Making The Brave Choice

Apr 17, 2015 by

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I feel like my life verges on monotony.  Go to work, come home, deal with stuff, go to bed pass out on the couch, wake up, and begin again. It’s easy to get stuck in routine – which, admittedly, is great for kids, but not so great for adults.

It could be as simple as cooking the same meals week-after-week, or spending weekend nights glued to Netflix. But this Groundhog Day existence isn’t healthy – for you, your partner, or your kids. Sometimes you have to shake things up, consider a different path, and make a brave choice to re-imagine your life.

That’s a pretty bold statement.

It’s easy to get sucked into an easy, predictable life. It’s actually kinda comfortable. You know what to expect – even if it doesn’t necessarily feel all that great. Perhaps your relationship has lost the spark, maybe your job isn’t super engaging, or you’re just used to doing something a certain way – do you accept the status quo because it’s easy? Most people do. I did. It’s simply easier to deal with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

What happens when you shake things up – take risks to live more fully and more authentically? At first, it’s terrifying! You imagine every worst-case scenario and ask yourself, “What if…”  But the bigger question is, “What if you don’t…”

What if you don’t speak to your partner from your heart, revealing yourself at your most vulnerable? What if you don’t accept that job that could provide a springboard to professional growth and achievement? What if you don’t plan that “buck list” trip now, rather than waiting until you retire? A life filled with regrets seems so much sadder than a life filled with the joy and experience that risk offers. I asked myself this question – and, consequently, related it back to my son – what kind of life do I want him to lead…what’s the example that I’m setting?

We encourage our kids to try new things – to take risks, to enjoy life – shouldn’t we want the same for ourselves? Be brave, make the choice to embrace life in all it’s messy, beautiful-ness.

What have you wanted to do, but have been afraid to try? Ask yourself if the risk of “What if?” outweighs the joy of “I did” – you might just open the door to a more fulfilling life.

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My Wholehearted Family

Oct 22, 2013 by

Brené Brown is my “hero crush,” a term used by my spouse for those I fall in love with because of their minds, contributions, leadership, or other characteristics that somehow enhance our collective lives.  Brené  advocates living our lives with ordinary courage, she exposes the devastating impact of shame, and she encourages us all to live authentically, with the whole of our hearts, even though it’s scary and feels vulnerable.  I love her, and I’ve never met her.  I hope that changes some day.

Recently, Brené Brown teamed up with Oprah to develop an e-course on Wholehearted living, which you can find here.  Oprah is one of my spouse’s hero crushes, and so this did seem a match made in heaven.  My spouse signed up to take the course, and when the instructions for Day 1 came out, she challenged the family to do the activity together.  The instructions will be oversimplified here, but essentially Brené  asked us to write things we give ourselves permission to do if/when we feel scared, asked us to admit and proclaim that we are both imperfect and enough, and asked us to remember that courage is a word of the heart.  Then we had to translate the instructions to the children.

My daughter is one of few words, yet if you miss them, you’ve truly missed something.   My spouse refers to my son as “prolific.”  If you miss my son’s point, wait for it, it’ll come around again (and again, and again).  Both are profound and I consider both my gurus, just very different.  My five-year old immersed herself in the project with both hands (literally).

She loves to paint, and was most intrigued by the directions of writing “I am imperfect, I am enough” on our hands and taking pictures.  For her, however, plain paint was simply enough, but she was determined take the picture of me.

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She was delighted to continue to paint hands, but then quickly moved on to playing the cups (most recently in “When I’m Gone“).  Not before, however, my spouse pauses to say “this is my favorite family activity EVER.”  Her courageous work, beside the ordinary courage required to whip out the paints on a school night, looks like this.

Have I mentioned I married her 3 times?

Have I mentioned I married her 3 times?

