Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My mind on stress

So I'm trying to drink my tea, and I am surrounded by little dogs with big eyes, staring at me, wagging their tails hopefully.

I don't know what they want.

I fed them. I offered to let them out; they skittered away. But then they came right back, them and their big eyes and cheerfully hopeful tails.

Who knew little dogs could fill you with such a sense of pressure and incompetence?

They probably know that their box of puppy treats is empty. It is a very sad thing.

I need to go to the store. Besides puppy treats, I need to buy refreshments for the reception that will follow David's Junior Saxophone Recital this coming Sunday evening.

The hardest thing about this = not knowing numbers. Anywhere from twelve to fifty people might come to listen to David play. How do I buy for such an amorphous audience?

Even if I did have a number, I wouldn't know how much to buy. For instance, I can make a very large tray of fresh vegetables and dip, and my family of six will easily polish it off in the course of an evening. However, I am 100% certain that if I made nine such trays for this event, they would not be consumed, not even close, even if 50 people showed up in the end.

It drives me crazy how polish (as in, "Why don't men pah-lish their shoes anymore these days?") and Polish (as in, "These Poe-lish sausages are delicious,") have exactly the same spelling.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

SLS -- they call it the poison in our products

SLS stands for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. There is also SLES which is the abbreviation for Sodium Laureth Sulfate.

These are foaming agents, and they are in most of your soaps, shampoos, and other personal care products.

There are many claims and many arguments out there about the relative safety and danger of these products, as you will find if you do a quick Google search on the terms. I do not know what is true and what is false, so I am not going to make any brash statements about, for instance, whether these things cause cancer, or whether they are toxins that our livers cannot break down, which thus linger in our systems. Maybe, maybe not.


I have tried to minimize the SLS containing products in our bathroom, and the results have been good.

Experience Number 1

My husband was plagued with horrific canker sores his entire life. Often, he could barely talk because of a huge, gaping wound in his mouth. Sometimes these garish holes in his inner cheeks and gums would cause him so much pain that he got migraines from them. He tried many remedies, including taking L-Lysine, but nothing offered consistent and lasting relief.

One day I read that SLS's can cause canker sores, so I went out and found an SLS-free toothpaste. It is called Closys, and I buy it at Kinney Drug Store. Since he switched over to this toothpaste, my husband has had almost no canker sores.

I'm just saying.

This is the truth. It is our personal experience. I'm not promising it will work for you, I'm just saying it worked for him. I use Closys now, too, and although I rarely got canker sores before, I never get them now.

The huge difference this change made in my husband's mouth kind of freaked me out. How could an ingredient that did that much damage to his tissues be in all the mainstream toothpaste brands?

Then my hair started falling out. Which led to...

Experience Number 2

I tried a number of things, including shampooing only three times a week (that was torture for me, and I never got used to it).

Now I use an SLS-free shampoo. I'm not sure if it stemmed the tide of my hair loss, but I think my hair seems to be falling out more slowly. I have also noticed that when I am away from home and end up using hotel shampoo or someone else's SLS-containing shampoo, it seems that more of my hair falls out on those days than on a normal day at home.

I use Every Day Shea Lavender Shampoo, and I get it at our local Wegman's, which is very convenient.

It took my hair a little while to get used to this shampoo. I find that it works a bit differently from "normal" shampoo. I lather up my hair with it at the beginning of my shower and then leave it to soak in while I shave my legs and wash my body. I rinse it out last thing. This method seems to work very well.

I do not use conditioner. Last week I tried doing a homemade, pre-shampoo conditioning treatment with coconut oil, castor oil and molasses (which is supposed to be very strengthening). It took three days for my hair to stop looking wet (greasy) and stringy, but since then it's been quite lovely.

I also take biotin and saw palmetto to try to beef up my hair, as well as a multi-vitamin and fish oil.

