Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Simply and Having Gratitude This Holiday Season

So, today I was at the mall-- yes, diving into consumerism-- I had a great coupon to the Gap and my husband needs his one new shirt or sweater to wear this year for the holidays. (I'm not kidding...I strive to live as simply as he does. Funny thing is, he really doesn't see it as living any particular way, he just doesn't need or want much) Anyhow, my son started to insist that he NEEDED a new pair of shoes. In his defense, he grows out of/wears out shoes in 3 seconds as most 7 year olds do, but I couldn't help but ask him, "Do you NEED them or want them?". He had no shame in clarifying, "I want them". I calmly explained to him he doesn't need them, we're not here for shoes, so there will be no new shoes. So this began the next 20 minutes in the mall with him on my heels, in my ear begging for shoes, any shoes- preferably "Skater sneakers", but he'll take any! I was so frustrated...who was this selfish kid? I mean, of course my kids ask for things. It's just that usually when I give them an answer they accept it- they get it.
Today, this kid was under the influence-- he had a mall buzz. We were sucked in amidst tons of shoppers, the bags of 'stuff', storefront displays, holiday music and he wanted something. (I think he picked shoes cause I might crack for shoes--he knew he'd have no luck with a toy)

Now I think I do a pretty good job teaching my kids about gratitude. I make note of tons of little things to be grateful for each day with them. We talk all the time about people who have less than us. They've told me they have friends that "brag" about what they have, how much bigger or better there whatever is...and they've said they wish they could have that or have this. That's when our discussion leans toward there are always going to be people who have more than us and people with less than us. I tell them our family makes choices about what we have based on what we need and what creates experiences and memories. This is not to say we don't have toys-- we have plenty. I would say we have too much. It's more about the 'wanting'. It's the newest finger nails on chalkboard sound to me, "I want...." I told my kids today-- after we went through the playroom and gave away a whole bunch-o-crap --that from starting now, every time they say, "I want" I'm going to ignore whatever it is they are asking for first off, and then respond with, "What will you give?". I said it can be anything, a helpful hand, a kind word-- just something immediate and positive from them. I told them, they will understand quickly how often they say, "I want". We already started tonight and when I said, "What will you give?", my daughter said, "A kiss?". I accepted.

Teaching kids about gratitude and living simply is not easy in our society. It takes commitment to live by example. I know right away when I'm in need of being put in check...if I'm not on the top of my parenting game and my kids are falling into the bottomless pit of wanting "stuff"...I can only look back at myself and what I am choosing, how I am living, shopping, and talking about "things". I'm happy I'm getting myself back on the wagon now, as I haven't even started shopping yet. My kids will get things...Santa will come, but my kids will also give back. I will give back, and I hope everyone does something this year to give back. It will all be just a little bit more simple this year...

I had already planned on giving home made granola this year (oh my gosh, that sounds so funny) for the little gifts for teachers, mail persons etc. See if you can just bake for someone instead of buying a "thing" for them.

When you are buying, see if you can skip Amazon and visit these few great sites to make shopping a touch more meaningful.

www.thehungersite.com
The Greater Good Network Stores give a portion of your purchase price to the cause of your choice-- hunger, animals, breast cancer, autism, rain forests, Veterans, child health, or literacy. Tons if gift ideas! You could find something for everyone here. There's an option to make a direct donation where 100% of your gift goes to your program of choice.

www.purecitizen.com ***** definitely my favorite this year ****
A sort of Groupon that works with carefully chosen companies that are committed to making the planet a better place. Each day you'll get an email with a compelling story of such a company with selected products from them at 30-90% off. The best part? You can opt to save a bit less and donate the difference to a selected non profit. 20% of customers chose to do this!

www.womensbeanproject.com
Helping women to develop work skills and self confidence to break the cycle of poverty. Based out of Denver CO. Help women and nourish your belly with yummy soups at the same time.

And of course my all time favorites that I continuously shop from/through/with.

www.kiva.org
www.heifer.org
www.worldwildlife.org

There is something for everyone, trust me.
For direct charitable giving or volunteering check these out as well:

*Feeding America
*First Book - donate books to low income households
*The Humane Society of the United States
*Krochet Kids - providing fair wage crocheting jobs to women of Uganda
*Operation Warm - ensure every kids gets a coat this year
*Share Our Strength - hosting bake sales all over the US to end hunger

For local San Diegans consider:

*CCSA Adopt a Family
*San Diego Food Bank
*It's All About the Kids
*Father Joe's Villages
*Lions, Tigers and Bears
*San Diego Rescue Mission

Something here makes your heart sing, I know it. Listen to it and donate your time or money to it this holiday season.
Enjoy this holiday season and SPREAD your joy. Remember to smile at one another, speak kindly, respect one another and understand we all have a story and complex history.
Be compassionate to one other, to animals and to the earth.

