Monday, September 5, 2016

Life Update!

A very sheepish hello from me to you, blog-world! It's been a long, long while. Honestly, I am trying to figure out what to do with this space. I am no longer a city girl (sniff). In fact, it dawned on me recently that it was TEN YEARS ago this past summer that I moved to that great city as a hope-filled twenty-something with a pocketful of dreams (hey, that's a line from one of my old tunes!) and nothing to lose, except my money. Which I did at one point (NYC is expensive, people!). My old roomie was in the old 'hood recently and through the staff at our favorite Italian restaurant which was a regular hangout for us (writing this makes me oh so nostalgic) heard that there are now two new single girls living in our apartment who regularly come down for wine. THEY ARE US TEN YEARS LATER. So weird! So do I still belong here in this writing space? That City Girl? Well, I am not here to process through that right now, there are other more fun things to discuss! {but first please allow me to indulge in a walk down memory lane with this (kinda fuzzy) photo collage of my early days in the city, sigh}: 
Ok, now on to the other things! Like the fact that Miles turned 5 on Thursday. FIVE! Do you remember those posts that I did documenting each month of the first year of his life? Each month that passed -- that I survived on NO sleep :) -- felt like such an accomplishment. He changed so much from month to month, changing me along with him. Now days and months are flying by and I can't seem to slow them down. I love and hate time. I love that each day reveals a new layer of this awesome human being that we made and are responsible for. But I hate how it moves me further and further away from the baby years, which were so, so hard but so incredibly sweet. Here's another pic collage to add a little more pizazz to this post:
The other news is that while art and music are still very present in my heart and life (which I've been working on in quieter, behind the scenes ways lately), I am also following a new opportunity and passion in the world of health and wellness. That probably won't surprise those who really know me. It may seem disconnected from the other things but a friend recently pointed out that they all fit together pretty well, really. In the end, I want to connect to and help people, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and all of those things do that. And so my latest venture addresses the physical aspect of connecting and helping. I have joined a start-up company out of Santa Monica called Beautycounter. They make beautiful, but safe, non-toxic makeup and skincare products while educating people on the largely unsafe and unregulated personal care products industry. Through my own cancer journey, I became very aware of what I was putting in my body: chemicals in my food were the first thing to go (genetically modified foods, diet soda, processed foods, food dyes, etc.). I was not a health conscious person pre-diagnosis AT ALL but that was something that clicked for me right away: why would I put chemicals inside of me when they had just taken a TUMOR out of my BRAIN? It was a no-brainer (haha) for me. All that time spent lying on the couch recovering from brain surgery were filled with hours of research on cancer and nutrition and environmental toxins, etc. I read books, googled, watched documentaries. I became a student of cancer, wanting to know and try everything I could get my hands on to increase my odds of survival. People give me more credit than they should about the changes I wasn't so difficult. Either that or I was judged as being a little too obsessive about it all. But if you were me, wouldn't you do the same thing? If you were finally, newly *in* this beautiful chapter of life, the part of life you'd been waiting and praying for, with a beautiful husband and a beautiful baby boy, and cancer hit, wouldn't you do whatever it takes, including making your diet a little more green and little less processed? (which is really not that obsessive or big of a deal, if you ask me)... 

