Reconciliation and American Politics

As our nation seems to be falling apart before our very eyes, more and more, I see people calling for us to “move forward” and proclaiming that now is the time for “unity, not division.”  In almost every case, the person making the declaration is not talking about their side moving to the middle – but instead, calling on the other side to agree with them, to not take issue with their position, to move in their direction, etc.  In other words, they want to lower the temperature, but only if it means the other side changes, while they maintain their self-declared moral high ground.  And I just keep thinking to myself, “that is not how this works.”

By coincidence, I was also recently thumbing through a whole bunch of old notes in a notebook that I have at various times used for devotions, sermon notes, and thoughts on topics that I wanted to write about, either in this blog or the book I have always claimed to want to write. As I was thumbing through, I realized that unity, forgiveness and reconciliation are common themes (something I probably need to understand better).

These themes have been on my mind a lot in the last week and less significantly in recent months as our political climate has heated up. The idea that keeps sticking with me recently is that we Christians are really missing the mark when it comes to how we view our political opponents — the villainized “other side”. I’ve been thinking about the concepts of unity, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in the context of what is happening in our world.   What does reconciliation look like in this context, and what does it mean in the context of my faith? To help with that question, I turned to Google and found some quotes that resonated.

 “Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.”

“Reconciliation involves forgiveness. But it goes beyond forgiveness. When I forgive someone, there is no guarantee that we will have a restored relationship. It may well be that even after I have forgiven someone that we remain estranged. Reconciliation, however, restores the relationship.

Forgiveness may be one-sided. But reconciliation requires both parties to be willing to participate in restoring the relationship. It is always possible, and expected, for me to forgive. But reconciliation will not be possible if the other party is not willing to participate.”

Even these snippets imply that reconciliation is dependent on someone else changing. And although it is true that true reconciliation requires both parties to want it, I fear that we will never get here if our first focus is continues to point outward.

As Christians, we are always expected to forgive.  Over and over, the Bible is clear on that.  We must forgive when the offending party has repented, and when they haven’t.  We must forgive when they have changed their behavior and when they haven’t.  We must forgive even in the midst of the harm the offender my still be causing.  That forgiveness is as much for ourselves as it is for the person we are forgiving.  But what about reconciliation?  Is that something we must do even in the midst of harm?  Must we attempt to reconcile no matter what? Reconciliation requires both parties to examine their behavior and turn away from what is harmful.  We like to point at the other side and talk about what they need to do in order for reconciliation to occur, but rarely are we willing to examine ourselves in the same way.  In American politics, we seem to be entirely unwilling or unable to participate in honest self-examination. I would argue that this characteristic in ourselves and our elected representatives is the biggest issue facing our country right now.  In the midst of our differences, if people of faith could commit to self-examination rather than recrimination of others, perhaps we could truly create the world we want to live in. That collective commitment feels like a big impossible scenario. But what is possible is change is for each person to focus on just one person to start and they simply need to look into the closest mirror to find them. We must look inward first. We must each lead by example. Before we expect another to cross the divide, we must be willing to cross it ourselves.

I have reached the point that my expectations for elected officials is stunningly low.  I no longer expect or believe it is possible for them to do the type of honest self-reflection that is necessary for reconciliation.  I believe that self-reflection is almost always lost in a quest for power.  Further, I think the everyday American, those of us who are not in a position of authority or power, are on the brink of passing that threshold as well.  We have assigned blame exclusively on the other side while refusing to acknowledge any of the damaging behaviors on our own side, regardless of how they compare in size and scope to the wrongdoing we assign to the “other.”  We could argue all day about who is more guilty, who needs to go first and who is the bigger hypocrite.  But that is a losing conversation, and does nothing to move us closer to the path that we are called to as Christians. In American politics, I see Christians everyday who have made idols out of symbols and people, and even the Constitution.  We declare our rightness in the name of a God who has been completely forgotten in our quest for being right, attaining power and having the last word.  We have forgotten where our salvation comes from and in our quest to save our nation from the evils of the other side, we have forgotten the admonition of Jesus in the sermon on the Mount. He taught us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek and do not keep records of wrongdoing. And we have certainly forgotten what He called the greatest commandment — to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength, and to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES.

