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Experiencing the Midnight Sun

Fri, 10 Jun 2011 09:05:22 +0000

(image)

Six months ago, in the depths of my first Finnish winter, I wrote about my experiences with Light Therapy and  Seasonal Affective Disorder. At the time, with the sun barely rising above the horizon mid-day, I couldn't imagine the same landscape with the reverse effect. Today, with the days charging toward 19 hours of daylight, I see how people survive the long dark: they dream of June.

Although I occasionally curse when I wake up at 4am and jump out of bed, ready for the day, only to realize I could sleep 2-3 more hours, so far, we're soaking up the sun and enjoying it while it lasts. Black-out curtains are a necessity, but have really kept the kids from losing too much sleep as long as we actually remember to put them to bed! Although officially sunset is around 10:30pm right now, that's just when the sun dips below the horizon--it's still light for a good half an hour afterwards.

Although I occasionally curse when I wake up at 4am and jump out of bed, ready for the day, only to realize I could sleep 2-3 more hours, so far, we're soaking up the sun and enjoying it while it lasts. Black-out curtains are a necessity, but have really kept the kids from losing too much sleep as long as we actually remember to put them to bed! Although officially sunset is around 10:30pm right now, that's just when the sun dips below the horizon--it's still light for a good half an hour afterwards.

Read more on Terminal Verbosity.




Give Blood in Memory of Bowen

Mon, 30 May 2011 08:09:20 +0000

I've given blood a dozen or so times since I first gave in high school during a school blood drive. After I had children, I just stopped. It wasn't a conscious decision; it was just one of the many things that fell off the bottom of an always too long to do list. I never gave it much thought until this spring, when a combination of congenital heart defects led my best friend's son Bowen to need almost constant blood transfusions during his too-short life.Tomorrow, in memory of Bowen and in honor of all the donors whose blood sustained him during his life, his parents are hosting the first annual Team BoHawk Blood Drive in Indianapolis. The response has been amazing and all 120 appointments on Tuesday have been filled (although the Bloodmobile will be visiting several Ed Martin dealerships in Indy over the course of the summer if you missed out on a chance to give this week! Details will be available soon on their blog).Even with the community's amazing outpouring in memory of Bo, the need is still great. Only 3%* of the US population gives blood, even though more than 38,000 donations are needed each day in the US to meet the ever-constant need**. The laundry-list of blood donation statistics seems daunting, as does the fact that restrictions (including a rather antiquated one disqualifying sexually-active gay men from donating), leave less than 38% of the population qualified to give. If that wasn't enough to encourage you to donate, consider some of the stories.In Bowen's case, even the combination of blood products and amazing care given by Peyton Manning's PICU was not enough to fix what was broken. But there are other stories too. How about Nisa, a Thalassemia sufferer, who has survived to adulthood because of the blood transfusions she receives every three weeks. Or Luke, who survived a horrific car accident due to the combination of fast-thinking doctors and a plentiful blood supply.Hayley, like Bo, received enough blood one day to completely replace her blood supply, and it helped her survive leukemia. In light of the recent devastation across the southern United States, Christine's story of surviving injuries sustained in an encounter with a massive tornado hits especially close to home.Whether you know someone who has received blood products, or are simply moved by these stories, please consider donating blood sometime soon at one of the two main organizations who handle blood donation in the US: Red Cross America's Blood Centers Your donation will help off-set what the Red Cross describes as a seasonal drop in donations during the summer months, and can save as many as three lives, depending on how the blood is used. It will also honor the memory of Bowen, and of others for whom donated blood gave the gift of hope and life.Can I give?After fear of needles, ineligibility to donate is often listed as a reason that people choose not to donate. There are many misconceptions about the rules, so be sure you check the eligibility FAQs (and here) or contact your local blood bank to be sure!Learn More About BloodWant to learn more about the science behind blood? Check out this informative series, with sections for elementary-aged children and middle/high-schoolers: My Blood, Your Blood. There are resources for adults too! Check out Discovery Health's information on How Blood Works.* Red Cross**Red CrossOriginally posted on Terminal Verbosity.[...]



