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Unacceptable Levels

Unacceptable Levels examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of affable filmmaker Ed Brown, a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children. To create this debut documentary, one man and his camera traveled extensively to find and interview top minds in the fields of science, advocacy, and law. Weaving their testimonies into a compelling narrative, Brown presents us with the story of how the chemical revolution brought us to where we are, and of where, if we’re not vigilant, it may take us.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Rewriting Eulogies

Image by Junior Libby

Death.  Funerals.  Loss.  Reflection.
The Cross.
Agonizing grief.  Unanswered questions.
Anger. Sadness. Confusion.

At some point in our lives, we all have to deal with the death of someone we love. Sometimes it’s a sudden, horrific tragedy. Often, it seems unfair. At times, grace prevails and our loved one slips away quietly and we can accept their death. Always, there is a sense of loss, a feeling that things will never be the same. A life has touched ours and now we’re left only with memories. We reach out for a touch that’s no longer there.

Scripture shows us that those closest to Jesus experienced all of these feelings. 

While it is the lives of the people around us that touch our hearts, it is Jesus’ death that transforms us. If we take time to meditate on where we’d be without the cross, we can’t help but realize how hopeless our lives would be. Because of His death, our hopelessness turns to hopefulness, our sorrow becomes joy, our darkness is transformed into light. Death has lost its empty victory because power lies in Resurrection.

Eulogies expound on our virtues. They recall good times, strength of character, gentleness of heart. We laugh, we cry, we remember. The Gospels are a powerful eulogy of Christ’s life. 

What will be said at the end of your life? Will it matter that you were? How often will others speak of your beautiful house, your fancy cars, your stunning wardrobe? Will your children remember your steady faith? Your kind words? Your servant heart? Will your time have been more valuable than your “toys”? Will your compassion be remembered long after you’re gone? Will your gentle spirit transcend memories of harsh words spoken? Will your family know without any doubt where you’re spending eternity? Christ’s gift came at a cost. A cost of nails and a crown of thorns. Embrace Him during this Easter season. Let Him rewrite your eulogy.

Life.  Celebration.  Gain.  Reflection.
The Empty Tomb.
Unsurpassed joy.  Answered questions.
Peace.  Contentment.  Certainty.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Honoring the Earth -- how my family is making a difference

Welcome to the April 2014 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Honor the Earth.  

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and Crunchy Farm Baby through the Green Moms Network. This month, our members are talking about how they honor the Earth year round. Stop by all of the posts to get ideas on how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. 

How does my family honor the earth?

I pondered the question for awhile and kept coming up with an alternate question: 

How does my family not honor the earth?

Grandson rocking the cloth right away!

* Cloth diapering. When it comes to living earth-friendly lives, it's not like we're perfect or anything. Far from it. But I'm proud to say we're doing our part, starting with what we put on our babies' bums. I'm delighted my daughters decided to cloth diaper my grandbabies right from the start. They're honoring the earth by not dumping countless disposal diapers into the landfill.

Jess breastfeeding at a Pittsburgh Pirate game

* Breastfeeding is another way we've honored not only our babies, but the earth as well. After all, there is no production impact on the environment when it comes to breastfeeding. It was my only choice when I had babies, and it was/is their own choice as well. 

Of course, it goes beyond what we do for our babies. Some of the changes we've made are doable for everyone who is reading this.

* Reusable bags. There is no reason . . . NONE . . . for you to continue using plastic bags at the store. The choices in reusable bags are vast, and include many that fold up or roll up and slip easily into a purse or pocket so they are readily and always available.

But I need plastic bags at home for things like cat litter and trash, etc.

I hear you. We use plastic bags for those purposes as well. But we just get them from others who, for one reason or another, continue to acquire vast amounts of plastic bags every week. They gladly give some to us, just to get them out of their own homes. I'm sure you can find others who will accommodate you as well.

I admit it took me awhile to get into the habit of always having reusable bags with me, but habits are like that. They take time to develop. This is a habit that is well worth it.

* Forsaking disposable products. Other than toilet paper, for the most part, our home is free of products like napkins and paper plates. We do have a roll of paper towels stashed under our sink, which is only used for the occasional massive amounts of puke one of our cats manages to deposit on the floor for us. Other than that, we use, and reuse, rags. There's no reason to waste paper towels to clean up average messes and spills. None.

Same with paper/plastic plates. We have a set of splattered metal dishes which is perfect for dining out on the patio. Why would we use something that would just be thrown away after one meal? It makes no sense.

Paper napkins are also a ridiculous waste. I don't even even use them for parties or showers. For the last couple baby showers, my daughters made cute napkins out of receiving blankets we picked up at garage sales for next to nothing, or out of soft fabric they bought. After the showers, the napkins became cloth wipes for the babies delicate behinds. Perfect. 

I must confess, between the homemade ones, inherited ones, gifted ones, and ones I bought, I probably have close to 100 cloth napkins. That keeps us covered when it comes to wiping our hands during a meal . . . even when we're feeding a crowd. 