Reconciliation will require that we first turn away from our idols and turn our hearts toward a greater truth, one that requires more of us, all of us.  I know this is an area that requires work.  I am appealing to my friends on both sides to join me in this work, because unless there are visible signs that we are unified in our commitment to a more peaceful future, I fear that neither side will bend.  “You go first” will never get us there.  Moving forward together in reconciliation is the only thing that will.  And yes, that means you have to accept that I WILL NOT see the issues the same way you do.  I will not concede to being a communist who wants to turn us into Venezuela any more than you will concede to being a fascist racist.  See how that works?  We both need to lay down those swords, even if we think they will protect us, and even if we believe they hold truth.

What is happening now is not Christian, and it isn’t American.  As long as we believe that the only way to survive is to destroy the other side, we will be lost…lost as Christians and lost as Americans pursuing a common ideal. 

My prediction is that nobody is going to like this piece.  Those on my side will believe that I am asking them to ignore the wrongs of people who have done great harm. They will accuse me of both sides-ism. Those on the other side will think I am asking them to ignore the damage that my side has done and will do, and that I am pointing a finger and casting blame.  Neither of those things is my intent, but both may be true. I know that all of these words are meaningless if I am not wiling to start with me. And believe me, I feel the same resistance to bending as I’m sure many others will feel when reading this.  I am not asking any of us to throw away our values in the pursuit of peace. Reconciliation does not mean an absence of accountability or justice.  Reconciliation means that we agree to look forward together, even in the midst of the current conflict.  It means that we agree to hold our own sides accountable in the same way we demand accountability in the other side.  Are we capable of that? Am I?

I admit that MANY times in the last week, I have shouted in frustration at what I consider a “too little, too late” tone or statement made by officials who I think should have known better all along.  I point my finger and accuse them of softening their rhetoric out of political calculus rather than true accountability.  I see a grappling for power and the resulting speechmaking rankles me and sets my teeth on edge.  If I allow myself to pause, I ask myself how that aligns with the behavior and attitudes that I am called to.  Does God look at my stubbornness and wrongs in the same way?  Does He look at me when I am FINALLY expressing remorse and say, “too little, too late”?  I know the answer.  And I know I need to do better.

Remember that when God forgives, He wipes the slate clean, and when he invites us into a process of reconciliation with Him, He doesn’t first assign blame and a severity scale for our wrongdoing. But He does ask us to repent of OUR OWN wrongdoing.  In repenting, we are turning away from our own behavior that caused the hurt or the wrong.  The resulting reconciliation is the end of estrangement and represents wholeness.  And it always starts with an inward, rather than an outward view.

I don’t believe that God is interested in American politics.  I think He is interested in the hearts of Americans.  I’m sure He is grieved by all that he sees because he sees how our collective actions are poisoning our hearts.  I don’t think He chooses a candidate.  I think He chooses US.    Are we choosing Him in return?

Today’s Advice to My Amazing Daughters: Sometimes you have to take church on the road

Today, God ran a 10K with me…

This morning was the original date for the Wonder Woman 10K that I was registered for in Atlanta. In March, the entire race series was cancelled and those who had registered received their packets (including the medal we would have earned) in the mail. My rules for earning a medal for a virtual race are that I have to plan the date and I have to run it like I would on raceday. I have had my swag for a month, but didn’t take it out of the bag till this morning, my raceday. (It felt right to run it on the day it would have been.)

So after online church this morning, I donned the gear, including my race bib because why not?

Me, looking all Wonder Woman-y.

Right away, I knew it would be a good run, but I didn’t know it would be a spiritually good run.