What's the soundtrack of your life?

Fri, 15 Aug 2008 02:46:53 +0000

I've had a hard couple of weeks. Lots to do. Not enough time. Not feeling adequate. When I get in one of these "I suck" frames of mind, it's sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So I'm constantly surprised at the ability of music to snap me out of my bad mood. Last week, when I was literally almost in tears after a particularly challenging shopping experience with the children (which, by the way, as with everything, was totally my fault for going at a totally bad time when the kids were both tired and hungry), I got in the car, turned on the radio, and got this: Now maybe I'm dating myself with this, but this particular song reminds me of a particularly wild, hormonal, exciting time in my life (and no, I don't mean pregnancy). I can see faces of old friends when I hear this song and it snapped me out of my bad mood instantly. When it was followed up by this one, I knew that someone was out there trying to cheer me up: So all week, as I've neglected ChezArtz and several other projects, I've been thinking about this experience and turning on the radio in anxious anticipation of more songs from what I now refer to as the soundtrack of my life. Like Cameron Crowe's autobiographical character in Almost Famous, I dig music. And there are just certain songs that will bring a smile to my lips regardless of what is going on in that particular moment. Need some more examples? How about this one, that always makes me think of a shaggy-haired rogue who stole my heart when I was 20: Or this one, that will forever remind me of cruising in a Chrysler Lebaron with my best friend with the top down just before Freshman year of college: These songs, although not all from the same era musically, all evoke a time in my life--that crazy era from senior year of high school up until I met Matt junior year--when I was trying, and often failing, to figure out who I was. Now that I have the benefit of emotional and spatial distance, this seems like just about the best time in my life. Unfettered by responsibility, accountable to no one (including my future self, who would like to take this opportunity to scold my former self for endangering our life, disrespecting our sacred body, and neglecting our studies oh so many times!), this person comes alive, if only for 5 minutes, each time I hear one of these songs. For those of you who know me, I know you're screaming, "surely she's not going to end this post without the Grateful Dead." I'd never disappoint: Can I take this moment of self-reflection to share a story about my father, who passed away two years ago? He hated everything about the Grateful Dead. He actually went as far as to cover the words Grateful Dead on my back windshield with duct tape when he drove my car (he neglected the Lorax & Cat in the Hat stickers, and the acid bears dancing across my windshield, but we'll forgive that omission). And he asked me one time, "Why would anyone be grateful to be dead?" I hear you now, Dad. But I still love Jerry and his band... This era was 1993-1995 for me. And the songs, I've already mentioned. What is the soundtrack of your life? What does it mean to you? [...]



I stink (no, really) - An experiment with natural deodorant

Thu, 24 Jul 2008 17:01:55 +0000

Last September, after reading Dr. Bob Sears' excellent Vaccine Book, I got myself into a bit of a panic over aluminum. Bad enough to have it in vaccines in high doses, but really bad when you add to that the fact that my daughter, 18 months old at the time, had spent most of her life sleeping in my aluminum-coated armpit. (Lighter Footsteps has a great summary of the problems with aluminum in deodorant.)

I already had her on a delayed vaccination schedule to mitigate the risk of the injected aluminum. So I moved on to getting rid of the topical variety and switched to Tom's of Maine (and blogged about it in Confessions of a (Former) Lancome Junkie. And it worked great! Even my canine nose detected no unwanted odor during the day. Right up until July, that is. It's been close to 100 degrees here quite a bit this month, and the "cooler" days have been in the high 80s. That's normal, but it also unraveled my relationship with natural deodorant.

At first I thought it was just my sensitive nose, but once my husband and my two children told me I had stinky pits, I had to admit, as others have, that I needed to make a change. For now, I'm back to a half-used stick of Degree that I had in the bathroom, but I'm looking for other solutions. Here are a few interesting tid-bits I found:

TreeHugger not only recommends FloralActive, but alerted me to the fact that the Tom's of Maine stuff contains mineral oil (yuck!).

Care2 has a great article on the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, and also includes two recipes for home-made deodorant. Not something I'm ready to make from scratch, but something to keep in mind I guess!

