My Experience with Public Goods

A few years ago, I made the conscious decision to pay attention to the ingredients in the products I use. I started with food, and I do my best to buy natural and minimally processed items whenever possible.

Then I moved to medicines and cleaning supplies. I’ve found all-natural laundry detergents and household cleaners that smell great and actually work. It took some time to find the right items for me – there’s no perfect product for everyone. I use essential oils to help with headaches, allergies, and the occasional stomach issue…thus reducing my use of over the counter medicines. I’m not a doctor and I still firmly believe in modern medicine. I just don’t use as much Tylenol, Benadryl, or Pepto as I used to.

My last holdout for chemicals was hygiene. I love the effectiveness of aluminum-filled antiperspirant. Nothing ever got my hair feeling as squeaky clean as those sulfate-laden shampoos. (That feels terrible to write, but it’s true).

It took me close to a year to find an aluminum-free deodorant that actually worked. I’m still on a journey to find the perfect one, but I’ve at least found one that is adequate. The market is flooded with natural alternatives and this is, again, something that varies by person.

When it came to shampoo and conditioner, I could not find a sulfate-free alternative that didn’t make my hair feel gross. Until…

I heard about Public Goods on a YouTube channel, and signed up for a free 30 day trial. The whole idea is that you pay a yearly (or lifetime) membership fee and you can buy natural and sustainable products at-cost. I placed my first order quickly because I wanted to receive it in time to test things before my trial ended.

They had shampoo and conditioner for less than $5 each. I knew I had to try them because I couldn’t find any natural products in store for that price. My hair feels clean and I have zero build-up after several weeks of using the same products!

I loved every product I tried in that first shipment. I particularly loved the packaging. Aside from the simple aesthetic, the bottles are bio-degradable and they sell refills so you can re-use your bottles. They also have plenty of household products. Their glass cleaner, kitchen towels, and the ayate washcloth are all great.

I did the math and decided that even with the yearly subscription, I’ll save money by continuing to use Public Goods. I might even convert to a lifetime subscription. It’s sort of a Costco membership for home and body products.

If you’re curious, I highly recommend that you try the 30 free trial. I’m super glad I tested it. They even have travel size items, so I’ll be using them when I go on my next adventure!

Reflecting on a Habit

My planner for 2018 included monthly, weekly, and daily pages. I used the monthly and weekly spreads for actual planning and decided to use the daily pages for journaling. My method was more “document what you did and who you did it with” rather than “this is how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking.” It started as a goal to improve my cursive handwriting. I wrote the majority of my entries in cursive…but my handwriting is no better than it was a year ago. Still, I enjoyed having a reason to write in cursive. I still use the second grade rules, so my script is very generic and rigid. No one will ever hire me as a calligrapher!

Sample pages from my year of journaling.

 I missed less than ten days of journaling for the entire year. I’ve written in journals throughout my life, but this was the first time for a daily practice. At times, it felt like a chore that I was just doing to fulfill a commitment, and some of the entries were very bland.

But you know what? When I switched planners in 2019 to one without daily pages, I realized I missed journaling. It was neat to look back on all the things I did in a year, and to look at all the days spent with various people. The practice forced me to examine my days and find something to document. Every day I found something to say.

I’m not journaling daily in 2019, but I am making an effort to write notes on my weekly pages when I spend time with people or when interesting things happen. I had a very complete picture of my 2018 experiences – many things I would have forgotten by year-end if I hadn’t written them down. The process helped me reflect with gratefulness on things I would normally forget. My year was full of people, places, and memories I loved. Maybe someday, decades from now, someone will find my planner documenting an ordinary life in 2018…and get a glimpse of my world.

Are you trying something new in 2019?  Do you have a practice/habit that surprised you with its usefulness?

Books I Read in 2018

For the last few years I’ve tracked the books I read and the movies I watched. In the beginning of 2018 I posted my reading list of 20 books on this site. I ended up reading 10 of those books…plus 25 more. I’m not great at sticking to what I intend to read because if something catches my interest I’ll drop everything I planned and read it.  In the last quarter of the year I got on a biography/autobiography kick, which you will notice in the lists. I’ll put an asterisk next to the books I highly recommend, but I enjoyed 99% of what I read in 2018. I averaged 3 books a month, which was great considering the busy-ness of my year. What did you read last year?

