.
When I burst into tears from the frustration of morning sickness, constant fatigue and the fiery round ligament pain, my husband gently suggested I bring it to Our Lady in prayer because she went through all of this.

I have been trying to deepen my prayer life for awhile now with no luck. Everything felt false and forced. I want to come before God honestly. Preparing for motherhood has made this easier. How can I not come before God honestly when I'm in pain, nauseous, unwashed and desperate? The sneaky thing about prayer is that it changes you. I went from begging Him to take these things away to thanking Him for this opportunity to love greater, be pushed further. He's already expanding my heart - for Him, for Chris, for this baby - in ways that I never imagined. I had been praying to be more blessed with things I thought we needed. Now I've been praying that we can simplify our lives while still providing adequately for our baby. All of these things made what happened Thursday so much easier (and so much harder).

Chris left early on Thursday morning for a conference in Baton Rouge. I woke up temporarily to see him off, but fell back asleep for a nap (no one should get up at 6:00am when they don't have to.) I had a weird feeling when he left, but I'm hyper sensitive and super pregnancy hormonal (read- I cry easily), so I shrugged it off. Chris called at 7:45am with the phone call no wife wants to get: "I'm ok, but I got into an accident. The car is totaled. I'll call you back in a little bit." Click. 

My husband defines words, um, differently from me. If I said, I'm ok, I might mean that I had a few scratches. For Chris, this could cover a WIDE range of things. "I'm ok" could very well mean he snapped his femur in half. I burst into tears from not knowing how hurt he was, from being grateful to hear his voice. Then I started to pray as I stared at the little clock on my phone, praying that everything was alright and that he would call back soon. To make a long story short(er), he had a few scratches and was sore, but was really okay.

I picked Chris up from Baton Rouge that evening. We had a long ride back home to talk. This talk was different from one people normally have after this type of event. I think I could see how much both of us striving so hard to pray more, to love each other more, had really changed us. There was no aggravation, no frustration. Here are some highlights:

-So I totaled your, Happy Birthday was what Chris said to break the ice and the looming "I could have lost you" feeling we were both having. We were both relieved to get rid of that car that had been the BANE of our existences. It's been a lemon from the start. The AC hasn't worked in months (South Louisiana summer + no AC = gross) and two of the four doors did not open - including the driver's door. (Chris had to crawl out the window after the accident). The funniest part of the day -we got about $50 for the car.

-We're now a one car family was a concept that took about ten minutes to get used to. Ten minutes that I used to panic, thinking we needed a new car. We don't. We have decided we are excited at the prospect of spending more time together, being more unselfish with our time, saving money and the exercise Chris will get from riding his bike more. We might try to look for a car as it gets close to Baby Reed's big arrival. For now, we're fantastic.

-How much we love each other has become so evident. I thought I knew no greater love than the day I said "I do" to my husband. I was sooo wrong. I want to be more for him everyday. I never once cared about the stupid car. All we both cared about was that our little family was safe and that Baby Reed will have two parents that love each other tremendously.

I said (several paragraphs up) that the recent changes in my prayer life made that awful day both easier and harder. Easier because I had no problems letting go of the car or dwelling on all of the "inconveniences" that would arise. What was really important was so glaringly obvious that these were non-issues. This is also what made it harder. I love my husband more deeply than I knew. I could have lost him. (Insert pregnancy tears).

My birthday was the day before the wreck. I didn't want to do anything particularly special for the day. Not that I was opposed to it being special, but I didn't feel the need to make create a special day for myself (my husband took care of most of that anyway). I wasn't trying to be difficult, nor did I think that I wasn't special or that birthdays or silly. But every time I thought about what I wanted, I already had it. I have a sweet husband with whom I have a great relationship and, maybe best of all, this amazing opportunity to carry the most precious gift possible.

I'm so grateful, nausea and all.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I thought I was through with this?

