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How safe is your makeup bag?

Melissa Jenna Godsey Beauty CounterSo if you’ve known me for a while, you know that I’ve had a love/hate relationship with skin care and makeup for years. You’ve seen me go through my product-whore phase (back when I was hosting at iFixit), then I went through my no. makeup. EVER. phase (because I was ashamed of my troublesome skin, and I was skeeved out by the ingredients), and now we enter a third (and I think final) phase: the “holy grail” phase. It’s like this: I’ve found Beautycounter, and I love it, and it loves me. (We’re in love, you see.)

If you love the play factor of makeup, but don’t want to slather untested grossness on your face, you’re in a bit if a bind here in the USA (the United States hasn’t passed a law regulating the cosmetics industry since 1938). And if you have difficult skin, you’re probably using a lot of different products to cover it up, and you don’t have skin that you’re proud to walk around barefaced in. I was both of those.

But then an angel appeared to me in a dream and shared Beautycounter with me, and I swooned, and now here I am with peachy keen skin, and a makeup collection I’d feel comfortable sharing with my daughter. (Actually the angel is my friend Susan, and she appeared to me at barre, but whatever, that’s not the point.)

Here’s the point: Beautycounter’s has a list they call the “Never List,” which is full of the untested stuff I didn’t want to put on my skin. They’re committed to putting clean personal care products in everyone’s hands, and I just love that. It makes my heart sing. You CAN have awesome, high-perfoming makeup/skin care/sunscreen without the sketchiness. And it. is. AWESOME.

So here’s what I suggest: replace one thing at a time. Next time you run out of cleanser, swap it for something clean. If you’re feeling iffy, I have a complete set of the skincare line that I will happily give you to try for a few days (if you’re local). Same goes for the makeup. My collection is your collection.

I would love love love to chat with any of you about how you can clean up your skin care routine, create a safe makeup collection, and perhaps even start a little Beautycounter shop of your own. Direct sales companies usually make me very uncomfortable, but what can I say? I love my new skin, and how could I not want to share that with people I love? If you’re interested in trying any products, playing with the makeup, or learning more about how you could be making safer choices in this realm, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know! You can reach me here in the comments, or via email at melissagbeautycounter -at- gmail -dot- com.

And if you feel like learning what makes Beautycounter wonderful and different, click through to read more about their mission and their products.

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Do We Have a Right To Know What’s In Our Food? (Yes on CA Prop 37)

Yes Prop 37 Logo

Something you might not know about me, if you’re newish around here, is that I used to blog and video-blog about politics, almost exclusively. And while I enjoyed that, and my work afforded me some really amazing opportunities, it’s not something I devote much time to these days. That is, until I learned about California proposition 37, and the “California Right to Know” campaign. Before you tune out, know that the following is relevant to non-Californians and Californians alike, and that what I have to say has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic values. Your chances of getting offended or hating me are pretty slim.

Here’s what you should know about prop 37, in a nutshell: Californians want to add the words “contains GMO products” to the nutrition label of foods that contain GMO products. (My guess is that it would be near the words “produced in a facility that processes nuts.”) The purpose of this addition to nutritional labels is to enable us to make an informed choice about what foods are right for our families. That’s it. (In case you can’t tell, I am a strong supporter of prop 37.)

Adding three words to a label doesn’t sound controversial. In fact, something like 61 nations already have this kind of labeling in place, including China. (If you are unfamiliar with what a GMO is, or are interested in reading both sides of the argument for/against labeling, visit CA Right to Know for the “pro,” and No on 37 for the “con.”) And because there isn’t any legitimately good reason why we shouldn’t allow people to make informed decisions, the “No on 37” campaign made up a bunch of fake reasons.  Seems fair. 🙂 (You can read the reasons, and the “Yes on 37” campaign’s responses on their respective websites.)

Prop 37 is a homegrown initiative, put on the ballot by over a million Californians, whereas the “No on 37” campaign has the support of giant agribusiness companies like Monsanto, and well-known brands like Pepsi, Coke, Nestle, Kraft, General Mills, Kellogg, Hershey, Hines, Campbell, etc. Collectively, they’ve spent over 40 million dollars since October 1st, trying to misinform Californians about prop 37. Call me crazy, but when so much money is involved, it’s naive to think that the folks that are cashing in on our ignorance have our best interest at heart.

Regardless of how you feel about eating genetically modified organisms: Do we have a right to know what’s going into our mouths? And into the mouths of our children? I think we do, and my guess is that most of you agree with me. We forget, I think, that nutritional labels didn’t always exist, and that labeling is something consumers have always had to fight hard for. If you support our right to know what’s in our food, would you consider sharing this information with any folks you might know who live in California? So much money is being spent by corporations on misinforming people, that we need all the real people we can get to speak up, and even better, to turn up at the polls and vote yes on proposition 37.