National Geographic's Green Guide has a great discussion of natural deodorants, and in the end, has a couple of leads that I might try in September when the weather begins to cool a bit!

So have you gone "natural" in the deodorant department? How did it work for you?




Al Gore's Renewable Energy Pledge - I wanna believe it's possible!

Fri, 18 Jul 2008 17:45:39 +0000

In a recent speech, Al Gore issued a challenge to the United States similar to one issued by JFK many years ago. But instead of saying that America could put a man on the moon in 10 years, Al Gore challenges policymakers and the American public to adopt policies and practices that will allow us use 100% carbon-free energy in the next ten years.

You can watch the entire video of Al Gore's Carbon-Free challenge, and sign the corresponding petition if you wish.

I would love to think that we could do this, and as usual Gore makes a compelling argument for why we need to do it (to improve national security, improve the economy--renewable energy has the potential to create a lot of jobs in a whole new industry--, and of course to protect the environment and slow down global warming).

But even more compelling are the ways he suggests we can do it. A number I've heard before that he quotes here is that we could, as a nation, reduce our energy consumption by 30% by efficiency alone! That's huge. It means turning off lights, switching to CFLs, and buying more efficient appliances, which so many folks are already doing. He also mentions improvements to the aging energy grid--another place for potentially huge increases in efficiency.

As with so many noble causes, what Gore is calling for is a major cultural shift away from dirty energy and toward clean. I want so badly to believe this is possible, but I'm just not sure if we are committed enough and whether companies and the government are interested enough to make it happen. What do you think?




Confessions of a (Former) Lancome Junkie

Tue, 08 Apr 2008 05:14:37 +0000

My pal over at CrunchyDomesticGoddess sent me a simple email last month that has been stuck in my craw every since. She just asked what natural cosmetics I had tried and liked, and I was so embarrassed to write back and say I didn't have any to recommend. Not because they're all bad, mind you, but because (*GASP*) I haven't tried any. This is made especially blush-inducing by my diatribe about the cosmetics industry, picked up by BlogHer's own Suzanne Reismann here. It is time I took more of a stand on my stand, I think... You see, back in my care-free child-free conscience-free days (twenties, oh how I miss you!!!), I spent more than my fair share of time at Nordstrom's Lancome counter. And the ridiculous thing about it is that I have never worn that much makeup. My friend Amanda had to show me how to apply eyeliner on my wedding day (no joke) and even when I'm wearing tons (for me at least), I'm almost always going for the natural look. The funny thing about buying department store major-label makeup is that it's addictive. They reel you in with the free gifts and, once you've started down that slippery slope, it's hard to go back. In fact, I doubt I ever would have been able to give up the cute pink bags, perfect sample-sized mascaras, and unctuous face creams had I not, several years ago, discovered Skin Deep. Skin Deep is the Environmental Working Group's database of cosmetic companies, their products and, most importantly, their ingredients. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about Lancome (yes, they test on animals, no they won't sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics) here. Once I discovered this site, and saw how quick my young children are to mimic my cosmetic-applying (Lily can already say lipstick and calls just about every other makeup "cream" and she's not even two!), I knew I had to make a change. I so rarely wear makeup that I'm not going to be trashing those mini-mascaras just yet, but I have made a few noteworthy purchases recently that I thought I'd share. Burt's Bees Radiance Day Creme - If you love the smell, as I do, of Lancome's Primordiale line of ultra-expensive moisturizers, you'll love this moisturizer. Keep in mind that I live in high-plains desert and tend toward dry skin--this is a heavy moisturizer, which is what I need. Unfortunately, although Burt's Bees has signed the Compact and doesn't test on animals, it does use a petroleum-based fragrance here, which makes sense if it smells like the Lancome stuff. Still, I think it's better, and certainly cheaper! Avalon Organics Vitamin C Moisture Plus Lotion - The Burt's Bees stuff doesn't have SPF, so I also use this one and I have to say I love it despite it's rather mediocre rating from Skin Deep! I think I'm going to have to peruse their new review of Sunscreens (since this lotion's octinoxate sunscreen is what really lowers its rating) and see if I can find another Compact-signer that makes a comparable product. Avalon Organics Lavender Deodorant - Yes, I can admit it. I've made the switch to crunchy deodorant. In fact, I did so about six months ago, so if you didn't notice a funny smell, you'll have to admit that it works pretty well. It's also inexpensive, and non-toxic. Tom's of Main Natural Care Deodorant Stick (Apricot) - This one doesn't get great Skin Deep reviews due to propylene glycol and synthetic fragrances absent from Avalon Organics' competing product, and Tom's is not a Compact-signer (shame on you, Tom's!), but it works well enough for my husband to use (OK, he doesn't use the Apricot, but that's what I have!). But considering that third down on the toxicity list is coriander oil, which is not only natural, but something I am exposed to intentionally in the kitchen and garden on a regular basis, and the list of ingredients in my old stand-by Degree is absolutely frightening, I think I can still safely give this one the thumbs-up. Burt's Bees Soap Bark& Chamomile Dee[...]



