Sunday, October 27, 2013

Neal's Yard Organics

When it comes to organic beauty products, I am a twofold consumer: intrigued and skeptical.  I think I have purchased every food co-op beauty product on the market.  Some of them are nice but I haven't come across one yet that sparked a loyal and consistent buying pattern.

In the last 5 years, I have done my best to create a health and wellness focused life for my family.  That meant changing many of our food choices, switching household cleaners and detergents, and taking vitamins to support our immunity.  I also switched several beauty products but was never completely excited about any brand in particular. I was usually disappointed when I realized that despite the claims of "natural" or organic my brands were rated poorly by the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Database.

Last summer I was introduced to Neal's Yard Remedies. I really like it. It's a brand from the UK which has much higher regulatory standards than the US. It's a product that uses organic ingredients to their full potential without fillers such as parabens, mineral oils, synthetic fragrances or silicone.  I also understand the health potential of many of the essential oils that are incorporated into their products.  The products are certified organic, Carbon Neutral, and Soil Association certified. They are GMO -free (including their vitamins). They smell wonderful and I am thrilled with the way my skin and hair feel.

If you are like me, you are skeptical.  Look for reviews.  Not from beauty magazines which review products for a fee but from real beauty bloggers.

Here are some of my newest favorites:

Invigorating Seaweed Shampoo:  I have an oily scalp and always hated the build up that I tend to get from shampoo's.  This is one of the first that leaves my hair soft and shiny day after day.  They hair products for all types with matching conditioners.


 Arnica Salve: As a yoga teacher, I rely on a muscle salve for  soothing sore muscles.  This one is my new favorite and a jar at my bedside table is now a  permanent fixture.  Smells amazing!

Wild Rose Beauty Balm:  I love a good multi-purpose product and this one can be used as a cleanser and a moisturizer.  Made from rose-hips, the smell is again the first bonus that will grab you but after using it for a month, I can honestly say this is my new favorite product.

Lastly this company has been rewarded Champion status by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.  Influenced by companies rated highly by unpaid organizations who recognize effectiveness and environmental responsibility, this is my new favorite product to purchase.

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Pink Ribbon Posting

October has become my oxymoron month.  On the one hand the parade of pink ribbons has 
created a sense of comfort.  As a survivor it is that recognition that I have a sisterhood of women who would walk, march, or run to show their encouragement.  And at the time of diagnosis, every pink ribbon felt like a  whisper of support in my fight to get healthy. I truly appreciate the people who have raised money and conducted research for the cause.  

And yet, I would feel remiss if I didn't discuss the obvious juxtapose. Over the years I have wondered if the trend to wear pink ribbons has masked the meaning. Can you really tell me that KFC and their pink ribbon bucket are contributing to the demise of the disease?  How about Estee Lauder, one of the first corporations to pink wash?  Is it OK to put a pink ribbon on a product marketing shell and then add known toxins in the lipstick? (see the EWG cosmetic database on Lauder's products).  And Yoplait with your pink ribbon caps?  Did you forget until only recently you treated your cows with a healthy dose or rBGH?

And I just have to say it.  Slogans like "Save the Ta's Ta's" offend me. I question the motive behind an organization that uses them.  Loosing your breasts  to cancer is only a portion of the loss.  And it doesn't feel sexy or funny.

Today my daughter asked me if I wanted to be honored at a pink sporting event.  Actually, anytime my teenage daughter asks to be seen in public with me I am honored.  But I did a few of those events in the past and its not for me.  Partially because I know that my survivorship is a blessing. I didn't earn it. I love that some suggest I am a warrior but in my heart I know that so much of this battle was won because of an early diagnosis, quality health care, and a big darn chunk of luck.  The woman whose cancer has metastasized is often referred to as loosing her battle.  And over the years I have decided that I dislike this reference that  suggests she did not fight hard enough.  

I'll never forget sitting in a restaurant with another dear friend dealing with a rarer form of cancer.   As I twisted my pink ribbon bracelet she made mention of the fact that there was no ribbon for her disease.  

I hesitated writing this post because I didn't want to come off as ungrateful. I am fully aware that life changing treatments meant that the disease I survived is one that I would not have had I been diagnosed only a decade earlier.  And I love that pink-outs and 5k's bring the  community together for a cause.  