Thanks, y’all!

(My name is Melissa, and I approve this message. 🙂 )

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Let’s be friends!

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Hurt People Hurt People: Healing the Hurting While Protecting Yourself

Heart Ballons

Thought this image really represented the idea of releasing a situation out of love.

“Hurt people hurt people.” (As in, people who have been hurt generally end up hurting others.) I’ve heard this expression I don’t know how many times, and every time it comes to mind, I’m reminded of another pattern of behavior I see in people. Let’s say you’re walking though, I dunno, the food-court at the mall, and you notice a piece of trash on the ground, laying right in your path. The way I see it, there are two types of people: those that pick up the trash and toss it in the nearest garbage can, and those that pass the garbage by, leaving it for someone else to pick it up. (I promise I’m getting somewhere with this.)

So if we agree that, generally, hurt people hurt people, and that their behavior is rooted in their own emotional wounds, my question naturally becomes, how do we help hurt people? (Both to help them heal and to prevent the cycle from repeating itself.) Well, for starters, rather than stepping over other people’s garbage and letting someone else take responsibility for it, we should take the extra time and effort to pick it up and throw it away, thereby making the food-court a happier, cleaner place for everyone to enjoy. No questions asked, and no hard feelings one way or the other. Just doing your civic duty. More directly: when someone hurts you (verbally/emotionally) the best way to help the person that hurt you is not to just ignore the offense and silently hold a grudge, or to pretend the offense never happened. Neither of those options help heal the offender, and in fact, can be seen as a passive-agressive way of condoning hurtful behavior. Making the effort to aid in the healing of that person could enrich their life, and prepare them to be a healthier contributor for future relationships. They could be one less hurt-person going around hurting other people.

So what do you do? I’m not saying this is perfect, but here’s what works for me:

  1. Grieve the offense. And by that I mean allowing yourself the grace to know that however the offense made you feel, that your reaction is perfectly okay, and totally normal. Feeling hurt is okay, and rather than trying to push it down and remain unaffected, give your emotions freedom to exist. Soon enough all of the really strong, volatile feelings will ebb, and you’ll be able to think a little more clearly about the situation. Don’t try and fix the situation while you’re still feeling passionately about it.
  2. Forgive. Often, this takes time. Giving yourself the time to grieve will go a long way in allowing your heart to be open to forgiveness. But here’s the thing about real forgiveness: Your forgiveness cannot be conditional on the offender’s willingness to make amends. Forgiveness is not a two-way street. It’s not a trade. You choose to forgive the offender, and they owe you nothing for it. I’ve often heard it put this way: “Forgiving someone doesn’t “let them off the hook,” but it lets them off of YOUR hook.”” I’ve always liked that.
  3. Define why the offense was wrong, and establish boundaries. This is where you look at the situation, and figure out why, specifically, the offense was so hurtful. This can only happen honestly, and without spite, if you’ve forgiven the person. Remember: when I began, my question was “If hurt people hurt people, how do we help hurt people?” It’s important that you can explain how the other person’s words/actions affected you. For example, “I’ve always trusted you as one of my closest friends, but when you lied and spread rumors about me, it completely broke my heart. I love you, but what you said about me isn’t true, and until this is repaired, I can’t trust you the way I used to.” It’s important that the offender knows that you will not allow them to continue hurting you. That their actions have real, measurable consequences.
  4. Release the situation. Once you’ve forgiven and addressed the offense and its effects, that’s the end of it. The offender doesn’t “owe it to you” to apologize, or repair the damage done (though that’s obviously the preferred outcome), and if you’ve truly forgiven, you won’t feel like you’re owed anything. But on the flip-side, you don’t owe it to the offender to allow yourself to continue being hurt by that person. If the offender chooses not to do their part in healing themselves, it is your responsibility to take care of yourself and remove yourself from the situation.

I probably felt motivated to write this out because while I’m happy to pick up litter even when it’s not my own, in relationships, for most of my life, I was the the type who allowed herself to be hurt over and over and over again, because I was too afraid to upset the offender to risk pushing for healing. I always felt like, since I’m strong-willed enough to take it, I should stick around because obviously this person needs me in their life. But along the way I’ve learned that I can’t sacrifice my emotional health so that someone else doesn’t have to bear the responsibility of their behavior. By bearing the brunt of this person’s hurtful behavior, all I was doing was enabling that person to continue hurting others without having the opportunity to realize that their actions have consequences.