My prolific one, 6, got into it!  My son listens to and takes in everything, which is both a gift and a curse.  The curse is that we can no longer S-P-E-L-L out conversations, nor speak in code.  He, both of them really, are too on-to-us for that. It also means that when he produces something like this, we must be doing something right.  What he aspires to give himself permission to do when he feels scared rocked my world.

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Hart = Harte = Heart

If you didn’t get his message the first time (I did mention he’s prolific):

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100_1437Well, then the normal 6-year-old came out.  This one includes things like “I have the right (rite) to… get new tows (toys).”  I have a feeling that may be his suggestion to us moms the next time he feels scared.  But it also includes exercise (exirsis), having a run, playing outside, and singing his favorite (favrt) songs.

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It was a great moment when he noticed some of his spelling mistakes and laughed out loud, as he’d already given himself permission to do just that.

I don’t know how many of Brené’s and Oprah’s projects my spouse will have the courage or inclination to bring us all into, but I owe her thanks for bringing us all into this one.  We may be imperfect.  Yet, as this whole-hearted project showed us by further revealing the cool human beings growing up in front of our eyes, we are enough.  I wish you all that knowing, even if just for a moment.  I’m sure I’ll need a thousand reminders, just like the rest of us.  Yet I am grateful that after tonight, I have one more place to look for that reminder when it’s needed.

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 P.s. – As Brené Brown is quite liberally quoted and referenced throughout, please give her full credit!

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Cleaner Living: No More Face Products!

Dec 20, 2011 by

So after taking a look at my hair care routine I decided to look at other ways I was using products with unnecessary and harmful chemicals.  Next up was my face!

I never had blemishes until I was 21.  I have a pretty classic “T-zone” which means I get most of my oil and breakouts on my forehead and chin and around my nose, and I have somewhat large pores that clog easily.  I also have some dark spots from old blemish scars that I wanted to lighten.  For a while I was using whatever was cheapest for face wash, but recently had switched to Olay Regenerist products since it was anti- aging (you know, ‘cuz at 31 I’m “old”).

The Olay products I was using helped with my breakouts, but left my skin slightly sensitive.  During my purging of chemicals I researched my products on the EWG Skin Deep database and was HORRIFIED!  Here is what I was using and the hazard level they were given:

Mary Kay OIL-FREE EYE MAKEUP REMOVER- 5 (Moderate Hazard)

Olay Regenerist Foaming Cleanser- 5 (Moderate Hazard)

Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum- 7 (High Hazard)

Olay Regenerist Resurfacing Elixir- N/A

Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream- 7 (High Hazard)

Neutrogena Clear Pore- 6 (Moderate Hazard)

Well, off to Goggle to research natural ways to clean my face, since I won’t be slathering endocrine disruptors and more on my face anymore.

Well, here is what I found here, and here (I failed Chem, but these were pretty easy to read). So, basically chemistry says “like dissolves like.”

So soap will dissolve oil because it has like properties, but it can be very drying leaving you to have to moisturize with more chemicals.  So what’s left is oil…

You’ve got to be kidding me?!?! Clean my face with OIL!!!!! That’s what I’m trying to get RID of!

But remember what we found out about cleansers in our shampoo?  The more you strip the natural oils from your skin your largest organ by the way) you tell your body to produce more.  A never-ending cycle of wash, oil, wash, oil….

And so I began the Oil Cleansing Method.

The first and most important oil you want to use is Castor Oil.  Castor Oil has potent anti-inflammatory properties, but is also healing and cleansing.  But Castor oil is thick and its cleansing properties are too strong by itself so we need to dilute it with other oils.

Other popular oils are EVOO, Grapeseed, Coconut, and Jojoba.  You can find more “dirt” on these oils here.

Depending on your skin type you want to mix your oils in the following amounts (the OCM website says different, but this is what I found to be the average for those who use it).