* Reusable bottles and cups. As much as possible, I do not use Styrofoam or paper cups or plastic bottles. Of course, sometimes I must, but I try to remember to carry my own cups or bottles with me to functions so I don't contribute to the ongoing landfill crisis that is growing with every Starbucks cup that is tossed in the trash.

What's not to love about Earth Mama Angel Baby?

* Personal care products. We're all doing our part here by reducing the amount of toxic personal care products we use. From conventional shampoos to colognes to hair dyes to body lotions, we try to make the best choices possible for both our health and the environment. It takes some research, but it's so worth the effort.

* Household products. Again, it's about choices, and we try our best to keep harmful chemicals out of our kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.
* Lawn and garden.  I look out my window and see the lush green lawns starting to appear in my neighborhood and I'm struck with a bit of envy. But only for a moment, as I realize the environmental cost of that lushness. We opt to keep products like RoundUp off our properties and cringe as we see it being applied to yards so close to ours. 

We choose plants for our gardens free of neonicotinoids. The last thing I want to do is to be responsible for the killing off of even more bees. This is important folks, and I implore you to not buy plants from Lowe's or Home Depot until they agree to stop using this toxic pesticide. Ask your local gardening centers if their plants are free of it. It's that important.

Obviously, I've given you quite of lot of ways to Honor the Earth. I believe in leading by example, so these are things I am doing . . . except the breastfeeding part. I will say I'm not currently engaging in that!

I'd love to hear that you've committed to one or more of these suggestions. What changes are you willing to make to celebrate Earth Day 2014?

Visit Happy Mothering and Crunchy Farm Baby to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival! Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:

The Kids Choice Award and The Children's Place Giftcard Giveaway

 #BlogginMamas Kids' Choice Awards Presenter Swag Bag and $500 The Childrens' Place Giftcard Giveaway 

Did you ever watch one of those award shows on TV and wish you could score some of the awesome swag that the celebrities take home? Well, I've teamed up Bloggin' Mamas & Hollywood Swag Bags to make that wish a reality! Everything in the swag bag may not be eco-friendly, but I'm sure you'll glean some super-goodness out of it . . . and put the $500 giftcard to good use!

One lucky winner will receive a Swag Bag that was given out to Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2014 Presenters and Nominees ($800 Value) plus a $500 giftcard sponsored by The Children's Place

Here is some of what you might find in your swag bag if you win:

  • Buddy Ball The Buddy Ball is a multi functional toy that can go from a teddy bear into a ball in a matter of seconds. The soft plush also stores a variety of kid treasures inside. The company gifted the nominees with a variety of their bears named Max, Eva, Landry and Sam.
  • OPPOS A line of girls leggings featuring interchangeable legs. Short for opposites, OPPOS™ enables girls to mix and match the legs of their leggings for a different look every day of the month (and beyond).
  • Various pieces of AngieShel Design’s gorgeous handcrafted jewelry.
  • Ericka La Presle-Freer, creator of Starbars is added her gourmet organic super food bar in a delicious mint chocolate chip flavor.
  • The “Brain Bar” was included to help nominees get their “Think On”, particularly helpful during an acceptance speech.
  • Darby’s English Toffee is the finest toffee maker in Southern California. They have added their classic box for the nominees.
  • Author Jennifer Ormond gifted her precious book Baby’s Binky Box.
  • Oxylent Multivitamin Supplement Drink Oxygenates, hydrates, circulates and rejuvenates. Drink Oxylent Breathe Life.
  • SeaSnax, a favorite among celebrities, launched a new product “Chomperz” to all the recipients. Chomperz can be described similar to a chip, but with the low calories and nutrition of seaweed. SeaSnax are gluten free and all natural. Try Chomperz and you will be hooked.
  • Crave Naturals included three items from their product line, featuring the best selling Glide Thru Detangling Brush, Whiplash Eyelash Curler & Mirage Argan Oil.
  • Tat Patch takes your ripped, destroyed and distressed jeans to a new level. Tat Patches go on the inside, peeking out. Everyone received an assortment of cool designs.
  • DidiPopMusic supplied nominees with a collection of her smart and soulful music for kids.
  • Rusk Hair made sure the nominees’ hair was perfectly groomed with its entire line of products.
  • Nominees over the age of 21 enjoyed Tipsy Girl Wine Design Custom bedazzled wine glasses for the sophisticated oenophile.
  • Focal Instincts Photography is including a gift certificate for award winning photography.

The giveaway starts 4/17/14 at 12:01am EST and ends 4/30/14 at 11:59pm EST. It is open to United States Residents 18 and over. Winner will be selected via and notified via email within 48 hours after the drawing. Winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be selected. Winner's name will be displayed via the Rafflecopter widget below.  