At the halfway point, It was really raining pretty good and I switched from the book I was listening too (kinda depressing) and put on praise and worship music. I began to pray for the sick and the caregivers, those who are hungry and vulnerable and lonely and scared. I praised God for my health and my strong body, that I am fed and sheltered and fortunate enough to stay safely at home while I continue to earn my regular income. The combination of the music and the rain washed so much negativity out. It was so cleansing as I felt stress and uncertainty washing away. (Sometimes – perspective is good. In this moment, I realized that my worries are pretty superficial compared to the real trauma that others are experiencing.)

As my route on the bike path passed through Clay High School property, I heard Saint Ignatious church bells ring just as my the song I was listening to said “I Surrender All”. And in that moment, I did surrender. I surrendered expectations and frustrations. I gave up fear and uncertainty and felt in my bones that God was telling me that what we have is NOW. The church bells reminded me that even when the world around us is full of unknowns, God shows up all the time, and even when we aren’t together, His Church is alive. The timing of the church bells just as I passed by the one area of that 6 miles where I could have heard them was pretty amazing. I could also go on about how perfect that playlist turned out to be, but that moment is the one I want to remember.

As I rounded the corner onto my street, my little cheering squad was there. Mark and my mom came out to be my finish line. My real life super hero put the medal around my neck and it was perfect.

Sometimes church is in a building. Sometimes it is online. And sometimes church happens on the road, in the rain in the heart of a runner.

At the turning point, when I decided turn my run into church, I also decided to run my heart out. I ran my fastest ever 10K. It won’t be logged as an offficial PR, but it sure will be tough to beat in just about every way.

I was reminded in “church” this morning that I am very fortunate. I can run in the rain on uncrowded streets without fear. I return to a warm house with ample nourishment and family members who are in good health. I don’t like everything that I see in the world right now, but I am comforted that God uses his people to restore things for good. We need to look for ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus. A revelation on a run means nothing if I don’t find a way to do something for others, to be God’s solution, rather than contributing to brokenness.

Today I encourage you to hit the road and find your church – the place where things are put into perspective and worries are washed away. Go for a run in the rain. God just might join you.

Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Be like Tara


In the last few days, my heart has been so heavy.  A dear friend lost a parent and I learned that a very special woman of just 41 years was losing her life and leaving a loving husband and 3 very young daughters behind.  I had the honor of participating in the funeral for the first, and because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the same for this young woman (who lives in the Gulf Coast area), the funeral took on double meaning.

It is sometimes hard to understand life and death and grief.  Sometimes putting words to paper helps, so I dusted off this blog so that I could attempt to capture a little bit of how I was feeling about my friend.  Her light will shine on through her daughters and I hope they will someday understand who their mommy was and what she meant to others.


Today’s advice to my beautiful daughters – Be like Tara

On Saturday, I learned that an old friend and co-worker had suffered a catastrophic aneurysm and would not live.  Her husband, Matt communicated that she was adamant about being an organ donor and he was honoring her wishes by keeping her on life support until donors could be identified.  At 9:30pm on January 28, Tara had her honor walk on the way to the operating room for her donation.  In death, just as in life, she is helping others in the most meaningful way that anyone can help – she is giving herself so that others can live.  Be like Tara – be generous and willing to sacrifice for others.

On Sunday, as I read through our old messages over the years, I was reminded of how special she was.  She told me once that I helped her, gave her confidence.  If that is true, there is no greater compliment, but the reality is that she did exactly that for me.  She believed in me and helped me to be successful in my  first management role.  As I think about the way she always encouraged others, I realized that we all need a Tara in our orbit.  Be like Tara.  Be the person who encourages, who gives confidence, who brightens a room with a smile.  Be compassionate, be a good team member, whether the team be in your family or in your work.

Tara always wanted to learn, to be better.  From her formal education, to just learning new things that would help those around her, Tara was there.  When she made mistakes or encountered a difficult situation, the common refrain in all of her communications to me was, “Help me learn, help me be better so that I can be a better member of the team.”  Be like Tara – be curious, seek knowledge, always look for ways that you can do better.  Learn from your mistakes and apply those lessons to the next situation.  Don’t be afraid to seek guidance and ask for help.

