The Never List: Things You Should Never Use On Your Skin

This past year I have been actively reducing the number of chemicals in our home. Small changes, one month at a time, have been making our family healthier and greener.

Over the past year I’ve been disappointed with products that I’ve been using (and letting my family use), and even more horrified at the ingredients in products that I thought were safe. Here’s what I’ve learned: the U.S. Government does not make sure our products are safe:

  • The United States has not passed a federal law governing the cosmetics industry since 1938.
  • The FDA does not require that cosmetics products or ingredients be approved before they go on the market. Additionally, the FDA has no power to recall a product from the market.
  • The U.S. has banned or restricted only 11 ingredients to date, while the European Union has banned close to 1,400.
  • 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the US will be diagnosed with cancer. (I’ve already had cancer so 2 people are off the hook).
  • In this research study, close to 16 potentially toxic cosmetics chemicals (including phthalates, triclosan, parabens, and musks) were found in the bodies of 20 teenage girls.

Something is very wrong with this picture!

But there is good news: There is a company called Beauty Counter and it is the strictest in the skin care industry. As a company they have willingly banned more than 1,500 ingredients from their products.  Their mission:

 To get safe products into the hands of everyone.

So where do you start? First, start with Beauty Counter’s NEVER LIST of ingredients and check your current skin care products:

A NEVER LIST of ingredients to avoid in your skin care and alternatives

And check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website…especially this page on Top Tips for Safer Products. 

Over time I’ve been replacing old products in our home (skincare, cleaning, pest control etc) with new ones as I learn and research more. Below are the first BC products I started out with and they have become my skincare staples. Not only are they safe, but I’m in love with how they work, how they smell, how they feel:

bcstaples

1. Routine Clean
I clean my face with this twice a day with this cleanser. I love the subtle scent and for the first time ever I feel like I’m doing something nice for my skin.

2. Every Day AM Hydrating Cream
I use this as my daily moisturizer, adding in 2 drops of Lustro oil each morning.

3. #3 Lustro Oil
I use this in the morning and at night. It always seemed counterintuitive to use oil on my skin since I have breakouts but since using the #3 Lustro Oil it’s cleared up. The plant oils, unlike synthetic oils, work with the skin to lock in moisture and calm irritation (like rosacea!) without clogging pores. Plant oils also have antimicrobial qualities. (click here to read a PDF about the oils and 
skin types)

4. Tint Skin
I  use this as my only makeup. I can apply as much or as little as I need.

 

No one asked me to write about these products, I’m sharing because I am making safe products a priority, and my skin looks great to boot. If you’ve been a reader for a while you know I don’t ever sell products. I say no to almost anyone who asks me to share their products. I am an information gatherer…and here’s why I am investing my time in this: as my daughter gets older I know the time will come when she will want to use makeup and skin care products and that scares me to death. Also, I am increasingly environmentally focused and Beauty Counter has no plastic microbeads or other chemicals to irresponsibly contaminate our precious rivers. The products are almost 100% vegan except for carmine and beeswax used in a few products. I’m all about education, especially for my daughter’s sake. I’m not asking you to buy anything, but I am asking you to take a look at the products you already use. Look up the ingredients and make sure they are safe. 

Please help reduce the chemicals that are building up in our environment. Small steps.

If you have any questions about any of the products, or if you are interested in becoming involved in Beauty Counter to help spread the education about the skincare industry you can email me here and hopefully I can point you in the right direction.  It’s a cause that my heart is deeply rooted in!

Thanks for listening! And if you’d like to support my Beauty Counter shop and/or sign up for yourself you can click here or click the lovely image below. I would love to help you find the right products and/or have you on my team if this speaks to you!

beautycounter1

xoxo,

Ashley

 

The Colors in Nature’s Palette

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walking to get frozen yogurt last night Boo and I wandered through a gravel lot to get a closer look at the train and we found this:

berries

I don’t know what kind of plant it is but we stood in awe for a few minutes wondering how that many hues could come from one tiny green vine. Here are a few of the actual color matches found in the photo:

palette5

palette4


Too many to even name but if I tried: mulberry, wheatgrass, camel are a few that come to mind. 

