20 Non-Crunchy Ways to Save the Earth

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Do you want to help the environment but aren't sure where to start? Maybe you don't want to smell like homemade patchouli and lavender deodorant while you do it (no shame in that, but that's hippie level for sure)? Here are twenty simple, incredibly easy and affordable ideas to get you excited about being a part of saving our beautiful earth .

 ·Spend time in nature on a regular basis. Its unreasonable to expect to develop a loving relationship with Mother Earth if you don't know anything about her. Go on a hike, a walk, grow a garden or even adopt a houseplant . Make it a point to connect with nature at least once a day, even if all you do is watch the sun rise or set from your porch.
·Take reusable grocery bags to the store with you to replace the plastic ones. Some stores will even give you a per-bag discount off your bill for every reusable bag you bring.
·Turn off the car when its not in use - be idle free! Even if its not a law where you live, make a point to turn the ignition off when you're sitting in the parking lot or driveway.
·If you can reasonably walk there, do it. Its good for your health.
·Wash a full load of laundry as opposed to half or quarter loads. Hang dry every once in a while if you can.
·Switch to natural-based cleaners. As long as they do the job right, they can bring a sparkling cleanness to your home and a peace of mind that comes without harmful and poisonous chemicals. I've recently started using homemade cleaners, but if that's not your thing there are great brands such as Seventh Generation, Honest Co. and Method that are usually available at your local grocery store.

·Take batteries to a recycle center instead of throwing them in the trash. I know my local Best Buy recycles all kinds of batteries. Keeping batteries out of the trash reduces the amount of harmful metals and chemicals in our water.
·Recycle! Look up your city's recycling guidelines. Some cities recycle glass, some do not. Same goes for certain kinds of plastic.
·Consume materials made from recycled post-consumer content. If recycled content is bought, there is more demand for eco-friendly products. Notebooks, paper towels and toilet paper, and plastic packaging are just some of the things you can buy recycled.
·Switch to reusable kitchen and food storage options. Reusable sandwich and snack bags are a super cute and cost-sensitive, eco-friendly way to transport snacks and lunches to picnics, work, and school. I purchase mine from this Etsy seller. You can also buy or make re-usable plastic wrap using a tutorial like this one. Storing food in glass containers like mason jars or Pyrex also cuts down on the amount of plastic tupperware that you can never find the lids for.
·Shop local. Farmer's markets are the best place to do this. When you buy things that are made in areas near you, a few things are accomplished. You support your local economy and small business, less energy is used to transport the products, and most of the time things like produce are specific to your area. Case in point: consuming local raw honey can alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergies.

·Use cloth in place of paper towels and napkins. Not only are cloth napkins and towels SO much cuter than paper, but they are softer and better for the environment. If you're buying for a party or picnic, consider buying paper towels made from recycled materials (see #9).
·Give the gift of time and experiences. Instead of buying another birthday or Christmas gift from the store, take your friend out to lunch for her birthday or gift classes, a massage, or season passes to entertainment for Christmas! These gifts are wonderful because often memories are treasured so much more than things.
·REDUCE. I believe this to be the best way to start helping the earth. Its the first word in "reduce, reuse, and recycle", but in today's over-consuming society it gets overlooked. The best way to help save the planet is to stop buying "stuff" that will eventually be thrown away anyway. Do you need that new shirt? Does your baby need that bouncer and swing and bassinet? Most of the time, the answer to this is no. But if its yes...
·Borrow instead of buy. If you can borrow clothes, toys, and anything else under the sun, do it. If you can't borrow, buy used before buying new. It will save you a few dollars and it helps keep junk out of landfills.
·Carpool. Whether its to a girl's night or halfway across town to your favorite store, carpooling reduces emissions. Plus everyone saves on gas money and you can ride in the carpool lane. 
·Buy organically grown produce and humanely raised organic animal products. Money talks. Let yours support the farmers who treat their animals and crops with kindness, care, and empathy. Pesticide, antibiotic, chemical free products are healthier for you and the environment. Give your powerful dollars to the people who are trying to keep this world beautiful and healthy for everyone.

·Purchase cruelty free beauty products. Stop the animal testing! Research your beauty products to make sure that no animals were used to make or test them. Using products you can stand behind is a 2-for-1 deal: not only do they make you feel pretty, but you can feel good about using them too. 
·Switch to reusable drinking straws. For the love of all that is holy, invest in straws made from stainless steel or other reusable materials. Keeping plastic straws out of the trash keeps them from harming and killing wildlife. If you absolutely must have them for a party or picnic consider paper or bamboo alternatives. On that note,
·Use a glass reusable water bottle. With so many cute options available, it really is a shame to walk around with an ugly plastic disposable bottle. Pick one you love and it will last you a lifetime.