Tara’s family didn’t look like most families.  Tara pursued her career while Matt took on the hard job of stay at home parenting and all that it entails.  I always got the sense that he was her rock, and at no time was that more evident than in her last days.  Their partnership worked because they did what worked best for them and their family.  Tara wasn’t afraid to buck our cultural preconceived notion of the family and that courage bore much fruit.  Matt was her provider in some of the most important ways.  And I suspect he would say the same about her.  Be like Tara – do not be afraid to listen to your heart instead of the clamoring voices in the world who will tell you how to live.  Do what makes your team strong.

As I have watched Tara and Matt’s Facebook timelines over the last few days, I have seen an outpouring of friendship and grief.  I have seen people post about the kind of friend she was, about the kind of mom she was.  Be like Tara – be the kind of friend who makes an impact, who is always there with a phone call or word or encouragement.   Delight in the smiles of your children or the children of others.  Help them learn how to explore their world, revel in nature and learn to dance.  Cherish every moment, watch your sleeping babies, pour out love.  Always pour out love.  Be like Tara.

5 Years Later

Yesterday morning, I read this post.  It is the message I had for you on the day of your high school graduation.

I knew then that if you focused your determination on a goal, that you would succeed, even if there were missteps and setbacks along the way.  Most of all, I just wanted you to know where home was.  I wanted you to know that no matter what happened, I would be there cheering, crying, encouraging and helping to pick up the pieces when necessary.

What I didn’t say then was how terrified I was.  I was afraid I would lose you.  I was afraid that it might be too hard and that you would give up.  I was afraid that I hadn’t prepared you well enough for life away from home, that I couldn’t control the outcome and that there just wasn’t enough time.  Like so many other times, I didn’t trust my own advice and I didn’t believe that I had been enough.

5 years later, I have learned that you are stronger than I ever imagined.  I have learned that when you set your mind on a goal, you will get there, not by the shortest or easiest route…but you WILL arrive.  I have learned that you have the ability to brush yourself off after a failure, learn from it and find a new way forward.  I have learned that it was even harder to let go than I feared, but the letting go was the only way you could grow.  I have learned that I could find my new normal, and that our relationship would be different but perfectly so.

Yesterday, the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance had new meaning.  And yes, I cried.  Throughout the day, I thought about the last 5 years and what you have overcome, the friendships you have found and lost, the hard work, the tears, the triumphs.  I thought about the fact that sometimes it wasn’t your first or second choice that ended up being the right choice, and that sometimes, you had to fail so that the right door could open.  I thought about your perseverance and how time and pressure have refined it into your most valuable asset.  I thought about how you used that asset to succeed.

Most of all, I thought about how proud I am.  I am proud of how far you have come, proud of all that you achieved and proud of all you will be.  You did it baby girl.  IMG_6300[1]





Today, as my daughters start challenging semesters at two colleges, I find myself thinking about strength and where it comes from, how we instill it in our kids, how it can elude us at times.

I’m a little sad. I’m sad that the house is quiet and that my girls are all grown up. I’m sad that it isn’t so easy to kiss away the bumps and bruises anymore.

I’m proud. I’m proud that I have raised young women who are learning how to stand on their own, finding ways to persevere when it isn’t easy (is it ever easy??), learning to rely on me less as they find their footing and replace my strength with theirs.

I’m worried. Do we EVER stop worrying (rhetorical question…I know the answer)? As they have gotten older, I’ve learned that despite all of my best efforts and my sheer determination that they would not have to struggle or make mistakes or fail, that my efforts were foolish and misguided. I’ve learned that struggles and mistakes and failures are the building blocks of strength. As I have watched them overcome, I see uncertainty being replaced with determination, insecurity replaced by new truths. I look back on my own life and understand that the best parts of who I am were born from failure. The fires of my biggest trials refined me. My mistakes made me more compassionate. Giving up taught me the most important lessons about patience. All of my past struggles better prepared me to help them through theirs.