I'm at the cusp of week 17 with Baby Reed. "You should be feeling so much better by now" say both my doctor and those informative (but sometimes annoying) emails from Babycenter.  Why, o why, am I having first trimester flashbacks? One minute I'm brushing my hair for work and the next minute I'm doubled over with nausea. My theory is that Baby Reed wants me to remember he or she is still there. How could I forget? Besides the profound abdominal growth, there are still a million other signs that the baby is there. The two most recent and remarkable signs:

1. We finally got to hear the heartbeat!! For our first ultrasound, the sound portion of the machine was broken. For our first in-office doppler, the doctor (to my absolute terror) couldn't find the heartbeat just yet and had to use ultrasound to show us that yes, you can stop turning white and hyper-ventilating, that heart is pumping away. For this past Thursday's visit, he found the heartbeat almost immediately. However, he proceeded to chase the kid back and forth from one side of my abdomen all the way to the other so we could hear it for more than a second. I'm wondering if this is indicative of our baby's personality and energy level? If the baby is moving this much it's no wonder that I can feel...

2. Baby kicks. Clear, distinguishable ones. Not "oh, is that a gas bubble or a baby" kicks. I was resting my hand outside my abdomen yesterday morning and felt a clear kick. WOW. So freaking cool. I then felt more kicks at the beginning of the Saints game, but they stopped after about four minutes. Chris is even more convinced it is a girl because only a girl would get excited for the first four minutes of a football game and then go to sleep.

Speaking of Saints game... (I'm the queen of segues today) I got to go to my first one in the Superdome, thanks to some friends of ours who are season ticket holders who generously surrendered last nights tickets into our willing hands. Even though I was a zombie in the second half, we really enjoyed ourselves!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Food Challenge

My question of the week (besides that whole celebrity voyeurism thing): How does a pregnant woman eat healthy? Like, really healthy. And ENJOY it?

For more than 6 months before we conceived, Chris and I had been on a major health food/exercise kick. I went from begrudgingly eating vegetables, to enjoying them, to practically savoring them. I craved roasted broccoli. I was practically vegan before I got pregnant with this little one. Ten weeks (and almost fifteen pounds lost) of barely being barely being able to eat anything and definitely not enjoying practically any food has damaged my oh-so-carefully built new habits. I've been eating whatever I feel like eating because I ate so little and just needed to keep something in my stomach.

Challenge 1: During the first trimester, I had a major aversion to vegetables. I could not even swallow them. It was one of the saddest times of my life.
Challenge 2: My taste had become very primitive for awhile. While weight gain wise I have been able to eat whatever I want, I know that the additives and salt content (not to mention sugar, fat, etc.) in the more processed food I have been eating are being passed to my baby, and this I definitely don't like.

I'm not so worried about the weight gain (knock on wood) because I've lost so much already, but I would like to keep my weight gain low and, more importantly, my health (and the baby's) high. I'm already overweight and at a higher risk for gestational diabetes and preclampsia.

This week has been my first full week where I've had more freedom with food. I've finally reincorporated some veggies (although not nearly enough). I eat a lot of fruit and cheese. Anyone have suggestions on portable snacks and easy meals to make that will be great superfoods for the baby and me? Now that I don't feel like death, I feel like I can focus on health in this pregnancy as opposed to mere survival. Also, I would love to have a diet that gives me the energy to continue yoga and swimming again, asap.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Update...real post to follow!

It's been about a month since I posted last, so here's a brief "life update":
-Baby Reed is 16 weeks old and looking less like a t-rex and more like the cute little person that he/she is. I've run a quite a range of feelings already about this pregnancy- bewilderment, fear, nausea and excitement to name a few. As my end of the 1st trimester baby "beer belly" turns into an ever so slight looking baby bump, I've finally  settled into my position as "baby grower" and started to prepare myself to be "baby raiser" so that I don't become "baby's inept mother". Chris and I are slowly trying to make steps to be the parents we want to be and make our household and family life what we want it to be. One big change - much more book reading, much less tv watching.

-Most of you know about my dad and how he's going through surgery/treatment for cancer. Hard times always show who the most faithful friends are, and I've been pleasantly surprised and grateful for the people who have come out of the woodwork and made a point to ask how the surgery went or to let me know they're praying. When I read my Dad's facebook wall, I'm super impressed at how many people care about him and my mom and are constantly posting words of encouragement. Thank you so much for your prayers for him and my family.

-Because of Dad's surgery, my little brother came and stayed with us in our tiny apartment for just under a week. Two adults, one teenager and a cat in a one bedroom apartment is tight, but not impossible. It makes me realize how little space we can actually live in. Gabby (our cat) was grateful to share the living room so as long as she could have a snuggly sleep buddy :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ahhh....this is the life.