  • Oily Skin: Try a blend of 60% Castor Oil to 40% Other oils
  • Balanced Skin: Try a blend of 50% Castor Oil to 50% Other oils
  • Dry Skin: Try a blend of 40% Castor Oil to 60% Other oil

I use a mixture of 50% Castor Oil, 25% Jojoba, and 25% Grapeseed oil.  I measured 3 oz of castor oil, mixed with 1.5oz each of jojoba and Grapeseed oils and mixed and poured into (2) 3 oz travel bottles.

1.  Start with a dry dirty face (this is great for getting makeup off, so no need for a makeup remover- even for Waterproof mascara!!!) Have your oils ready, set a clean washcloth beside the sink. Turn the hot water on to warm up.

2.  Pour the oil in the palm of your hand and then apply gently all over your face. Massage firmly, but gently, always moving upwards. Massage for 2 minutes, and then let the oil sit on your face for 30 more seconds or more.

3.  By now, you should have very hot water coming out of your faucet. Adjust the heat until it’s cool enough to apply to your skin, but warm enough to soften the oil (it’s probably going to be hotter than the water you usually rinse your face with). Dunk the washcloth under the hot/warm water until it’s completely soaked. Apply the washcloth to your face and hold it there for 10-15 seconds. Slowly begin to wipe off. Rinse your washcloth and repeat until you’ve wiped all the oil off your skin.

4. Rinse with cool water and dry, and your done!

*A word of caution: this may take a few weeks for your skin to balance out its natural oils.  You may find you have opened your pores so much that you unclog some oil spills.  It should get better in a couple of weeks.  I found I had a few blemishes until week 2.*

I do still get a few breakouts, usually hormone related.  When this happens I use an all natural tea tree oil toner I make and keep in a travel bottle.

  • Use 1 part Tea Tree oil to 9 parts water and mix together in a bottle.  I also use lemon juice (in an equal amount as the tea tree oil) to help lighten my dark spots.

I also am in love with Coconut Oil (only use Extra Virgin, Unrefined– more on its amazing properties in another post!)  I will sometimes add this with my Castor oil mix for a more moisturizing effect. And for a good exfoliator add a tsp of sugar to your Oil and scrub as usual (though if you have sensitive skin, this may irritate it).

I do this every night after I put the kids to bed, but before I start my night routine of lunches, chores, Facebook, etc.  It takes a bit more time than regular cleanser, but it is a bit of a luxury every night that I look forward to. I do not recommend doing it more than once per day, just wash with water in the am and you should be fine.

My face is mush cleaner than ever.  For an experiment I washed my face with my old cleanser and toner.  Here is a picture of the cotton swab after:

Still have makeup and dirt on my face!

And this is a swab after my OCM/tea tree routine:

Nice and clean!

Oh and here is the best part- the savings!  For me at least:

Cost Months Bought Yearly Cost
Mary Kay Oil Free Makeup Remover $15.00 2 $30.00
Olay Regenerist Foaming Cleanser $8.00 6 $48.00
Olay Regenerist Resurfacing Elixir $25.00 3 $75.00
Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Serum $25.00 3 $75.00
Olay Regenerist Micro Sculpting Cream $25.00 2 $50.00
Neutrogena Clear Pore Astringent $6.00 4 $24.00
Total  $302.00
Castor Oil $3.00 4 $12.00
Jojoba Oil $7.00 2 $14.00
Grapeseed Oil $10.00 1 $10.00
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil $7.50 4 $30.00
Tea Tree Oil $9.00 2 $18.00
3, 3oz travel bottles $3.00 1 $3.00
Total  $87.00
Difference in Cost for the year $215.00

Overall, I love this method.  Even though I have some breakouts still, they last far shorter than before and I have the added benefit of knowing I am chemical free on my face, and I am saving a ton of money.  I love it!!!

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Cleaner Living: I banished my shampoo

Nov 22, 2011 by

Welcome to the first Cleaner Living Column!

Most people who want to reduce their chemical use, may start with something innocuous like kitchen cleaner, something that no one will really see or care about if it goes wrong or doesn’t work.

NOT ME!