Today I give them my love and my blessing. May they know the truth of who they are, may they silence the negative lies that they sometimes tell themselves. May they give each day the best that they have to give. May they give themselves permission to feel authentically even the bad stuff. May they have the strength to move forward when feeling overwhelmed, even if it is just one step. May they offer their unique brands of light into the world and to those who surround them, whether briefest acquaintance or most bonded friend. May they allow themselves to savor every triumph, no matter how small or big. May they see all the possibility ahead. May they see the beacon in the darkness when times are tough, so they can always find their way home. May they know that no matter how close or far away, my heart is bound tightly to theirs, a bridge that no distance is too far to cross.

May they have peace and know that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. May they have wisdom to see what is next and faith in themselves to see the infinite possibility that awaits them.

May they use moments of quiet to make sense of the world.

May they know how deeply and infinitely they are loved.

11/28/13 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: It’s ok to cry.

For most of my life, I have tried not to cry.

Somewhere along the line, I got it in my head that crying was a sign of weakness or manipulation and the idea of “don’t’ ever let ‘em see you sweat” took on a broader meaning.  I thought I needed to choke it back, push it down, stifle it so that everyone could see that I was strong.  When I was 15, I stopped eating because emotion has to be dealt with.  If I couldn’t cry, something had to give.  And it gave.  I lost weight until my mom was frantic.  And then slowly, I recovered enough from the emotions that plagued me and I got back to normal, without having to spend time in an eating disorder clinic.  My “strength” took a toll.

As I have gotten older, I have turned into a total sap. I can cry at just about anything, happy or sad.  I have shed more tears over internet videos than I ever have for myself, my own pain, my own joys and sorrows.  Crying for others highs and lows is so much easier than crying for me.

When I cry, I cry alone…in hotel rooms or when everyone is gone, or in the dark when everyone is asleep.  I still can’t release with others, even though I can release for others.  Every once in a while, I cry in church, and hope nobody notices.

Even though I know that tears are healing, I think I will always struggle to embrace them. This is not a good thing.

So for you and for me…it’s ok to cry.  It. Is. Ok. To. Cry.

There are times when the enormity of a place, a moment, a time will overwhelm you.   Whatever emotion that brings is healthy and good.  It often will reveal your humanity, your compassionate heart, your love.  When you cry for others, you love.  When you cry in front of others, you allow them to love.

This week, I visited the 9/11 Memorial with 120 high school students.  One of those students was overcome with the enormity of the place.  She cried.  Her tears revealed her compassionate soul, her care for the world that was forever changed when she was just 4 years old.  She cried for people she had never met, and all that grieved because of  that day.  And as her friends tried to distract her and cheer her with hugs and words that would make her smile, I thought to myself, “Cry.” In her tears on that day, I saw her heart in a new way and I saw her friends have the opportunity to love her and it was good. Her tears revealed her humanity and the humanity of those who care about her.

Sometimes it takes a kid to teach us something.  In this case, it reminded me that the thing I have spent a lifetime stifling is the thing that heals, that shows love, that is good.

It is ok to cry.  With your help, I will try to remember that.


What’s with all the Pioneer Woman stuff anyway?

Lately, I have been getting  a lot of questions about all the stuff I have been posting pictures of…soap and canned goods, etc.  The questions range from “are you becoming a hoarder?”  to “where are you going to put all that?” to “where does the motivation come from?”  So I decided to try to answer all the questions as best I can.  But it will be a bit of a journey.  For those who really want to know, read on.  To those of you who just want to taunt me with hoarder comments, stop reading because this post will surely ruin all your fun.  🙂

For the record, the philosophy that has spurned my recent activity is not new.  Up to this point, I haven’t been making things that were pretty (like soap and beautiful canned goods) so I didn’t take pictures that made people ask me questions.  I also don’t like to preach at people, so I haven’t necessarily talked about the changes I have made over time.  I The process has been gradual and recently, become a lifestyle choice as well as a hobby.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I bought a book called, “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber.  It was written by a doctor who was given a cancer diagnosis that by all rights should have claimed his life.  Through lots of research, he discovered some lifestyle things that he believed reduced the risk and spread of cancer by making the body less habitable to cancer cells.  He eventually died of his cancer in 2011, after nearly 20 years.  I like to think that his research and lifestyle changes gave him many of those 20 years. More about his life, theories and death can be found here and in other articles online.

