Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How can a mama keep it "diva"... in an eco-friend manner?

Allow me to be just a little bit conceited for a minute...

I'm hot! I mean really, I'm HAWT. I've always thought I was cute, but admittedly I haven't always acted like it. And since Layla was born I've let a few things fall off, mainly my self-care and pampering time.

When I was little, I remember thinking my mother was Miss America. To me, she was the prettiest woman in the world. She took great care of herself, and even still today she does. She gets her hair done regularly, does her make-up every day, and always wears the nicest of outfits. Growing up, she took me to the salon to get my hair done every week and always made sure I had nice clothes. I dress my own daughter to the nines. I make sure the ribbons in her hair coordinate with her dresses. I match her cloth diaper covers to her outfits. She always looks like a little diva-princess. Me on the other hand, I haven't deep-conditioned my hair in entirely too long... and I need a trim BADLY. I haven't had a manicure in at least a year. I haven't had a facial in even longer than that. Make-up? Fuhgettaboutit! I'm lucky if I can manage to slap some Chap-Stik on my lips in the morning. I'm ashamed of how I've neglected myself.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing it's okay to take care of yourself. It's okay to sneak in a pedicure while you're running errands. It's fine to put on make-up even if you don't have anywhere to go. It's perfectly acceptable and sometimes even necessary to give yourself a sea salt scrub during your morning shower. Yes, I make sure she's well-taken care of, but I need to do a better job of leading by example. She needs to see mommy taking care of mommy, because nobody will treat you better than you treat yourself.

I came across a wonderful company called Soul Purpose. They are a "socially responsible" company that specializes in "highly differentiated, natural and botanically based beauty and wellness products." The founder, Nadine Thompson, used to be affiliated with a similar company whose products I once used, but that company has since folded. Since Soul Purpose had her name and stamp on it, I knew the products would be great. So I placed an order for a few items and I was NOT disappointed! The products -- from the solid perfumes to the body scrubs -- are wonderful... and eco-friendly! Oh, my personal favorite is the Zanzibar Girls Club perfume and body set. That stuff is sexy, honey!

I was so impressed with the company that I even became a consultant! I think what I'll do periodically on my blog is feature a few items that I particularly love. In the meantime, you can do a little shopping at the following link:


If you see anything you'd like to try, be sure to use Consultant ID# YNGSP202716 when you place your order. And you can always connect with me if you have any questions. There's absolutely no reason NOT to take care of yourself, no matter how busy life gets. I'm learning that lesson day by day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I've been featured on ReuseThisBag.com!

It came to my attention yesterday that my blog had been featured in last week's Friday Link Round-up on ReuseThisBag.com. Check it out!


To the good folks at RTB, thank you so much! Oh, and since that last post I've already had to buy ANOTHER reusable bag. *sigh*

Stop the judgment!

I had an interesting conversation with a sisterfriend yesterday. She'd read my blog entry about the Lunapads give-away and thanked me for bringing up the subject. Her daughter was born about a month after mine and since her cycle returned she'd been using cloth menstrual pads... but was afraid to tell anyone. She and I both cloth diaper our babies, so we've often vibed about cloth diapering and other green parenting methods. But she was hessitant to talk openly about her cloth pad use because she was afraid of being judged. She's seen how people have reacted in disgust when the subject is breached. And some members of her family and community had been vocal about their feelings on her methods before. When you set out to do something a little different or unconventional, sometimes people will look at you funny and label you for it. This sort of hearkens back to my whole "Black Folks Don't..." discussion. She thought if she mentioned that she uses cloth pads, people wouldn't be very understanding of her choice and decide that she's going too far. So to save herself the scrutiny, she just chooses not to mention it.

This brings to light the issue I've had with setting out on this journey: the judgment from both ends of the spectrum. Some people have kind of written me off as a "hippie" or "new age" for trying to do some things more naturally. Amazingly, some fellow "Christians" (notice the quotation marks) have even labeled me a pagan. That's a whole other blog entry in itself! But on the same token, some people who I look to for green living advice are often ultra-militant about their lifestyles. They absolutely cannot stand to see anyone neglect to recycle, use disposable diapers, or drive non-hybrid cars. On one messageboard, I saw a mother basically slam other moms for using plastic baby bottles and letting their kids play with plastic toys. She only uses glass bottles and wooden toys because of the threat of chemicals leeching out of plastics. Seriously? If I use a Playtex nurser I'm less of a mother than you? Come on, people!

In general, people -- especially moms -- are just doing the best they can. My journey has been about finding simple ways I could make my family a little "greener"... one at a time. Yes, I encourage others to try some of the things we've implemented, but they're certainly not the ogres of the world if they don't want to do things my way. I don't even think like that. This is a place for sharing and education, not judgment. Barking at people won't make them change, and dismissing them won't stop them from doing what they will. We could enrich each other's lives so much just by opening our hearts and minds and choosing understanding over judgment.