And if nothing else, let the month of October be a reminder to you to get your mammogram.  Schedule it.  I wouldn't be around to wear my pink ribbon Dansko shoes this month if I had missed mine.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cha Cha Cha Changes

It seems fitting that as leaves fall and kids settle in to school routine that I can take a breath and ponder at my world of change.  Sending one off to college and two to Homecoming dances seems surreal.  I can still conjure up the smell of baby powder with only a thought of how the two in formal dresses were in diapers only a few breaths earlier.

If I force myself I can admit that time has passed.  A lot of it, fleeting as it seems.  Last summer I celebrated twenty years with Ted, my life partner.  I have been contemplating this post since our anniversary in July but even though the thoughts of what I would say crossed my brain I never jotted them down or began to write.  Finally last night I was inspired by none other than the great visionary John Tesh himself, who on a cheesy radio show told me that life partners stay together because they see each other as life partners. Hmph. Deep.

With a bit more depth, I think I can suggest that there is more to it than that.  It is my opinion but I credit those long term marriages to spouses that can weather significant changes.

I met Ted at age 18 and we grew up together. When I look back at those first few pictures of the two of us I can still smell the Polo fragrance and marvel at the fullness of our baby faces. He delighted me with his energy and wide deep-dimpled smile.  And when he wrapped his big arms around me in that first embrace it seemed as though this was were I belonged.

We were engaged on the day he graduated from college and married a year later.  We then went on to exist together in our world full of stories and surprises, fears and finales. Together we lost a baby and a parent.  We spent sleepless nights worrying about the sadness of one of our children and then celebrated that same child's triumphs with joy only a parent can comprehend. We celebrated first days of school, Easter egg hunts, and sacred summers on Madeline Island.  The diagnosis of cancer in 2009 only brought us closer as I was reminded again and again of his dedication. We loved and we fought, we dreamed and we suffered, we were vulnerable and humbled.  But through it all, we were in it together. Our marriage feels like a life built on set backs, interdependencies, and countless blessings.  Loyal as a lab, silly as a child, and deep kindness for people in his world that he loves, I am continuously drawn back into this messy but sustainable marriage.

I wonder what our future experience will be.  A quieter home, marriages of our kids, and the thrill of the possibility of grandparentdom are what I assume the next twenty years will bring. Giving credit to John Tesh where it is due, I see myself holding the same hand of the man whose hand I hold now, my husband and friend despite the uncertainty of changes.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I Forget So Quickly

I think the re-occurring theme the first day back of school is that the summer went by too fast.  Entering this school season, I wasn't the only mom who lamented that dropping off the kids was a travesty.  The summer of 2013 was blip in the screen especially considering how much I was looking forward to it.

Maybe it was because the summer was cooler and our warm days were just fleeting moments.  Perhaps it was the string of busy that didn't offer a break.  Or possibly I just forgot to relish in the moments.

Living in the present is a beautiful concept.  As a yoga teacher I strive for that ideal.  Yet, most of the time I give that attention to the moment one big deep breath and then a pause.....and then I'm on to the next thing.  I justify this behavior by reminding myself how busy I am.  Just like the greedy magician from Frosty the Snowman I am "busy, busy, busy." There is always a list of things to do. I didn't even hardly blog this summer (insert apology here).  Too much to do, too little time.

I can only tell myself to try.  Unfortunately I am an adult who has been trained that measurable productivity is equal to self worth.  I am a child of parents who embraced busy and the never ending job list handed down from their parents who themselves were products of the Great Depression.  Work and save, save and work.  Stay busy because some day you will be too old to work (and that's not a good thing.) Just the idea of sitting still sometimes makes my heart race.

Gratefully my best teachers are my children.  They are accidental teachers meaning they don't even realize how often I am their student.  And, shhhhh....please don't tell them, the teenagers already are quite sure they are so much smarter than I am.  They haven't been tarnished completely by my quest for 100% productivity.

In this instance they are years ahead of me in their understanding of life.  Case in point are the following pictures I found on their computer screens. Evidence of a summer created, celebrated, and languished in.  While I became hot around the collar every time they ate cereal for lunch or were late for my expectations, their busy was creating a magnitude of memories in their minds and on their iphones.

