Archive for April 2012

Litany of a Hopeful Mother   Leave a comment

Do you pray for things? We’re always told not to pray for wants. So I don’t, and haven’t for years. Instead I pray for internal peace, I pray for other people, I pray for situations around the world. The interesting thing about this is that after a couple decades of being insistent about not praying for things that I want meant that I couldn’t do it. Not even for a baby. The closest that I could come was to pray for everyone who was trying to grow a family through pregnancy or adoption. At least for the first year of trying. Then I realized that praying for a baby was a form of letting go, an existential acknowledgement that I can’t DO anything to make it happen but that it is all up to the universe. It seems both intuitive and counter-intuitive at the same time (is that counter-intuitive?). Praying for something can be a way of trying to control life, but praying for something acknowledges our powerlessness and accepts that powerlessness at the same time.

So I started trying to pray for a baby. Really hard to do after a couple decades of not praying for things. Other than adjusting my personal no-words, feelings-based form of prayer, I figured that the easiest way was to create a litany. That way I have help. It’s one of the parts of Catholicism that I’ve always liked but never been able to practice. The idea of asking the saints to pray with you is so magical, and intimidating. I started by searching for patron saints of hopeful mothers. That was a mistake. I do not understand how some of the canonized saints got that way, and I am completely baffled by some of patronages. One of the patron saints of hopeful mothers that I found was accused by a pregnant woman of being the father of her child, until she recanted after he hid in the church for a while. And so somebody decided this would be a good person to pray to when hoping for a baby???? Not only are some of the canonized saints ridiculous to me, but I just feel so silly asking a random dead person to pray for me with no connection to them. So I decided to go with what I know (the popular parent saints), and let it grow as I get more comfortable.

Here’s my starter litany, in which the “us” is my husband and I.

Our Lady, Mother of Jesus, pray for us

St Joseph, stepfather of Jesus, pray for us

St Anne, mother of Mary, pray for us

St Elizabeth, mother of John, pray for us

St Zachariah, father of John, pray for us

All parents of the world, pray for us

That’s as far as I’ve gotten and I’m still trying to get the comfort up to add my grandma to the list, and a friend’s mother. Saints don’t just include those who’ve been formally canonized, after all. It’s just that I feel presumptive asking someone to pray for me (somehow the “famous” saints are different). Although, I suppose my grandma would probably not have any objections. Maybe I’ll add her tonight.

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Posted April 27, 2012 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, spiritual practices

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Singing Some of the Praises of Baking Soda   Leave a comment

Last weekend was the start of spring cleaning, starting in the kitchen, and my super weapon was baking soda! I found a couple more uses to add to my list. Here it is so far:

  • Baking soda is a good mild abrasive, although it does require thorough rinsing afterwards. Salt also works as an abrasive, but in my experience it is much easier to accidentally scratch something with salt than baking soda. I wiped down just about everything from countertops to fridge shelves to the blender base and kettle with baking soda. It left the fridge shelves free of those annoying rings that some jars leave behind but that soap and water can’t remove, and gave me a shiny non-spattered blender base and kettle.
  • Baking soda is a miracle worker when it comes to removing baked/cooked-on grease and food residue. To some degree this is due to the abrasive action, but I also think that there must be some chemical reaction in play. If you sprinkle the pot or pan with baking soda and then swipe it around with a sponge some stuff will come off immediately, but then if you leave it on for a minute more will come off easily without the need for hard scrubbing. Use hot water with the baking soda and it’ll work even better.
  • Not only does baking soda remove baked on grease, but char as well. Accidentally burn something in your favorite pot? Cover the char with damp baking soda and let it sit overnight; you’ll be able to wipe off most of the char with one swipe. If you’ve got a thick layer of char it might take a couple applications. Iodine works for this as well, but don’t ask me why.
  • Speaking of char, there’s one chore that I’ve always heard horror stories about but not had a problem with myself: oven cleaning. On a very dirty oven: step 1-sprinkle liberally with baking soda and dampen, step 2-come back in a little while and wipe up, step 3-there is no step three. On a relatively clean oven: step 1-sprinkle a little bit of baking soda and wipe up with a damp sponge/rag, step 2-oh wait there’s no step two. It took me about 5 minutes to clean the walls, base, rack, door and window of the oven this year. No elbow grease, no fumes, no pain.
  • Somehow baking soda cuts grease. I discovered this when I went shampoo-free using the baking soda/apple cider vinegar strategy. I was skeptical about using baking soda as the grease cutting step so I cleaned an oily skillet with no soap, just baking soda. Again, I have no idea why it works, I just know that in my experience it does. And since I’ve been using a baking soda solution to clean my hair for about two years now, I can absolutely say that it does work on hair (with the caveat that if you are used to super dry straw hair it will feel oily).
  • I have no idea how this works, but baking soda bleaches coffee/tea cups. I have a mug that has many many years of tea stains on the inside. All it took was a swipe with a baking soda covered sponge and they were completely gone.
  • Everyone knows that baking soda is a deodorizer, but I’ve also found it to work as deodorant. That story is part of a year-long deodorant search saga that I’ll write up soon, but I can say that baking soda outlasted the State Fair…and stripped a layer of skin off. So while it works, don’t take this as a recommendation.
  • Baking soda has long been used as/in toothpaste. In is better than as. I think there’s a reason toothpaste was developed and we’re not still using tooth powder.

