Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simplify Your Beauty Routine

It is baffling to me that from the moment we are conceived a cocktail of toxic chemicals, dioxins and even pesticides begin to course through our veins, and we have no control over it. I don't mean to alarm you, but these things exist in our environment due to industry, pollution, and common practices like driving your car; we are constantly exposed. Many of the things we are exposed to without our consent are very hazardous to human health: lead in paint, mercury in thermometers, parabens in shampoo, phthalates in plastics, and the list goes on. These are known carcinogens, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, allergens, and irritants. The more you know about this, the more overwhelming and vexing it becomes. In the end, there are only so many things we can control, but the most important thing to take from that statement is this:


The easiest way to take control is to simplify. To start, let's talk about your beauty routine. Women, on average, put over 500 chemicals into their bodies everyday. If you're pregnant, you're putting those chemicals into your unborn child's body as well. Toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, hand soap, lotion, hairspray, mousse, tanning lotion, nail polish, perfume, eye shadow, mascara, and so on... many of these products are laden with toxic chemicals that are bad for you and for the environment.

One thing you could do is research the ingredients in your products using the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database or check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and choose products that have safer ingredients. These are excellent resources, but it most certainly takes time to research every. single. product. From my own personal journey I've found that even when I purchase products from "eco-friendly" brands they can still have suspect ingredients and formulations.

I've found that the easiest way to really control and know what I'm using it to make natural beauty products myself, or purchase products from someone I trust, and even more simply - just don't use it!

For instance,  I haven't painted my nails since my wedding over 2.5 years ago, and I don't miss having to fuss over chipped nails or inhale that strong polish scent. Some years ago I noticed scented lotions would give me a rash, so for a while I only used fragrance free lotions, now I only use coconut oil. I haven't worn perfume for years, and I don't miss it. My hair is not styled and held into place by hairspray, I just let it flow in the wind. I never dye my hair (anything with that strong of a smell is probably toxic) - and my hair dresser always compliments me on how healthy my hair is! BTW, I simplified my routine long before I had a baby, it wasn't just a new mom thing, and I love it.

By letting these parts of my beauty routine be simple I have found more time to do the things that really matter, like getting my beauty sleep! See, you need fewer beauty products by just getting your beauty sleep!

Beauty sleep by Rod Radtke Photography 



I understand that there are a lot of myths and barriers to going "all natural," so let's take a look at some of those.

Myth #1: Natural products don't work as well.
Truth: The products you have been using have probably built up in/on your body, and you may have become dependant on them. I noticed that when I switched to a natural, aluminum-free deodorant that I was stinky for a couple weeks. Once you give your body the chance to cleanse itself of the chemical build-up you will find homemade and natural products just as, if not more, effective.

Myth #2: It takes too much time to make products, and natural products are more expensive.
Truth: Purchasing some basic ingredients, especially in bulk, is very cost effective and simple. Baking soda, corn starch and coconut oil are not difficult to find and are inexpensive. Once you make a product once, it is simple to continue. Plus, homemade cosmetics make great gifts!

Myth #3: It's my personal choice.
Truth: To a point this is absolutely true, you can choose what products and chemicals you use in your home and put on your body. At some point, however, what you choose to do affects others in a potentially negative way. Perfume, for instance, can be very strong and will linger on everything you wear and everything (or everyone) you touch, and even in the air of confined spaces - like a home or a bathroom. Many people are allergic to fragrances. While it is your personal choice to wear it, you have to realize the impact it might have on other people around you. As we spend most of our time indoors, and indoor air quality is very important to our health. Plus, you don't want to be the Dwight that causes the Pam's in your life to throw up. (<3 The Office)

Myth #4: I've been using this product for years and I survived.
Truth: You've survived (so far), but why is surviving the standard? How about thriving, and living a clean, healthful life? These toxic chemicals do their damage by continuous, long-term exposure, and if you use the same product day after day and year after year, that exposure adds up. In addition, keep in mind that while the small daily exposure might not harm you, our little ones have a much lower body mass and thus the exposure is much great for fetuses, babies and young children.


On the path to simplify your life you can simplify your beauty routine: eliminate those things you don't need and make what you do, create a healthy home environment for your family and for those people you come into contact with, save money, and most importantly - you can let your natural, God-given beauty shine!

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
1 Peter 3:3-4

Friday, April 5, 2013

New Job - More for Less!

I recently started a new job at the Washington Conservation District as a Water Resource Educator, and I'm a thrilled. It lines up exactly to my degree and education, it is a permanent position that pays what someone with a master degree should, has benefits, and I've been enjoying it so far. It'll be even more fun as Spring and Summer get rolling and I am actually out and about in the community spreading the word about clean water. 