The best thing about these ideas is that they are easy and completely low-key. All it takes is being mindful when making purchasing or lifestyle choices. Most of them save money too! Adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle is so much fun. I love to challenge myself to see what changes I can make to reduce my carbon footprint. It can be kind of addicting. But don't take my word for it - just choose one idea and make the change. The impact will be huge, both on the environment around and in you.

*Originally published August 2015 as "20 Ways to Love the Earth". Edited and updated April 2018 in honor of Earth Day*

I Am On Fire

Monday, April 16, 2018

I've lived in Phoenix for nearly 5 years and I've loved every minute of being a desert dweller. That is, until 6 months ago when my husband and I took a short weekend trip to San Diego. We were there for a Coldplay concert but we spent the majority of our time at the beach. Since then, I have been craving water.

It was early October when we visited so the weather didn't really accommodate swimming and sunbathing but that wasn't what I was there for. The ocean has always been a place for me to heal. It had been 10 years since my last visit to a shore and I had forgotten how deeply I craved salt water medicine. Once there, I walked in the waves. I watched the sun set into the sea. I closed my eyes to listen and opened them only to behold, cry, and write. I thought when I left the shore I'd carry a piece away in my heart, but what was tucked inside the folds of my soul was a real, visceral remembering - a call. It is April now. When I breathe deeply I inhale the coast's dense, savory air. Miles of mountains, rocks, dirt, dry sand, and cacti lie between us but the roaring waves still speak to me.

So dry, the sea says.

She is talking about me.

I have been acutely aware of a sense of emptiness inside me for some time. Its showing up in every possible experience. My skin has started to react to every material that touches it with a persistent and unbearable itchiness. My hair is frizzing at the ends. I've been more ill than usual. My voice seems shrill, both when I talk and when I write. I am acutely aware of my tendency to talk about myself in social gatherings. I am reaching and straining to tap my well of creativity. I told my friend a few days ago, "I am not enjoying being a mom right now." My panic attacks have lately centered around the thought "I do not want to be in my body anymore." It seems my experiences, both past and present, make living inside my physical body unbearable. All of these strangely unrelated symptoms have intensely increased and I have struggled for a solution. Trying to treat them individually has garnered no healing.

Then, in a quiet moment a few days ago, I heard the call again.

So dry, she said,

and washed me in waves of remembering.

The ancient science of ayurveda teaches that each person has dominant and (sometimes) secondary elements that govern their physical and emotional makeup. This makeup is called a dosha. You can click here to take a test to find out yours, but the three elements are kapha (earth & water), vata (air & ether), and pitta (fire). My primary element is fire, with my close secondary as air. These elements, when balanced, make for a passionate, creative, active, and social person. When imbalanced, they create an overwhelming sense of dryness.

I realized that I've been wandering in an inner desert and exhaustion is starting to sneak in. I have loved the cacti here for so long that I think I've tried to become one of them. Cacti have an amazing ability to shrink or expand depending on the availability of water and can go months with no rain, but I am not a cactus. I am a woman, and I am on fire.

When contained fire brings people together. By its warmth, heart-to-heart connections are forged. Its heat cooks food to fill bellies. Its light gives sight in darkness. But without boundaries it overtakes the earth, burning fuel faster than it can be replenished. It burns homes, takes lives, and feeds on fears. Instead of rain, the sky cries ashes.

I look around and see the signs of tragedy in the faces around me. My husband no longer reaches for me in darkness for fear of burns. My children do not come to my lap for stories or snuggles because there is no warmth here for them, only licks of heated anger and sparks of impatience. I wonder why, for all my reaching for company, friendship, affection, attention, I feel empty. Perhaps I've exhausted and burnt through all the fuel they can offer.

I have felt unforgiving, unyeilding, impatient, and proud. My eyes are critical, my heart cynical. And for all the good I may have put into the world recently, most of it has come from a place of burning, festering, all-consuming anger and pain.

I did not heed the ocean's message in October. By consequence, I am a forest not just dry but now completely burned down.

But the promises of spring, of Easter, of Ostara, are rebirth. Fertile ground from which to grow. The rain for my soul seeds will not come from outside - who am I to ask for love, kindness, acceptance, and friendship from those who I burnt and ate up? It must come from a well-spring within.