..but I digress! I was so focused on the food side of things initially, that it took me awhile to realize that what I was putting ON my body was just as important as what I was putting IN my body. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs everything, so what goes on, goes in. And I have learned that there are scary things hiding in our products. Things like heavy metals and carcinogens and hormone disruptors.  Fun fact: there has not been a law passed regulating ingredients in the personal care products industry since 1938. That is SHOCKING to me. And the number of chemicals introduced to commerce in this country since WWII? Over 80,000, of which only 10% have been tested for human safety. Again, no words. I think in the back of my mind -- and I am talking about pre-diagnosis here -- I always thought that even though there were probably some not-so-great things in some of the products I was using (I heard about the whole paraben thing and tried to pay attention to that for awhile) I still believed that someone out there was in charge of all of this, making sure we were safe, so I blindly trusted. Surely "they" wouldn't let toxic levels of any of this not-so-great stuff into my lotion, right? A little bit is probably not a big deal, anyway, right? Now I know that this is not the case. And it's not just our products that aren't being regulated, but our children's products. This is what turns my stomach the most. Beautycounter's mission as a company is to CHANGE THIS. This is not okay. Most people do not have time to do hours of research like I did (which I did only because I had hours to kill post-surgery and a fierce will to live) and we shouldn't have to. 
I read that blog post several months back written by the exhausted mom about toxic sunscreen, and like everyone else shouted a hearty AMEN at the end, because really, there is SO MUCH TO WORRY ABOUT, who has time to worry about freaking sunscreen, too?! But my take away was different. I didn't walk away with the same view of oh well, everything is going to kill us in the end, can we please move on. We shouldn't have to worry about what's in sunscreen -- or lotions or shampoo or diaper rash cream -- but we need to. Right now anyway. And that is why I started working for Beautycounter. They are raising awareness and making a racket in Washington, drawing attention to the fact that this is not okay. There should be LAWS in place to regulate ingredients, to do the work for us. We, the consumers, shouldn't have to be the chemistry experts, scouring ingredient lists for cancer causing toxins in our kids sunscreens, and feeling guilty if we somehow missed it and bought the wrong one. True story: I was sent home from the hospital with newborn baby Miles and a care package of baby products, courtesy of the labor and delivery unit. Did I for a moment stop to think, wait is this safe for him? Nurses handed it to me, so of course I didn't. I bathed him in those products and his newborn soft skin immediately dried out and broke out. I thought it was him, or me "doing it wrong" -- didn't suspect the product, which was a trusted name brand, for some reason. Come to find out later (much later) that those products had formaldehyde in them. Who in their right mind would ever guess their baby's skin is breaking out because the baby shampoo has formaldehyde in it?! I trusted that such a crazytown ingredient would never be in a product like that in the first place! My point is that is that we shouldn't have to feel like bad parents or bad humans when this kind of garbage is going on. As the saying goes, we don't know what we don't know. (And to clarify, I don't blame those wonderful nurses who handed me the products, or myself for using them -- we simply didn't know).

Beautycounter has created something called the Never List which is a list of 1,500 ingredients that they will never, ever use in their products. They have the strictest screening process in the industry when it comes to their products (in this country, that is -- other countries were already doing a much better job of this than the U.S.) and they are trying to get laws passed to make this become the norm. I tried their products last year and fell in love (hallelujah I can wear red lipstick again without worrying about lead!) but I decided to go a step further and join the cause last month because they need more voices, educating people and offering a solution. The more voices added to the cause, the faster we'll get that point where we won't need to worry about what sunscreen we're putting on our kids or what this 13 letter ingredient means or is because it will BANNED for GOOD! That is their hope as a company. That is my hope as a cancer survivor and a mom. And in the meantime, they have awesome, safe products to offer people while we wait to get to that point, including amazing, high performing cosmetics, kids products, baby products and even an anti-aging line (I didn't think that a safe version of anti-aging products existed!). 

WOW this turned into a much more impassioned (and LONG) post than I intended. If you've made it this far, congratulations! You were either stirred by this topic too or you're just a really good friend :) Either way, thank you for reading. I will probably start a site or a Facebook group where more things related to Beautycounter and wellness will be shared, so if you'd like to be a part of that let me know in the comment section. 

I'll end with this: recently we hired a new assistant pastor at our church who is a phenomenal teacher. He shared this quote from Bono and it has become my new favorite: "I'm a musician. I write songs. I just hope when the day is done I've been able to tear a little corner off of the darkness." I love that so much. In all that I do, whether in my music, my art, or in my passions around this issue of health & wellness, I just want to expose more light, little by little. 

For more information about Beautycounter, check out this powerful video:

If you'd like to learn more, please talk to me! Clearly, I love stuff talking about this stuff. And feel free to peruse my site anytime: 

ps - with all this talk about sunscreen I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Beautycounter makes great, safe sunscreen. I would suggest the sunscreen sticks for applying on squirming, little ones...a game changer for me. 
pps - no matter what products you currently use, please head over to EWG's site to check the level of safety of your products and your children's products. It is an incredible resource and takes a lot of the guesswork out. 

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