I uploaded the photo to Palette FX to get a few names:
Butterfly Bush
Limed Spruce*
Horizon
Tom Thumb
Flax Smoke
Pale Oyster
Pippin
Petite Orchid

*my favorite

This morning I stumbled across this watercolor painting of the old Bethlehem Steel Company in Pennsylvania. It was painted in 1881 by Joseph Pennell and what struck me was how ominous it looked.

BethlehemSTeelSource

I started trying to come up with names for the colors used and most at first had a sterile theme of ash, coal, pollution,  and alchemy. But what if I ran it through the same palette generator? Stripped out the colors are beautiful:

steelpalette

And check out the names (from left to right):

1. Pink Flare
2. Mountbatten Pink
3. Amethyst Smoke
4. Smoky
5. _____
6. Casper
7. Fiord
8. Pattens Blue
9. Elephant
10. Pancho
11. _____
12. Sambuca
13. _____

I don’t know why 5, 11 and 13 don’t have names yet. Maybe you have an idea for them.

Hand Stitched No Carve Pumpkins

Embroidered hand stitched pumpkins no-carve

I can’t believe that summer is already quickly coming to a close and that fall is almost here. That means it’s almost pumpkin time. As a Michaels Maker each year I get a chance to come up with a unique craft pumpkin and I must have been feeling a little embroidery deprived because all I wanted to do was stitch this year. So here’s the project I came up with: hand stitched / embroidered pumpkins. A mix between candlewicking/embroidery…

Embroidered pumpkins no-carve pumpkin ideas

…and cross-stitching:

cross stitched pumpkin

I love the Michaels craft pumpkins because they can be re-used year after year. The first thing you have to do it just cut the top off…and there is no mess inside to clean out:

embroideredopen

I used charcoal and pencil to sketch out a quick design. If you mess up the easiest way to clean off the drawing is with a damp magic eraser.

embroideredpumpkins6

You can easily hand punch your holes with a sharp object like a skewer or a small flat head screw driver but I recommend a household drill to get the job done quickly and more precise:

no carve pumpkin ideas

Here is my first design…all the holes drilled:

embroideredpumpkins4

I took a thick black yarn and an embroidery needle and began to stitch my design. I recommend using smaller lengths of yarn than larger and just re-thread often:

embroidering a pumpkin

This was the first one I made and I love the way the garland turned out:

embroideredpumpkins21

I learned this stitch when I was about 5 years old…so no excuses about not being able to sew:

IMG_4103

halloween decor ideas

This easy hand drawn vine design took about 10 minutes to stitch:

fall wedding decor ideas

It provides a balanced contrast of simplicity next to the busier pumpkin:

embroideredpumpkins17

And the cat…Boo loves this one:

outdoor fall decor ideas

I used a hot knife to cut slits into the side of the pumpkin starting at the top opening to hold the ears. The cat ears are just pieces of black card stock cut into curved triangles:

embroideredpumpkins2

I love the monochromatic look:

creative pumpkin decorating ideas cute no carve pumpkin decorating ideas no carve halloween pumpkins cat no carve pumpkin decorating ideas halloween cross stitch pumpkin needlework pumpkin unique pumpkin decorating jack o lantern

 

To kick off fall in your own home, visit Michaels.com and check out the variety of craft pumpkins available – there is every color, shape and size you could ever want!

Just a bit more information from Michaels stores:

  • There are tons of ways to DIY your own craft pumpkin for your home, a party or even as a gift.
  • If you’re looking for something a little bit different, Michaels recently started selling these fun half pumpkins, perfect for fall décor wall mounts and fun signs.

 

Also, if you’re in need of more fall décor inspiration be sure to look at the 49 other DIY pumpkin projects from the rest of the Michaels Makers – they are fabulous:


And here are a few ideas from past years:

A Pumpkin House Number

pumpkinhousenumber

Sharpie Owl Pumpkins

sharpieowlmain

A Week of Writing Prompts – Week 8

(Daily writing prompts are posted Monday through Friday at 7am on Facebook. This is the weekly roundup with a few excerpts from my personal journal. The goal is to write for at least 10 minutes without stopping, regardless of what ends up on the paper. Feel free to share writing in the comment section. Write on!)