I am being called to the scariest journey I can imagine:
to turn inward,
find the well,
flood this body and soul,
and be ocean, lake, rain, groundwater.

I must learn to love myself, this body in which I live, and from that place I must learn to love others again.

I have the bones of ideas of what that journey looks like for me.

  1.  Water will play a strong role in my healing, so I will work to incorporate it more into my life. I will take more baths and in cooler water than I am used to. I will seek out natural sources of water around me and travel to them if needed. If I can find a salt water pool I will swim more. I will drink more water and tea and cut out juices and soda, which I know leave my body dry. Instead of processed and dehydrated options I will choose more natural and nourishing foods, and I will try to make those foods "cool". I will eat regularly instead of continuing the destructive cycle of daily starving myself and binge-eating. 
  2. I commented on a friend's post about self love with ideas of what I think a good self-love practice would look like. I will act on my own advice and participate in journaling, mirror-gazing (I made this up for sure), meditation, self-massage, positive out-loud talk, and simple-but-mindful care routines like brushing, cleansing, and moisturizing. 
  3. I will participate in physical activities and exercise that are slow, meditative, and foster self-awareness. Yoga comes to mind first and foremost, but instead of attending the fast-paced, heating vinyasa and flow classes I will choose the coolness of yin, restorative, and nidra instead. I would also like to get involved in hiking. 
  4. I once heard of something called a "silence fast", in which one refrains from speaking for a set period of time as a form of meditation. I would like to try this out and see how it makes me feel. My friend Mandie also encouraged her Instagram audience to try to say nothing mean or critical for 24 hours. I'm going to attempt this also.
  5. I will stop participating in my own over-consumption cycle of compulsive shopping. I will stop buying unnecessary things to make myself feel better. I will stop buying clothing, jewelry, fast food, plastic crap, and extra toys for my kids. It may sound silly but I am deeply aware that my compulsive shopping a huge roadblock to my healing. 
Friends, if you've felt too much heat around me to stand close by, its okay. I understand. I can't bear it any longer either. If you've been burned by my anger or criticism, that "Its me, not you" thing totally applies here. If you feel like I'm not a good listener and only talk about myself, you're not wrong. For all this, I'm sorry, and I'm sad it took me so long to see I was burning out of control.

OCD Update: One Year Later

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

This time last year I was diagnosed with clinical OCD. This is not news to many of you, as I have been very open and vocal about my experience and healing. You can read all about it here.

As the one year mark of my diagnosis has come and gone, I feel a deep need to not only give an update on how I'm doing but also give a huge thank you.

Friends, there was a point last year that I truly believed I would not make it to the next week, the next month, the next year of my life. At some point in February 2017 I was acutely aware that there was something very wrong with my brain. I could not stop thinking about my children and I dying. The fear and shame that accompanied those thoughts clouded every part of my life, making it difficult to feel anything but increasing anxiety. At this point I called the only person I could trust with this secret - my counselor, who I had seen a few years earlier. There was a two week wait until her next available appointment. It was the most scary two weeks of my life.

I would lay down at night and tell myself that my only job was to stay alive until Thursday, March 15. My brain would offer up hundreds of different solutions to my stress and anxiety. Hey Channing, it would say, there's a whole bottle of pills in the cupboard. There's knives on the kitchen counter.
And my brain's morbid favorite: Your apartment is right next to a busy road. You could totally walk out there, get run over by a car, and die. Its not that hard.

This track played on repeat Every. single. day.

Every. single. night.

These thoughts freaked me out. I was scared of my own mind. But after fighting and fearing these thoughts for well over nine months, I was getting very tired. It took everything I had to not listen. I was afraid I would not be stronger than these thoughts much longer.

I made it to the appointment and received a preliminary diagnosis of OCD. Afterwards, I felt like I could breathe for the first time in months. There are no words to describe what power having a name and vocabulary for what was happening gave me. It was like someone handed me a sword so I could fight OCD with something other than a stick.

I needed to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist to receive an official diagnosis and a prescription. Unfortunately, the only psychiatrist in the area that my insurance covered had a six week wait until I could get in for an evaluation. That six week wait was only slightly less miserable than the wait for my counselor.

When I finally received my official diagnosis, I rushed to the pharmacy to pick up my first bottle of Luvox. I have never been happier to take a pill in my entire life. It took about a month, but I began to notice those cruel suicidal thoughts fade. I remember the first day I didn't think about dying at all and instead read a book in the first time since my son was born. I had a quiet mind.

