Thursday, July 30, 2015

Avoiding the Plague While Saving the Planet

The boys and I go for a walk in our new home town daily. During these walks I have a tendency (this is a mild word for my search and destroy missions...) to pick up trash and bottles and cans from the side of the road.  Yes, I am THAT crazy lady in your home town! This drives Mr. W up a tree when he walks with us, so I try not to do it when he's along for the ride unless it's something irresistible, like a case of empty beer cans, or  those darned loopy plastic can holders that strangle birds. But the rest of the week you can find me bending and stooping to pick up everything from empty nip bottles (there but for the grace of God go I) to scratched lottery tickets ($25 in dropped winners to date - you can't win if you don't pick 'em up!) and soda cans, to the occasional bit of used drug paraphernalia. I carry hand sanitizer and gloves, and I am not afraid to use them. But having grown up with the "Crying Indian" commercial, I can't very well just leave it all there.
I just can't! Besides, I "make" about $2.00 a week in bottle returns - what my bottle guy smiles and calls my "coffee money". We move at a good clip in spite of all the bending and stooping, and average 3 miles a day. It's fun, and since running is off the menu, the trash retrieval gives me something to occupy my mind in the face of the reduced pace. Running just had so many benefits...but I digress.

I have gone through hand sanitizer like underwear in the last few weeks. It's summer and people are leaving half-full cups and containers of all sorts of things on the waterfront and side streets, and thrown between the rocks of the jetty. I empty gooey and drippy things when possible, avoiding contact with cup rims or straws, and add them to my "trash" bag. Returnable cans are similarly emptied and added to the "nickel" bag. I reach for the hand sanitizer quite often, and today I ran out.

Now, nothing beats a good soapy scrub with warm running water. And I am not a fan of heavy chemicals, and certainly am very aware both as a health care professional and as an educated kinda crunch-berry granola-type of the issues surrounding our obsession with anti-bacterial this and that. Hand sanitizers often harbor chemicals I'd probably rather not come in contact with - but they seem a better alternative than nothing when soap and water are far away.

For example, the label on the bottle of an alcohol free version by my side reads: water, cetrimonium chloride, glycereth-2 cocoate, behentrimonium chloride, acrylates/dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate copolymer, lactic acid, tetrasodium EDTA, fragrance. Kind of makes me wish they'd just left the alcohol in, you know? I could probably fiddle with some of the root words and make some guesses about what the unpronounceable bits are, but really, wouldn't it be nicer if my hand sanitizer just read more like my new DIY foaming facial scrub bottle does? (Doc Bronner's liquid soap, glycerine, aloe vera gel, sweet almond oil, essential oils, and water). I think so.

So I set out to see if I could find a recipe online that would let me make my own hand sanitizer, preferably featuring Young Living Thieves essential oil blend, and ideally with some good old rubbing alcohol in it. For this first round I chose the most basic recipe I could find. It contains only three ingredients - rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oils. I had all three on hand, and the limited number of ingredients appealed to me after reading that label up there.
I combined 1/4 cup aloe vera gel (I used plain aloe gel that I had obtained for my facial cleanser - this can be difficult to find, but keep trying! Most of the big-name aloe gels contain a host of other ingredients. We are striving for purity here, so less is MORE. If you can't find it at a health food store near you, try Amazon. I like Lily of the Desert brand) with 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol in a bowl, then added 10 drops of Thieves oil.

I whisked the whole thing together and ended up with two (well, one and two thirds, but I didn't scrape the bowl!) bottles of DIY, low-cost, minimal ingredient hand sanitizer. I put it into my two cleaned and recycled empty bottles and put them in the backpack I carry every day on my walks with "the boys".
I would not call them "gel" sanitizers as they are fairly fluid and I will experiment more in the future with different recipes and different ratios. The gel, really, is purely convenience. I can cup my little palm and use these just the same as the thicker gel versions - and sleep better at night knowing what's in them!

In a first trial run at the sink I found the fragrance to be much improved when compared to the chemical stuff. The alcohol evaporates fairly quickly, and while the aloe leaves a faint residue on the skin until it dries, I've had similar residue present with the creepy chemical versions.

Try some yourself! Unless you think unpronounceable "irritating, toxic and slightly flammable" ingredients are something you want on your skin - I know I don't want it on mine!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What Follows The Storms

I love weather. I track radar for severe storms, and gaze hopefully at the sky looking for signs of funnels or bright flashes of light. Hurricanes make me very happy. This shifts only in winter when severe weather means snow and ice. Give me a good thunderstorm with no injuries or deaths, just some high winds and a little hail and some nice lightning and I am a happy camper. And then there is the calm that follows a whopper of a storm, when the air is fresh and the earth glistens with possibility.

