20 June 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons and Other News

You know the saying, when life gives you lemons make lemonade.  This witticism is usually directed toward someone that has been handed a load of unfortunates by life.  So how does the saying go when you choose to BUY the lemons instead?  In this moment that is where I sit: with a handful of lemons that I intentionally purchased.

While this blog is relatively new and I'm sure it is some sort of social suicide to take a hiatus while a project is in infancy, you will see me less frequently in this space through mid July.  There are a number of factors for this: Several events and decisions have culminated over the past few weeks and months that have put major constraints on my time.

1.  We have second business.  Have I told you that?   It only runs for about a month, which happens to be this time of year and it gets a little crazy managing two businesses at the same time. I have become a multitasking guru for all things other than writing this blog.  :(

2.  If you read my tweets you'll know that we had a major water leak in our house that has caused a lot of damage.  We are in the process of meeting with insurance adjusters, contractors, and the builder to comb over the details about why it happened in the first place and who is going to pay for it.  Let's just say it involves ripping out tile, carpet, drywall, baseboards and starting from scratch all before mid July.

3.  And the biggest announcement is we have decided to move.  Yes, while all of this craziness is going on, we are putting our house on the market.  However easy it is to say, there is a list a mile long full of details that need to be taken care of.
  • In order to make our backyard more appealing (because it's so small) I have to take OUT my garden.  Meaning, remove all plants, pack up the dirt, and take out the boxes.
  • Begin to pack and purge.  
  • Fix small repairs around the house that have added up over time.  Replace the doorbell, touch up the paint, hang the fire alarm back up that I tore off the ceiling at 2:00 AM one morning because it started beeping.
  • The new house needs work.  It would be so much easier to work on an empty house, but that means putting the house in storage, which means moving twice. 
  • An entire list of new home projects that I'm not even going to think about listing here.
If we weren't crazy enough already, we also seriously considered taking on two puppies.  Verbal agreement given, collars and leashes purchased, and training books checked out from the library.  We came to our senses and put dog ownership on the back burner.  Thankfully we know the breeders and they were understanding.

In the end this will all really be lemonade.  It just means that for a short period of time things will be a little sour.  Sometimes you have a vision of the end result but you're unclear of the journey to get there.  I don't know how this is all going to unfold, I just know that it will and in the end we'll be happier for it.  I will share with you more details as the months unfold and occasionally I will pop in for either a respite or an update.  I'll tweet about a new post so be sure to follow me if want to stay up to date. 

See you soon.

14 June 2011

When Bears Attack

There is a running joke in my family about hiking and bears.  I used to hike quite a bit alone, especially in Colorado.  No one is ever happy about this and they always pass on information they have heard or read in regard to protecting oneself the best possible way from a bear or even a mountain lion.  Their concern is masked with humor.   

I always carry rocks in my pockets and I typically sing on the trail.  Songs like You Are My Sunshine and my own lyrics which usually have lines about not eating me because I'm not sweet.  In my mind singing these songs will ward off bears.  It's always worked before!   

I made the mistake of telling my family this long ago and actually sang the songs for them and now, it's all I hear about.  I could be walking around the block and they ask me if I have my rocks.  So it comes with no surprise that I have gotten a good share of goading from my recent bear encounter story.  I expected this, I did.  The one time I'm not carrying rocks, I see a bear. 

I received a package in the mail recently, and honestly it takes the cake.  My dad has one-uped me.  Good one dad!  And the joke lives on...

13 June 2011

Badger Sunscreen: Review

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I've been putting off writing this post because I'm afraid I'll have to eat my words about natural products, however, I have been reminded of a valuable lesson: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  It may be a while before I try exposing my sensitive skin to anything, but I'm not giving up.  If you haven't figured it out yet, this product did not work so well. 

Back in this post I wrote about finding a natural sunscreen to use during my trip to Arizona.  I had settled on Badger brand, lavender scented SPF 30.  I was hoping for, and optimistic, that this product would protect my delicate skin in the sweltering sun without the use of harsh chemicals.  Here is how that worked out...

It is very pleasant smelling.  In fact, my cousin borrowed it and the scent was the first thing she mentioned.  However, if natural lavender isn't your thing, you will not enjoy the scent.  The consistency is very thick which made it difficult to spread and rub in.  I was hoping that once my skin absorbed it, the sheen would diminish, but most of the day my skin appeared iridescent.  It was also very greasy and I left a trail of grease marks on everything I touched.  Much like the mark from touching the T-zone on your face to a mirror.  I felt like I was wearing a heavy coat of oil all over my skin.  Despite the way it felt, I had high hopes it would actually work.  The first coat went on before going out in the sun to allow plenty of time to absorb. 