 

Prompt 36: A celebration of someone or something old.

From my journal: We’ve been working on our composting this week. A concept as old as time. Everything on earth become compost at some point. Nature eventually takes over. It’s amazing how even when it’s cool outside the dirt under the composting mound reaches such a high temperature, cooking itself into rich, dark soil.

 

Prompt 37: Things you can leave behind to make space for new.

From my journal: I want to live in more of the “gray” areas of life and be ready to let in the new with ease. That means leaving behind many of the things I’ve already learned up until now. Maybe life is more about unlearning than learning, sweeping away all the stuff we’ve already filled our big heads with, trying not to become a hoarder. 

 

Prompt 38: Pick one word from the list and write to wherever it takes you:

WORK-A-HOLIC
TRUTH
STREAM
RECESS

From my journal: Will I ever know the truth? I don’t think so, but I’m becoming more and more okay with ambiguity these days. This morning those two journalists were killed on live TV because of someone’s anger. Why do we let ourselves stew over the words and actions of others? And so often when the other person doesn’t even know they’ve hit a nerve?

 

Prompt 39: A prompt from the book How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith: Right where you are sitting. Write ten things about where you are sitting right now that you hadn’t noticed when you sat down. Use your senses. Do it quickly. Do not censor. Okay, begin.

From my journal: The crowd. A cough. The rustle of paper. A baby sighing. Adjusting of eyeglasses. Leaning in to whisper to a spouse. Brushing her bangs aside. A woman walks through the aisle smiling awkwardly avoiding making eye contact with anyone. A head tilts back to take a drink from a thermos. An arm over the back of the chair picks lint from the fabric. An adjustment of a ponytail. A heavy sigh. The itching of a nose, the rubbing of an eye.

 

Prompt 40: Pick one word from the list and write to wherever it takes you: crickets, kite, hunter, prestige.

From my journal: The word prestige makes me think of the movie and all the trickery that went into the show of magic. It was all based on illusion. Like when they discover that the crippled Chinese magician had spent his entire life convincing the world that he was actually crippled. Him being crippled was the illusion. His whole life was filled with secrecy and sacrifice to his craft. I only see great suffering in that, unless he had convinced himself in the process that he was someone else. We can easily become the narrative we live, and convince everyone else as well. Prestige is always based on perception. Makes me tired just thinking about it. 

 

More posts on writing here:

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Moving Forward on the Train Depot

Working on so many different projects at once right now that it feels like a bit of a whirlwind at the House on Hospital Hill…a few are train-depot-related and the other you’ll see first thing Monday morning as part of this year’s Michael’s Pumpkin Challenge. Max has been supervising it all:

picketfence3

 

A sneak peek at what we are working on behind the scenes to restore the old train depot. I’m so excited to see it all finally come together.

picketfence6

picketfence4

picketfence5

picketfence2

 

It’s morphing as we go. I’ve gone from envisioning it as a potting shed to now more of a creative space….a “she-shed” for Boo and I to share! Maybe one day it could even become a little guest cottage.

Frida K-Owl-O Pumpkins

I was so excited when Better Homes and Gardens asked me to ship my Sharpie Pumpkins to them a few months ago for a photo shoot. But then a lot of time went by and I completely forgot about it…until last Sunday when I was at the grocery store getting ready to check out there was my little “sugar skull” owl pumpkin right on the front cover:

bhgcover

Of course I bought it. The girl at the checkout line must have thought I was crazy…or that I LIVE for pumpkin decorating. I’ll never get used to seeing things I’ve made featured somewhere…it’s like a Christmas morning feeling when someone likes something you made and wants to share it with the world.

P.S. The owl might look familiar to some of you…it was inspired by a screen print I drew for a limited edition dress a few years ago (back when I had the clothing line.) I called her Frida K-owl-o:

Beautiful photography by Linda Pelk.