I picked my hair!

For background, I currently have shoulder length, auburn/brown hair.   I have colored my hair since my best friend and I smuggled some Sun-In into my moms bathroom when we were 17, so i really can’t remember my true natural color.  It is somewhat wavy/curly when I don’t blow dry it, and has a fair amount of natural body.  I have never really had any shampoo brand loyalty, having to switch quite often when my hair became “immune” to one kind or another.   I get it trimmed about every 8 weeks unless I get the urge to cut it all off.

Just prior to my epiphany I was shampooing about every other day, sometimes more with L’oreal EverPure Sulphate Free Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner (sounds all natural and healthy).  I would also use a bit of Moroccan Oil on the ends just before drying, you know because my stylist recommended it.

Well, one particularly bad hair day,  I had washed my hair  in the morning, but by the nighttime my scalp felt greasy and itchy while the ends were just split and dry.  Plus my hair had been falling out like crazy!  Huge clumps in the shower, clogging my drain.

So I headed over to Dr. Google and I found all of these posts on the No-Poo Method (quite an unfortunate name).  I read that shampoo really only came out in the 30’s, with women washing their hair once a week.  In the 70’s and 80’s the every day washing became the norm to the point that even my mentioning that I would even skip one day of shampoo might make some cringe.

But the one thing that grabbed my attention and made me want to do this was for the health reasons.  Shampoo is a detergent.  It strips your hair and scalp of its natural oils causing the body to think it needs to produce more, meaning you feel like you need to wash your hair more, perpetuating the cycle of wash, grease, wash, grease….

Think about it like breastfeeding.  Our bodies know how much to produce by the demands we (our babies) make.  Ever nursed every 30 minutes for a couple of days while baby is sick and then that first 3 hour stretch makes you look like Pam Anderson and you are aching to release the pressure of over-production.

Also, my “oh so natural” sounding shampoo wasn’t so great for me.  Looking at the EWG Skin Deep database, my shampoo got a 6 (on the high-end of moderate hazard).  And thinking that higher end “salon quality products” would be made of better ingredients (since they cost a fortune!), think again!  Many of them were in the High Hazard range.

So, I was going to try it!  I mean if all else failed I could go back to shampoo.. no harm done.

I began my experiment and I will give you a little warning-  There is a balancing period where your hair and oil needs to figure out how much it really needs to produce.  So, for me it was about 2 weeks (some report up to a month, but they may have really oily hair) where I either wore my hair up or did the BS every other day until I could wean myself to every third or fourth day.

But I stuck with it and I am happy to report I have ditched the bottle… My name is Dena and I have given up shampoo!

Not only has my hair stopped falling out, but it looks less greasy and doesn’t itch.  Most of the time it looks better on Day 3 of rinsing than it did after shampooing on Day 1.  Plus, my wallet thanks me!* (See the end of the post for the breakdown).

So how can you do this too?  These two articles here and here were particularly helpful in making my decision, but here is what my routine consists of:

“Shampoo”:

1-1 1/2 tbsp of Baking Soda (any kind, I got mine at the grocery store for $.89)

1 8oz color applicator bottle (got it at Sally for $1.89)

– Some people mix there BS mix ahead of time, but I don’t find pouring cold water on my head very enjoyable, so before I get in the shower I put my BS in the bottle and fill it to the top with my hot shower water.  The applicator tip allows for me to get it where I want it, which is my scalp and crown since I tend to have dry ends and the BS will only make them drier.  I find it helpful to apply this to my hair before getting it wet so I can avoid the ends better.  After applying I massage my scalp to dislodge any dirt and grime- your fingers should feel a bit slippery.  Then I rinse thoroughly with warm water.  I do this every 3 days, sometimes going 4 if I put my hair up on Day 3.  In between I just rinse with water and brush with a boar’s head brush from root to tip.