During the same time period, my mom’s doctors (both her surgeon and oncologist) said that they only consume organic dairy because of all the added hormones in regular dairy.  Since my mom’s cancer was fed by estrogen, and our food products are from animals that have been fed an excess of estrogen to make them grow bigger, I took note.    That year, I gave myself a challenge of creating an organic Thanksgiving meal.  Every single ingredient I used (down to the pumpkin pie spice) was organic.  It was expensive, but a fun challenge (20 lb organic turkeys cost about  $100 in case you are interested). Since then, all our milk, eggs and butter are organic.  I buy organic cheese when I can but unfortunately, we eat a lot of cheese and organic cheese is very expensive and not that easy to come by.  We also buy organic grass fed beef (grass fed, rather than grain or corn fed beef has HUGE health benefits, as documented in the book and literature out there). We order from a farmer in Ohio who butchers and ships twice per year. Check out VanBuren’s Farm here  (you won’t be disappointed).

At around the same time, Mark’s daughter had some health issues that were amplified by chemicals or preservatives in food.  Before she had surgery to correct her issues, she had to go on an organic vegan diet.  This is probably what started my diligent label reading.  It made me very aware of how much of our food (especially the canned foods) has extra chemicals and preservatives in it.  I started to take the attitude that if I couldn’t pronounce it, I shouldn’t eat it.  Any prepared food with a long ingredient list is usually put back on the shelf.  This doesn’t mean that I have no processed food around, or that I don’t eat stuff at parties or restaurants.  I still love me some Cheetos and I’m pretty sure there is nothing in those that comes from nature.  But I am more diligent overall.

Fast forward…a little over a year ago, a friend of mine started posted things about diet changes she had made for her family.  We started communicating about it in private messages.  The changes she made were MAJOR and felt overwhelming to me, but she encouraged me to start small.  Rather than tomato products in cans, I should can my own (among other things).  Since I already mdke my own sauce, and I have canned in the past, I decided I could do that.  Since organic fresh produce is not widely available here, I contacted a local farmer about their spraying practices.  I liked what they said (only spot treatment, and only when necessary) so bought some tomatoes.  I spent a couple of weekends making and canning sauce made from their tomatoes and basil from the farmer’s market.   I loved doing it and loved that I had sauce for the year already made.

Last fall, I made another major change and gave up all soda.  For years, I drank Diet Coke every day and didn’t think I would ever give it up.  The more I saw about the evils of Diet Soda and artificial sweeteners, the more I became convinced that I needed to give it up.  We got a Sodastream Soda maker and I made the switch to carbonated water about a year ago.  I still like fizz and this has satisfied that craving.  Every once in a while, I think I want some Coke or something and will take a sip.  All that does is prove that I have lost the taste for it.  I can’t stand the sweetness and will hopefully never drink it again.

I really don’t know what got me so interested in making my own cleaning products.  Maybe it was Pinterest and all the things I was seeing about homemade laundry detergent and other cleaning products.  I know that I absolutely HATE the smell of bleach, do not like chemicals on the surfaces in my kitchen (if it isn’t safe to eat, why would I want it on my counter that will touch food)?  Truly “green” cleaning products are expensive so I decided to give it a whirl.  I did lots of research, bought some essential oils and the other ingredients that I didn’t already have (mostly lots of vinegar and a giant box of baking soda) and made a batch of cleaning products.  With the exception of the dishwasher soap (which I still can’t make work), I absolutely LOVED every product that I made, The smells were divine and they worked better than anything I have ever tried.  They are gentle on my hands and I don’t have to smell bleach.  I am hooked and will never go back.  Not only is this stuff super simple and fast to make, but it is  also incredibly inexpensive to make. I will save a ton of money over time.  It is also safe.  If it comes in contact with my food, I know that there would be no harm in consuming it.  After all, the primary ingredients come from my kitchen pantry. My favorite homemade products (and instructions) can be found here, here, here, here and here.  If you want to check out my “Going Natural” Pinterest board to see what other things I’d like to try, it can be found here.



