Wednesday, July 30, 2008


No, no one close to me has died, but I have been part of a discussion on another blog about mourning, and it got me to thinking (ahhh, very dangerous). I am a firm believer in mourning, not just for the loss of a loved one, but for the loss of other things too, like one's health, one's home, one's lifestyle or anything that we care for.

I know that when I was diagnosed with celiac disease ten years ago, I mourned the loss of foods I would never taste again, like homemade whole wheat bread dripping with melted butter or a fresh sugar doughnut from the Scandia Bakery. I certainly went through a period of mourning when we left our home in Washington to move to Montana. (Of course, added to that was the death of my mother, which occured two weeks before the move.) More recently, I have mourned the loss of church affiliation, as I have had to quit attending meetings regularly because of my chemical sensitivities.

So I wonder, what purpose does mourning serve? Does it really help to go to the depth of our emotions? Can we go TOO deep, so that we can't ever truly climb out again? When we go through a period of mourning, how do we regain some balance in our lives?

I'm not sure I have all the answers. I do know that loss and a subsequent period of mourning changes me. If and when I do come out of it, I am not quite the same. The challenge is to be better because of it, happier or more content at least with the new state of affairs. Because mourning is really about accepting change and then going on with life, albeit a different life than we knew previously. I think I'm pretty good at the mourning part but not so good with the going on with life part, or at least with the going on with life and enjoying it part.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Losing Track of Days

Okay, so I haven't been keeping up with things very well, especially this blog. The past week has been a little crazy with the birth of a new grandson. Here with him and his mom and dad, I can't even keep the hours of the day straight, let alone the days of the week. He pulled his first all-nighter last night, so we are all a little tired today. His dad had to go back to work this morning, and I wonder if he was even able to stay awake on the subway ride into the city.

In addition to helping with a newborn baby, I am in the middle of a major metropolitan area, which I find really disorienting. Last night I went out for a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air. First of all, fresh air is not easy to find when you are surrounded by tall buildings and hundreds of rushing vehicles. And then what they call a neighborhood here is nothing like a neighborhood in Montana. In a half-hour walk I saw three major hotels (Hilton, Weston & Holiday Inn), several tall apartment buildings, a large indoor shopping mall, a couple of large federal government buildings, several other office skyscrapers (do they call them that anymore?) and at least a dozen restaurants, not to mention multiple bus stops and a metro station or two. It was between eight and nine o'clock on a Monday evening, and there were lots of people out--in cars, in families, in restaurants, running. It all makes little old Helena, Montana look like a hick town (which it is NOT, by the way).

Our kids here live in a high-rise apartment building, where you only hear your neighbors, never see them (except occasionally in the elevator, but then they are on their ipods or cell phones). It's a different life, that's for sure, and I suspect a pretty lonely one for many of the people who live here. Fortunately, it's only temporary for this family. I have never thought of myself as a country girl, but I'm certainly not a city girl either. Is there something in between urban and rural? Urbal, maybe? Hmmmmmmmm.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Slight Change of Direction

This blog has become a little stale (more than a little, actually). So, after some thought, I have decided to expand my blogging horizons by just slightly changing directions.

I started this blog with the idea that it would serve as a discussion place for people in faith comminities with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). However, I have found it hard to keep up a daily blog with such a narrow focus, and anything less doesn't keep up interest or any discussion at all. I have also found it difficult to reach my intended audience. I tried distancing myself from the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) community to gather more readers, but that was not effective. And, frankly, my favorite blogs are written in the Mormon online community.

In my effort to educate others about MCS, I think I have been too impersonal. Part of the reason for that is that I'm a very private person. Recently, however, I have been posting some more personal stories on other blogs, and it occurred to me that I should post them on my own blog.

The other problem I have is that I'm not very social (partly due to the MCS and mostly due to my anti-social personality), and I don't have very many real-life friends, as opposed to cyber-friends. I'm not sure I really need (or want) more friends, but I do need and want to write.

So, here comes the change. MCS is really a part of who I am. I have other issues (like celiac disease, fibromyalgia and arthritis) that are part of the physical me, but I don't think about them most of the time. They're just there and I've learned to live with them. I've also learned to live with my MCS, but the rest of the world, even my family and church world, has not learned to live with it, so it causes no small amount of conflict in my life. I am intent on managing and demolishing that conflict as much as possible.

Thus, I will continue to include aspects of MCS in my blog, as it pertains to my daily life and as I gather information that may be helpful to others. However, I am more than just a person with MCS. I am part of the Mormon community (more cyber than local). Within that context, my more passionate interests include family relationships (mothering, grandmothering, wifing), women's rights, history, literature, writing, printing and publishing, MCS, religious thought, earth stewardship and other things I just can't remember at the moment.

So, I'm going to stop worrying about whether or not anyone is reading this blog and just make it more interesting to write. That means that if anyone else does read it she/he may not agree with me. I may even step on a few toes. That is not my intent. Rather, my intent is to be honest and to explore life from my Mormon MCS viewpoint. Who knows? Maybe I will learn a thing or two in the process and become a better person for it. I hope so.