Fast forward to a year later, and I've learned so much. I've learned how to successfully manage OCD.  I've learned that OCD is a life-long illness that will never be cured but can be managed with mindfulness and medication. I will be taking Luvox for the rest of my life. I was very sad to learn this because Luvox is strongly contraindicated for pregnancy and breastfeeding. This means I would not be able to take medication if I became pregnant. For me and my situation, that is not an option. Learning I would be on Luvox my entire life also means that I am done having children. I am still mourning that. I am 27. I am not ready to be done. But for me having babies = strong possibility of dying and I'd just really rather not. The two kids I do have still need their mama.

I still feel the effects of OCD regularly, especially when I am stressed or overwhelmed. I've noticed a significant uptick of symptoms, including suicidal ideations, in the few days before my period every month. But the good news is that I can manage the obsessions/compulsions with a variety of tricks I learned in counseling. My favorite method is simply saying, "Go away, OCD." Because I am aware of how OCD presents itself, I can spot it and tell it to eff off before it starts causing any real problems.

My house is a little less glittering clean than it was last year and I'm okay with that. I secretly enjoy looking around my house after the kids go to bed. Dirty clothes on the floor mean we played hard today. Dishes in the sink mean we ate today. Books scattered everywhere means we read today. Every time my house is a bit messy, I feel a renewed victory over OCD. You did not take this day from me! I think and celebrate by reading my own book among the residue of a life well-lived.

As I look at my life today I can't help but feel a deep sense of gratitude toward the people in my life. You have saved me. Your comments on Facebook and Instagram have made me feel connected and loved. You brought me treats, mailed me pictures and paintings and cards, you invited me to play dates and water parks. You asked me about my OCD and really listened. You brought me meals when my son had surgery, when my daughter broke her arm, when we had the flu. Once you even brought me a meal just because you felt like you needed to. You babysat, you reached out, you visited, and most importantly, you loved me. In more cases than one, that love quite literally saved my life.

This is my big thank you. Thanks for showing up for me. Thanks for being a friend. Thank you for saving my life. OCD may be around forever, but I know that you guys will be too. There will always be people who love me, and that makes every day one worth sticking around for.

Notes on Angry Feminists

Monday, April 2, 2018

Lately I've been thinking about "angry feminists". And every time it comes up I wonder, "Am I an angry feminist?"

For a long time, I thought it was a bad thing to be called an angry feminist. Even though a fearsome feminist looks pretty cool with her burning bra flag and clever protest sign, I didn't want to be her. I didn't want to be labeled angry because if I was, no one would listen to me.

How do I feel about feminism? Usually I feel hopeful. Empowered. Loving. But not always. I often feel like women are forgotten, stepped on, looked over, and mistreated. I am a feminist because I have been forgotten and mistreated. My sisters, my mothers, my friends have been too.

It makes me feel like an angry feminist.

Some people say anger solves nothing.

Anger may not be the best place to reside and decide but it certainly can be a catalyst. I'll bet Malala Yousafzai was pretty mad that she got shot in the head by the Taliban on her way to school. But the whole world watched as she turned away from anger and instead toward action to increase education access for girls across the globe.

I have heard some people say, "Well, she's just hurting from what happened to her" about a woman sharing her #metoo story and calling for increased awareness and change. I get that one a lot. "Are you sure all this anger isn't related to your trauma?" I am asked pretty often when expressing my views and opinions about equality.

Actually I am 100% certain it is related, but why-ever-the-heck should that mean that what is said isn't relevant, important, and necessary? Why shouldn't those who are hurting speak out and bring awareness to issues that require our collective attention? Why should pain be a discredit to those who want to change what hurts us all?

You may meet a feminist and wonder, is she angry?
The truth is,

we all are.

That's why we're here.

Would all the angry feminists please stand up? I'd like to thank you for your service.  I am grateful you embrace your anger, because it is the manifestation of a deep longing to and for love that's been silenced for too long.

You come to the negotiating table and to life with passion in your bones. You are prepared with facts, experience, and solutions. You share your stories with brave vulnerability in books, social media, speeches, poetry, and podcasts. You call for equality in all the ways its needed: equal understanding. Equal compassion. Equal love.

You do it with your protest signs in marches. You do it in conferences. You do it in your every day discussions. The beautiful thing about your advocacy is that in your own way and your own time, you do it. You speak, you write, you draw, you dance, you sing, stand, march, shout, smile, and cry. Sometimes your very breath is a protest.

Look at all you have given without taking from anyone. You break the rules and we all are better for it, even if some of us have forgotten how to say "thank you."

© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.