In particular though, I'm pretty happy with the shampoo I'm using, and I have to admit that the few times I've substituted a regular shampoo, the results have been much worse than on the days when -- for instance --I forget to take one of my supplements.

So I think there might be some reasons to avoid SLS's, whether or not we're talking about "poison".

Experience Number 3

I stopped using SLS products on my face and body.

The results have been downright remarkable.

First, I started the oil cleansing method. This has been lovely for my face.

When I need an acne treatment for my face, I use about 1/4 tsp. of castor oil in the center of the palm of my hand, drop in 2-3 drops of tea tree oil, stir it up with my finger and massage it into my face. Ta-da.

Sometimes in the morning, instead of just rinsing my face, I wash it with raw honey
or a mixture of raw honey and nutmeg
or a mixture of raw honey, nutmeg and plain yogurt.
(You only need 1/2 tsp. or less of each, and you can leave it on as a mask, too, if you're into that.)

This is fun, and tasty if it gets into your mouth by mistake. I don't know if it is much more effective than the oil cleansing method by itself, but it certainly doesn't seem to do any harm.

I cannot even tell you how much nicer my skin is than only a few months ago when I was using commercial products. I never would have believed that my skin could look this happy. I think the difference is the lack of SLS-containing products which seem to work against your skin instead of with it.

It reminds me of a friend who had a beautiful lawn. He said, "The secret is to fertilize and water and grow a really healthy lawn. You don't have to fight the weeds nearly as hard if you have great, healthy grass." I think skin issues are similar. SLS-containing skin care products are like weed-killing poison. They'll attack your skin issues, but they attack your skin at the same time. If you use the right products on your face, you can nourish your skin and make it more resistant to problems.

Of course, skin issues are always deeper than the skin itself, and proper nutrition and hydration are of the utmost importance, as well as hormone balance. So eat right, drink a lot of pure water, cut out sugar and increase your Omega-3's (take fish oil).

Along with cutting out SLS's on my face, I've cut them out of the soaps I use on my body. Guess what? This has reduced my "winter itch" like nobody's business.

My favorite soaps were some pricey handmade olive oil soaps from an Etsy shop. But if you are on a budget and still want to go SLS-free, you can get...

Kirk's Castille Soap. I actually love this stuff. It is very mild, with a soft, almost unscented kind of scent. It is about $1.50 per bar at my local Wegman's, no shipping and handling!

And the best of all, amazingly...

Yardley Soap. I can get this at Wegman's, a 2-pack of their more basic soaps for $1.99. My husband loves the Lavender and the Oatmeal and Almond one. AND I just discovered that you can get additional varieties of Yardley at (you'd never guess...) the Dollar Store for (of course) $1 per bar.

If you are one of those blessed people who float through life with beautiful skin and hair, no rashes, no itches, no split ends... well, those people probably stopped reading a long time ago. If you struggle with skin, hair and body issues, I'd challenge you to try getting the SLS's out of your bathroom and see if things don't improve.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Social Security

So I was debating about what to write today... should I write about Social Security, or should I write about SLS? Social Security won. Watch for an SLS post coming soon.

This particular post is likely to make some people angry. Just warning you. Except... very few people read here, so perhaps I have nothing to fear.

I have some strong opinions, just ask my husband.

For one thing, I think birth control ruined marriage.

I am with the Catholic church on this one. Not that I embrace the Quiverful Movement. I don't. But I still think birth control ruined marriage. When science enabled us to separate the act of sex from the act of procreation, something sacred was lost. No longer was a vow of commitment imperative before a couple embarked on a sexual relationship. Sexuality became divorced from love, and something died that will never live again.

That's all I'm going to say about that, because this post is about Social Security, not birth control. Nevertheless, I think birth control ruined marriage.

I also think that Welfare ruined the poor. (I can just imagine the seething that will ensue if certain people run into this post...)

