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Sweating the small stuff

I’ve finally quit antiperspirant. (Mostly. I opted to wear it to a job interview because, you know, never let ’em see you sweat.) It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for  a while. Years, even. But, to be perfectly honest, I was a pretty good sweater in my 20s and I just wasn’t sure my corporate work environment would approve of me walking around with wet circles under the arms of all my shirts.

But now that I work from home, what better time to kick the habit? I’d been planning to go 100% hippie and make my own using a recipe similar to this. But I kept not getting around to making it… which meant I kept using antiperspirant… so in the end I broke down and bought a tube of Tom’s. And that, as they say, is all she wrote.

Except that I’m going to write some more.

I was pleasantly surprised by how little I sweated. I’m no longer in my 20s, which I’ve been told are prime sweat years. (Maybe it boosts pheromone production during our optimum baby-making years? I don’t know.) But using a deoderant only does require becoming comfortable with a little dampness in your armpits. It’s taken me some getting used to since, in the past, that wet sensation usually meant that I needed a shower.  Now it just means that my body is effectively regulating its temperature, and I’m no smellier because of it.

It’s safe to say I’m officially a convert. But when this tube runs out, I’m determined to make my own batch with even fewer chemicals and zero packaging waste.


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At my father’s memorial service, the flowers were arranged to look like a baseball and his closest friends showed their respects by standing and ceremoniously replacing their own hats with Red Sox caps. That’s how much of a ball fan my dad was. So a year later when I spotted a baseball-themed  photograph at an arts fair in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I purchased it on impulse with sentimental tears in my eyes. It was a close-up of a dirt-smudged baseball in the grass, called “Foul Ball,” and that forgotten ball perfectly depicted how I’d felt since my dad died: alone.

I got it home (all the way to Seattle) before I really thought about my purchase. It didn’t exactly go with the rest of my home decor. And it was a fairly large piece, so attempting to blend it in anywhere was impossible. So it sat. And sat and sat and sat.

Eventually I hung it in the room that became my home office, on a wall that was mostly covered when the door was open. It still didn’t go with anything, but it was fairly unobtrusive there and made me smile whenever I passed – both because it reminded me of my dad and because it was such a silly thing for me to have hauled half-way across the country. When my office was repurposed last year to become a nursery, the photo was taken down and again sat and sat and sat in the basement, awaiting its fate.

It’s been nearly a decade now since my dad died, so the heavy emotional  connection to that silly foul ball has mostly worn off…. but not entirely. I’d decided that it was time to pass the photo on, but not anonymously to a Goodwill or the like where I’d have no idea of its eventual resting place. I wanted to make sure it went to someone who would truly appreciate it, and I wanted to hand it to that person. So I listed it on Freecycle Seattle*. In under an hour, I had a response from a woman who wanted the photo, who learned to love the game from her late father, and who confessed “I hope it won’t take me out of the running when I say I’m a Red Sox fan.”

Did you catch that? A Red Sox fan. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

She came by later that afternoon to collect her prize, and I was able to pass on my baseball photo to someone I felt would take excellent care of my sentimental baggage. And that is just one of the many things I love about Freecycle.

*If you’re not familiar, Freecycle is a place to offer items you no longer want/need to other members of the Freecycle group in your area (there are Freecycle groups all over – check for one in your city). The items are listed by members, other members express an interest, a pick-up is arranged, and your discarded stuff stays out of a landfill… at least for a little while longer. It’s like Craig’s List’s free section, only less creepy. In the great basement clean-up of 2011, I’ve freecycled half-used bags of dog food, a Swiffer wet jet, a door mirror, a small cooler, and my old Barbie collection. Anything that might be useful to someone else is fair game. People list all sorts of random stuff, and most of it gets claimed – I’ve even seen people freecycle their dinner leftovers! Check it out and – as Freecycle’s email footer suggests – be part of the solution.

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Operation One Less (produce bag)

Holy crap, you guys. Holy crap.

We have been collecting our plastic trash for almost a week now, and… HOLY CRAP! We have a lot of plastic. I’m embarrassed to share photos but, in the name of education, I will. (Tomorrow. Today is the last day of our collection week, so Bug and I will be examining and documenting our shame tonight. Should be ready to share tomorrow, and then I will hang my humiliated head for the rest of “plastic free” February.)