I’m sure I’m missing a few uses. Isn’t there something laundry-related?

Posted April 20, 2012 by mayakey in cleaning, personal care

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More Greenwashing Napkins   Leave a comment

Apparently I’m on a greenwashing bent right now, what with my last two posts being about greenwashing in the dry cleaning industry and nail polish marketing. I notice things unfortunately often, but don’t always make note of them.

Last year I posted about the greenwashing paper napkins that Quiznos was using, this year I have another paper napkin from a pizza chain (I don’t remember which one and there’s no logo on the napkin). The claim? “Save the environment, one napkin at a time.” Even a 100% recycled paper napkin is not going to save the environment. Recycling is at the bottom of the 3-R’s since it is the least beneficial. Using FEWER napkins (reduce), and/or using cloth napkins (reuse), would be better choices but still wouldn’t quite rise to “save the environment” level. These types of small steps need to be part of a larger pattern, a larger movement, to really be effective. Yes, it’s a very good thing to use disposable napkins made from 100% recycled material, and I wish that all fast food/take-out restaurants did so. However, it really annoys me when a company makes outrageous claims of benefit for very small steps. Does anyone actually see these logos and think that the restaurant is a “green” restaurant? Or does anyone actually think that using recycled disposable napkins instead of virgin disposable napkins will save the world? Now, if the claim was “Help the environment, one napkin at a time” I might be able to get on board with it not being greenwashing.

A non-greenwashing (at least in my opinion) example is some brands/sizes of bottled water that I’ve seen recently that are using smaller caps to use less plastic. The bottles that I’ve seen haven’t gone to such lengths as to redesign the label touting that they’re saving the world by using less plastic, they’ve put a note on the label that by using smaller caps they are using less plastic. There is no “save the world” claim, only a mention that this is part of an “ongoing effort to reduce [their] impact on the environment.” For that reason I’m thinking that this is not greenwashing but is legitimate green marketing of a product that is inherently not environmentally friends. There’s only so much that the impact of a disposable plastic water bottle can be reduced. Disposable means landfill space with long-term maintenance of leaching and methane production, or incineration with air pollution and ash disposal concerns, or recycling with energy consumption and downcycling issues. Plastic most likely means petroleum product, with all the impact associated with oil drilling, or it can mean corn product, which also has a significant footprint of energy and other inputs. And water itself is a concern. Some brands of bottled water are tap water, but some are “spring water” and by my understanding that means they have to tap into the spring before it reaches the surface. This requires the construction of an industrial facility in an otherwise untouched place, and my cause the spring to dry up and change the local hydrology. And then there’s that Fiji water brand that ships bottled water to us rich first-worlders while the locals don’t have adequate sanitation and clean water facilities.