I made a handful of the pumpkins, a whole parliament of owls (full tutorial here):

owlpumpkins15

The owl pumpkin on the cover:

Decorating a chalkboard paint pumpkin with sharpie

The word for a gathering of owls is “parliament”…where did that come from? You can also say a “wisdom of owls”…did that come before or after the saying “wise as an owl”?

creative pumpkin decorating ideas - owl pumpkin

I’m finishing up this year’s pumpkins that I do each year in collaboration with Michaels Stores. Soon to be revealed. I love the challenge of having to come up with something unique each year.

Here is some awesome owl footage for you:

 

A Week of Writing Prompts – Week 7

(Daily writing prompts are posted Monday through Friday at 7am on Facebook. This is the weekly roundup with a few excerpts from my personal journal. The goal is to write for at least 10 minutes without stopping, regardless of what ends up on the paper. Feel free to share writing in the comment section. Write on!)

Prompt 31: Pick one word from the list and write to wherever it takes you:

TELEPHONE BOOTH
SODA FOUNTAIN
WILDERNESS
CAMEL

From my journal: I feel like I’m in the wilderness, this wild untouched part of the universe, trying to understand the earth, the weather, and all the signs given to us to figure it all out on our own, to learn how things grow. There are signs in nature that the winter is going to be a doozy. And then there’s what I learned about asparagus recently…it takes 2 years to grow, and yet I’ve been picking it up in the grocery store all these years like it’s no big deal. Asparagus should cost like $50 a pound. 

corn

 

Prompt 32: A dream you remember.

From my journal: I woke up from a dream last night and thought: I should remember this and write it down. But now just a few hours later I can’t remember one single detail. So much genius in my sleep only to be lost when I wake up. I can also fly in my dreams and jump in this great slow motion manner so I’m not going to put much stock in my elusive genius. 

 

Prompt 33: A prompt from the book Writing For Your Life by Deena Metzger: Write anything for five minutes, it doesn’t matter what. Write as if you are walking in an unknown woods, attentive to anything you might see, or poking at an indistinct mass wondering what it is, whether it is alive or dead, whether it will snarl suddenly, turn and bite. Keep writing.

From my journal: A man came in the shop today and told me that he was a pilot. I asked him about the helicopter I’d seen on the side of the road for sale. He said he’d seen it and then said “don’t buy it.” I laughed and told him I was going to tell him the same thing. I don’t think anyone should buy a DIY homemade helicopter. His wife said it might make an interesting flower planter. 

 

Prompt 34: An obituary for a childhood pet.

From my journal: Magnolia was destined to turn into a snapping turtle based on her coloring. She (or he?) lived in a plastic wash basin for exactly one day and spent 24 hours trying to figure out how to climb those white plastic walls. She disappeared the second night, perhaps eaten by an egret or heron. RIP Magnolia. 

 

Prompt 35: Read this quote and then write about it:

“What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us. –Gaston Bachelard

From my journal: My teacher lacked any outward sympathy or understanding. I had a gag reflex to the V-8 tomato juice but she would still punish me for not drinking it by banning me from story time. Maybe “I don’t like it” wasn’t a strong enough argument coming from a child to a kindergarten teacher. I still refused to drink it until one day I was tired of sitting at the back table by myself. I drank the juice down and it came right back up onto the linoleum floor.  The act of vomiting must have been a little more persuasive because I was able to join the circle that day with the other kids. 

 

More posts on writing here:

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A Small Town Listener

Jodi is a dear friend of mine who also lives in this small town we call home. She’s a closet writer and I’m always ecstatic when she agrees to let me share some of her goodness here. Thanks Jodi for sharing. Thanks to all of you for reading! -Ashley

My heart is that of a Pastor’s Wife and it has exploded a million times over with the life stories I’ve absorbed.  When I hear, “Can we talk?” my chest begins to tighten and my emotions are right there raw and exposed all over again.  “Yes, of course,” I’ll respond, but the internal struggle of, “Can I possible handle one more painful, heart wrenching tragedy?  Can I be the ear to listen and the comforter to empathize one more time?