I was surprised that as I began to share with people that I had a new position, a real, benefited job, they immediately began asking me what kind of car I was going to buy, and I was sad that consumption was seem as the normal course of action. "Are you going to go get that Cadillac?" First off, no, I would get a Subaru. Secondly, how much money do people think you make in the EE world? And finally, no, the first thing I'm going to do get out of debt

I've been casually reading through "Tis a Gift to be Simple" and I found it interesting that as part of the authors' journey to simplicity they both decided to cut back their hours at work, move from full-time to part-time, so as to have more time. They sold their house, downsized, got simpler cars, and had more time, energy and money for the things that truly mattered. 

My journey is a little different. I had been on the job hunt since graduating in December of 2011. I took part-time jobs to get me by, but I was always searching for that full-time position. It seemed like the ideal, the expectation of success, something I needed. For a while I wouldn't even apply for another part-time position. 

However, after reading and reflecting, I realized that, as a mom to a little yet growing-too-fast baby, I didn't want to work full-time, I wasn't happy with rushing out the door in the morning, rushing home to make dinner, putting Linnea to bed by 8, and then doing it all over again with hardly any time to just play. So I went from serving full-time in AmeriCorps to working part-time, though my transition came with a pay increase! Not a substantial increase, but enough that we can meet our needs, and I now get to spend the majority of my week with my daughter, which is how it ought to be (in my opinion anyway). I was afraid to tell people that my new position was only part-time for fear that they would judge me, but 3 weeks in, I don't even care. I love it! And I'm sure I'd spend half my salary (OR MORE UGH) on childcare anyway, so why shouldn't I be the one caring for my child? 

I wish more places offered good paying part-time jobs with benefits for moms (or dads) like me who are educated and need or want to be in the workforce, but also want to enjoy getting to be a mom. I consider myself truly blessed to be where I am. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Technology Free Bedroom

How many of us are guilty of this? 

A couple weeks ago I saw this post on embracing a technology-free bedroom and I really took it to heart. I insisted from the first day I ever lived with Ross that we only ever needed one TV, and I would absolutely not have one in the bedroom. We would watch TV in the living room together as a family, and the bedroom would be for rest and sleep. I could never sleep with a TV on, and I had always hated having the TV on just for background noise anyway. It's distracting, and those enormous CRT TVs always emitted a high-pitched buzzing that put me on edge. I was content with peace and quiet, and still am. 

Well, then smartphones came around and people started using their phones as alarm clocks, computers, TVs, radios, etc. And Ross and I did too. We would have our phones by our bedside, checking the weather, Facebook, or messages, and sometimes this would mean we would be ignoring Linnea. And that never felt good, nor the addicting hold it seems to have on us. 

Therefore, at the beginning of Lent we decided to move our phone chargers to the kitchen. Now that some weeks have gone by I wanted to reflect on the change, and I am happy to say that it is here to stay! 

There are still times when I'll bring the phone in the room, like when Ross has to work at night and I am home alone; having the phone by my side makes me feel safe. But Ross used to watch videos at night and the light would bother me. When he had headphones in and I would try to talk to him but he wouldn't hear and I'd get angry that I would have to repeat myself, and then we would argue. Lame. And there is no reason I need to check Facebook, or read blogs, or be that accessible 24/7. The emails I would get throughout the night were never important, and the buzzing was just annoying. 

Now, we sleep more, talk to each other more, and spend more quality time with Linnea. We are finding ALL of the benefits from this post to be true. And most importantly, we are setting a good example for Linnea. 

For personal reflection: 
What has been your experience with technology in the bedroom? 

Is it different for single folks than married folks and families? 
What are your personal barriers that keep you from embracing a technology-free bedroom?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Going to Costa Rica!

First year having a child and serving in AmeriCorps means we definitely qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit - and now that we've pocketed a few grand, we booked our spring break tickets to Costa Rica! I absolutely cannot wait.

Volcan Arenal 

Zip lining through the canopy in Costa Rica 

Just kidding. 

Actually, we are finally paying for our honeymoon to Costa Rica. And all those things I put on credit as I was in my first term of service with AmeriCorps and in grad school, thinking "my masters degree will earn me enough money that I'll pay this off someday." Except that the toilet paper that was $7.99 has probably cost me $50 by now, and groceries and honeymoon much more. 

Growing up in a household that lived paycheck-to-paycheck was frustrating, and I swore that would never be me. Then I was in AmeriCorps and a graduate student and those paychecks didn't go very far. Therefore, when I needed something I would just charge it, but this wasn't the way to solve the paycheck-to-paycheck problem. I wasn't not going to eat, or have toilet paper, or never do anything as a young married couple. There are parts of me that don't regret the romantic dinners, camping trips, or seeing the US win gold at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but there are parts of me (many, many parts) that are saying "I wish I had listened to my Dad." 