Thank you children of mine for this summer lesson.  While I can't retrieve these moments myself, I can at least remind myself to try.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Our 2013 Courage is Contagious Scholarship Recipients

Denise And Lori
When I created The Courage is Contagious Project with Jen Theisen from Five for Women Magazine, I had no idea how much I much I was going to gain from the project.  The stories that I receive from women inspire other women almost always bring tears to my eyes.  This year was no different and I was thrilled to offer two very special women a scholarship to attend our Fall Yoga and Wellness Retreat.

Denise Mackey-Natz was nominated by her friend Lori Pantgratz.  Lori wrote, "I first met Denise Mackey-Natz a few years ago at a fitness studio during a TRX class. Her positive spirit was infectious and I was happy that she became a regular in the class. As I continued to get to know Denise I soon realized what an inspired person she is. As a breast cancer survivor Denise has an excitement and a zest for life that is contagious.

Living a health conscious lifestyle and giving back to her community through her business are just two of the ways that Denise is leading by example. Her positive spirit and her desire to live life to the fullest are attributes that make her an excellent choice for the Courage is Contagious scholarship."

Our second recipient Elisha Riek was nominated by Melissa Larson:

She is a ray of sunshine despite all she has been through; her positive attitude and personality are infectious. It is impossible to NOT smile while you are around her. She is bubbly, creative, and inspiring, but most of all she is persistent and has the ability to remain positive no matter what life hands her.
Elisha had practiced massage therapy for ten years. Being able to bring comfort to her clients was her main goal. She sought out new ways to treat clients and obtained certification in aquatic massage, this afforded the opportunity to treat clients, who would benefit and be more comfortable in the water than on a massage table.
Now two years later, Elisha is the patient with chronic pain. She has struggled with many misdiagnosis and different treatment options as her goal has always been to stay as natural as possible. She has found that yoga helps decrease her pain. Her debil- itating arm pain is what has lead to the end of her massage therapy career.
This situation wouldn't get her down; being a resilient woman Elisha took her life into her own hands and developed her own business called "Wetlands Natural Concepts" which promotes a skin care line whose target population are those who have skin allergies to chemicals such as parabens and sulfates, and food allergies to gluten. Her main product line at this time is mineral makeup that is all natural and healthy for your skin.
This is inspirational to all who know Elisha because despite one income loss in a two income household she is still courageously going forth with her dreams, even enrolling in online classes to obtain certification for makeup artistry. She hopes to spread as much knowledge to the public about healthy skin care and wellness through her business.
This fierce, fabulous, female would be the best recipient for this wellness retreat due to the fact that she never lets her pain rule her life, she goes out to get what she wants, she is an inspiration to all who know her. I can't think of a more deserving candidate for the yoga wellness retreat.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yoga and Words

Meeting a new group of women on a retreat never fails to surprise, delight, and excite me.  And often, especially the day after they leave I am pensive; reviewing in my mind what the retreat meant to me and what I think it meant for them.  Each retreat I lead leaves me feeling blessed that I can share this special place and it's magic with other women.  It also allows me to reach out to both experienced and beginner yoginis and offer my perspective of the practice.

This group was cohesive and engaging and introspective.  It was interesting to teach them yoga in an effort to open their heart center and to see that translate onto their papers in an art studio.  I realized how I share their craving to express myself creatively, but my right brain rests in the beauty of words on paper where theirs spilled onto the pages of art journals.  There is something really beautiful about watching a person create art.

The other aspect of joy came from seeing how Madeline Island inspired them.  I challenge anyone to come to this island and not feel a spark to his or her creative center.  Prior to hiking the State Park I mentioned to them that we would probably be walking for a good 6 to 7 miles.  However, I quickly learned that hiking with artists is a completely different process.  They lie under trees and shoot cameras up to capture their majesty.  They take pictures of clouds, rocks, wildflowers, and mushrooms. They pick up rocks and our nature to incorporate into their art.  We spent two and a half hours on a two-mile hike.

As always, wrapping up a retreat was bittersweet.  I was satisfyingly exhausted.  Despite Madeline having treated  "us to days of sunshine symbolically, the rain came down hard on the day they left. One of the women shared this sentiment,  "As the Ferry pulled away from Madeline Island I couldn't help but be reflective of the wonderful retreat and new group of friends I had made there. I also had to say goodbye to an Island I am growing to love more and more."

Thank you Lynnae Burns for guiding them on their art journey and Hannah Stonehouse Hudson for teaching them a new perspective in photography. Thank you Madeline Island School of the Arts for hosting the creative yoginis.