Fiction:
Harry Potter (7 books) – J.K Rowling
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
The Visitors – Sally Beauman
The Hellfire Club – Jake Tapper
An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
The Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
The Masterpiece – Francine Rivers
The 49th Mystic – Ted Dekker


Non-Fiction:
Braving the Wilderness* – Brene Brown
Laugh it Up – Candace Payne
Love Does* – Bob Goff
Waco: A Survivor’s Story – David Thibodeau
I’ll be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara
The Very Worst Missionary* – Jamie Wright
Everybody Always – Bob Goff
I’m Still Here* – Austin Channing Brown
Inspired* – Rachel Held Evans
Work Rules -Lazlo Bock
What She Ate – Laura Shapiro
Nevertheless – Alec Baldwin
Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick
The Andy Cohen Diaries – Andy Cohen
The Rainbow Comes and Goes – Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper
This Life I Live – Rory Feek
Sully – Chesley Sullenberger
A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston
In Such Good Company – Carol Burnett
Stories I Only Tell my Friends – Rob Lowe
What Happened – Hillary Clinton

Pageants and Purpose

The memories of my childhood Christmases include nighttime family gatherings, fancy dress coats, candlelight…and Christmas pageants.

The Christian school I attended had a pageant every year. No matter the theme of the show, the evening concluded with the entire elementary school singing excerpts from Handel’s Messiah. Quite an ambitious piece for 5 to 11 year olds with no formal training! Each grade was assigned a section (I remember loving the year I was old enough to sing the “wonderful counselor” portion) and we all came together to finish with the hallelujah chorus.

There was always a pause before the final hallelujah. We collectively held our breath until the director signaled it was time for the dramatic finale. That pause felt like an eternity, but it was maybe a couple seconds.

Then it was time. We drew in a gasp of air as the director raised his hands…and we let loose.

HAL-LE-LU-JAH!!!!!!!!!

We left it all on the stage. I remember being exhausted at the end as if I’d used up all my energy singing that one word.

It seems Advent is a lot like that pause. We’re holding our breath, waiting.

Christmas is that moment we inhale as the director’s eyes light up and we realize he’s about to give us the freedom to reach our full potential. It is the imbuing – the indwelling of love, grace, peace, and trust.

And then? For the rest of our lives we open the floodgates. We pour out of ourselves every bit of love and gratitude: for what has been done for us, for what we’ve done for others, and what we believe others can do. We finish the song of our lives spent, exhausted because we held nothing back. We loved fiercely, we celebrated unashamedly, we served tirelessly, and we journeyed collectively.

I wish I had a recording of one of those elementary pageants. I’m sure it did not sound as glorious to the audience as it did in my own ears. I bet it sounded like a bunch of kids projecting at the top of their lungs: a little off-key, but full of zeal. It wasn’t perfect, but I know it was heartfelt. That’s the way I want to live.

So maybe this year when you hear the hallelujah chorus you will think of this story and smile…and maybe you will be encouraged to live and love well.

Ode to a House

On a crisp November day six years ago, you became a shelter for a weary family held together by a thread. We were hurting, exhausted, and needed a place to live. We had very little steady income and just a bunch of promises that we’d pay the rent on time, but the landlord said yes. Signing that lease coincided with my first deep breath in many months.

We began the healing process while living within your walls. We’ve grieved, laughed, played, and grown while calling you home. You housed us through two high school graduations, two and a half bachelor’s degrees, two engagements and weddings, career launches, and so many other memories.

You are the last house the four of us siblings collectively called home.

As I removed the last of my stuff a few weeks ago, it was bittersweet. I never intended to stay as long as I did – I had plans to move years ago…but it turns out I stayed for exactly the right amount of time.

You, townhouse with all your quirks and flaws, gave us a place to find our strengths. Hope was reborn and we all began to thrive again inside your walls.

An era is over…and the future is bright.

Moving is change and change is life

I moved last month – hence why I announced my return to blogging and then did not post for nearly two months. I’ve never met a person who said moving was easy, but there were plenty of things I could’ve done to make the process easier.

