Category Archives: Scary Chemicals in the News

On Being Frumpy

Isn’t frumpy a colorful word? Love it.

I do not, however, love being frumpy. Which I largely am — largeness being the majority of the problem.

This isn’t a post-baby frump. It’s definitely been at least post-high school, but most likely life-long. (Can juveniles be frumpy?) When I think back to my first days of college, I picture myself in this awful plaid tank top and think wow, what a square. Little makeup, if any. Hair unkempt. Generally unpolished.

And the same is true today. Truer, even. My complexion’s generally clearer, so I don’t even bother with cover-up. Don’t own any foundation. Mascara’s definitely outlived the recommended shelf-life. Hair an undefined color between used-to-be-blonde and not-brown. “Unpolished” comes back to mind, overall.

And overall, I don’t have a problem with this. I’m me. I’m reasonably comfortable in my skin. Primping feels like a waste of time, in that its effects generally wear off quickly. And I just don’t enjoy doing it. I’d rather be doing something else.

But there are times when it gets to me. Earlier this week I was at a professional conference. My attire was neat but not dress-to-impress. My makeup was non-existent — again, didn’t feel a need to impress these strangers. My hair was not in a great state, having had to rush out the door with it still damp.

A woman from a national group was keynote speaker at the conference, and she expressed interest in speaking with those of us working at the grassroots, local level. She seemed genuine about that. But when I tried to engage her in a brief conversation later in the day, it was a no-go. Quite possibly she was a) busy or b) not getting the probably-too-subtle signals that I wanted to converse.

My appearance, though, probably did nothing to help my cause. This … woman? girl? person can’t have much of value to lend this conversation. She can’t keep herself together — how can she contribute professionally? It’s hard to take her seriously.

Having a baby around does not make grooming and primping any easier. We’re lucky to both get out the door in the mornings with all of the items we need. My appearance still just doesn’t rank high on my priority scale. (Sidenote: Chemicals are also a concern of mine here. My hair looks better highlighted, but breathing in all those chemicals during application scares me. And what is makeup but more chemicals? I think part of the reason my complexion has cleared up is that I’m not putting chemicals on it.)

I’m not sure how to conclude this post — only that I’m aware of my frumpiness (frumpyness?) but not obsessed with it. Not really even worried about it. Just aware. And hoping it might disappear without me having to put any effort toward it.

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Filed under Cleaning Up, Personal, Scary Chemicals in the News

‘Toxic Free’: Browsing Through a Book

I stopped at the library this afternoon to pick up “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Kids,” recommended by several friends. As baby was fairly well-behaved at the moment, I browsed through the new books for a few minutes and picked up a couple other titles.

One was a baby sign language book — I’d been thinking that would be neat to learn more about. (Note, I do take everything I read with a grain of salt.)

The other was called “Toxic Free: How to Protect Your Health and Home From the Chemicals That are Making You Sick.” Just yesterday I was reading some about BPA and learned it’s not only in bottles and cans, but toilet paper and napkins, and our main contact with it is probably in receipts and tickets. So this was along one of my current brainwaves.

On the whole, the book is too extreme for me. The author writes that one day, she went through and threw out everything in her home that contained toxic chemicals. “When I was done,” she says, “all that was left was four bare walls, a concrete floor with dried paint spatters all over it … and a roll-away bed frame with a pile of cotton thermal blankets for a mattress.”

Even if I wanted to do that, I think I’d quickly find myself a divorced woman. Just mentioning to my husband that maybe we could switch to cloth napkins was over the line for him.

I don’t know much about toxic chemicals, but I definitely believe they are in everyday things that we don’t even dream of. BPA began to be used inside cans in the 1960s, back when doctors probably smoked while they were delivering babies. My daughter’s pacifier is BPA-free — the sucky part, anyway. Apparently that may not be the case for the hard plastic parts of it. And yes, our parents are living to ripe old ages having consumed any number of poisonous chemicals, but I don’t think that means we need to keep doing it. I would like to take small steps of smarter choices.

On that note, here are a few items from the book that I found interesting:

  • The only bottled water she considers safe is sold in glass bottles.
  • Toothpastes can contain formaldehyde and plastics.
  • Baking soda can be used as a natural deodorant. (Not sure I’m willing to try.)
  • Most major dish manufacturers still use glazes with lead in them.
  • “If you do need to use plastic, choose food storage products made from polypropylene, which has a very low toxicity. The ‘disposable’ storage containers are made from polypropylene and can be reused many times.”
  • Do not microwave foods in plastic containers.
  • Nylon, polyester and acrylic fabrics are plastics made from petrochemicals.
  • Polyester-cotton and permanent-press cotton is coated with a substance that contains formaldehyde — that includes a lot of bedsheets, and could be a cause of insomnia.
  • CFL bulbs contain mercury, as you know if you’ve had to deal with cleaning one up. LEDs contain arsenic and lead, but they are very difficult to break.

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Filed under Green Living, Home Maintenance, Scary Chemicals in the News

The Intrigue of ‘Real Food’

A friend who saw my request for vegetable recipes (thanks!) recommended the blog 100 Days Of Real Food.

I have to confess that I haven’t even looked at the recipes yet — the concept of the blog as a whole has me too distracted.

The blogger and her family are committed, to perhaps oversimplify it, to eliminating processed foods from their diet. Their personal rules throw out refined grains, refined sweeteners (including sugar), deep-fried and fast foods, and any packaged item with more than five ingredients listed. The goal is to focus on “whole” foods.

I haven’t read too much about their reasoning, assuming health would trump anything else. What could be better for our bodies than foods the way they’re (pesticide-free) grown naturally? There’s always another chemical being determined to cause cancer; I’m certain there are things we eat every day we don’t yet know about that contain chemicals or are processed in a way that is a serious hazard to our health. Take the recent pink slime controversy, for example. I’m pretty sure eating ammonia can’t be good for you.

They point out that “real” or “whole” foods are not the same as “natural” or “organic” foods. “Natural” and “organic” foods can still be processed and refined. Also, “real”/”whole” foods are not necessarily low-fat or low-cal. I like that. It makes sense. It lines up with what people have done for millenia. (That’s kind of my gold-standard as I learn to care for a baby —  a mom in the Middle Ages didn’t have a watch telling her to feed her baby every three hours, but civilization kept going. For my husband, “If it’s so serious, why don’t they call it meningitis?”)

The idea sounds great, but of course it is totally foreign to my eating and buying habits. And, as the friend who recommended the blog pointed out, “real” food is not as budget-friendly as processed food. If I really believe it’s so wise, though, shouldn’t it be worth the overhaul? Or at least a partial overhaul? Especially with a brand-new little life in my hands?

(Sip of Diet Coke.)

I’m kind of at a standstill.

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Scary Chemicals: Help Me With Dishwasher Detergents

Whenever possible, I like to use natural products. For one, they’re better for the earth. But second, God knows what the chemicals in the products we use every day are doing to us. Every week there’s a new study about something causing cancer.

I already use Seventh Generation laundry detergent (although my mom says she’s found it leaves her whites dingy), Seventh Generation dish soap, and the Menards natural toilet and bathroom cleaners.

But one place I’m having trouble is with dishwashing detergents. I used to use the Seventh Generation, but it just wasn’t getting things clean enough. Upon a recommendation, I started using the Cascade Complete pacs, and those work really well (when we keep salt in the water softener…). BUT, they are not natural. Does anyone have recommendations? I’m getting to the end of a bag of Cascade tabs and would like to try something new.

(Also, I’m looking for a good natural stain remover, now that Baby has joined our family.)

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Filed under Cleaning Up, Green Living, Scary Chemicals in the News