Actually, I wish my friend had shared her methods earlier. It would have saved me a lot of research, exploration, and confusion. We had a very informative talk and she gave me so much guidance on an issue about which I'd been curious. In her vulnerability, she helped me. Imagine how many others she might have helped already. I can't thank her enough for that, and I'm reminded once again of how we can let our judgement and other people's judgment keep us all in bondage. That's not a lesson just for green living. It's a lesson for everyday living.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I feel like you're taking advantage of me

I need to clean my house. No seriously, I do. I'm not the greatest of housekeepers in the first place, but especially now that we have a little munchkin I've gotten really bad. I just don't have the time, energy, or interest anymore. Imagine the laundry pile from my previous blog entry. Now imagine that pile in every corner of your house. That's how much I've neglected my chores lately. It's time to bust a move and bust some suds!

When I first found out I was pregnant with Layla I started looking for ways to reduce toxicity levels in our home. I didn't want anything harming the development of my little growing fetus. That led me to look into greener cleaning options, namely some "environmentally friendly" cleaning products from widely-known big names. I won't state the ones I used, but you know them when you see them in the stores -- "Green Cleaning Product" made by [insert popular name brand here]. They looked nice and they smelled a lot less toxic than their non-green counterparts. But if you read the label, the ingredients are so ambiguous. What is "plant-based cleaning agents" supposed to mean? And then to top it off, they color the products green so that you REALLY know you're making a positive impact on the environment. I'm not saying that all or any of them are being dishonest about their product's environmental friendliness, but I can't help but think I'm being had. Can you say "Greenwashing"?

Because I believe living a greener life most often means returning to simplicity, I'm now looking into home-made cleaning formulas. I figure I'll choose a room at a time to explore some of these methods and then post my results. I'm looking to Green Living Ideas to find some of my recipes. Today I'll start with the kitchen.

All Purpose Surface Cleaner - Mix together equal parts white vinegar and salt. Scrub surfaces with a natural cleaning cloth.

Cookware Cleaner - Coarse salt does wonders for scouring copper pans and ceramic baking dishes.

No-Streak Glass Cleaner - For sparkling mirrors and windows, combine 1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, and 1 quart warm water. Divide into spray bottles. For a lint-free shine, wipe dry with a sheet of crumpled newspaper or a coffee filter.


MOMMY TIP: I have some old birdseye cotton diapers I used to use as burp cloths for Layla. Some of them came apart at the seams during a wash one time, so now I use the plies as cleaning rags. These can work great for windows and glass and it's a good way to re-purpose something you have. See, Layla's already helping mommy with the housework!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

I'm meditating on the Mason jar today.

I remember having Mason jars in the house as a kid. I remember my father canning rice, cereal, and grains in them. We never made preserves, but I remember my parents telling me stories of how their grandmothers would make preserves and can them in Mason jars. It's not uncommon in the South to see people sitting on their porch, drinking lemonade out of Mason jars. Like many black folks, we drank everything out of them. The Mason jar has worn many hats in America's households. They're humble, yet versatile.

The Mason jar, for me, is the quintessential symbol of reusability -- and a perfect example of living green in a simple way. I don't know anyone who's ever thrown away a Mason jar. You always found another use for them, whether it was poking holes in the lid to create a habitat for fireflies or filling it with water, putting a potato in it, and watching the leaves grow into a lovely plant for your kitchen. A lot of our inventiveness for Mason jar uses came out of necessity, as most of us historically didn't have much disposable income and had to find mutliple uses for common household items. People like my family who came from humble beginnings didn't have to "go" green... they were green.

It occurs to me that "going green" isn't about finding what's new. It's about rediscovering what's old. It's about returning to a time before our appetite for convenience led to our pillage of the planet. And for the average person, living a greener life saves money as well as resources, which is important to all of us in this economy. I'm so glad I can enjoy the luxuries my family enjoys today. I'm thankful to God that I have more disposable income than my parents had at my age. I'm glad we can live in a nice home, drive nice cars, and have a mutlitude of conveniences at our fingertips. But I don't want any of that to come at the detriment of my family or the planet's health. So if giving up a few shortcuts here and there means we're all better for it, then it's more than worth it to me.

I think we have a lot to left to learn from the Mason jar.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hey, ladies!

Okay, this blog post is strictly for my ladies, although you men may want to pull up a chair and possibly learn a thing or two.

When it's that time of the month, what do you use? Have you ever considered using cloth products for all your menstruating needs? I've only recently considered this route since Auntie had stayed away for so long after I had Layla. But now she's back (yay!) and since I cloth diaper Layla it only makes sense that I practice what I preach, right? It's incredible how much we ladies impact the environment with our sanitary products. Did you know that the most common piece of garbage that washes up on beach shores is plastic tampon applicators? YUCK!