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The effects of fracking on our health

Mention certain companies around me and it's guaranteed to get my blood boiling. Monsanto. Neville Chemical. Marcellus Shale. Yeah, just typing their names has me fuming. But today, I just want to focus on one of them. Marcellus Shale. To say I hate this company is an understatement. Oh, sure, they've brought a lot of temporary jobs to the region. Sure, they're temporarily boosting the local economy. But my question is: At what cost??

Many supporters of fracking won't admit the dangers until it affects their health or the health of one of their children or grandchildren. And even then, they're liking to bury their head in the sand (a dangerous place to be if there's fracking nearby). I've spent part of my evening arguing this with a trusted friend. He and I are on opposite sides of this debate, as are many of my friends. But that doesn't make me feel less strongly about it. As a matter of fact, it propels me to be more vocal than ever. 

I believe (and yes, it is my opinion) that fracking is environmentally irresponsible. But I'm not even going to argue that right now. The point of this post is to present what many researchers believe to be the health risks associated with fracking. These health risks only started rising to the surface within the last couple of years, so the impact is still unknown. But the findings so far are frightening. Terrifying, in fact. 

There are 632 chemicals involved in the hydraulic fracturing process. Of those, approximately 475 are known to be hazardous to our health, affecting our skin and eyes, as well as our respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. The nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems can be affected by 250 - 315 of the chemicals, as can the kidneys and brains. The endocrine system is at risk, as well. Based on the research, cancer and mutations are also possibilities.[Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 2011]

Even at low levels, exposure to these chemicals puts all of us at risk for devastating short- and long-term health problems. It will be years before we truly know the true effects.

Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado, conducted their own studies. Keep in mind, they had nothing to gain. Marcellus Shale, and the other fracking companies who claim there is no risk, have everything to gain with their claims. This is always an issue to remember when looking at the results of studies. Ask yourself: Who is funding the research?

The conclusions drawn by the above studies in Colorado were simply this: the closer you live to drilling sites, the more likely you are to be sickened by them. Makes sense, right? The problem is, even if you know it's the fracking that's making your family sick, you simply can't afford lawyers who can stand up to the corporate lawyers waging war for the industry. You lose. Period.

But what about all the studies stating that fracking is completely safe and presents no risk to our health? Well, consider this: according to the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, there is not one single health expert -- not one -- in the various commissions and boards in the state and federal levels. The committees were developed with public health in mind, yet none of the 52 people are qualified to evaluate health risks in the Marcellus shale region. 

Now, isn't that enough to make you sick?!

Hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe fracking is God's gift to an economically depressed region. Or maybe it's the devil's means for eliminating more of God's good people. Death by fracking. It makes you wonder.

Sharing my rage and concern,

Don't take my word for it. Check out these links:

Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania

Washington County Pennsylvania Fracking

Living with Fracking in Washington, PA -- Moms Matter 2012

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Marathon tragedy -- one year later

On the one-year anniversary of that tragic day in Boston, I am once again reflecting on what happened. At the time, no one knew how many lives would be touched by the acts of evil... nor by the acts of heroism, kindness, and goodness. As with all tragedies, the best in people emerges in unexpected ways. For that, I am grateful. But it doesn't take away the sting of the venom permeating what started off as a beautiful day. Here is a reposting from last year; my reflections on a tragedy that affected all of us.

It started off as a beautiful day. And then, something went terribly wrong. 

Boston skyline by Bill Walker
From 3:00 on yesterday, I found myself unable to focus. I had to continue working on taxes so I could send in what was owed with my extension. But my mind and heart were with the people of Boston.

I am not a runner. My knees would never survive the stress. 

I've never attended a marathon. No one close to me has ever participated in one.

I've never been at the scene of a tragedy of this magnitude. I'm thankful for that.

But I do know grief. I know what it's like to have a loved one ravaged by a sudden explosion.

I do know what it's like to feel hatred in my heart for evil. I viewed the negligence on the part of Neville Chemical Company, where my husband was killed, as evil.

I do know what it's like to have my life turned upside down in an instant. Being widowed at 32 is not something one ever recovers from fully.

I couldn't pull myself away from yesterday's images. And I couldn't help remembering what it was like seeing the man I loved, my very best friend, laying in a hospital bed in the burn unit of West Penn Hospital, slowly fading away. He had third degree burns on 98% of his body and I can still recall the smell of his blood as it oozed off the sheets into puddles on the floor. I remember his face, void of a nose, lips and ears. I remember. I remember.

Yesterday, the memories resurfaced from their private rooms in my mind where I keep them tucked away. And I thought of all the others who were experiencing the same resurgence of memories. The folks in NYC, in DC, and in Shanksville, PA. The first responders, parents and teachers in Newtown. The people of Oklahoma City. The list goes on and on in this brotherhood and sisterhood of those of us who fight the devastation of memories of the unthinkable. The unthinkable that happened to us and to those we loved.

Today, I send my prayers to all of you... those with new wounds, and those with old ones. Those whose scars were opened up and bleeding again. In my heart, I am embracing each of you.

It started off as a beautiful day. And then something went terribly wrong.

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