Thursday, April 30, 2009


We have been back from Utah for four days now, and I am just feeling like I'm catching up with life. (Or is it catching up with me?) Why does any change in the daily schedule exhaust me so? I must be getting old.

The graduation was everything we wanted it to be and more. Our daughter glowed as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, lifting a fist in a triumphal wave to the crowd. It was a moment to warm the heart and wet the cheeks of any parent. Oh, how I appreciated being there to see it!

There were actually two graduation ceremonies for us to attend, the commencement for the entire university on Thursday afternoon and the separate college convocation on Friday morning. With over six thousand graduates, you can imagine how crowded the commencement was. We had good seats, however, albeit behind the podium. And I thought I was safe from fragrance until two boys sat down behind us. PHEW! But we had a whole row for our family, so I was able to move to the other end, and, with the help of my "I Can Breathe!" mask, I made it through most of the program. Near the end, when two little grandsons were getting restless, I offered to take them outside for a badly needed breath of fresh air.

At the convocation on Friday morning, there were less than half as many people, and no one sitting near us with heavy scents, so I survived without the mask. A couple of trips out with the same two grandsons helped too, of course. The weather was beautiful for taking pictures, the trees all in bloom and tulips and daffodils everywhere. And oh, the warmth. I wanted to just wrap it up and bring it home. It has snowed here every day this week, but the memories of this experience will keep up warm for many days to come.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Perseverance--anyone with a disability understands the meaning of this word and how vital a commodity it is when life presents us with chronic challenges. So often we feel that we take two big steps backward for every baby step forward, but perseverance keeps us going. As it says in Ecclesiastes 9:11, "...the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...but time and chance happeneth to them all."

This week we will attend the college graduation of our oldest daughter. Her diploma will be a testament to her perseverance. Her quest for this degree began in the fall of 1994, when, at the age of seventeen, she entered a prestigious university on an academic scholarship with the dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. By the end of her first week of classes, she realized that where she really belonged was in the art department and so switched to a major that demanded many extra hours of time in studio.

Then, two and a half years later, she married the boy next door, whose college major was not available at the same university. Not to be deterred, only delayed, this daughter-of-mine took what classes were available at his college and, when he finished and they moved on, kept going with correspondence courses, necessitating yet another change in major to an emphasis in history. Now, these fifteen years after she began, she is receiving the long-sought-after diploma, and we are going to give her all the celebration she deserves. In those fifteen years, she has had five pregnancies, three live births (including an emergency C-section), a husband with cancer, a child with chronic health problems, another child with severe allergies and severe ongoing health problems of her own. She currently homeschools three boys and volunteers in several church and community organizations.

My daughter's grandmother (my own mother) started college at the age of sixteen and finally received a bachelor's degree at the age of sixty-three. And a great-grandmother, a Danish immigrant, received her college degree at almost that same age. So this daughter comes from a long line of determined women who understood what it means to persevere toward a personal goal, even if it takes many years to accomplish. Though she certainly has had much encouragement and support along the way, my daughter would not be standing there at the podium this week in navy blue cap and gown were it not for her own strong will, her own perseverance.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Housekeeping Matters

Okay, so this post isn't exactly about housekeeping, more like desk-keeping. I've been buried with work the past couple of weeks and the pile on my desk for possible blog posts has become quite obnoxious. I want it to go away. So I'm going do it all in one fell swoop. What follows are notes from the most important papers in my pile.

A great new website (, created by Dr. Martin L. Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University, gives new scientific validation to MCS and other similar diseases. Even if you don't have a scientific background and can't understand all the information on the site, you will find much that will encourage you and may improve your life. He includes the protocol he has developed for the treatment of these diseases, much of which can be done with over-the-counter food supplements (which he lists in detail).

CNN reported this week that the Atlanta airport is in the process of implementing a new keep-the-airport-clean project that uses music and scent to encourage everyone to keep the airport "opening day fresh." Quoting from the article, "...the airport recently launched the initial phases of a program that uses a scent called 'Breeze' to help enhance visitors' mood. [The scent] uses a variety of different notes, including vanilla and a little lavender." Needless to say, I find this just apalling and more than a little scary. Please, please, send an email to the Atlanta airport authority protesting this action ( -contact-customer service). There's no guarantee that emails from us will change this program, but they need to understand that this is not acceptable and could be a liability problem for them.

In my ongoing campaign to make the world safer for children, I site a new study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which documents the "widespread presence of both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in bath products for children, including baby shampoos, bubble baths and baby lotions." Some of the most contaminated products they found included: Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Sesame Street Bubble Bath, Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash (Gerber), Huggies Baby Wash, L'Oreal Kids, Mustela, Suave Kids, Baby Magic Baby Lotion and American Girl shower products. For more information go to

And last, but certainly not least, go check out the new Canary Report website at It will educate, inspire and entertain you. Kudos to Susie. You are my MCS hero.

Happy Spring to everyone.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Disability Myths

In a recent post I talked about the LDS Church website for and about members with disabilities. One page of that site discusses myths about members with disabilities. Some of these myths definitely apply to people with chemical sensitivities. For this post, I'll start with the first one:

There are very few people with disabilities in the average ward [congregation].

This myth can be dispelled by a few statistics relating the incidence of disability in the general U.S. population. According to government agency statisticians (see the website for references), 22% of adults in the U.S. report having a disability. Unfortunately, there have not been very many studies done on the incidence of MCS in the general population, but I found two. A 1997 study done in New Mexico found that 16% of the respondents were "unusually sensitive to everyday chemicals" and 2% had been diagnosed with MCS. In a study done in Australia in 2002, 24.6% of the respondents said that they or their children regularly feel unwell when exposed to certain chemical odors or smells, and 2.9% have been medically diagnosed with a chemical sensitivity.

If you take these statistics and apply they to an average LDS ward with 400 members, you would expect to find 88 members with some type of disability. You could also find eight to twelve members with diagnosable MCS and anywhere from 64 to 98 others who become ill in the presences of some chemicals. This is not an insignificant number of people.

So why are we so unaware of all these people with disabilities? The Church website gives two reasons. First, "most people who have disabilities cannot be identified by their appearance." Second, we don't see many members with disabilities because they simply aren't attending church meetings. Both of these reasons hold true for members with MCS.