Why am I typing all this to share with the world? Let’s just say this blog was prompted by the millionth time (maybe a wee bit of an exaggeration) in which I have been asked some derivative of “how did you do it (it being make a huge life change towards living more “naturally”)?” Well, I am letting you know that while it may seem like I’ve got it mostly figured out, I don’t. I have idiosyncrasies and flaws and insecurities. But, I also persevere. If you want to make a change, start small and compromise is OK. Pick your battles one at a time. Start with your biggest offender or what is most important to you. Oh and wine comes in handy when you feel like giving up, sulfate-free of course ;-)
To understand my journey you first probably need to know a smidge about my personality and approach to life. Here goes:
I might be just a little bit weird. This isn’t a recent development; I suspect it began at birth or maybe even in-utero. Maybe it is because I am an introvert at heart. Maybe it is because I am left-handed. Maybe it is the fact that I would rather sneak off and read some off-the-wall Sci-Fi novel or my Crystal Bible than go to a party. Or maybe there is no reason at all; I am simply a different type of bird. I am married to a Marine and way more nomadic than I’d like (I’m a nester at heart). I am a mom to two periodically perfect kids and three sporadically perfect canines. Cooking is cathartic for me, soaping even more so. I am a consummate worrier and an over researcher. Knowledge is important. Different points of views are important. Patience is important.
(A moment of semi-perfection! Plott Hounds are great with kids and choke holds!)
(Our most recent deployment homecoming! Thank goodness is was over a year ago!)
There are so many different hats in my closet, mom, wife, student, microbiologist (or chemist depending on where the Marine Corps sent us), volunteer, business owner, chauffer (if you don’t have kids in activities yet just wait), crazy person and friend just to name a few. Even on the rare slow day, I don more than one hat in my newly grey-flecked brown hair.
(See! Glorified chauffeur! P.S. we were stopped when this was taken on our way to gymnastics ;-) )
Whew, that was some introspection at its finest. Now, onto how I made my ingress into the world of less chemicals and simplicity.
I started this process many years ago with what we ate. Why? Well, there is a lot of junk out there and my health and that of my kids’ is important. I gave up fast food (more on this later), started purchasing organic when possible, and took on a bit of a foodie persona. Essentially, we try to eat “whole” foods and I spend lots of time in the kitchen. We use real cheese (my kids are cheese snobs with sniffers that can differentiate gouda from stilton), real butter, and real cream. Through the years I have been able to greatly reduce processed foods and because I purchase what is in season we eat almost 100% organically. When my son was born, I began eliminating sulfates and nitrates, artificial colors and flavors, and stuff from animals given hormones. Do I have to read labels? Yes, but it has been so eye opening. Food manufacturers are sneaky and hide all sorts of bad stuff in their tasty vittles.
Food is a big area where compromise comes in. I have had to learn that what we practice at home doesn’t always translate well into things like birthday parties or soccer/school snacks or even dinner with friends. Like with my multiple hats, I have learned to don a mask of indifference when my kids get handed that beautifully colored sports drink or those character “fruit” snacks. I like to think that once in a while is ok. It is with this mindset that I also refuse to deprive my kids of the wondrous Chick-fil-a. I swear that place has saved a disaster of a day more than once. Almost monthly we like to indulge in sushi nights where most likely our sashimi isn’t sustainable or organic. Does this make me a hypocrite? Probably, actually, it most definitely does. What it also does is make me feel ok about our choices and the compromises I am willing to make. My kids are healthy and educated on how to make good food choices; that is what is truly important to me.
(The place we had her birthday party won't allow outside cakes! That cake definitely has lots of ingredients in it that are on our "naughty" list but once in a while is ok!)
The next guest to enter my crazy train of borderline over zealousness was our body products. Who knew that Chanel no. 5 and Paul Mitchell didn’t have my best interests at heart? This is an area where I compromise just a little. Why? Well, dude, I make soap. End of story. If I can easily avoid a variety of common body product ingredients like endocrine disruptors and artificial fragrances then it is a no-brainer. That isn’t to say that I immediately threw out all my Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner BUT (this is a big BUT here) I know that when I run out of my stockpile (hey, it was on mega sale) I will seek out a more natural version. What I did do was quit using and dispose of my lotions and perfumes, even the bottles that my husband so thoughtfully purchased for me. That loss along with my anti antiperspirant stance have made for some stinky times in my household. See, compromise at its finest, stink is obviously the lesser of two evils.
Next, or around the same time as body products, came cleaners. I switched to more “natural” brands and even gave making my own a go (completely short-lived, let’s face it, I don’t have the time or desire to make the amount of cleaning products required to clean up after my tribe and then actually physically CLEAN up after my tribe). I continue to use the “natural” cleaners and have even added some silver micro-fiber clothes to my cleaning routine. I found a laundry soap that is made exactly the same way I would do it if I felt like taking the time to make liquid soap (a LONG process) and said goodbye to dryer sheets before it was cool. Do my clothes smell like “ocean mist” or “spring meadow”? No, but I know that my kids aren’t absorbing detergent residue through their largest and also porous organ (their skin). Can I stop the substitute teacher from dousing herself in Curve and then teaching my son? No, but at least I know that I have tried my best where I can.
(If you can find it, this stuff is great! Mine came from Costco and cost much less than that "ocean mist" stuff.)
Finally, in the last couple of years I have begun to examine other facets of our life. Who knew that an item as ubiquitous as plastic could be bad? Even the BPA–free stuff has been shown to contain endocrine disruptors. Everything plastic from storage containers to cups (even most of our Tervis cups, a precious southern staple) were replaced with glass or ceramic versions. I made the switch to cast iron cookware and ceramic bakeware. One extremely epic day, after an Erin Brockovich style mini-meltdown over our water, I broke down and purchased a fancy filter that removes 99.9999999% of everything except for H2O itself. Currently, I am trying to convince my husband that canned goods aren’t so awesome. Battling the Marine side of him has proven quite difficult given the fact that dude could survive off of canned tuna and canned lima beans.
(So worth it! When we aren't nomadic we will purchase a whole house system.)
(They don't match but who cares?)
Through my barrage of thought dialogue above, I hope that I have conveyed what I originally started out trying to say. It has been quite a process and my husband has been a patient saint (except for that one time he caught me sitting on the kitchen floor crying over the huge loss that I felt when I got rid of my non-stick wok). Ridding your life of stuff that you deem bad TAKES TIME! Defining what you deem as bad for you TAKES TIME (and research)! My list of no-no’s and areas where I am willing to compromise is constantly evolving, much to my husband’s annoyance. Honestly, from what I look at as my beginning to where I am now has been a grueling ten years or so. True story, I was once and not too long ago a baked Cheetos addict, now I avoid them like the plague. They were something that I was willing to compromise on until I found another source of crunchy cheesy goodness. Seriously, even though I am a stubborn soul, I know that if I tried to go 100% from the starting line I would have given up and said “fudge it, let’s go find some tacos” (or something along those lines). There are days were I still want to give up but you know what? I figured out how to make tacos that meet my constantly evolving standard of awesomeness.