And here’s the thing about all of that, and the consequences of aiding in another person’s healing process: usually it stings (like when you clean a scrape with an alcohol swab), and the hurting person will likely recoil. You might lose that relationship. But that’s okay, because the healing needs to happen, regardless of whether or not you’ll be around to see its eventuality. Another thing I’ve learned is how important it is for each of us to do our part, regardless of whether or not we get to see the healing through to its end. We must understand that, even with the relationships we value the most, we might just be one small brick in the path to that person’s restoration, and never actually see the person fully restored and emotionally healthy. And while that’s especially hard for me to reconcile, I realize that it’s not about me, it’s about what’s best for the hurting person, and I’ve just got to acknowledge that no matter how badly I want to play a leading role in their healing, I might just be a teeny-tiny bit-part, and I need to be happy to do the very best I can with that.

Someday, when I feel up to it, I’ll talk more about this again. But until then: have you ever had to have a tough conversation in order to help heal a friend or family member? How’d it work out for them? Did you ever see them come around?

The Benefits of a Cold Shower

I must have showed up late on the day that God assigned me a super-power, because I didn’t get anything cool like the ability to stop time, or the ability to fly. I got a powerful sense of curiosity and a knack at conducting research. Pretty much the nerdiest of all the available super powers. (Geeze louise, three sentences in and I’m already digressing.) The point: when confronted with a topic I know little to nothing about, my instinct is to research it enough to have a reasonably informed conversation about it. The result: a dilettante’s understanding of a variety of subjects. This is one of those subjects.

It was revealed to me through a recent conversation that some people were brought up to take cold showers. This is the first I’ve heard of it, but it also doesn’t particularly surprise me, as every credible source on skin or hair-care instructs to always end one’s cleansing routine with a cold water rinse. A cold water shower isn’t so different. Cold water rinses are great for the face because they close one’s open pores and increase circulation. Similarly, for hair, a cold water rinse seals the cuticle, leaving one with shinier, smoother hair.

After reading as much information as I could find on the subject, there doesn’t seem to be any scientific evidence to prove the health benefits of cold water showers, but there are a great deal of personal testimonies, which weigh almost as much in my opinion. Many people attest that a cold water shower (or even simply a three to five-minute cold water rinse) helps build immunity against viruses like the flu, increases circulation, relieves depression and increases energy. As someone who already embraces the cold water rinse for her face and hair, it’s easy for me to want to test this out. (Although I love a luxurious warm shower, so I’ll most likely go for the three to five-minute cold water rinse instead.)

Were you brought up to take cold water showers? Rinses? Does it sound more like a low-grade torture method than holistic medicine? Tell me all about it in the comments below, because sharing is caring.

Clean House: How I Eliminated Hidden Toxins While Saving Cash

Lately I’ve noticed an upturn in people’s desire to know what exactly is in their hygiene and cleaning products. People’s interest seemed to snowball after Nalgene bottles became popular, and then were lambasted for containing BPA. Subsequently, consumers’ interest turned towards make up and skin care products, and finally common household cleansers. Partially out of concern for our environment, and partly because using unnecessary chemicals freaks me out, I’ve been on a mission for the past several months to become informed about what harmful chemicals might be present in the products that I use, and to change over to entirely safe alternatives.

Changing over to safe and natural cosmetics has been more difficult than I expected. It seems to me that the cosmetic industry has invested a lot of time and money into researching chemicals and additives that achieve their desired results, but has not taken the same care to ensure that their products will not cause damage to their customers in the long run. I’ve had great success however, in switching my household cleansers over, and it sounds silly, but I’m really excited about it.

Most people are reluctant to try “green” cleaning agents because they are generally more expensive and not as effective. I was the same way until some friends introduced me to an entire store of products that are “green,” less expensive than the Ajax and 409 type stuff I was using before, and totally safe to use around my baby. (Oh, and they beat the pants off the usual cleaning stuff in effectiveness.) They’re less pricey because they don’t advertise, and they don’t pay to be carried at major chain stores– all of their business is done entirely by word of mouth.

Sharing is caring: if you’re one of those people that is interested in trading the hidden toxins in your house for something, cheaper, “greener” and more effective, let me know and I’ll get you some more information. Like I said, I made the switch several months ago, and I couldn’t be happier, both with the  safety and cleanliness of our house, and with the money I’m saving every month.

What’s been your experience with switching to “green” products? Have any tried-and-true favorites? Sharing is caring– let me know in the comments!