A New Site, a New Direction for Attachment Parenting International

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 23:45:37 +0000

When I was pregnant with Gabriel, I picked up a copy of The Baby Book from the Sears Parenting Library and started reading about his "Baby Bs" (breastfeeding, babywearing, etc.) and Attachment Parenting. I had never heard of the term before, but the more I read, the more I knew that this was the respectful, loving way that I wanted to raise my child. Turns out, two of the women I met in Hypnobirthing class thought AP was a good idea too. Together, we launched a chapter of Attachment Parenting International here in Boulder called Cherished Children API just a few weeks before my son's first birthday. Each of us went through a lengthy leader-applicant process where we discussed what was then the Eight Ideals of AP, but which has grown into the Eight Principles, learned about how to best offer support and answer questions from families. You can find the full text of the Principles here, but in summary, they are: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting Feed with Love and Respect Respond with Sensitivity Use Nurturing Touch Engage in Nighttime Parenting Provide Consistent and Loving Care Practice Positive Discipline Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life Now, almost three years later, we have a thriving local support group and I've gotten involved with API Headquarters first as a copywriter when they were revising the Ideals into the Principles, then as their Technology Consultant and Web Re-Design Project Manager. So it is with great, great pleasure that I announce that API's new web site is live. In addition to the redesigned site, which included a new logo, color scheme, tag line, and enhanced services like a shopping cart, global support forums, and news feed, API also made some other important announcements today: 3/31/08 - Attachment Parenting International Unveils Comprehensive, Innovative Series of Education Classes Designed for Long-Term Success. Read full release here. 3/31/08 - API Co-Founders Barbara & Lysa Discuss their New Book and a New Vision for API here. 3/31/08 - API Announces New Series of Monthly Web Events with Noted AP Authors Beginning in May. Review speakers and dates here. 3/31/08 - API Launches New Web Site with Improved Member Support & Resources and International Forum. Read full story here. This web site has been a labor of love, but I'm really proud of what a small staff of work-at-home-moms who are mostly volunteers were able to accomplish. The new site promises to extend our reach and make it easy for parents to get the support they need to use compassion and respect when raising their children. Please consider visiting the new site, or, even better, making a donation to help API keep going today. And Cherished Children has a lot to be proud of in this redesign. The new logo was designed by CCAPI member Jeremy Carlson, whose wife Erika is an active member of our group. I did the layout and put Jeremy's great colors to work in the design of the site, and also added all the technical touches like installing the forum, installing and troubleshooting the shopping cart, and setting up emails, etc. The talented Amy Gates also donated some of her spectacular photography for the art on the site. I'd also like to thank my brother-in-law, Andy Artz, without whom, there would not be a working shopping cart on the site. Thank you all. Incidentally, if I owe you a telephone call, a thank you note, or an email, you can probably expect that I'll be caught up by next week. This project has completely consumed me for the past three months and I'm looking forward to a bit more free time now that it's launched! [...]



