Listen to This: Everyday Toxins on Fresh Air

November 27, 2007

Terri Gross interviews this guy whose new book, Exposed, details the dangerous chemicals in everything from car dashboards to – sob! – my rubber duckies. Take a listen.
While my husband – ever the calm, rational news reader  – cautions me not to overreact to what may well be an extreme and unproven point of view, Schapiro’s claims didn’t surprise me, as I’ve read a lot about the stuff in cosmetics, plastics, electronics from a variety of sources. What did surprise me was his assessment of why the European Union – a much bigger market, by the way, than the US (who knew?) – restricts and regulates the use of these chemicals and the US doesn’t.

It’s not because the Europeans are nicer than we are – or because they don’t have industry lobbyists as strong as ours, fighting regulation  – but because of who is paying for healthcare. Because studies show that these toxins do in fact have health reprecussions, serious side effects – well, the European governments realize that preventing future disease is a better bang for their buck. Over here – well, the US government isn’t paying for our healthcare, we are – so they don’t give a crap that we’re being exposed to stuff that’s going to give us cancer and dilute our endocrine systems and other lovely things like that.

Anyway, I recommend this podcast of the show (I never get a chance to listen on the radio, myself).

Also, in green news:  Here’s a way to help the planet without doing much – these search engines donate to good causes – I got this list from Ideal Bite:

  • GoodSearch – powered by Yahoo, it donates 50% of revenues to a charity you choose each time you search.
  • Blackle – an unofficial black version of Google that uses less energy than the white version on some screens (for a more colorful option, try The Green Spider).
  • CatchTomorrow – customizable news, weather, and search options; donates 50% of revenues to the public school district of your choice.
  • Green Maven – though it’s not for charity, this Google-based search engine yields results from green-related websites only.


A Big Lots Christmas?

November 27, 2007

The Roanoke Times is holding a Christmas song contest, and one of the contenders is “A Big Lots Christmas.” Check it out!

I am such a mishmash when it comes to my consumer choices. On the one hand, I  buy at Big Lots, I relish a Dollar Tree, I frequent the thrift stores, I’m a Freecycle nut, and my favorite thing in the world – no joke – is a garbage bag of hand me down clothes.

On the other hand, I do have some expensive tastes, and, more importantly, I’ve realized that

a) there are some things that need to be quality items – or else the cheapness really does make the purchase a waste – including: q tips (knockoffs fall apart), fingernail polish (the good stuff glides on for an easier application), shoes (cheap ones hurt my feet and back)…

b) buying “green” means paying more, but when it comes to choosing nontoxic drink containers, our health is worth it – and the better lightbulbs save money as well as energy. It’s moving away from plastic that is daunting…

So, here’s today’s inventory –

I’m wearing a paid of $98 Keen shoes, (made from recycled materials),

a shirt from a friend,

a pair of pants from the Salvation Army,

earrings from Target,

hairclips and socks from Big Lots,

drinking from a steel container from Rebecca’s,

eating a vegetarian organic pie (Amy’s brand) from Kroger,

wearing a secondhand coat from a friend,

nail polish and mascara from CVS,

and face powder by Burt’s Bees from Whole Foods.

I recently purchased a Sigg bottle from the Blue Ridge Eco Shop,

a pizza from Dominos,

gas from the BP,

hardware from Lowe’s,

and received a bunch of tupperware from Freecycle.

So – a mix of local shops and chains, of eco-friendly and earth-awful, of expensive and cheap.

-I’d love to see if any of you have an equally mixed inventory!

– and, What are some other items that should be the expensive, high-quality kind? 

Procreation Recreation

November 26, 2007

So, this woman is exactly the kind of person I feel like I should be but am not – the non-breeder who thinks having children is a selfish, wasteful act that contributes to the death of the planet.

Seriously – for the longest time, I browsed foster care/adoption websites, thinking I’d help a kid in need instead of adding to the overpopulation of the world. Same idea as not buying from a puppy mill, you know.

Then I got pregnant – and now I’m pregnant again – and I am so darn happy having a child, so happy to give my child a sibling (which I never had) – I’m like a princess lolling in piles of gold and cash, guiltlessly indulgent in her wealth and happiness…

But I am not a princess. I am a human being, part of a larger community, both living and dead/unborn, whether I like it or not.

A friend of mine has two children – AND is becoming a foster parent.

She seems to have found a middle way.

I am just not sure what logical foundation there is for procreation – except that we are biological beings… not always trumped by logic?

(Yeah, I know, all I do is blog about the things I read on Babble. But oh well. )

Toy Design Gone Wrong… Again

November 26, 2007

This made me laugh out loud – seriously, who vets these things????

Take a look at this earth-friendly slug for kids, meant to inspire environmentalism, but looking more like… well, read it yourself.

(Almost as good as the Harry Potter vibrating wand that they took off the market when realizing that girls were enjoying it in all the “wrong” ways…)

On Kindness, and Mothers

November 14, 2007

So, I’m six months pregnant, mother of a two year old, working full time, and there’s a large part of me that feels judged by the people at work for not being more with it, more on it, more everything.