I reapplied several times during the day.  After reading the reviews on the internet this was one detail I knew I needed to pay attention to.  It worked well in the pool with the water beading up so I was pleased with the water resistancy, but I was sweating a lot and had to reapply with wet skin.  That may not have worked so well, but it didn't seem to matter at the time.  I also didn't notice getting burned.  When I left the pool, everything appeared as normal. 

Later that night...

Seriously, wear sunscreen.

I was demonstrating how my body looked like a Hot Tamale.  I wore a different suit during the day and you can see in this photo that my sister took that I clearly have a sunburn.  At that point it didn't seem all that bad.  I used this sunscreen all over my body, including my face.  What I did notice was that I was only burnt in the areas that had not already been exposed to the sun.  My legs, arms, shoulders and face were already somewhat "seasoned."  Although they were slightly red, they were not even close to crispy. 

A week later, the second degree burn on my chest and stomach has since blistered and the raw skin has become increasingly sensitive to heat.  Basically, I'm miserable.  I'm peeling like an onion, itching and dealing with leaking blisters.  Gross.

Overall this product has failed.  While it may work on areas that have already been exposed to the sun, I am not really willing to chance blistering my skin again.  I wonder if the iridescent sheen had anything to do with the severity of the burn, but I don't know for sure.  Regardless, this product gets an F.

Any other options?

09 June 2011

Road Trip: Phoenix

1. Sunrise over the mountains  2. Cactus  3. Palm Trees everywhere  4. Water feature at the resort  5. Flowers in bloom  6. Funky bike racks  7. Cacti at the resort  8. We walked everywhere  9. Starbucks in the hotel lobby!  10. The falls  11. The best Italian food ever  12. Salty's for margaritas  13. Beer at Darcy McGee's  14. The sub title says "for health reasons"  15. Buffalo Wild Wings  16. Sunset

I recently returned from Phoenix, AZ.  I went to spend time with my sister, aunt, and cousin.  It was a full out girls weekend, and I didn't realize how much I needed to take the time to sit back and rest but also see my family.  I have been putting this trip off, telling myself I'm just too busy.  I enjoyed every minute of it with plenty of down time and laughs.  On the plane ride home, I went over the last few days I had spent away from home and a quote that Andrea from Superhero journal posted in July 2010 came to mind. 

"Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment is better than rest, that doing something--anything--is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever-growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger."

-Wayne Muller, from his book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

How easy it is to get caught up in have-to's and to-do lists and feel guilty when we do sit down.  This trip was certainly a good reminder of how important it is to stop every now and then and just enjoy life, especially with those you love.  I don't ever want to wake up and say I wish I had spent more time with... 

There are certainly more things to share about Phoenix that I'll save for another post, but I wanted to share the most important thing I learned: appreciation for rest.  I'll be back soon with the review of the Badger sunscreen.

03 June 2011

Wear Sunscreen

A friend's beloved Chaco feet
No, despite the title, this post is not about graduating or even speeches for that matter. It's a post about wearing sunscreen. I'm heading to Phoenix this weekend for a girls trip. I've never been to Arizona, but I have a feeling that sunscreen will be the most important product I take since I know we'll be spending a lot of time by the pool.

As much as a I love to layout and soak up the sun, I am not keen on sunburns and my pasty, white skin doesn't just get golden, it fries. I truly wear sunscreen almost every day, and I haven't ever really given it much thought.

Last weekend I realized, after lathering on a whole heap of sunscreen, that I have no idea what is in this stuff. I'm usually so conscious of what chemicals are on my body and try to avoid almost anything harmful. Interesting that I have never considered my sunscreen.

Before I head out this weekend and throw the Coppertone in my bag, I thought I would research a natural recipe for sunscreen. I immediately grabbed The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard on my shelf. To my surprise, it was not promising.

Here is the formula they suggested.

Suntan Lotion
2 ounces salt-free mayonnaise
2 ounces black tea
juice of 1 lemon
5 400-IU vitamin E capsules
Mix the mayonnaise, tea, and lemon juice together in a blender.  Pour this into a storage container, and squeeze the contents of the vitamin E capsules in it.  Keep in the refrigerator for no more than a week. 

It guarantees to give you color without the harmful rays. Now, I love this book and stand by several of the formulas found inside, however, I do not want to be sitting by the pool smelling like rotten mayonnaise.