Here are a few things I figured out during the process (disclaimer, I’m a single individual with a full-time job and roommates – these tips might not work for you):

Pre-pack when you start thinking about moving

I started entertaining the idea of moving a few months before I actually moved. I packed a few boxes and stacked them in a corner long before I found a new place to live. In hindsight, I wished I’d packed even more. There are plenty of things in our homes that we can live without for awhile, so when you start thinking about moving, pack up all the things you don’t need for everyday survival. Worst case, if you pack up a bunch of stuff and don’t end up moving, you know you can live without the stuff and might consider getting rid of it. Best case, you have a lot less work to do when you actually find a new place.

Get rid of stuff

We have too much stuff. When packing, I found stuff in the back of my closet that I hadn’t seen in four years. It went straight to the donate pile. If I hadn’t touched it in four years, I didn’t need to keep it. I also got rid of six boxes of books. If you know me, you know books are like personal friends. But in this digital age, I chose to discard a bunch of old text books that I thought I’d save for future reference. If I need to reference something, I can most likely find it on the Internet. Don’t be fooled though, I still have six boxes of my FAVORITE books.

Move when you actually have time

I’m a renter and rentals move fast. Thus, when my roommates and I found a place we all liked, we jumped on it. The problem was that we signed a lease during the busiest month of my year. I literally did not have a free weekend or very many free weeknights to actually move my stuff. To make matters worse, my job was incredibly busy and I could not take a day off. It was exhausting to spend every free moment packing and moving for weeks on end. If you have the option, pick a time to move when you actually have space in your calendar to get things done.

Make use of your commute

Since I did not have a dedicated moving day, I opted to take many trips in my car to move stuff rather than renting a truck. I borrowed a pick-up truck one time to move my big furniture, but everything else fit in my little hatchback. I would load up my car at the old house in the evening, sleep, and then unload the stuff the next morning on my way to work or over my lunch break. I tried my best to avoid extraneous driving/wasting gas. In an area where traffic can be a nightmare, this plan worked well. I never drove past my old house or the new one without loading or unloading for several weeks.

 

I’m sure I’ll have more posts related to moving/living with roommates, and I’ll be sure to share.

Any Day of the Week

As a child, Holy Week was steeped in family tradition and lots of celebration. I loved Palm Sunday because I love the word “Hosanna.” It’s just a really good word…and you get to say or sing it a lot on Palm Sunday. Sometime during the week we’d dye more eggs than we could possibly eat.  As I reached middle school, we began observing Passover Seders with friends in remembrance of the Last Supper.  On Good Friday, we’d avoid meat and Grandma would make us all watch “Jesus of Nazareth” – the interminably long mini-series with a blue-eyed, never blinking, emaciated Jesus.

Easter. Was. The. Best. I had a fun dress to wear, the worship songs at church were peppy, I ate chocolate for breakfast, and I usually got to wear a delicate orchid corsage on my wrist. Easter afternoons were spent at the park with family, eating burgers and playing ball.

I always had a concept of the spiritual gravity of Holy Week and Easter, but it took on new meaning in college. I spent Palm Sunday 2005 in a tiny basement church in the projects of New Orleans. There were no palm fronds, no hosanna’s, and very few dresses. What I found were earnest believers who treated every Sunday as special and holy. I sat through the 3-hour service with a wiggly, young girl on my lap. She was covered in baby powder, wearing clothes that were a few sizes too small…and barefoot. If you’d seen the ground she traversed between her home and the church you’d be mortified at her lack of shoes. She loved me instantly, without hesitation or trepidation. She didn’t care who I was or where I’d come from…she just decided I was the right person to keep her company during the service.

I spent Easter Sunday of that same year in a large, formal church in Texas. The hats and dresses were on full display. The fragrance of lilies filled the air. We sang “Up From the Grave He Arose” at least three full times. It was a joyous celebration, but my heart and mind were back in New Orleans. In the midst of another rousing Easter hymn, it finally sunk in: The little girl in New Orleans was a walking example of Christ’s love – the way she embraced me and had no regard for the circumstances surrounding her. It might seem like an obvious thing, but in that moment it finally transferred from my head to my heart.