You guys, these stories, the life stories of people on this Earth, in our lives–no one deserves some of the stories I’ve heard, no one.  And yet, just when you think you’ve heard it all, another story comes in search of comfort and direction, hope and answers.  I listen and try to take it all in and in my response, no part of the words that leave my lips feel any bit of my own.  The brokenness of people can just take my breath away.

I once sat with a woman, her voice shaking as she spoke, tears building in her eyes, just waiting to fall.  With whatever courage I could find, I locked eyes with hers, gripping her hand in mine and told her how amazing and strong she was and that God was drawing near to her brokenness.  I wanted to believe that would relieve her.  I wanted to believe I could take it all away and just break for her.  As tears covered her cheeks, she embraced me with determination to hang on.  Darkness and despair had swept in and at her breaking point, she was desperate to find freedom.  My heart exploded in that very moment.  My words would never suffice.  They would never negate her pain.

Then to pile on top of these painful life stories, with a force that is neither welcomed nor chosen, we, in our small mountain town, have the demographics of the up close and personal Small Town Life.  

brysoncity

In Small Town Life, a story unfolds with greater power than it began, and it can return to the individual’s heart in the most painful of ways.  It feels safer to lose the transparency and simply try to grin and bear it, rather than be exposed and judged by the murmurs of the well-intended-information-receivers.  There may be no greater heartache than to hear the pearls of your heart being repeated through the rumor mill with inaccuracies and trite concern.  So we remain silent, holding our broken hearts intact, longing to say to someone, “I am not okay.”

I hear these stories and I hold onto these broken hearts.  Every heart matters and every story is valuable to God; every last one.

Every single human longs to be seen, deeply seen, and when they are, this sparks value and value sparks action.  Shame and fear steal our courage, and the mistreatment of our pearls, our life stories, can paralyze our progress in whole-hearted living. Small Town Life should not be permitted to paralyze our brothers and sisters into a corner with their shame, but in fact, it should be the very caretaking catalyst that ignites a heart to soar.  We have the gift of learning to lean deeply on one another because our closeness in this life cannot be avoided.  WE are neighbors, WE are co-workers, WE are faith seekers, WE are image bearers of God, and WE should be quick to extend mercy to our community because WE belong to one another.  

Perhaps the very nature of Small Town Life reveals the truest part of who we really are. Perhaps the lesson in this demographic setting is that we are responsible to absorb secrets, heartache, and life stories, to participate in the discovery of freedom for all.

 

The Enormous Gap Between Us

henrinouwen

Our family sponsors a young girl, the same age as Boo, across the world in Ethiopia. We are encouraged to write her letters but so many thoughts go through my head when I start letters to this child. I tell her how much we love the outdoors, animals, and reading. I tell her what subjects Boo likes in school and I answer the questions she’s asked of us. I find myself carefully editing our life, because I find myself embarrassed at what we have. When I send photos of our family I find myself consciously pulling out the ones that show the interior of our house, because I don’t want her to compare our white walls and wood floors to her mud walls and dirt floors. I started a letter in my journal for myself as an exercise to highlight the obnoxious, enormous gap I feel between her world and the one I live in. It’s a compilation of time, and filled with sarcasm, so take with a grain of salt*:

Dear L,

Thank you for your recent letter! I was excited to learn that your favorite food is meat. What kind of meat? Organic? Grass fed? Hormone free? We like meat too, our freezer is full of pre-made meals that I can heat up in seconds. We have been talking about going vegan, except maybe we’ll allow ourselves to eat eggs because I think it would be so great to have chickens. They’d be mostly pet chickens though, an exotic fluffy breed that are friendlier to children. And we’ll have to have a “chunnel” around the yard so that the dogs and hawks won’t bother them. I love that word: chunnel. It’s a yard tunnel for a chicken. Genius. I hope to one day build a chicken coop that matches our 1950’s ranch house. Wouldn’t that be adorable?