One of my most favoritest blogs, ClothDiaperBlog.com is giving away a Lunapads intro kit. Pay them a visit and enter the contest:


Have an open mind... save the planet AND money. Peace, blessings, and happy menstruating!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bag Lady, you gon' hurt yo' back!

I have a bad habit of accumulating plastic shopping bags. When I come home from the grocery store, I put my food away and end up with a huge pile of bags. Growing up we always reused them as liners for the small garbage cans in our house, so I never throw them away. However, my husband and I don't use them for trash that often. We use them sometimes to clean out the litter box, but usually when we take out the trash we dump everything into one large bag. That includes the contents of the few small trash cans we have in our house. We really don't even use those shopping bags as trash can liners, so I'm keeping all these old bags for nothing. And I don't care what kind of fancy plastic bag storage system you buy. They NEVER look neat when you put them away.

I've issued myself a challenge: no plastic shopping bags for the rest of the year.

Besides the fact that they are terrible for the environment, they are cluttering my house! So I decided simply to not use them anymore under any circumstances. Thankfully, most stores now offer reusable bags for shopping. I like to think it's because we're becoming more concerned about the planet, but truthfully the stores can save money if they encourage shoppers to reuse bags. They don't have to pay for as many plastic ones.

But now I have another problem. I'm scatterbrained and very forgetful these days and I never remember to bring my reusable bags! What do I end up doing? I end up buying more reusable bags while I'm at the store. I even tried keeping a stash of them in my trunk, just in case I decide to make a last-minute stop at Target or something (I'm an addict!). But what happens is I'll use the bags in my trunk, take my loot home, and forget to put the bags back in my car. Inevitably, when I get my next Target jones -- because I so often do -- I have no reusable bags with which to shop. And I end up buying more. Even worse, sometimes I forget they're in the car altogether (like today) and I buy new bags when there are perfectly good ones already in my trunk.

So the mountain of plastic bags is quickly turning into a mountain of reusable ones. Saving the planet as always, yet failing to save space. One of these days I'll get it together.

ETA: And it just dawned on me that even though I took the time to spread out all my bags, take a picture of them, upload them to Blogger, and type out this whole entry, I STILL didn't bother putting them in my trunk once I was finished! What is wrong with your girl?

Check out my Sister-In-Law's blog!

My sister is a dynamic woman of God, full of wisdom and power. She just started a blog, and though I admit my bias I must say that it's amazing! Please visit her blog and vibe with her (I'll meet you over there).
My So-Called Christian Life

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Girl, you know black folks don't...

You know, over the years as I've explored ways of living naturally I've had my "blackness" questioned many times by my own people. When I became a vegetarian, I got comments like, "Girl, as much poke (pork) as black folks eat? You gonna want some fried chicken in a minute!" Some people genuinely didn't believe me and would encourage me to just "eat the sausage" anyway. When I stopped chemically straightening my hair, people would say, "You'll never get a job like that. You know [white] folks won't take you seariously if your hair is nappy." Not surprisingly, when I got pregnant and started to embrace more natural parenting methods like low-tech birth and cloth diapering, I got comments like, "You're gonna get sick of them cloth diapers," or "Most women have an epidural. Your mama had an epidural. You'll be hollaring for that epidural, watch!"

I've learned it's not my "blackness" that they question. It's the appearance that I think I'm too good to do what my people had been doing for years. Why isn't the way we've always done things good enough for you?

Thankfully, I find that most people I know who are of my generation support natural, eco-friendly living and many practice it themselves. It seems I mostly get the sideways comments from my elders, sadly. I was speaking with a lady in my church who saw me feeding my daughter some Happy Baby Organic Apple Puffs.

She told me she would tell her daughter-in-law about them because she's so "picky" about what her child eats. I could hear the condescension in her voice when she said, "picky." It made me laugh, because I'm that "picky daughter-in-law" who feeds her baby organic food, breastfed exclusively for 5.5 months, wears her regularly instead of using a stroller, only uses cloth diapers, and prefers not to let her have table food or certain snacks until she's a year old. I smiled, looked her in the eye, and said, "She should be picky."

The funny thing is that when you set out to do things naturally and are successful, the elders are often amazed. When we visited family in Ohio the other weekend, I swear I brought Layla's entire diaper stash with us. My aunts and uncles marveled at how far cloth diapers have come and how easy it was to work with them. They were sure we would have given up on that by now. But seeing how we raise her naturally, and seeing how healthy, happy, and well-adjusted our daughter is, they understand it now. My aunt even told me she was proud of me.