A Victory in the Senate for Toy Safety

Fri, 07 Mar 2008 06:15:42 +0000

Today the United States Senate passed legislation to improve toy safety in what is a major victory not only for the grassroots toy safety movement, but for parents and children everywhere. The 79-13 vote followed two months after similar legislation passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. The few dissenters, joined by President Bush, are concerned that the creation of a public database for safety complaints could taint manufacturer's reputations. However, the bill passed with a large enough margin to prevent a possible presidential veto.

Hello?!?!? Heaven forbid a company's reputation is tarnished for distributing toxic toys. I mean, what the heck is the point of having a good reputation if it's meaningless because that reputation is protected by a government that CONTINUES to cater to big business over the common people. Frankly, it gives me hearburn

Anyhow, in addition to the public database, the legislation banned lead in toys--previously a certain "threshold" of lead was permissible...don't even get me started--, increased safety standards, and finally gave the Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) the ability to actually police toys being imported into the United States. The full AP Newswire story can be found here.

The CSPC is, unsurprisingly, thrilled with this legislation since it increases CSPC manpower to 500 and nearly doubles its budget, which until now was lower than it was in the 1970s. A press release issued yesterday (the day before the vote, but I'm guessing the outcome was already anticipated within the government) announced a new CPSC presence at a port in California that will be the model upon which the CPSC will build security at other ports.

"With new strategies and growing resources, I am confident that we can
prevent the entry of unsafe products into our country, remove those that
do find a way in and punish those who willfully disregard the safety of
our consumers," said Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord.

The full CPSC press release is available here.

The rampant success of this bill in both the House and Congress was due in part to the impassioned testimony of families affected by lead paint in toys. Kara Burkhart, whose son, Colton, swallowed a lead charm and has suffered years of ill health as a result, put a human face on this problem that was likely hard to ignore. Even harder to ignore is the story of Jarnell Graham, a 4-year old from Minneapolis who died from lead poisoning after ingesting a similarly-tainted toy.

This legislation, although long overdue, has the potential to really change the face of toy safety in this country. I am cautiously optimistic that legislators will not let this opportunity pass them by even though, as co-sponsor Senator Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, stated, "The hard work starts now."

Julie Artz blogs about toy safety at http://ToysNaturally.com.




Demystifying Compost

Mon, 25 Feb 2008 06:28:45 +0000

In the last week or so, I've fielded a few questions from friends about compost. Then I also noticed a few comments on the various green blogs I read indicating that people had either tried composting and failed, or were too confused to even start it. So I wanted to provide some steps, some reassurance, and some resources on this, my favorite way to reduce waste and improve soil fertility. What is compost? Compost is, literally, fertile dirt. That is to say, not the barren gray top soil you'll find on a building site or in a conventional farmer's field. This is the good black stuff that smells sweet and makes nice little crumbly clumps. It contains the perfect balance of nutrients that your plants need to be healthy and that the microorganisms and beneficial insects like earth worms--key components of healthy soil--need to thrive. You can make it yourself using common kitchen and yard wastes that would otherwise go in the landfill using a process Mother Nature has used to recycle things in the natural world since time began. Then you can use it in place of expensive mulches and chemical fertilizers. As a mulch, compost helps retain moisture and shade a plant's roots. As a soil amendment, compost breaks up heavy clay soils, allowing more water and air to penetrate to the root zone of garden plants and, if added in high enough quantities over time to keep the organic matter of the garden soil at 4-5%, can provide sufficient nutrients for even nitrogen-hungry vegetable growth. I love Journey To Forever's thoughts on Nature's conspiracy to make more soil: If you watch carefully to see what nature does as she goes about her daily round of chores, it's quite easy to start believing that the whole thing is a complicated, secretive conspiracy by soil micro-organisms to beget more soil micro-organisms. Nature's first concern is always to build more topsoil, and to protect it. It's easy to see why: no topsoil, not much nature either. The Earth's green carpet of living things is really just the Soil Creature's skin. OK, how do I start? Now is a great time to start because it's the beginning of the season and building a pile now will keep the growing season's clippings and cuttings out of the trash. If you are cramped for space, live in an apartment, or are particularly interested in vermiculture, worm composting might be for you. I've never tried this before myself, but it can be effective if you have a smaller quantity of waste (like only kitchen scraps because you live in an apartment) because there is a limit to how much the worms can eat. Check out the great resources at WormCompostingTips: Worm composting (also known as vermicomposting) is the art of using worms to help you break down the organic waste you produce at home to create fertilizer for your garden. The worms will produce both a liquid fertilizer, and worm castings. Worm castings are a solid, odor free byproduct of worm digestion. You can collect your worm castings periodically and use them as a soil addition, soil conditioner, or even light mulch. If you have more space, even a patio space for a small compost tumbler, this method will allow you to process a lot more waste. I'm really a fan of worm composting, but our family of four needs between 3-4 5 cubic foot compost bins to make sure we always have space for both food scraps and yard waste, so that quantity would not be feasible for worms. To make a successful compost pile you need a balance of green materials like grass clippings and food scraps or brown materials like shredded paper, dried leaves, or sawdust. You simply make a bin, either in one of the many commercially available compost bins, in a wooden or chicken wire box somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-6' wide and no more than 3 feet high, or in a pit dug into the ground. If you need more space, build two bins, don't make one big one o[...]