“Conditioner”:

2-2 1/2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV- again any kind, I bought a 32oz bottle for $1.79)

4 drops of Jojoba Oil (got mine at Trader Joe’s for $6.99- I will use it in future products- be on the lookout!)

6 drops of Grapefruit Essential Oil (to cut the vinegar smell- got it at Whole Foods for $5.99)

2 drops Aloe Vera Gel ( Also at Trader Joe’s for $$2.99- get the pure stuff, not the green stuff)

One old 12oz shampoo bottle (rinsed well with hot water)

– I mix all of these ingredients in the bottle and then fill with water.  After my BS wash, I squirt some of this on the ends only, then rinse out thoroughly.  A little goes a long way, and one bottle lasted me almost 2 months!  Jojoba oil is as close to your natural sebum as you can get, which is why I use it on my dry ends.  If you have more oily hair, skip this and maybe even do less ACV rinses, or use less ACV in the mixture.  The Aloe Vera gel acts as a natural defrizzer (is that a word?) which I need, but if you don’t you can skip that too.  I only do this ACV rinse on my BS days.

I have also made a “Detangler”:

1 cup water

2-4 drops of glycerin (you can get it at CVS for $1, but I had some handy!)

2 tsp Aloe Vera Gel (see above)

6 drops of Grapefruit Essential Oil (see above)

1 oz spray bottle (got it at Sally for $1.99)

– Sometimes if I have used too much BS or my hair feels extra dry I will use this after I have towel dried my hair, but before styling.  I mix all of the ingredients in the bottle and shake before each use.  I spritz 3-4 times and comb through.  Then style as usual.  It doesn’t leave any residue and detangles beautifully.

*So for a rundown of cost comparison:

Cost Months Bought Yearly Cost
L’oreal Shampoo $6.99 8 $55.92
L’oreal Conditioner $6.99 8 $55.92
Moroccan Oil $18.00 3 $54.00
Total $165.84
Baking Soda $0.89 3 $2.67
Bottle $1.69 1 $1.69
Apple Cider Vinegar $1.79 2 $3.58
Jojoba Oil $6.99 3 $20.97 (I use it for other things)
Grapefruit Essential Oil $5.99 2 $11.98
Glycerin $1.00 1 $1.00
Aloe Vera Gel $2.99 1 $2.99
Spray Bottle $1.99 1 $1.99
Total $46.87
Difference in Cost for the year $118.97

WOW (and I know some of you readers may save more by ditching those super expensive salon brands)!

I am saving $118.97 a year AND making my hair and body healthier!

I encourage you to give it a try!

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Cleaner Living Column

Nov 22, 2011 by

I wanted to start a column talking about ways we can live cleaner.  Not just for the environment, but how to reduce the abuse on our bodies and the bodies we love by limiting the chemicals we subject them to.

Growing up, I never really gave any thought to the products I used or exposed myself to.  I mean, if they can be sold in stores they must be ok for you, right?

Wrong.

As a consumer advocate, Hubby has been warning me for the last 10 years about the perils that surround us in bottles, sprays, cleaners, etc.   We know that companies who manufacture and market their products to us do not have our best interests at heart.  Most if them think with their bottom line- our health is collateral damage in the quest for higher profits.

Even with all of this knowledge we still weren’t completely free of harmful products.  We would get green cleaners where we could afford it, but we aren’t going to lick the mirror, so we can still buy some cheap Windex.

It irked me when some scientists would deem that chemicals in  small amounts are really not bad for you.  However, small amounts start to add up with every product you use.  I started to think that this, among other environmental factors, may be why our kids have so many allergies/disorders than ever before.

So I was determined to try to limit our families use of harmful chemicals in every way we could, even if it meant more money.

Boy, was I surpriesed to find out through my trials of homemade alternatives that we would be spending less, using less, and more importantly ingesting less.

Hopefully you will find these future columns helpful in limiting the chemicals in your life on your own path to Cleaner Living.

PS. Kudos to Michelle for the great graphic!

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