Eventually, the elders accepted my diet and have seen how heartily I can eat with no meat on my plate. They got used to my hair and even begged me never to cut it. And now when they see how we raise our little tree-hugger, they seem to get it. Maybe these new-fangled black folks with their new-fangled ideas and practices might have something here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Water water everywhere/ nor any drop to drink

Our water heater busted yesterday, springing a leak that's saturated most of the bottom level of our home. After waiting until 10:30pm (yes, PM!) for the plumber to come look at it, we're now left with no running water and a bill for a new water heater. That means we have no water for cooking, bathing, laundry, or even to flush the toilet. Let me tell you, if you've never had to pee in a Vitamin Water bottle in your own bathroom because you couldn't flush your toilet, it's a pretty humbling experience. Our saving grace is the water cooler in our kitchen, but of course we're limited in how much water we can take from there. I think I washed up in the smallest amount of water I've ever used for bathing this morning, about 3 cups. You never miss your water 'til your... you know how the old adage goes.

It made me think about the millions of people around the world who have to go through much worse than this every day. One sixth of the entire population has no access to clean drinking water. Imagine how that is, having to travel long distances in harsh terrain to fetch water that's probably going to make you sick because it's infested with disease. Around the world, criminal warlords hold water hostage, keeping it from the general population for ransom. Lack of clean water has public health and socio-economic ramifications. In areas were there is drought, no water means no crops for you (or the animals you depend on for food and income) to eat. Your health, safety, livelyhood, and future are in jeopardy, all because of something as simple and essential to life as water. As a person of African descent, it breaks my heart that the problem is most prevalent on the African continent.

At the end of the day, I can go to a family member's house to shower. I can go to the grocery store to buy food. I can even buy a nice 1-liter bottle of Aquafina to quench my thirst. My water problems are mere inconveniences. But there is a mother somewhere with a child as young mine who will probably die because of the lack of something I take for granted.

We can do something to help. One person can drink for 20 years from a contribution of only $20. I hope you'll join me in making a donation to charity: water (http://www.charitywater.org/) and help bring clean, sanitary drinking water to those who need it most. As for the Anderson household, I think we'll be much more considerate of our water use in the future, having a greater appreciation for the most basic of human needs. I wonder how clean I can get with a one-minute shower.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm just going to put it out there...

Okay, I'm making myself vulnerable here. I've decided to share something so personal, so shameful, that I rarely ever tell anyone about it. It's been an embarrassment of mine for a very long time, and quite frankly I'm still not over the shame of it all. But for the greater good, I feel it's best I share this most abasing aspect of my life. *deep breath* Alright, here goes...

This is our laundry pile. Garment upon garment of washed, yet unfolded clothes. Some of them were washed just yesterday. Others were washed weeks ago. Instead of folding them or hanging them in the closet, every morning we go down to the lower level of our home, rummage through the monstrous pile, and hope we find something suitable to wear to work. Let's see that again, shall we?

Wow, it looks even more monstrous from that angle, doesn't it? I'm really very ashamed of the way we treat our laundry. Why am I sharing all of this? Because I want to prove a point. I'm an avid proponent of cloth diapering and the number one concern/objection I get from people I talk to about it is that they don't want to do all the laundry that comes with it. They insist that they can barely keep up with the laundry they have, so they're sure they'd never be able to wash diapers regularly. However, as you can clearly see from the pictures above, neither I nor my husband are particularly on top of our laundry game, yet our daughter's diapers always manage to look like this:

Look at the contrast! How is it we can manage to keep her diapers washed and folded neatly, yet our clothes are left to sort themselves? I really wish I had the answer to that question, but I do know this: Even the most laundry-averse of us can successfully cloth diaper our children. No, I don't particularly like doing laundry, but in all honesty I haven't found washing and caring for her diapers to be all that cumbersome. In fact, it's become pretty routine at this point. And besides, anyone with kids is going to spend more than their fair share of time in front of a washer and dryer. Those munchkins dirty everything they wear... constantly! So I find the "I don't wanna do laundry" argument a bit curious, given the amount of laundry most parents do on a daily basis anyway. From one laundry-phobe to another, it's really not that bad.

So, there's all my business out in the open for everyone to see. I hope someone's found it helpful. Oddly, I feel a little better now having admitted I have a problem. It's kind of liberating!

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Father... The Original Environmentalist

My dad shared something interesting with me today. He saw the baby in my banner with the leaf diaper and felt the need to tell me how people would do their business and wipe their behinds with leaves in the rural area where he grew up. Since apparently there's a shortage of toilet paper in the woods (who knew?) they had to do what they had to do. And according to him, since they weren't tearing down trees to make rolls of T.P., they were being kind to the environment. Um, that's a little too green even for me.

My dad's philosphy: It's better to be green than brown. Thanks, dad. Thank you for such pearls of wisdom. I'll have to pass them on to your granddaughter one day... that is if she can stomach them.