I am super excited to announce that Chris found out last Friday that he got a promotion (and a nice little raise) at work! I was super sad to find out that he needed to spend the next 5 days in Baton Rouge. After a nice long weekend across the state celebrating the marriage of our dear friends, Liz and Philip*, we came home Sunday night - and packed again. I met Chris in BR Monday night and got to stay until Wednesday (he came home on Friday). While Chris went to his training during the day, I partied it up (hahaha) in the hotel until he came home.

*A side note on Liz and Philip - what a gorgeous wedding!!! I have honestly never seen two people that seem  so absolutely made for each other. I couldn't imagine either of them with anyone else. I wish you all of the happiness in the world! Please pray that they have a happy, holy marriage with lots of gorgeous blue-eyed babies :)

This little free vacation leads me to my purpose for this blog post -

Why Every Pregnant Woman Should Live in a Hotel:

1. One word: elevator. Minimal walking (waddling) around everywhere.
2. HOUSEKEEPING. Hmmm...I did fill the trash and use all of the towels this morning, but now the trash is empty I have fresh towels and my toilet paper has that neat little triangle fold on it. Whoopsie! I forgot to make the bed. Thank goodness, it was magically made by fairies while I was (see #3)
3. Out to lunch with my husband. Everyday. A quiet meal. Someone else did the dishes. Could this be
4. Why don't I have a valet at my apartment? I think one of the less finer things about being pregnant (or not pregnant) in Louisiana during the summer is steaming hot cars with seat belts that burn and air that suffocates. I think I would leave the house more if I could call a well-dressed man five minutes before I was supposed to leave to take my car from wherever it was magically hidden and pull it up 5 feet from the hotel lobby with the AC blasting.
5. Cable TV. I admit this shouldn't be as big of a bonus as it is. We don't have cable. I'm at the end of my first trimester and although overall feeling much better, I still have some funky-feeling days. I was so disappointed to find that my first day there was a funky day. I had made plans to get a little crazy and go sit at a bookstore all day and sip lattes while Chris was at his conference. That frown turned upside down when I realized I had a coffee maker, a huge bed with no less than six fluffy pillows and cable to TV to entertain me until the funk passed.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Jump for Joy

I've been actively involved in church groups for a really long time. I've heard numerous talks on how God has intended the relationship between men and women, talks on purity, friendship, courting, etc. Especially through high school, I struggled so hard to follow the "rules", but still ended up with a broken heart or that really awful alone feeling. A had lots of guys as friends. I thought my relationships were appropriate. I never thought that "void" could be filled by having a boyfriend. So what was wrong?  

I had a really strong revelation the summer before I started my freshman year of college. My friendship lack was not with men, but with women. I had become skittish of other girls in high school because of the extreme drama and backstabbing I had experienced with other girls at a really young age. Every time I went to go make a new friend, I thought "Can I trust her?" or "She definitely won't understand me."  I gravitated towards my guy friends because they seemed easier. I wish I would have realized then how much I was depriving myself. 

Right before college started, I actively prayed for a couple of really solid girl friendships...and God blessed me 30-fold!  All during college, I felt like a part of me that was still really young and underdeveloped really blossomed - I know I owe that to my very blessed friendships with my girl friends. I realized that a man and women can only go so deep in their friendship before they have progressed beyond friends, but a healthy friendship between two women can deepen and expand so much it's unbelievable. I so firmly believe that a woman learns who she is as a woman by developing trusting, strong female friendships. 

I've heard so often our gifts are also our curses. Women have this amazing ability of observation and insight...why don't we use it to build each other up instead of tear each other down? Even if we're not catty out loud, I've heard numerous women admit (me included), that we instantly notice SO much about other women, but we've trained ourselves wrong. For a long time, if I saw a beautiful/sweet/charismatic woman, I would instantly feel jealous/intimidated/judgmental. (Of course, I would strive not to say ANY of these things out loud.) A few years ago I started challenging myself to retrain my brain. When I saw a friend who looked especially pretty, I would shut out any negativity and affirm her OUT LOUD "You look really beautiful today, Susie!" I felt really dumb at first. I gave a talk on this at a women's group, and tried really hard to practice what I preached. Gradually, I saw the immediate culture of women around me change.