I am an environmentally conscious person. I certainly have not attained saint level green status, but I’d say I’m better than the average person (though, admittedly, that’s not really saying much). I’ve been hauling reusable shopping bags into grocery stores since the late ’80s, back when they required explanation. Without instruction, the cashiers would turn the bags over and over searching for a bar code to swipe, wondering aloud when and why the store started carrying tote bags. The teenage bag boys and girls would stare at them equally confounded and fold them up before asking “paper or plastic?” But judging by the enormous pile of mostly food-related plastic waste, it’s clear that I need to go much further than reusable shopping bags.

Any fruits and vegetables with thick enough skins are allowed to ride in my grocery cart free-range style, but for years I’ve been meaning to get some sort of reusable produce bags for my green leafies. After only a few days of collecting our plastic – and seeing the pile of green and yellow produce bags quickly stack up – I marched my butt to the store and finally made it happen. I am now the proud owner of several reusable TazzyTotes produce bags.

They embarked on their maiden voyage over the weekend, and brought home carrots, parsley, asparagus, and lentils (they work well for the bulk section too). Take that, plastic produce bag!

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Homemade Christmas

I had already vowed to make more gifts for family this Christmas. This was partly because I have the kind of family (my mom, in particular) who appreciates such things. It was also partly because I want to start making more things in general, and Christmas seemed like a reasonable excuse to practice.

And then, after being out of work voluntarily for nearly three months (my unpaid maternity leave), I learned that I did not have a job to return to. My leave has left my savings account nearly depleted. And there’s no telling how long I’ll be out of work, with the recent job listings in my field leaving little room for optimism. So this homemade Christmas has just been upgraded from “cool idea” to “necessity.” And, with a Baby Jupiter taking up most of my time, I needed to get started months ago to have any hope of getting everything made in time.

Hopefully I’ll be able to carve out a little time during the Thanksgiving holiday to get started. On the list of projects (some to be made; some to be “recycled”):

  1. Cloth napkins. I made napkins for my first sewing lesson with my mom, so I thought it might be nice to make her some. And I just happen to have an ill-fitting vintage poinsettia tablecloth in the basement dying to be repurposed.
  2. Finger puppets. Jupiter has kicked off enough tiny socks during our many walks to leave us with a stack of mismatches. Bug and I will be decorating them with scrap yarn and buttons, and maybe some fabric paint as well, to make finger puppets for Jupiter’s amusement.
  3. Bath tea. My mom’s a big bather, and I’ve got a couple bath tea recipes that can be made from regular pantry items. I also saved a few old tea tins, which will make perfect gift boxes.
  4. Hand-me-downs. I’m partway through “Living the Good Life: Simple strategies for sustainable living” by Linda Cockburn. I think my mom would enjoy it, so I’m determined to finish it before Christmas so I can pass it on to her.

I’ve also got a couple ideas in the works for Mr. Legume, which I can’t post here in case he sees. Bug is harder in that I can’t make my own legos – he’ll probably consume what budget I have for store-bought gifts.

Pictures to follow… assuming I ever find time to complete any of these.

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I begin this experiment knowing I will fail

The original inspiration behind this blog was a sudden impulse to live for a year without buying anything new. I would buy second-hand. I would make things. Maybe even barter. But I would purchase nothing brand new.

I dwelt on the idea for a while, and it felt lovely. It felt real. It felt like me.

But then I thought of shampoo. Was I really going to make my own shampoo? What about milk? And garbage bags?  And what about the fact that I don’t know how to make anything? I have a sewing machine, but I can’t even thread the damn thing without my mother’s assistance. And what if, god forbid, I just really wanted some Skittles? I certainly couldn’t make those, and I didn’t even want to think about what buying them second-hand might mean.

The list of “can’t”s went on and on. Dwelling on the idea no longer felt lovely. It felt heavy, and lumpy, and hard. And then I said the same words that have derailed far too many a good idea: “This is impossible. I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

To be fair, I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing. But it’s not impossible for me to learn. I am, in fact, an excellent learner. I still have the report cards to prove it. And it would be silly to wait to document and blog about this little experiment until I do know what I’m doing. Not when there are sure to be so many excellent missteps and opportunities for good-natured self-deprecation along the way.

And so here we are again. I’m not prepared to live for a year without buying anything new. I don’t know that I ever will be, or will ever actually want to attempt it. But the impulse behind the impulse is the same: creating less waste, leaving a smaller footprint, teaching my children to be mindful of the earth. I don’t have to know what I’m doing before I start.

I begin this experiment knowing I will fail, in one way or another. And I am okay with that.


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