Having lived on a budget for so long, and diving more into the idea of living simply, I've realized that great freedom can come from being debt free. I desire it greatly. There are so many things I just don't need and can live without, yet I grew up thinking I did. Like a new swim suit every spring, or a new coat every winter. Now, I realize that I only need a new swim suit when my current one is threadbare. And we are going to be going on Staycations for the next few years, which is fine really, I love camping! 

One form of debt we will have for a long time is from our student loans, though there are many things that make that manageable, such as income based repayment. And the Bank of Mom and Dad graciously doesn't charge interest. I think. ;-) Credit cards, however, are definitely their own beast! With interest rates near 18-20% and making minimum payments, we were looking at 5 more years and upwards of a whopping $3,000 in interest before we were out of debt. Ouch! 

And that's where the tax refund comes in. With a few grand we can pay our credit cards mostly off - one will have a balance on it. Taking the advice from our Thrivent Financial Representative, we are going to take the minimum payments that we were making on the other two and apply them each month to the final one. And we are cancelling all but one, which he recommends using only to rent a car or emergencies. helped us take a good look at our finances and calculated what we pay each month and how changing that would affect how much interest we would have to pay in the end. And then there is Dad's old advice: if you are going to put something on a credit card, make sure you can pay it off each month.

While we are not immediately going to be debt free I am excited to take this step towards simplifying our finances. And then we will be able to SAVE up for our next trip to Costa Rica.

Sunset Golfo Papayago, Playe Hermosa, Guanacaste 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Prayer of a Nursing Mother

"God, I am amazed by You. You who created me, who created all my sisters on earth, and You who have entrusted us with the most beautiful gift of creation. In love You have placed a child in my womb, and You created me to provide everything she ever needed: warmth, nourishment, and love. You created my body to be ready for the waters of birth, and I trust that You created me just right, perfectly in fact, to birth and nourish my own baby. You created the womb and the placenta. You created beta-endorphins and adrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin. You created breasts; mammary glands and milk ducts and nipples, who all work together to nourish, comfort and grow. Thank You for creating my body just the way You did, and I trust it. I am blessed by it, as is my little one, my nursling, my love. Amen."

Friday, February 22, 2013

1 Thing You Can Do Right Now

I did this activity this past Sunday as we were doing our seasonal deep clean. (We said we were going to go a deep clean once a season, around the time of the Equinox or Solstice. So we are either behind for winter or ahead for Spring.)

It's a super easy way to start on the path to minimalism. 

Right now, go grab a box, a paper bag from the grocery store, or if a re-use option isn't available, a trash bag, and fill it with:

1 shirt
1 sweater
1 pair of pants
1 pair of shoes
1 purse or bag
1 piece of Jewelry 
1 hat 
1 additional item (I did a travel pillow) 

And the next time you head out to run errands, add a drop off to a consignment shop or Goodwill to your list. And that's it!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Small Starts - Books and Movies

I decided the first thing to tackle would be books and movies since we have a library half a block away from us and a membership to Netflix. 

I am not always on top of the latest gadget or techno trend (I don't have an ipad or a tablet, etc.), but I do appreciate the ability of technology to simplify our lives, for instance: I have access to thousands of movies on Netflix. I also appreciate a good old-fashioned library; access to thousands of books FOR FREE - and sharing books with your community at a library is very eco-friendly and thrifty. 

I decided my goal was to clear out one shelf of books, which I managed just fine. I encouraged Ross to join me, and he added a few to the pile. I took things off the shelf that I haven't read, knew I wasn't going to read, or just simply wasn't a big fan of. I took DVDs I haven't watched in years and put them in a box. I kept books from grad school, many of my favorites (read: every book by Michael Pollan) and a few classics. Then we took them down to Half Price Books and sold them for $10. I put this in our moose "piggy" bank for a rainy day. See, already - I have more space and more money by simplifying my life! 

The idea of minimizing your things might be quite overwhelming and even stressful, especially if a partner or spouse isn't quite on board. As I was going through books I came across a phone book (cue Jurassic Park theme song) and tossed it into the recycling. Ross didn't think we should get rid of the phone book. Here's how to conversation went, and some sure fire logic to win your partner over: 

Ross: "You never know when you need to look something up." 
Jenn: "Well look, on the cover of the phone book there's an ad for the phone book app. That takes up a lot less space." 
Ross: "But what if our phones are dead?" 
Jenn: "Well, then we aren't going to be calling anyone anyway then."  ;-)