My parents grew up poor. Really poor. But their parents did not fall into the safety net of Welfare and thus, my parents worked hard and rose up in the world. Granted, their families were only poor because of the Great Depression; they did not come from generations of poor, uneducated, ignorant people. They had education and knowledge in their pasts, and this enabled them to dream and work, sweat and sacrifice. My dad worked for a painter when he was in college. He painted, painted and painted, all so he could pay his tuition. The painter he worked for would call out to him from down a fume-filled hall, "Hey Rainbow! Do ya think you'll ever amount to much?"

Welfare should not have been so bad. People should have used it to get a leg up and move on, amounting to something. But they didn't. Humans are intrinsically lazy and selfish, so if the government will give us enough to feed our faces, many of us are content to sit in a hovel with a TV and cigarettes for amusement and wait for a government check on the first of the month.

This is what the poor children learn... why should I try hard in school? The government check comes whether I do my homework or not. In fact, we get more money from the government when Dad moves out and Mom stops working. So why even try? Life is pretty bleak, but a good hit of drugs always makes me feel better. Whatever.

I could go on, but I will leave it at that because this post is about Social Security, not Welfare. Nevertheless, I think Welfare ruined the poor.

Social Security ruined families, and particularly middle class ones.

Do you want to know why?

Before "Social Security," one's social security was bound up in one's children. People raised their children with the thought in mind, "Some day I will be depending on these people for my own survival. Someday they will support me, and I will live in their house."

Now this was never true for the Very Wealthy, because their futures did not depend on their children, they depended on their trust funds and investments. And we saw what became of their children (read Brideshead Revisited if you want to see... or don't; it's a terribly depressing book).

When "Social Security" came along, people stopped seeing their children as their future. Heck, the government was taking care of their future. Their kids were, at best, a hobby. Kids became things to be petted, spoiled and indulged. Why should one struggle with discipline, teaching offspring to work hard and sacrifice and make good choices? It's so much easier and more peaceful just to let them have what they want. Why not? The government has our backs, financially.

I'm just saying. Necessity is the mother of invention...

When it was necessary for people to parent well because their futures depended on it, by and large they did a much better job of it. Self-interest is a powerful motivator.

When it became unnecessary to parent well, well, by and large a lot of people stopped putting in the effort. They redefined the main responsibility of parenting: instead of parenting to bring up good people, they parented to produce people who were always happy in the short term.


And since the next generation did not learn to work, only to gratify themselves and expect a reward anyway, and to fear nothing because the government will always come to the rescue with a check... oh dear.

So now the Social Security bank is broken. The country is going bankrupt. Far too few know how to work, or to budget, or actually to shoulder responsibility and pay for something.

I live in a nice neighborhood. Not a ritzy neighborhood, but a nice one. Yesterday I was in my van, turning into the development. In the nicely landscaped median at the entrance, where a brick structure proclaims the name of our location, beer bottles lay asunder amongst the dormant perennials. Signs of the next generation.

Are we having fun yet?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday dinner

My mom used to make roast beef on Sundays.

We'd get home from church and change our clothes. My mom made gravy and mashed the potatoes. She put beef, buttered carrot-pea medley, and pineapple coleslaw into serving dishes. Also, there was jello, usually containing crushed pineapple. We set the table with the brown 70's plates (heavy stoneware that would probably almost be back in style) and the Twin Star stainless.

We all sat down for dinner together and my dad said the prayer before we ate. After we finished, there was dessert followed by carrot and celery sticks. We always ended with carrot and celery sticks, "To clean out our teeth," said my mother.


Today after church I had:

  • a piece of toast spread with sunbutter
  • some plain yogurt jazzed up with with a little honey and way too much cinnamon (my bad)
  • a small handful of plain almonds
  • an orange
  • a few stale chips with salsa
  • a cup of tea

Jon had Cocoa Krispies followed by a bowl of oatmeal.