My car is in the shop which means we are down to only one car this week. This is a huge inconvenience, mostly because my daughter has so many after school activities and shuttling her around is going to take a lot of careful coordination. And getting to the grocery store? Ugh. More coordination and headache. I have seriously considered looking into this new mail order service that delivers all the ingredients to my doorstep so I never have to set foot in a grocery store again. There are just too many choices there anyways. The average grocery store here carries over 42,000 items. I purchase at least 100 of those items on any one trip.

Well, it’s official…the worst has happened: We have crabgrass. It’s basically a death sentence for your lawn here. But rest assured, there is an entire aisle of toxic chemicals at the hardware store that we can choose from to eradicate it…for a few months. If we decide to go that route then we’ll have to start the process all over again, yearly. Maybe people are probably already talking about our yard because we didn’t cut it last week and it’s already about 8 inches high. We had a ton of rain over the weekend, probably washing all the toxic chemicals from the neighborhood down into the intricate drainage systems America has which eventually head toward the river.

Our water filter on the refrigerator has been on RED for the last week. This is basically the worst thing that can happen to your water.  I know you don’t have running water in your home, but just for a moment imagine if you did…and then imagine that the filter was FIVE days over its expiration date. I promise I was being responsible and ordered new filters through Amazon Prime when my refrigerator’s filter indicator turned YELLOW so they’d be here on time. But then my Amazon Prime took THREE days to get here and then the filters weren’t even the right size. It took me at least 20 minutes to print off a return slip so the UPS guy could pick the box back up right at my back door because the wireless printer wasn’t talking to my laptop or the iPad. When I finally had a chance to order another box of them, making certain the SKU numbers matched up, I decided to order a year’s supply to try and avert another water crisis. We get treated water from the city (delivered via pipes straight to FIVE different access points within our house) but still…imagine all the toxins we’ve been ingesting over the last 5 days. I know you have to lug your water across town in big water jugs but please: make sure the filter hasn’t expired.

We ran out of GoGoSqueezes yesterday and for a few moments I thought my kid might not have enough food to get her through until 3pm when school lets out. In case you don’t know what GoGoSqueezes are they are little packets of pre-portioned pureed apples that you can suck down in about 14 seconds. They rarely get recycled so then they probably sit in the landfill for approximately 235 years, but they are just so darn convenient because you don’t have to use a spoon or bite straight into an actual apple.

The trash truck forgot to pick up our trash again which means the trash cans will be overflowing by next week. We have a truck that comes by once a week to pick up all the trash we accumulate but they should really come twice a week because I swear they reduced the size of our trash bin this year.** Prices go up, service goes down. Seems to be a common theme these days. We know that most of the trash should actually be going in the recycle bin but it’s easier just to chuck it in the trash can because we are just so darn busy: ain’t nobody got time for that.   <—omg YouTube is so funny. 

My phone has been so slow lately! Probably because I have 2,642 photos on it. 1,245 of the photos are of our dogs. How many photos has your family taken of you lately? I can share photos instantly to my relatives across the U.S. within seconds, as long as my Wi-Fi is cooperating, which is never. It goes down at least once a month. The cell service is horrendous in the nearby national park too…I get really frustrated when I have to delay sharing my photos of my family enjoying the outdoors.

I can’t stand the ceramic tile in our kitchen right now. It’s fully functional but it doesn’t look anything like the dream kitchens I see on Pinterest. Are you on Pinterest? I’ve got a few Pinterest boards started with ideas for that chicken house I mentioned earlier. I’ve even got a secret board with project ideas no one will ever know about. 

Our laundry has been piling up. My expensive yoga pants are NEVER supposed to be washed with cotton clothing and now they are embarrassingly pilled. They’ll never be the same. Thank goodness Gap’s Friends and Family was extended a day so I could restock.

Does your school do the Scholastic book orders? We were going to pre-order the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book but they only offer it in paperback. I couldn’t bring myself to order it, because it wouldn’t match the other hardback copies we have. It’s my OCD. (Note: Sometimes I use the words “OCD” as a substitute for “anal.”)