Like, there’s no one smiling and saying, “There, there, sweetie, never mind, you’re with child, it’s okay that you didn’t notice that line item,” or “Of course you forgot to turn the car off before getting out of it! You’re pregnant!” Yeah – none of that.

So, I’m feeling kind of grouchy and self-pitying, and I was walking to my car last night when I dropped my water container on the ground. My hands were full, my ill-fitting stockings sliding down my legs, back and hips aching (for which I’m going to physical therapy), and I just looked at the red bottle there on the parking lot floor and thought, There’s no way I’m going to bend over to pick this up – I’ll either fall down from pain, lose my balance, or moon the office building behind me because my stockings will have been pushed all the way to my ankles. I felt utterly stupid and hopeless – a metaphor for how I often feel these days, trying to push my way through from one thing to the next.

And then this woman I barely know came up behind me, retrieved the bottle, and said, “Yeah, I know how it is!” With a smile of understanding and a flourish of kindness.

It felt like the nicest thing anyone could ever do for anyone else.

I know, this is a typical story – we all know about small acts of kindness and paying it forward and all that. But really, it’s a story that doesn’t get old when it’s something that happens in your own life. It’s so easy for any of us to get locked into a silent vigil of loneliness, with personal griefs and aches and burdens that we carry, visibly or not, with no one embracing us and saying “there, there, sweetie,” even though, my goodness, we all have times when we need it. It’s too easy.

Thinking about the woman who was murdered last week – looking at my daughter, trying not to get caught up in the imaginary void of what it must be like, as a parent, to get that phone call – I not only felt this huge well of sadness for that woman and her family, but also for the suspects, who are not much older than boys. What kind of heartache exists within them that murder is something they found possible? I can’t imagine how dark and sad and empty it must be, to be in that place. What about their mothers?
You know, if you watch TV, especially during the daytime, you see a lot of “moms” in mom jeans ogling Mr. Clean and finding the perfect snacks and sighing about their kids and homework – but when I think about all the people in my age group I know whose mothers are absent, screwed up, abusive, wrecked in some way – for various reasons – how many people I know who don’t have but would love to have a mother of unconditional love –  I am struck by how we actually don’t have a lot of those kinds of mothers in our culture. I mean, not just the real ones, but the images of them, the myths of them – the goddess figure whose arms are open with nurturing, comfort, love – we don’t have the element of mothering in our society. The idea of compassion and kindness that is strong, not weak. We are, in that sense, many of us at least – emotional orphans.

My conclusion to this ramble is that I pray I will learn to be a true mother – not just to my children, but to myself, to my friends, to strangers – meaning, that I will learn to have the open arms of exceeding lovingkindness, to heal wounds, to say “there, there” when people need to hear it.  Even to the least of these.

Allergies and the Culture of Clean

November 2, 2007

“Countries that advise avoidance of peanuts early in life have seen the biggest increase in peanut allergies.” (Babble)

I can’t tell you how glad I am that we have a dirty house and totally didn’t manage the ‘no peanut butter before age 2’ rule – it seems we might be helping our daughter, not hurting her.

But isn’t it annoying that our Westernized medicinal world seems to get rid of one thing – polio, for example; big ugly glasses (replaced by contacts), another – but then the scales dip us into allergies and cancers and depression and childhood obesity and untreatable bacteria, byproducts of our attempt to whack out disease?

We try to help, and there are unintended consequences.

Or, rather, we try to scrub out problems, exhaustively; and our houses become chemicalized prisons, breeding new problems.

There’s this food bar they’re passing out in poor countries, like Niger, called plumpynut, that has enough nutrients to help save children dying from starvation. It has peanuts.

What about peanut allergies?

“We just don’t see it,” Shepherd says. “In developing countries food allergy is not nearly the problem that it is in industrialized countries.”

Hmmmm… mind you, I know that when a child has allergies, it’s hard and painful. I’m not saying all allergies are the cause of rigorous parenting or anything like that. Only that our culture as a whole may try as it might to rid the world of every last ounce of pain and suffering (here only – we could eliminate a lot of it in other countries fairly easily, if we had the political will to do so), only to find that we don’t have that power.

We might take a look at homoepathy and Eastern medicine and other attitudes to handling death and disease, where the concept is not so much eradication of an enemy as working holistically with the body and mind… I mean, some people are using these concepts, but our culture as a whole still operates on a bomb’s away attitude toward everything.

I’m thinking of my grandmother, tupperware queen, who spends her days scrubbing and washing and wiping and swabbing. She has a spotless house. No plants, no animals – nothing that would introduce any kind of dirt. It’s clean. It’s lifeless.

She passed her anxieties about dirt elimination to my mother – somehow, I didn’t carry the gene, but I did have enough anxiety about my mother’s anxiety to the extent that the day I discovered my father had died, and my mother was flying in to support me, I spent the night weeping but working with a knife trying to pry loose the gunk that lined the edges of the kitchen sink in anticipation of her critical eye.

I had allergies as a kid. I had to go every week to the doctor to get shots and blood drawn for years. My whole collection of stuffed animals had to be burned because of my reaction to the tiny bits of mold they were carrying.

I have lost my train of thought. The whole point was that I’m not living up to anyone’s standard of domestic cleanliness – and I’m comfortable with that, finally.

That, and I love the name plumpynut.