DJ finished some leftover failed Eggplant Parmesan (bless his heart) and then made egg salad with hard boiled eggs and Greek yogurt instead of mayo.

Shawn had a bowl of the delicious soup I made last night, which (unfortunately) I plan to serve for dinner, so he will have it twice today. Good thing it's delicious.

Nobody set the table. We used napkins, paper towels, a few real dishes... and we pushed away the breakfast crumbs, but I didn't wipe them up until we had finished.

Oh how far we have strayed from the days of yon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In an empty nest

I used to spend the bulk of my time washing, feeding and cleaning up after my children.

Now it seems that I spend the bulk of my time washing, feeding and cleaning up after myself.

Who even am I?

I have no goals, no purpose, no anything.

All I have is a nagging, low-level headache that never seems to go away, and a gaggle of drawers and closets that need to be cleaned out.

Oh, but I'm a good whiner.

God, be merciful.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Memory Lane, furtively

This morning I got to watch the adorable four-year-old daughter of one of my friends.

She came over to visit while her mother helped with her older brother's Valentine party at school.

We got out the old toys and the old games, and I had so much fun.

I hope she did, too.

I guess I just love playing with toys. And I don't get much of a chance to do so anymore. So today was a riot.

The crowning glory was a tea party. I got out Lulu's old tea set and washed it up, then stocked it with chocolate milk, Honey Comb cereal, Cocoa Rice Krispies and sliced banana.

The Adorable went to town, busily mixing, pouring, stirring, pouring, sipping and pouring. She really enjoyed pouring, especially after she realized that paper towels are very absorbent and ladies who are mothers of grown-ups are very calm about using them.

"Would you like a cup?" she asked graciously, pouring, peering up under thick black eyelashes.

"Thank you," I said.

We sipped and nibbled. She stuck a sticky finger into the sugar bowl which was filled with Cocoa Rice Krispies, then luxuriously ran it through her mouth, catching the krispies on her tongue.

"I think," she said, "it will be better if we don't tell my mom that you gave me all this unhealthy food."

"Oh?" I said, "I think we probably should tell her that we had a tea party."

"It will be all right," she eyed me conspiratorially. "Sometimes when I am at my Bamma's, she gives me treats like these, and we just don't say anything."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Babies have been born lately.

This makes me think back to my own children's births.

They say that a baby gains 1/2 lb. (or 8 oz.) per week in the last month of pregnancy.

If that is true, all my children were on track to be 9 lbs.

I am thankful that they were all early.

Shannon was due on November 6, but she was born on October 23. That made her exactly 2 weeks (14 days) early. If she had been born two weeks later and gained 8 oz. per week, she would have added exactly 1 lb. to her birthweight, which was 8 lbs. and 0.5 oz. She would have weighed 9 lbs. and 0.5 oz. on her due date.

David was due on June 20 but was born on May 22. That made him 29 days early. Divide 29 days by 7, and you come up with 4 weeks and 1 day early. The four weeks would have added 2 lbs to his birthweight, the extra day would have added a hair more than an extra oz. ...David's birthweight was 7 lbs. 2 oz. but had he stayed in the oven until his due date, he would have weighed 9 lbs. 3 oz.

Laura, like Shannon, was due on November 6, but she came on October 8. Like David, she was 29 days early, so as we did for David, we would add 2 lb. and 1 oz. to her birthweight to determine what she would have weighed on her due date. Her birthweight was 7 lbs. and 0.5 oz. So she would have been 9 lbs. 1.5 oz. on November 6.

Jonathan was due on September 6, but he was born on August 27. He was 10 days early (it felt pretty late to me! ...although I always thought he was 9 days early until I actually figured it out on the calendar today). Using the formula above (babies gain 8 oz. per week the last month in the womb), we can do math: 8 oz. per week equals 8 oz. per 7 days, which if you plug it into a calculator equals 1.14 oz. per day. Over ten days, that comes to another 11.4 oz. that Jon would have packed on in addition to his birthweight, which was 8 lbs. 6 oz. Addition gives us 8 lbs. 17.4 oz. which is really 9 lbs. 1.4 oz. Bingo. Right in the pocket.