Posted April 14, 2012 by mayakey in environment, resource use

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I’m Shocked! Shocked About Mislabeled Less-Toxic Nail Polish   Leave a comment

In today’s newspaper there was an article about a report released this week by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control that found that some nail polishes marketed as being free of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate do in fact contain those chemicals. Absolutely shocking, I say! Who would ever believe that a company would have misleading advertising that claims (explicitly or implicitly) that it’s products are healthy/not harmful for consumers? Oh, wait a minute, that’s greenwashing, which is rampant.

The DTSC’s concerns are not primarily exposure of women wearing the nail polish, but the exposure of the salon workers who are surrounded by nail polish all-day-every-day at their jobs. My concern, however, is MY exposure to toxic and carcinogenic compounds in nail polish that I wear. There’s a reason that I stopped wearing nail polish before we started trying to get pregnant. Not only can the volatile chemicals be inhaled, but some chemicals can be absorbed through the nails and skin as well. For the last decade or more I have only purchased nail polishes that state that they are toluene and formaldehyde-free; I think that dibutyl phthalate-free polishes must have come on the market only in the last few years when I haven’t been paying attention. But even without the “toxic trio” as the article refers to them, nail polish still contains a soup of other harmful chemicals. Basically, it is just not possible to make nail polish as we know it today without that soup. I’m highly skeptical that the so-called “organic nail polishes” on the market today aren’t just substituting less-harmful chemicals for the toxic solvents, colors, and other ingredients in conventional polishes. So while it is disappointing to know that there is a possibility that my nail polishes aren’t living up to their marketing claims, since I already consider them to be toxic soup it doesn’t really change anything. I still love me some painted toenails.

Posted April 11, 2012 by mayakey in personal care, pre-pregnancy

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Dealing with Greenwashing in the Dry Cleaner Industry   2 comments

After his short trip to Las Vegas, Mike had a few items of clothes labeled “dry clean only” that needed to be cleaned to get out the cigarette smoke smell. I hadn’t yet gotten around to researching a local dry cleaner near our house, so there was a flurry as I quickly attempted to do my research before he just went to the nearest one. Unfortunately I didn’t find one I could recommend, just one that I wasn’t completely opposed to. Especially in California greenwashing is rampant in the dry cleaner industry. The use of the very hazardous chemical perchloroethene (perc or PCE) is being phased out in California, and many dry cleaners have made the switch to other cleaning methods already. However, some of those alternative methods aren’t exactly “green” or healthy, so the “green cleaning” ads that many of those companies use are considered greenwashing in my book. GreenAmerica did an article on dry cleaning alternatives back in 2007 (when they were still called Co-op America and the monthly newsletter was called Real Money) that I used for my research last week.

Now for me, I just handwash anything “dry clean only” and have been for years. I figure that people were wearing wool, silk, linen, and cotton for millennia before dry cleaning was invented, so obviously they can be washed in water. And since I avoid synthetic fabrics that means my entire wardrobe can be wet cleaned. Yes, I handwashed my hemp-silk wedding dress, and hung it up to dry.

I started with dry cleaner that is about a block from where our workplaces. My research consisted of asking what process they used to clean the clothing. At that first place (which uses plant leaves in the logo, subtly implying that they are a green cleaner) the lady had no idea what process is used to clean the clothes. My question completely baffled her. Scratch that place from the list; for all I know they could still be using perc, which is not at all an option especially since we’re trying to get pregnant.

So I searched for other dry cleaners near us and found a couple more. The second place that I called at least knew what process they use: hydrocarbons. He assured me that it is not perc, and that it is “organic”. Unfortunately for him I’m an environmental engineer who took organic chemistry. When talking about agriculture “organic” means raised/grown without synthetic pesticides, when talking about chemicals “organic” means containing carbon atoms. Perc is organic, it is also carcinogenic and toxic. So are many, many, many other organic chemicals. Basically they just use a petroleum-based solvent instead of a chlorinated organic solvent. Again, not an option when we’re trying to get pregnant since I don’t know what will be off-gassing from the “clean” clothes.

The third place that I called very directly advertises as a “green cleaner”. They use the GreenEarth process, which uses a silicone-based solvent. On the plus side there is no risk of off-gassing from the clean clothes, and it degrades into sand, water, and carbon dioxide. On the negative side, according to the GreenAmerica article, the solvent may be a carcinogen and the manufacturing process generates a known carcinogen. Since I was short on time, though, this is the cleaner that won out. At least our exposure to anything hazardous is nothing or next to nothing, even if the workers at the dry cleaner have an exposure risk and there are problems up the supply chain.