I researched more recipes and found several that included pure zinc oxide but most came with large warning labels about using caution with gloves and masks. I don't really feel like repeating chemistry class two days before my trip.

I switched gears thinking there must be a natural company already making safer sunscreen. I landed on the
Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website and discovered a 2011 report on sunscreen with a rating system. Many products are listed with a given rating of 0-10. Zero being the best possible choice and 10 being the worst. The one concern I have is the little amount of data that has been collected on each product and their ingredients. For example, a product that has a rating of 0 may have limited to no research findings on the ingredients making it hard to justify, in my mind, a good rating. On the plus side, it listed a slew of products that I had not heard of before giving me a chance to read some labels. Sticking to my rules about label reading, few ingredients, words I can pronounce, and non-processed items, I quickly made a short list of possibilities.

Narrowing the list, the most appealing was an SPF from
Badger. It's lavender scented and according to directions, if rubbed in well, it won't leave a white film on your skin. organic, natural, sunscreen, sun, uv, protection
Wearing sunscreen is vital and I hope I can find a more natural product that doesn't make me dress in long sleeves and large, brimmed hats all summer.

Do you have any suggestions for natural sun protection?  I would love to hear about them in the comments below. 

01 June 2011

Heed the Warnings

photo by Michael Elliott
This bear is mocking me.
I would consider myself an avid hiker.  I love being on a trail, pounding footsteps, hearing nothing but the sound of my own thoughts.  This is therapy for me.  I solve problems, gain a new perspective, and clear my body of the junk that starts to accumulate from city living.

Having gone on several hikes alone I typically take several precautions.  I read up on the area and it's wildlife, look at weather, and take all the necessary gear.  I'm a rule follower.  Being several miles out on a trail doesn't scare me. 

Needless to say, when I was planning a quick weekend trip to Southeast Oklahoma I knew hiking would be on the schedule.  I researched the area for trails and of course I chose the Ouachita Trail spanning 223 miles from Oklahoma through Arkansas.  The F.O.O.T website had a great packet of information that broke the trail down into several segments that included topo maps.  I read through the entire packet and settled on section two.  

There were warnings of wildlife: four species of venomous snakes, brown recluse spiders, ticks, etc.  All things I have dealt with in the past.  There was no mention of bears, and the thought never crossed my mind.   

We (no, I didn't hike alone) started out the Pashubbe trail head in the Winding Stair area, which was 3 or so miles off the highway down a long dirt road.  We were reaching close to 3 miles in and I was starting to get in the zone.  My steps and breathing in rhythm.  I stepped cautiously, conscious of snakes that might be sunning in the warm, spring sun.  I had just asked a question when we started to ascend this small ridge.  There was a rustle ahead of us at the top.  My first thought was it's a deer or even an armadillo rooting around in the leaves.  C thought it was other hikers.  Much to my surprise, it was a black bear WITH her two cubs no less than twenty feet from us. 

Panic quickly set in.  I was not mentally prepared for the possibility of seeing a bear.  I knew we had no where to go.  She can climb trees, and outrun us.  We slowly started to back away hoping for the best possible outcome.  She tolerated our presence and quickly got out of our way with her cubs scampering behind her.  It was surreal.  Time slowed, almost standing still, but yet it happened in a matter of seconds.  I could hear my heartbeat and see it pulsing through my skin.  She was gone.  Just like that.  I took a deep breath after holding it.

I started to go for my camera in my backpack and chase her down the hill to get a shot.  Then I realized I didn't want to chance it.  She might not be nice twice. 

The remainder of the hike I was agitated.  My sense of hearing all of a sudden becoming very acute.  Every black stump I saw through the trees was another bear.  I could not shake the experience.  I was embarrassed and desperately searching for faith.  I almost lost my cool because I wasn't mentally prepared.

I keep going back and forth in my mind pondering if this is really a big deal or not.  After returning home and doing some research it maybe wasn't such a big deal after all.  My gut feelings were confirmed; black bears are hardly aggressive unless they are hungry or feel threatened, which means I mostly overreacted. 

Several days later, I've settled with the fact, however common it is those parts, that this is a cool story to me.  My faith was challenged.  My ability to stay calm in what I thought could be a crisis was challenged, and the exhileration of something so new to me is unforgetable.  It's not everyday you see an animal up close in the wild that could take your life with a swipe of a paw. 

In the future I will do more research no matter where I go and of course I'll heed the warnings. 

Major kuddos to the Friends of the Ouachita Trail that volunteer to keep the trail free of debris, and well marked.  An "A" rating in my book!