I think this is pretty interesting, even though probably nobody else in the world would.

And I think it bears repeating: I am thankful that they were all early.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Poor Piper

Piper is in a cone.

When Schubert has to wear the cone, he goes from being a jolly, exuberant dog to being a morose, depressed dog. It is rather heartbreaking.

When Piper has to wear the cone, he goes from being a morose, depressed dog to being a slightly sadder morose, depressed dog. It is not quite as heartbreaking.

Also, he has strong drugs. This all happened on Friday, while Shawn and I were getting ready to go out and visit Shannon to hang thermal draperies over the drafty windows in her apartment.

Usually when Piper sees a suitcase, he freaks out and begs to be held from first-sighting until we exit the door. On Friday we packed openly, right in front of him. All he did was lie in the middle of the kitchen floor breathing heavily. As I said, strong drugs.

He ripped his dew claw loose. I do not know how this happened. All I know is, last Wednesday morning he and Schubert came downstairs for their breakfast and Schubert, bounder that he is, leaped around and bumped Piper, at which Piper let out the most distressing, blood curdling, extended yelp. I went to check and saw that he was limping around, favoring his left forepaw. At the time, I thought perhaps Schubert had caused some musculoskeletal injury to the Pipester. DJ had not left for college yet. He gently examined Piper and we decided to see if it got better.

Over Wednesday and Thursday, Piper huddled on the blanket on the sectional in the family room and whimpered. Shawn arrived home from a business trip on Thursday evening, and we discussed what to do. That night, Piper started obsessively licking his left forepaw, so I got out the cone (it seems to be a handy thing to keep around) and put it on his head.

On Friday I took him in to the vet. By then we had determined that it had something to do with the dew claw, but really, it didn't look all that bad. A tad swollen, is all. He cried like a human baby all the way to the vet's office, and I had a hard time choking back my own tears.

They surgically removed the dew claw with a local anesthetic, bandaged him, and gave him an antibiotic and a strong painkiller.

The bandaged paw.

I guess he will heal in about two weeks, or so they say. It's hard to get a picture of him, because whenever I get near him, the poor baby tries to climb into my lap.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Blog!!!

Hey! I started a new blog!


Because I spend a lot of time blogging, and I think I need to try to recoup something by trying to, well, monetize something.

I cannot monetize this blog or Seeking Wisdom, Craving Grace for two reasons...

(1) It feels wrong ... the thought of selling out on my family memoirs and my devotions.
(2) These blogs get no traffic anyway.

So... if you are some of the very rare and treasured readers who stop by around here, maybe you wouldn't mind helping me out by visiting over at my new blog and upping the traffic stats.


Bass clarinet

David is playing a gig this week, a pit orchestra in Hamilton.

He is 20, so I do not know if this is Hamilton as in Hamilton, NY (where Colgate University is) or Hamilton as in Hamilton College in Clinton, NY.

I don't know what show he is playing, either. He did tell me once, but I'd never heard of it.

Somebody emailed him and asked him to play one of the reed parts for this show. The money was good, and he hasn't had a paying job since he quit his summer stint at Lowes, so he took it. It involves playing alto sax, bari sax, clarinet and bass clarinet.

David has his own alto sax and b-flat clarinet. He does not have a bari, but he has played bari quite a bit and has always been able to find one he can borrow.

He had never touched a bass clarinet.

The person recruiting him said he had a bass clarinet David could borrow. So off David went to play it, happily.

After the first rehearsal, DJ reported that every time he had a bass clarinet part to play, it was a solo. We asked him how these solos went. He said, "OK." Since then, he has figured the thing out and is feeling really good about it.

Can I just say? I cannot even imagine. I cannot even imagine.