[Note: anyone reading this blog will just have to put up with my vocabulary. I like to make up words, and I'm a terrible speller.]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Grandson

I have been in Virginia for the past week with my daughter and her husband, waiting for her to give birth to her first child. Jack was born this morning at 1:15 am and weighed in at 9 lb 8 oz and measured 21 1/2 inches long. He's adorable, of course, and hardly looks like a newborn at that size.

While his mother was in labor with him all day yesterday, I cleaned their apartment from top to bottom. It wasn't all that dirty, but it gave me something to do, and I want the place to be as clean and non-toxic as possible for Jack's arrival here on Saturday.

This young family is living in a large apartment building for the summer, and I was a little concerned about being here for a couple of weeks. The only real problem I've had is with the elevator. It seems that there is someone who sprays perfume on herself in the elevator as she is leaving for work in the morning. Fortunately, there are three elevators, so sometimes I've had to wait for a different one. It makes me appreciate my free-standing home surrounded by a chemical-free yard. The big city life is not for me. I don't know how people with MCS make it in a city.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quiet Summer

It's a quiet summer night here in Helena, Montana (except for the chirping of the crickets and the clicking of my computer). The air is clear, the night is cool, and we haven't had any fires to speak of yet, because we've had rain right into July. I hope it stays this way all the way into September.

I'm off to Virginia for the birth of another grandchild. The air won't be as clear there, nor as cool, but my daughter is all prepared for me with a scent-free apartment. I do have a great family who are very protective of me. I was just remembering the other day an incident several years ago when I walked into a department store with one of my daughters, and a sales clerk stepped out in front of us and started to spray perfume in our faces. Almost before I knew what was happening, my daughter was out in front of me yelling something to the effect of ,"What are you trying to do? Kill my mother?"

It's nice to be loved.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Plastic Shower Curtains, et al

When I was a young teenager in the early '60s, my parents bought a new car with vinyl seats. I remember someone in the family exclaiming over the smell. It was new to us, because vinyl was a fairly new product (our old car had cloth seats, as I recall). My mother thought it was great, because she could just wash it with a wet dishrag when my youngest brother made a mess with his ice cream bar from A & W. Everyone heralded plastics as the new wonder fabric. Little did we know...

Several articles have come through my email box recently about plastic shower curtains. Now, I haven't used one of these for at least twenty years, not since I discovered the tightly woven fabric ones that you can toss in the washer and dryer. But it seems that science has finally caught up with itself, admitting that these things are toxic. Scientists are now saying that a plastic shower curtain releases more than 100 toxic chemicals into homes, including some suspected of causing cancer or hormonal abnormalities in children, especially boys.

One research study tested five curtains over a 28-day period and found 108 volatile organic compounds which can irritate the eyes, ears and throat and damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system. So the next time you smell that "new car" or "new shower curtain" smell, just do what we did when I was a kid--hold your nose and say, "P U."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chemicals and Kids

My daughter called me yesterday to tell me that she has the cleanest windows in town. With three little boys, that's no small accomplishment. The best part of the story is that the boys can do the cleaning themselves, because she just puts a solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle, hands it to them with a clean rag and says, "Go to it, boys." She's a good mom, and her boys are learning several valuable lessons, not the least of which is that a clean house and a chemically safe house are not mutually exclusive.

In an article from the online magazine deliciousliving, some staggering statistics are given about kids' exposure to toxic chemicals. A study done by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and released in 2007 reveals that children, on average, are exposed to 60 chemicals daily by way of personal care products alone. Of those 60, just over half of them have been assessed by the government for safety.

It makes sense that children are more susceptible to chemical exposures due to their smaller body weight and thinner skin (our skin doesn't reach full thickness until the age of 20). Also, children have immature immune systems, which make them less able to process the chemicals that get into their bodies.

My youngest daughter is expecting her first baby this month, so I have been shopping for baby things, and I am amazed at all the different care products on the market. When my babies were little, my arsenal of products consisted mainly of an unscented bar of soap (for washing), a box of cornstarch (for everyday diapering) and a tube of zinc oxide ointment (for the occasional really bad diaper burn). Most of what I'm seeing on the retail shelf now is highly scented and contains ingredients I can't pronounce.

The good news is that there are some safer products available. The above mentioned article makes several good suggestions, which really are just common sense.

1. Read labels with a sceptic eye. Natural doesn't necessarily mean safe. Look for the USDA Organic seal and don't buy anything that contains compounds with "eth" suffix (like sodium laureth sulfate).
2. Look for "fragrance free" or "no added fragrance." We all know that added fragrances contain toxic substances (which the manufacturer doesn't have to reveal).
3. Use less--smaller amounts of fewer products. Keep it simple.
4. Consult the experts: has lists of safe products for children and adults.

And just for good measure, here are some recommendations:

Aubry Organics Natural Baby and Kids (this is my favorite brand of care products for adults too)
Dr. Bronner's pure castile liquid soaps
California Baby products
Earth Tribe Kids botanicals
Burt's Bees products