I think our lives cycle through the Easter progression on a regular basis. I’m in a Saturday period of my life right now. I’ve endured the darkness and pain of Friday, and now I’m in the silent waiting. I eagerly await the arrival of Sunday…but I know there is much to learn in the patience and uncertainty of Saturday. It would be easy to look at someone’s circumstances and guess what “day” they’re in, but that’s not the full story. The little girl in New Orleans based on her circumstances appeared to be in the midst of Friday…but her behavior? It indicated Sunday all the way.

Whatever “day” you’re in, take solace in the fact that it’s not the end and you’re not alone. I believe Christ holds us through our Fridays and Saturdays because He’s already made it to Sunday and knows what joy it brings.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter, friends.

A Book Lover’s Paradise

Last weekend I found the equivalent of buried treasure for a bibliophile like myself. I read an article about The Book Thing in Baltimore, but I was sure there had to be a catch. A used bookstore where every book is free? My mother was also intrigued, so we made the one hour trek to the city on Saturday.

Believe the hype. And bring lots of bags or boxes.

The backside of The Book Thing

The Book Thing is tucked away on a tiny street. When we arrived at 11am, the place was bustling with people combing over bookshelves. Most of them had boxes or bags to hold their finds, and a few had wheeled carts. Everything is categorized (the rooms are color-coded to help your search), but they’re not in order within their category…so finding a specific book might be a challenge.

Within five minutes of entering the building, I knew this would be a multiple-trip destination. I couldn’t even begin to plumb the depths of their offerings in a single morning. When it comes to books, I enjoy combing the shelves and letting titles or covers “jump out” at me. Even though the place was crowded, most everyone seemed to have the same mindset. No one rushed me during my perusing.

I spent two hours at The Book Thing, and I left with 24 books. I found some great fiction selections as well as a National Geographic from the month and year of my birth. I also picked up some travel books. They may be outdated but they’re a good starting point for my research. The volunteers (who were constantly restocking the shelves) were extremely helpful and gave us pointers on where to look for certain books. Once you’re ready to leave, there’s a sign-out sheet to let the staff know how many books you took home.

Our bags o’ books

If you’re anywhere within a reasonable drive of Baltimore and you love books, I highly recommend The Book Thing. It was a great experience!

 

The Third February 27th

It’s become a tradition to write a letter to my Grandma every year on her birthday. This also serves as the third installment in my February series about significant people.

I think of you often. Mostly the good times (though we had our share of tough ones, too). I hear your exuberant voice every time I play a game of Yahtzee, and I smell your awful perfume when I bump into that one lady at work. In those moments, I always notice a glimmer of sadness followed by a snicker of joy. Rather than consider those instances a reinforcement of my grief, I choose to accept them as reminders of your continued presence in my heart and life.

When I think of all that is going on in the world right now, I find myself mourning the absence of our inevitable discussions. I know we would have common ground on many things and passionately disagree on a few. There would be tears, loud voices, hugs, and laughter. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good, heated debate with someone where it’s safe to say anything because you’re confident that it won’t change the relationship between the two of you. I know this void will take the longest to fill because of the depth of trust it takes to cultivate such a relationship. It feels like a piece of me lies dormant since I lost you as a mental sparring partner.

I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately because I don’t know what I want to do with the next phase of my life. I know what I want to accomplish…I just don’t know how I’m going to get there. In a perfect world, I’d go to your house to sort out my mind. We’d watch Singin’ in the Rain for the bazillionth time and talk about how much we want to dance like Gene Kelly. Or we’d strut around the living room while Rod Stewart’s Hot Legs played through the speakers. We’d be silly and free and light-hearted…and sometime in the midst of all that joy, the voice in my heart would give me answers to the dilemma in my mind.

You never gave me the answers I needed…you created the space for me to find them. I want to create that space for others who need the freedom to let go for a while. Maybe in that process I’ll find some answers of my own.

My days aren’t always rosy, but I’ve had some pretty great adventures this year. You’d be proud. One of these years, my letter will say I finally made our trip to Italy.

Until next year: Sunshine loves you infinity plus seventy-one.