Ideally I would have found a cleaner that uses a wet cleaning technique or a liquid carbon dioxide process (other than Solvair). Since we hardly ever take clothes to a dry cleaner, I don’t know if or when I’ll continue this research. Maybe I’ll do another flurry the next time the need arises.

Simplifying My Travel Packing List   Leave a comment

When I was a kid and we packed for trips I was a “what if” person. I packed ALL KINDS of contingency items, extra items, and superfluous items. Of course I didn’t necessarily see them that way at the time. I wanted to put my best foot forward around strangers or infrequently seen family/friends, but was too insecure to really know what it was. I remember a family reunion where my dad yelled at me for packing hair spray. At the time I just kind of rolled my eyes because I was well aware that hair spray was not close to being the most excessive thing that I had packed, I mean at least that was something I used at the time!

Fast forward to today. When I travel I’m probably flying rather than road-tripping, and therefore having to deal with luggage and liquid restrictions. I don’t yet have children. I’m secure in who I am and much prefer to just travel as “me” and not some put-together facade. Oh, and one minor change is that with my desire to live more simply I just have less stuff to pack. All this results in a leaner packing list, and a slightly easier travel experience both in the sense of lugging the luggage and finding things inside it. This does result in the debate about luggage: when everything fits into a carryon-sized suitcase is it a better travel experience to check it and then have to wait for baggage claim or carry it on and have to carry it down the aisle of the plane and lift it into the overhead compartment. I haven’t decided yet, although usually default to just carrying it on the plane.

The best way to simplify what personal care products are needed when traveling is to simplify personal care routines. At home I use a cream cleanser at night for my face, and just cold water in the morning; but when traveling for 3 days there’s no reason not to just use water and a washcloth and not have to find a way to transport the cleanser. This is a two-birds-one-stone situation as well since it means there’s no need to pack a moisturizer for my face either. For my hair I do have a pomade that I got when I cut off my long hair but since I’ve used it less than a handful of times in the month and a half since getting the haircut it was no problem leaving it at home. So hair care required nothing more than a comb. (Note that I don’t wash my hair every day, so just rinsing my head in the shower was fine for a 3 day trip.) Deodorant was a bit more tricky since I’m in the middle of almost a year of experimenting with alternatives (which eventually I’ll write about), but putting a small scoop of coconut oil in a little jar worked for me, and also provided me with a backup moisturizer if needed.

Where do I not simplify? Teeth and eyes. I get headaches when I wear my glasses all day when traveling or at work, so I absolutely have to take my contacts, case, and cleaner. And while I’ve tried leaving my tongue scraper at home, even on a two day trip I’m desperately feeling the need for a good tongue scraping, so along it comes in all its awkward dimensioning. For the purposes of avoiding the purchase of a mini-tube of toothpaste to get me past security I did just bring a baggie of baking soda instead, but that’s not really simplifying.

Where did I REALLY not simplify? Clothes? No, wore 1 pair of jeans all weekend and an easy-to-pack outfit to the wedding. Makeup? No, only brought the makeup that I actually wear on a regular basis. It was reading materials. I brought my entire stack of magazines, plus the Tao of Fertility book, plus the Mists of Avalon book, plus my journal, plus my computer. My shoulder and back do not thank me. They say: next time choose between the 2+ inch thick book and the stack of magazines, and make it an unplugged computer-free weekend. All of my time that wasn’t on a plane or waiting to get on a plane was spent hanging out with family anyway.

Anything that I missed having with me? Shoes, actually, but that’s mostly because I don’t have a really good pair of pant boots right now. I only took my pant boots and my calf boots for dressing up, so when my aunt suggested going for a walk one morning my heels and arches complained for about 2.5 miles of the approximately 3 mile walk. I rarely pack my running shoes since they take up so much space, but my current everyday boots are horrible shoes for any significant amount of walking.

Posted April 3, 2012 by mayakey in personal care, simple living, travel

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