As an adult I subscribe to the “if you hear it, it can hurt you” rule and am careful not to head out if there's a strong threat. I enjoy my watching from inside spaces once the thunder is audible. Thanks to a radar mishap this morning, we nearly got caught out in this:
Suddenly, mid-walk, the sky turned very dark, and the distant thunder began to roll in, with a few flashes visible in the morning light. As we (dogs and I) raced home at top walking-but-not-quite-running speed, sweating (me) and panting (them) all the way, I was poked by the finger of memory. The tale I am about to tell made me smile all the way home, a bittersweet, wistful sort of smile.

When I was a little girl I was very much afraid of thunderstorms. I would cry and carry on and generally melt down. It was a horrible experience on the inside, but it seemed to be even more burdensome to my parents and older siblings who, confronted with a hysterical child, did everything in their power to soothe, rationalize or discipline me into some sort of more socially appropriate behavior besides loud wailing and whining. To be fair, I did have a good reason for my terror – when I was about two and a half Captain Kangaroo exploded into blinding electrical light about five feet away from my little face when a bolt of lightning struck something very close to the small one bedroom cottage in which we lived, blowing up the television I’d just been watching (literally - glass everywhere, awful smell and smoke, the works).

By the time I was five or six this paranoia had grown quite deep and become a real source of annoyance to the adults and my siblings. They wanted to sit on the porch and play Monopoly or Parcheesi and wait for the storm to pass and a cool breeze to blow. I preferred to sit on edge of a very indoor chair, windows closed, body braced for impact, family gathered close so I knew they were all safe.

On one very memorable occasion, in an attempt to prove to me that there was nothing to fear from a little thunderstorm, my father trotted off the porch steps and into the front yard. First he checked on our watermelon plant. Then he proceeded to cavort, dance, and generally make a fool of himself (all for my benefit). Each crack of thunder and flash of lightning sent me into further realms of terror, screaming “DADDY! DADDY!!” and shaking from head to foot. “Dan…” said my mother “she’s only getting worse…”

Then he thrust his arms out to the sides and shrugged in the manner typical of those both challenging God and attempting to prove a point, and said “Look, Melissa. See? There is nothing to be afraid of!” At that precise moment the world around him burst into a chaos of noise and light and he became a blurry silhouette of blue uniform against a blinding explosion of crystalline white and fragmented electricity. He ran for the house, turning to look behind him. There, not more than 40 feet from where he had stood, lay the neighbor’s maple tree in pieces.

Lesson learned. My father, it turns out, wasn’t God after all – he was quite human and fallible, and very capable of being wrong. As for Dad? I think God probably saw him cavorting, sighed heavily, and cast a finger in his direction. “Don’t tempt me, Dan.”

Later this morning there was a tornado warning about ten miles south while I was at a new-to-me doctor's office undergoing a minor procedure. Only a few miles away and me tied to a stupid doctor's office, unable to investigate and give chase! We just moved "here" a few weeks ago - or rather "the boys" and I moved. 
Mr. Wonderful has been more or less living in this neck of the woods - in a rented basement room - since last fall. We finally found a rental that would accept both dogs. We don't want to buy because we are not sure how long we will stay here. We entertain visions of seeing new places. In a bittersweet twist, the loss of both of my parents and maturing of all our kids had freed us up to do things we've always talked about, like live and work in new places. Our house sold - thank heaven! - and since both of these things occurred nearly simultaneously, it seemed like a "perfect storm" of life events. The boys LOVE their new home.
There's beaches and waterfront wharves and breakwaters to wander and explore. We like to go early in the day, as tourists are afoot by 9 am, especially this week with the holiday looming.

After the often stormy experiences of the past near-decade, it feels nice to just rest and walk and breathe. Last night we took the dogs for a moonlight beach walk at 8:30 at night. We walked for an hour or so along a delicious beach, waves breaking softly on the rocks, twinkling town lights in the distance, and even a brief home-grown fireworks show. I like it here.
It feels a little decadent, and a little indulgent, but I believe after all of that craziness since 2007 when I sat down and composed a little book about socks it's exactly what God wants me to have; just a nice, peaceful little interlude, for as long as it lasts. I am grateful, and hope it continues long enough for me to feel balanced again. 

Job 42:12