Soap CollageAs I read more about cleaning products,  I saw many posts about hand made soap.  I researched this for a LONG time.  I read tons of stuff on the internet, bought books and finally got the courage to try it.  I ordered lye from a soapmaking supplier and made my first batch of hand made cold processed lye soap in May of this year.  The soap is amazing.  It is also a little like chemistry, which makes it really fascinating to me.  This is a hobby as much as anything because it is fun to research the properties of oils, how they change soap, different botanicals and their benefits, etc.  I never thought I would branch out on this little hobby, but I have started making lip balm, lotion and will be trying my hand at other beauty products this year.  My goal is to eliminate or replace as many of my commercial products as I can.  I no longer use commercially made shampoo or conditioner (instead use a handmade shampoo bar and apple cider vinegar rinse), facial cleanser (replaced with a facial bar with detoxifying clays), body wash (replaced with handmade body soaps), deodorant (this one surprised even me!!) and am in the process of replacing all my commercially made lotions.  By the end of this year, I hope to be using my own facial moisturizer, foundation, powder, blush, and sunscreen.  I also want to find replacements for other hair products (like hairspray) but haven’t even started that research yet.  The soap is not a money saver.  I have spent quite a bit of money on the oils and supplies that I use.  I use organic sustainable oils, which are not cheap. Each bar of soap costs nearly $2 to make.  However, many of the ingredients are also used in other products which ARE inexpensive to make.  (For example, the lip balm I make is very similar to Burt’s Bees, which cost $3.99 per tube.  Including the tubes, mine probably costs about $0.50 or less to make.  I haven’t figured the true costs yet …but it is cheap by comparison.)

canning collageThe last shift (and the one that has received the most attention) is canning.  This is what you need to know.  This is not new for me.  I was raised on home canned products.  My parents had a huge garden when I was little, and they had a limited budget.  My mom canned over 350 jars of produce every year and this is what we ate all winter.  She baked all our bread (Saturdays were bread making days) and baked everything from scratch.  We never had commercially made desserts or artificial anything in our house.  I thought I was deprived because my mom never bought Twinkies.  Now, I see how lucky I was.  When I was young, I did not have chemicals in my food.  Nobody talked about organic, but that is exactly what we had, because it was grown by us or farmer friends, or was picked off fruit trees in my grandparent’s yard.  We didn’t drink Kool-Aid and Coke was a once a week treat (one small glass out of a shared bottle).  When I was in my early 20’s, I did some canning and preserving but over time, gave it up.  I have taken it up again and I feel like I am preparing the foods of my childhood.  We don’t have  big garden so we buy from the local farmer or farmer’s market.  I do this because it is DELICIOUS (I dare you to find a canned peach that tastes as good as the ones I canned), and because I enjoy it.  The work is tiring but cathartic.  I love being in the kitchen and I love making good nutritious food for my family.  It combines my love for cooking with the part of me that cares for my loved ones through food.  I know exactly what ingredients are going into everything I make and know that what I am making is healthy.  At the suggestion of Cindy Bench of Bench’s Farms, I have started a canning diary so I know exactly how much produce results in how many jars of finished product.  I will make note of when I run out so I know how much more or less to can next year.

As many of you know, I am less than two years away from being an empty nester.  I NEED to have hobbies people!!  The things I am doing are fun.  They combine the things that I love and have resulted in a hobby that is useful.  I am not interested in selling or starting a business.  I just want to make products for me and my family to use that will have benefits to our health, skin and bodies and will reduce the use of chemicals in our home and food.