Peace and Love
~Alana

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pick Your Sunscreen

Well, well, well..... After a long hiatus, I'm chiming in again! The beginning of 2011 left me sort of busy with other things and for some reason this blog wasn't on my priority list. Scaling down, de-cluttering my life, meditating and yoga were taking precedence. Less "talk" and more listening, feeling, and observing served me better at that time. I'm still working this balance of course, but I definitely feel like talking again! I want to share lots about meditation, yoga, stopping your mental chatter and finding inner peace/happiness (or whatever you want to call it). However, it's summer and I need to talk about sunscreen ASAP!!!!!!

Shocking news-- Europe makes better sunscreens! They have more filters to choose from when making their sunscreens to protect from skin damaging, wrinkle causing, cancer causing UVA radiation. They also don't use dangerous hormone disrupting chemicals like we do.

Allow me to begin with why the heck you should care which sunscreen you choose. Let's consider your skin. It's your biggest organ, and although it's a very nice barrier and protective layer, it absorbs what we lather onto it via little capillaries into your bloodstream. You should really consider ingredients in skin products the same way you consider ingredients you ingest when eating. I'll also give my personal disclaimer that I certainly don't have a perfect record when it comes to some less than desirable things my body is exposed too....however, on a whole I make informed choices that tend to be kind to my body and the planet. To be honest, I care WAY more about decisions that affect our kids than us adults. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: kids are way more susceptible to toxins. Whether it be pesticides or sunscreen chemicals, when "safe levels" are being tested, they are not testing these levels based on a 40 lb 5 yr old, they are basing these doses and levels of exposure on the average 150 lb adult. This makes a huge difference. I can't help but be concerned when I think of potential cellular damage or genes being "turned on" by some of these environmental toxins, increasing their chances for autoimmune disorders, cancers, asthma, etc. In my non panic mode, I understand we can't protect them from every toxin or every potentially harmful chemical, so I really don't go crazy about it all. However, like Oprah says, "when you know better, you do better", and I know what chemicals to steer clear from for my children. We know the body has a difficult time removing non biological chemicals from the body-- The research is in, listen to it.


So here it is. I'll try to be concise here-- what you want and what you don't want in a sunscreen.

You absolutely do NOT want: (in order of avoidance)

Oxybenzone- This is my number one. It's a known hormone disruptor. It's linked to allergies and cellular damage. It actually enhances skin penetration, aiding in the absorption of other chemicals as well! Also look for these alternative names/chemicals causing estrogenic effects- Benzophenome, Homosalate, Octinoxate.

Vitamin A- Don't use a sunscreen with added Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant that can slow skin aging and wrinkles. Great, right? Not so much. Unfortunately, it's now known that in the presence of sunlight is speeds the growth of skin lesions and tumors. According to the Environmental Working Group it's added to 30% of all sunscreens. Look for other names for Vit A-- Padimate O, Parsol 1789.

Parabens- These chemical preservatives are in everything! They are potential hormone disruptors.


What you DO want is a mineral sunscreen.

Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide- These are physical barriers, not absorbed into the skin with good protection from UVA rays. Some people don't like that it stays white on the skin. This brings about a slight problem with the new non white, absorb-able mineral sunscreens. Nanotechnology reduces the size of the particles so these sunscreens go on clear instead of white. The question remains if these nano-particles are now absorbed and if so, what are the health concerns if any? The Environmental Working Group states that 15 peer reviewed studies showed these particles did not absorb in healthy skin.


So, Nanomaterials or hormone disruptors??? Go old skool with white zinc oxide!!!
Second up is nanotechnology for sure. Definitely no sprays either, stick with lotion. (Convenience comes as a cost here.)

Look for Tinosorb S in future sunscreens. It's pending FDA approval. It's been used in Europe for years and has no hormone effects.

In the meantime, here's my favorite au naturel sunscreens--

* Eco Logical Skin Care ****my choice for this summer!***
www.ecologicalskin.com
No nanoparticles!
* California Baby (no fragrance)
* Badger Sunscreen (unscented) No nanoparticles!
* Kiss My Face Natural Sun Stick -comes in blue, pink and white! Mineral sunblock in fun colors! Best for noses and cheeks.
* Think Baby

You can buy any of them on Amazon!

Happy Summer!!!