As always, there is no way that our everyday lives can avoid being intertwined with our spiritual lives. I felt drawn towards all of these really positive, strong women in scripture. Two of my favorite women in scripture are Mary (God's Mom) and Elizabeth, her cousin.  Individually, Mary is...well, she's amazing! I could write endless blog post about my devotion to the Blessed Mother and how she has helped change my life, both through intercession and example. Elizabeth was SO faithful in her old age.

Together, these women are DYNAMITE! The pure explosion of friendship is shown in Luke:

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. 

These two super holy, faithful women who love each other so much come together, both carrying extremely holy little boys in their bellies (because one is, you know, God and everything) and they absolutely REJOICE for each other! I read this and think "Why are we, as women, not rejoicing constantly for each other?!" Elizabeth didn't say, "Looks like you've packed on a little too much baby weight." or say condescendingly "That's so cute that you think your baby is God's son...I bet mine's a prophet or something great like that."

That is why this is one of my FAVORITE pictures. I hope to get a print of this eventually and hang it prominently in my house:

Another reason why I especially love this picture right now is because we're expecting a baby in February! As the end of the 1st trimester approaches and we've gotten several indications that this is a very healthy baby, we are so proud to begin sharing our very happy news. 

My blogging had slacked off for awhile because ALL I could think about was the baby and being nauseous and supernaturally tired. Also, I didn't think "Dry heaved today. Going to take a nap now" would make a very interesting blog post ;)  

The other picture right now that is rivaling for the most beautiful picture in the world (for Chris and I) right now is this one:

                   Baby Reed , almost 10 weeks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Redecorating & Girlification

You may notice a few changes to the blog. This happened because my husband told me today that he was starting his own blog. Actually, he didn't tell me. He said:

 "What do you think I should name my blog?"
I said: "So you don't want to post on the blog I set up for us that you originally said you would post on?"
He said: "No."
I said: "When were you going to tell me this?"
He said: "Right now...So what should I name my blog?"

I previously made an effort to keep the blog looking gender neutral and to leave space for Chris to insert his funny anecdotes. While I was upset for half a second that my husband left our blog, the second half of the second I thought what any woman would think when a man vacates their shared space....Time to redecorate.
Although I initially wanted to put pink and flowers and rainbows and unicorns all over the blog in celebration of my girly-ness, I soon realized that wasn't me either. There are some flowers in the background though (I had to mark this as girl territory somehow.)

I initially attempted to make the subject of this blog as vague as possible. I figured "our life as newlyweds" would encompass everything and give me a clear platform to say whatever the heck I want. Obviously, the direction of the blog has changed even from that incredibly vague direction. While the title will remain "Some Good Reedin' ", I'm trying to think of a clever subtitle for my newly revamped blog besides "Some Good Reedin'...I write whatever the heck I want to."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

trying to cheer up a poor, neglected blog

Here's a brief update on what's been going on:

-It's freaking hot outside. With a heat index up to 110 and a serious budget talk with the hubby, this summer has driven me to a quaint little air conditioned place that let's me take stuff for free as long as I return it - the library. I'm taking a microbiology class right now, and after a whole semester of perpetual studying, I'm not in the mood to read anything very intense. I picked a couple of the types books I loved as a kid. I'm right in the middle of the second Anne of Green Gables book, and I still have Evangeline and a wonderful light read by the very talented Emily Giffin waiting for me to read.

-Exercising. Hahaha - not me, Chris. I've briefly abandoned the gym along with the blog. Chris, however, is training for the big half Ironman next April. As practice, he just signed up for his first triathlon in September. I am SO incredibly proud of him :)

-Laziness. This I've had way too much of. My house has never looked worse and we've had frozen pizza one too many times so far this summer. I've let my brain atrophy so much that today I had to think long and hard about who the Vice President of the U.S. is because I COULDN'T REMEMBER.

-Work. I just got a brief (3 week) taste of being an English teacher this summer. Although I don't think I'm making any huge career idea changes, it definitely gave me a really strong appreciation and a "stepping into his shoes" kind of experience for what my husband does everyday in his classroom. Now that the teaching gig is over, I'm on the prowl for a job again. The aforementioned laziness needs to be curbed so that this can happen.

-Birdfeeder. Chris put one up as a treat for both me and the cat so we could watch the birds from the balcony. So far we have birdseed all over our balcony and the patio below us, birdseed germinating in all of our plants and bird poop on our balcony. Also, Gabby has been way too entertained. She attacks the blinds early in the morning, waking us up way before we need to get up. She also does this creepy chattering noise whenever she sees a bird. Chris looked up what it meant - apparently it's the noise cats make in the wild right before they snap the neck of their prey.