That is the story.  As you can see, this has been an evolution for me.  You could say that it started 5 years ago, or you could make the argument that it started 42 years ago in my mother’s garden and kitchen.  I will try not to push my philosophy on others, but will be glad to post pictures of the wonderful things I make and answer questions from anyone who is interested in starting to do any of the things that I love.  If you want to make changes, start small.  No change is too little.

I believe that my health is a gift and that it is my responsibility to protect that gift as best I can.

Going Natural – DIY Cleaning Wipes

Cleaning Wipes

I saved the best for last.  I think this is my very favorite product.  At our house, my husband and I are pretty picky about a clean kitchen.  We are both CONSTANTLY cleaning the counters.  I also hate a dirty bathroom counter and sink.  As a result, we used a lot of antibacterial wipes to do spot cleaning.  There is not a lot wrong with this in the bathroom (other than the expense) but I never felt great about using them in the kitchen because of the chemicals in them.  This product is a GLORIOUS alternative.  I absolutely love them.  They smell heavenly, are a fraction of the cost of antibacterial wipes and I feel very good about using them on the surfaces that might come in contact with food.

1 cup distilled water
1 cup vinegar
lavender essential oil (I use about 25 drops)
squirt of castile or dishwashing soap (optional)
Roll of paper towels, cut in half

Cleaning Wipes

First you will need the right sized containers for this.  You will need something that is big enough around to handle the diameter of a paper towel roll.  It will need to be at least half the height of a paper towel roll.  I found a two pack of plastic containers at Walmart for $2.88.  Since I wanted to make one set for the kitchen and one set for the bathroom, this was perfect.

The first thing you do is cut a roll of paper towels in half and take out the cardboard core.  At first, I tried to use a serated bread knife which just mangled my paper towels.  I ended up using a sharp Chef’s knife that cut right through everything.  The cardboard core comes out easier than you might thing.  If you can find an edge to un-peel it, that helps get it out.  Otherwise just work it out slowly without pulling the center of the towels out.  I use Kirkland brand paper towels from Costo.  They are a pretty durable paper towel and I think this is important because they have to hold up to the moisture of the solution.  If you aren’t a bulk shopper, just pick a sturdy towel.  Since you are already using just half a sheet for each one (since you are cutting the roll in half), I don’t recommend the “select-a-size” type towels.

Mix all the liquid in the bottom of the container you will store them in.  Take the half roll of paper towels (already de-cored) and put it into the liquid.  It will quickly soak up the liquid in the bottom of the container.  Put on the lid and turn the entire container upside down.  In a couple of minutes, the entire roll will be saturated.  Just pull the “wipes” out from the center.

Going Natural – DIY Furniture Polish

Furniture Polish

I picked this variation mostly because I love the lemony small of furniture polish.  Since this product does not have vinegar in it, I will keeping a close watch on it to make sure it doesn’t start growing things.  I have a feeling that this one will have a shorter shelf life because of the ingredients.  For this reason, it makes sense to make a small amount at a time.  This makes 4 oz. so a small spray bottle (I found mine in the travel sized toiletry section) works great.

1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
3 teaspoons lemon juice
10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
distilled water to fill bottle (or 4 oz)

Furniture Polish

Going Natural – DIY Glass Cleaner

Glass Cleaner

This is another product that has lots of variation.  The simplest recipe is equal parts vinegar and water.  However, many recipes call for either rubbing alcohol or “other” alcohol like vodka.  I believe the alcohol is important to reduce streaking because it helps everything evaporate.  However, some sites assert that rubbing alcohol is a caustic chemical that shouldn’t be used.  These people fall into the vodka camp.  I just couldn’t bring myself to waste perfectly good vodka on my mirrors so I went with the less expensive rubbing alcohol.

1 cup distilled water
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
1/2 cup vinegar

Glass Cleaner

This is the one product that doesn’t smell great.  Of course adding essential OILS to a glass cleaner would probably create a blurry streaky mess.  So…I have to live with a functional product that doesn’t make my nose do a happy dance.  🙂