Choosing a Social Media Site

Fri, 22 Feb 2008 15:46:15 +0000

In the past, I had been adamant that blogging for money was not for me. My husband's version of this story was that I thought I was too good for blogging. Before you get up in arms, let me say for the record that I never thought I was too good for blogging. I simply knew that I wanted to spend my time writing, not doing all of the things that bloggers have to do to make money. Then I thought back to my experiences trying to get my first (and only) novel, Insomniac Dreams, published in 2002-2003 and realized that, although I spent a year writing nearly full time, I then spent a year, also nearly full-time, trying to do all kinds of non-writing things to get it published. And I don't mean flirting with editors, although I would have had the opportunity presented itself ;) I mean reading the works of other writers, researching their editors, their agents, their writing groups. I mean networking at book signings and publisher parties (I was lucky enough to work at a very well-connected book store during this time, which made access to the people in the industry easier than it would be otherwise). I mean spending hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars printing manuscripts, mailing them out, and collecting the rejection letters that came in reply. So I realized over my few weeks off at Christmas that blogging is not that much different than shopping your writing around for print publication--it's just a slightly different medium. And instead of shopping around for publication, you shop around for readers, and advertisers, and ways to promote your blog to get, you guessed it, more readers and advertisers. The thing about blogging is that in some ways you have more control over your own destiny than if you are trying to break into the massive book industry while living in Colorado (most publishers are on the coasts), are not a professor, and are related to anyone in the industry. So I launched my first money-making endeavor in the blogosphere: ToysNaturally.com. It's not that I've completely discounted the idea of making my original blog profitable, it's just that I don't believe there are any other sites out there doing exactly what I'm trying to do with Toys, Naturally, and I think that having a unique (or at least less common) idea is part of making blogging work as a career. In addition to reading a lot of articles about making money at blogging (my favorites are here, here and here), I started signing up for some of the social media/networking sites that are out there. If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, don't feel bad. A few months ago, Digg, del.icio.us, slashdot (which I learned about from a friend's t-shirt!), Technorati, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and sk*rt meant nothing to me. The executive summary is that these are basically web sites where you can vote for or submit what you think is good content (a blog post, a web site, a pod cast, etc.) and the more people vote for the page you tagged, the higher it moves in the rankings. So it's a way for the public to rate a piece of content and, if enough members of the general public think your content is good, a link to the content will appear on the front page of the social media site, thus exposing your blog or site to the thousands (or in some cases, millions) of people who go to these sites on a daily basis. Anyhow, I've now at least created a login on most of these sites and I've started trying to tag other people's content when I find it interesting (hey, I've got to build up my blogging Karma, right?) and I've been toying with adding links to the bottom of my posts so that you, my beloved readers, can "Digg" my posts, add them to your del.icio.us bookmarks, etc. But what I really want to know is: How the heck do you decide which site to use to promote your site? I don't want to become a social media whore with a st[...]