All of this has yielded a few summer resolutions:
-get a bigger fan
-go to the library often
-back to the gym for me!
-a little more cooking
-a strong brush up on who is currently in the Executive Branch ;)
-sending out several resumes a week
-letting my husband know how amazing I think he is for being a really awesome teacher and for training so hard for these races.
...and last but not least - taking down the birdfeeder.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Save Our Coast

The situation in Louisiana (and along the entire Gulf Coast) is becoming more and more severe. Along with the obvious environmental problems, people are being laid off in drives as oil drilling is being shut down in the gulf. The brown pelicans, who were just taken off of the endangered species list, are now dangerously close to becoming endangered again.
Here are a couple of extremely sad pictures showing how the brown pelicans have been affected by the oil spill:

In case I needed more motivation to shop for safe products besides decreasing the risk for cancer, fertility problems, and hormone disruptions...I've been thinking about how everything that goes down the drain ends up in some sort of water supply. Not to be all eco-crazy...but we only have one Earth, so I think it makes sense to protect it.

On a side note: Last night, Chris and I made a trip to Whole Foods to get vitamins free of dyes and other junk. After picking out the vitamins, I let my nose lead me to the yummy smelling bath products aisle. After smelling pretty much every shampoo and conditioner in the aisle, getting headaches and numbing our sense of smell almost completely, we found some really great products! Whole Foods brand 365 sells a basic line of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, etc. that come in chemical-free fragrances - grapefruit, lavender & mint. A huge bottle of shampoo was about 5 bucks, cheaper than a lot of traditional shampoos and conditioners. I also bought Alba mango-vanilla shaving cream on my sister-in-law's recommendation... and I'm pretty much in love with it. It's silky smooth and smells super delicious! We also made a leap into the world of eco (and skin) friendly laundry detergent (we choose Seventh Generation), which wasn't super expensive either. So there ARE affordable, safe products out there. A few small victories!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Parabens and phthalates..."Because you're worth it"

I'm not sure why I've continued to use the same "typical" beauty products year after year. Beauty products have caused me (and worsened) conditions such as hives, rashes, eczema/psoriases symptoms, etc. And that's just externally. I've had a myriad of other weird symptoms caused by who knows what. I know I can't prove that this is the cause, but I do know this: my skin is a semi-permeable organ and one of the best ways for chemicals to enter my body.  So what's in that lotion (not to mention shampoo, soap, makeup, etc.) that  I smear all over my skin?

Certain products tells us we're worth it and birth controls can do us the "favor" of only giving us four periods a year. All of the ads for birth control, makeup, skin care, hair care, deoderants, sunscreens, etc. tell women that their product will make them strong, confident and beautiful.

I guess saying that their products can "give you cancer, age your skin and cause fertility problems" isn't quite as catchy.

I decided recently to take a closer look at these products. I've recently read articles and reports that talk about all of the known irritants, allergens, hormone disrupters and carcinogens that are in the things women slather on their skin everyday. Flame retardants have been found in breast milk - this is insane. I've gotten a lot of teasing about being a hippie or too "granola". There is nothing faddish about taking care of your body, especially when it affects your lifespan, your fertility and the body of a born or unborn growing little beautiful life that just so happens to rely on your body.

A list of things I'm running away from:

Artificial hormones - a lot of people have started to get more conscious about eating chickens that are pumped full of hormones. But what about the biggest source of artificial hormones for women? Long term use of birth control can cause cause fertility & cardiac problems, as well as increasing the risk for breast cancer. I won't go heavily into it, but I'll definitely make a plug for NFP here - Natural Family Planning. Not the same as the rhythm method, a 99% effective (same as the pills claim) with ZERO side effects. Not just a Catholic thing, those "hippies" call it natural continence ;) 

Here is a list of just a few known categories of harmful ingredients to avoid. If you don't feel like click on that, here is a summary of the chemicals I listed in the title of this blog post:

parabens: used as a preservative, but have hormone-disrupting effects.
phthalates: one of the chemicals in fragrance that are endocrine disrupters, mimicking hormones and may alter genital development

Sounds fun, huh?

I've found a few affordable brands out there including Kiss My Face, Burt's Bees, Tom's, Alba, Physician's Formula...just to name a few.