(Image courtesy of sustainabilityninja.com)

Natural Birth Control: Safe, Effective and Little Known

A couple of weeks ago I had my final postpartum visit with my OB, during which he mentioned that my husband and I should begin considering family planning options. (‘Family planning‘ being a polite euphemism for birth control, but I like the sound of ‘family planning’ much more.) I immediately felt anxious, as I’ve never met a method of birth control that has agreed with me. There are many methods of birth control for women, and yet none of them are entirely safe or healthy, and all of them have adverse side effects (weight gain, increased risk of stroke, more severe/painful menstrual cycles and general craziness, just to name a few).

The saddest fact is that conception is possible with every method, and many of the children that are conceived on birth control are miscarried as a result.

The idea of miscarrying a child as a result of our choice in birth control, as opposed to an act of nature (both of which are devastating), has haunted me, and it’s that truth that has the greatest impact on our decision. Combine that looming consideration with my desire not to mess with my hormones or cervical integrity, and there didn’t appear to be any suitable methods of ‘family planning.’ Fortunately, it was during a discussion of family planning methods with my mom’s group that a new, natural method was revealed to me. I’m surprised that I had never heard of it before, and after reading about it, I’m shocked that I knew so very little about my body and my fertility. Unfortunately, I’m almost certain I’m not alone in my ignorance, which is why I’ve taken the time to discuss what I’ve learned.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility

The natural method that my mom’s group shared with me is called the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), and the book I would recommend reading is called “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” Before I go any further, I want to make the distinction between the Fertility Awareness Method and the “Rhythm Method.” FAM is not the Rhythm Method, and there’s a whole section of the book that talks about how they are different, how FAM is reliable and how, as we all know, the Rhythm Method is not. (“What do they call people who practice the Rhythm Method?” “Parents.” Yuk yuk.) My goal here is not to talk about the Rhythm Method, nor explain FAM in detail; I would highly recommend reading “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” if you want more specific information.

Something I didn’t know about women: we’re only fertile for a few days a month,

unlike men who are fertile 365 days a year (with exceptions, of course). The Fertility Awareness Method allows women to determine when they are fertile, that way they can choose to use a barrier method of contraceptive during that time, or abstain from intercourse entirely. Conversely, a couple trying to conceive can use FAM to determine their window of fertility, eliminating the frustration and disappointment of making countless attempts that are doomed from the start.

Finally, family planning aside, every woman should read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” as it does a better job of explaining female anatomy and the amazing details of the menstrual cycle than any sex-ed class I was given in elementary school, junior high, high school or Cosmopolitan magazine. As a method of tracking one’s cycle, I’ve found FAM to be empowering and surprisingly fascinating. Without going into clinical detail, I feel comforted in knowing the wide range of variation from woman to woman in how we experience our cycles. For example, because my cycle is typically much longer than the “normal” 28 days (which is a total myth, by the way), I’ve always been told there is something wrong with me, but no doctor could ever go into detail about what exactly was wrong, or how to fix it. Long story short, after reading “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” I’ve realized I’m just fine, “normal” in fact, and so are countless other women who have walked around carrying similar anxieties for so long. Bonus: practicing FAM can help you discover gynecological problems before their “normal” symptoms are ever felt, saving you valuable time in diagnosis and treatment.

As a method of birth control, FAM is simple and effective; when used consistently and correctly,

FAM is found to be 99% effective, the same as oral contraceptives.

When used by a couple who are trying to conceive, FAM is effective on the first attempt between 67% and 81% of the time. Practicing the Fertility Awareness Method is certainly more enjoyable than ingesting hormones every day and living with the side effects, and it can save couples that are looking to conceive the stress and cost of fertility treatments. And like I said, though it’s possible to conceive while using any method of birth control, there’s no way that FAM will be the cause of a miscarriage, which is my main source of anxiety.

It’s my hope that if you read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility,” one of three things will happen: some of you will become more educated about your bodies, some of you will finally conceive a child, and maybe some of you can stop ingesting unnecessary hormones, any of which will greatly enhance your life. That all being said, you’re free to do what you want with the information. It’s just healthier and more empowering to make an informed decision, you know?

Are you or someone you know using the Fertility Awareness Method? Do you absolutely swear by a different method of family planning? I didn’t learn anything until I had the “awkward” conversation with a bunch of other moms, which turned out not to be awkward at all. In the spirit of helping each other learn and grow, feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Also, I’m giving away one copy of “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” to a random commenter. If you would not like to receive a copy of the book, please say so in your comment, that way I can draw someone else. (I’m using random.org to choose the winner, just so you know.) The drawing will take place Friday, October 1st 2010. Good luck!

(Also, here’s a good article from Slate about another woman’s research and experience with the Fertility Awareness Method.)

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