So there’s supposedly a new strain of lice this year. Nightmare. But no worries, I have all these essential oils. Does your family use Young Living oils or DoTerra oils? Just wondering. Anyway, after my daughter washes her hair each night we braid it tightly and then I mist her with the “Purification” scent. Then I mist myself in it. Then I mist the dogs in it, even though dogs can’t get lice but at least they smell good. Then I mist the entire house in it. It’s only like $20 a bottle.

Hey, what an amazing job your community’s church is doing to help the needs of the local children. I think we have about 300 churches within in a 25 mile radius. You could visit a new one almost every day of the year if you wanted to.

Promise me you’ll keep this a secret but I told my daughter that Disneyland was closed this year. And that the American Girl store was closed too. You’d never believe it if I told you that one-day of tickets for my family costs more than your family’s yearly income.

*****

My dear L,

This list could of on forever and most of it you will never understand. Maybe that will save me some of the guilt I feel about all the excess and waste I see and contribute to each day. There’s no excuse for it to ever come from myself or my family. We know better. 

You asked me to pray that you will have peace. You are eight years old and that is all you have asked of me. That simple request breaks my heart in two but also heals it right back up again with hope.

I see you. Your photo is my daily reminder to continue to give away all of this privilege and to pursue a life of less convenience. 

You are a blessing to our family. I hope we will be a blessing to yours. 

Love,

me

*I would never in a million years send this letter to an 8-year-old living in poverty in Ethiopia. I know from experience that I actually have to write that out.
**I am not referring to Bryson City trash pickup. 

We’ve made a lot of changes around here in the last two years, but we still have a long way to go. We learn, we change, we get sucked back in and start all over again. For example, last week I watched the horrific video of a sea turtle having a straw extracted from its nose. I couldn’t sleep that night. I can’t get the image out of my head. 500 million straws are consumed each day in the U.S.?! I can’t even wrap my head around 500 million, and all it takes is me saying: I don’t need a straw, but thank you. A few months ago we bought stainless steel straws, just one small step in this huge cycle of single-use madness. You know, I never do this, but here’s my soapbox for one second: If that turtle broke your heart, do something. I love how fast injustice gets out on social media these days but my biggest hope is that all the passionate, fiery voices on social media actually go out and do something about what is breaking their heart. It’s too easy to click “like” to show support and then never do anything beyond that. There’s even a term for it now: slacktivism. I’m guilty of it as well.  Other small-big steps: switching all our cleaning products and pest control to eco-friendly. Another step: this week we are working on getting our fall garden in place and a better composting system figured out among other things.  None of it adds convenience or security, but it sure feels right and good and exciting. But the gaps are still enormous: between countries, neighborhoods, humans and animals.

 

Thus it was.

I am being driven forward
Into an unknown land.
The pass grows steeper,
The air colder and sharper.
A wind from my unknown goal
Stirs the strings
Of expectation.

Still the question:
Shall I ever get there?
There where life resounds,
A clear pure note
In the silence.

 –Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings

 

It helps that we’ve surrounded ourselves with so many like-minded friends, like my friend Harper who recently wrote this post for BCO on her life of simplicity (and outdoor adventures) with her husband Ben:

harperdavison

@harperdavison on Instagram

 

Or our friend Dwayne who has been living out of his truck for the last month and traveling cross country with his dog Bobby. He also does all my web work which can get a little tricky based on how far he has ventured into the wilderness:

dwayneparton

@dwayneparton on Instagram

Many more that I’ll share another time…. 

Reduce the gaps.

 

Learning Calligraphy

I worked on learning the alphabet today. My little calligraphy station:

set

This was the result of watching the first of four calligraphy classes by Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls:

calligraphy2

My hands are so shaky that I don’t think I’ll be helping any friends with their wedding invitations anytime soon, but I do love being able to create some beautiful lettering:

calligraphy

 

Disclaimer that the law requires me to add: I am an affiliate of Creativebug, but all opinions, suggestions, lack of skill and results are my own.