Also...the same goes for home cleaners. We're slowly switching to dish soaps and cleaners that aren't harmful (to us or the environment).  There are lots of ways to make your own cleaning products, but since I haven't tried them...that will be a post for another day.

I'm sure I have plenty of products with these ingredients, but I'm not running to throw everything away at once and immediately replace them with safer products. For one, I don't have an imminent desire to go into the poor house. Two, I've been using these products all along, and I'm not dead. My plan in general - for food, exercise, beauty products, medicine - is to be conscious of what I'm putting in and on my body. I hope to slowly replenish the old products with new ones that will contribute to me and my family's health instead of threatening it. Since I'm still really new to this, I would LOVE comments on this particular post - home remedies/recipes, brands you love --please share!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dreaming about arms and defining beauty

Last night I had a dream about my arms. I didn't have these chunky arms until the middle of college. Before then, I never worried about wearing a sleeveless shirt or fear that my "bat wings" wouldn't fit in a blood pressure cuff. But now I have these flabby, overweight old woman arms. I didn't realize exactly how much it bothered me until last night I had a dream about having toned, lean arms. This pathetic awakening was motivation #347 to start being really active.

Notice I am using the word "active" instead of "exercise". The word exercise sounds like work, but being active sounds fun. It's like telling a kid to play a game to see how fast he can make his bed versus telling him making his bed is a chore. Play or chore? I think I'll pick "play." 

I realized this yesterday when Chris and I went to the pool to swim laps. I find that physical activity like running or swimming is so mental. When I jog, my mental mantra is "I hate this I hate this I hate this." Inevitably, I get overcome by side cramps and muscle pain. When I swam laps yesterday, I made sure that my mindset was more positive. With each lap I told myself something along these lines "You're going to be so lean if you keep doing this. Think of all of the things you can fit into! If you don't make it to the end of this lap, you won't have kept your heart rate up enough. Keep going so you can wear a cuter bathing suit than this!"
When I stopped mid-lap, breathing in big gulps of pool water, my legs sore and cramping, I realized that even this more positive mental dialogue wasn't sufficient motivation to push me through the hardest parts of my work out. I dog-paddled to the side of the pool, where I clung on for dear life, and thought about why I'm really doing this. It turns out fitting in cute clothes was just a side benefit and then mental babble I was feeding myself was insufficient. 

When I think about what I want for my life, I see myself being strong, uninhibited, not being held back by anything. And I'm no where close to that. The way I see it, I've got two huge things holding me back, shaping my attitude into something less than positive:
Discipline  - my mind isn't strong enough to persevere through tasks and hard times. I need this to get through nursing school, raise a family, etc.
Strength - there are so many things I hold back from because I'm not in shape. I just realized how often I think of something I really really want to do, but think "I can't do that because of my weight/size/lack of endurance and strength. 

I took off from the side of the pool again, clearing my mind of everything. Just me and the water - stroke 1, 2, 3..breathe. Repeat. I focused on the way I felt in the water. Free. Strong. Relaxed. I kept my mind clear, enjoyed the feel of the water and the steadiness of my strokes. I started to feel my strength wane, my breathes get more shallow. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the pool though, I pushed harder, swam faster, made it to the side of the pool. And then I did another lap.

Originally I was exercising because that's what fat people should do. But it's time for a change. It's time to be active because that's what every person should do to feel physically and mentally strong and to show appreciation and care for the marvelous body they have been given.

I watched a documentary on beauty called America the Beautiful (it's on netflix instant watch right now if you're interested). My favorite part of the documentary is when a woman talks about her visit to Africa to interview women about beauty. When the interviewer asks the African woman if she thinks she is beautiful, the African woman looks astounded and says (paraphrased): "I love my body. I love my hands look at my finger, look at my arms so strong they carry me can you not think you are beautiful? Look at the trees. Look at that tree over there. Do you think that it is beautiful? Look at that other tree over there. Do you think that one's beautiful? Do you say this tree isn't beautiful because it doesn't look like that tree? See you're a tree and I'm a tree."

Friday, May 21, 2010

When I grow up.

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be something new every week. At the beginning of college when "major picking" time came around, I chose English. I didn't pick this major with a goal in mind, but just let myself fall into this area because that is where I excelled. However, I changed my major about 8 times over the next 3 years (anthropology, philosophy - you name it, I declared that major) and eventually ended up...back in English. After 4.5 years of college, getting married and moving to New Orleans, I still had no clue what I was going to do with that English degree. The only idea that I consistently entertained was being an English professor. I even took the GRE and scoped out grad schools, but for some reason I always felt like some internal "brakes" were applied every time I tried to go forward with this plan. However, a few months in New Orleans and a series of life events led me to a potential path in nursing, which I am still very happy/freaked out about. I do every once in awhile get a longing for that English PhD, especially when I talk to my friends in grad school.

I just finished my first semester of nursing pre reqs, and I think my performance this semester indicates that I'm going in the right direction. I'm trying to find a full time job while finishing up class and (possibly) starting nursing school. So while I'm at home trying to (for the thousandth time) figure out what to do with my life, I get an email from my husband about an urgent need for an English professor for a 3 week enrichment program for high schoolers in a college setting. While I only have a PhD in my wildest dreams, I find out that they are really in a jam and an English degree will have to do.

In an interesting twist of fate, I got a job intended for an English professor.

We'll see how I feel after the program, but I'm still want to go forward with my nursing school plan after all of this is over. I'm also giving myself back up plans for nursing school, one of them being to not freak out if it doesn't work out and to be incredibly open to all sorts of other possibilities. Another being to write a bunch of professions on scraps of paper, throw them in a hat and pick one. Who knows? Maybe "English professor" will make the cut. If not, it'll be nice to play pretend for the next few weeks :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Road to recovery

I haven't posted in quite awhile - my original reason was that I was studying for finals (which I aced!). Then I didn't post for a little bit longer because I let my brain atrophy back to its pre-swollen, finals cramming size via excessive sleeping, eating and television watching. One day this past week I went to go post and realized I had nothing to say because of all the lazing around I did. (I thought maybe "Ate cookie dough, stayed in pajamas until 3pm" wouldn't be very exciting to read).

I've had several wake up calls recently that this lazy sort of life is something I truly hate. I was depressed and felt crummy about myself. I was watching movies and tv shows that showed other people really living their lives (fictional or otherwise). So I've made it my mission to be more balanced - to set goals, enjoy myself and be productive.

I kicked it all off with a trip across Louisiana and back. I took Hwy 90 because I think it's gorgeous and the interstate is boring. I got to visit Katie (check out her blog at ) and her beautiful daughter Isabelle :) Babies are such a joy! And speaking of babies...I made my next two stops to see some more babies, my adorable nephew Joshua and then to see my close friend Shannon who is carrying her first child. 

I meant to pass through Baton Rouge, say hello and be on my way. However, I ended up staying up super late chatting with the girls, crashing on the couch and having a world record 5 hour breakfast with an old friend. Liz, I can't even tell you how much you inspire me and how many goals I've set for myself since we talked! 

After two days apart, I came home on Friday grateful for my husband and (hopefully) a much more interesting conversationalist for him than I had been post-finals. We had so much to talk about I didn't even mind trekking all the way back across Louisiana for my nephew's 1st birthday party because it gave us so much time to enjoy each other :)

Here's a few pictures of one beautiful and very loved little boy at his first birthday, surrounded by his family. I picked these particular pictures to display this kid's super expressive face.

So happy to be playing ball with Grandaddy!
A little ticked off about the crown that was strapped to his head.
Relaxing during his "spa treatment" given by Mommy and Daddy to get all of the cake and icing off of his face!
Fish face - a common expression for Joshua

In other news...I didn't know if I was just being a fat kid posting about food all of the time, but a lot of people have told me they read the blog and expressed interest in knowing more about our lifestyle/dietary changes. Well you're all going to laugh at what Chris and I ate today. I repeatedly told my body "I hate you" today by eating only the following: toast for breakfast ( I was in a rush), fountain coke and buttered popcorn at the movies (my stomach hurt so bad), all washed down with a huge cup of caffeinated coffee with cream we drank during our 3 hour adventure at the bookstore (to punish my nervous system and further torture my stomach with the 2+ pounds of popcorn in it).

When we came home, we felt so...crappy. There is no other word for it. I made us some veggie tostados for dinner and I feel like I'm on the road to recovery. We've made numerous vows to load up on fruit and vegetables this week. Did I feel this bad all of the time before I started eating well?