Wednesday, April 18, 2018

So two weeks ago, I moved to Salt Lake City from Chicago (!). The move came after a few years of wanting to live somewhere new, preferably somewhere with access to the outdoors. I like the city a lot actually, from what I've seen so far. I like the cute neighborhoods and the mostly blue skies and the mountain views in every direction. There are things that are lacking, like public transportation and an abundance of restaurants on par with those in Chicago, but I will deal just fine.

Right before moving, a funny thing happened where I ended up stumbling on old journals from high school while I was cleaning under my bed. I stopped packing for a second to read through them and was quickly reminded of my younger, even more idealistic self. The journals were filled with nomadic dreams, notions of radical environmentalism and mostly, a lot of Bush era despair. There was a part of me that wanted to drop everything after sifting through them and travel without aim and live among the train-hoppers but then I thought, what would I do about money and health insurance and the existential feelings that come when I wander with no idea of where I am going?

I am not as radical as I hoped as a teenager but oh well, I've come to find that, like most, I actually enjoy routine and stability. I like creating my own home and a consistent paycheck and luckily, a bit of disposable income for hobbies and travel plans and donations. I'm 27 and don't have a MFA or any published work but I do have words that I have written and a belief that maybe I actually prefer writing without publishing. For now, that feels like enough.

And in terms of travel, I love seeing new places (preferably thoroughly) but I like my career too. I was talking to a co-worker about this recently and realized that the European model really is my ideal, with its generous vacation policy. In a dream world, I would be able to work and be productive but still have the chance to wander for three or four weeks each year. (But of course, I've lived in Honduras and know the other side of the spectrum, that I'm lucky to have a job at all.)

I feel like I'm saying a lot of the same things I've said in previous posts but I guess the new surroundings have just reminded me again that life is good, even though it's not what I expected. I will be moving into an apartment and starting a new job in a few weeks and am excited and nervous and at times, conflicted. My life isn't exactly the narrative I constructed for myself as a 17-year-old but I'm old enough to buck plans now, give up the idea of a set narrative and live instead as life comes (and yet I'm torn, is holding tight to a dream the only way I'll ever get there?).

My motto, it seems, always: oh well. Onward and onward.

Friday, March 23, 2018

So in this edition of things I love and other people may or may not care about, I present my low-waste beauty routine!

In the last few years, I've been trying to find beauty products that are affordable, free of harsh chemicals, effective, and somewhat sustainably packaged. In case you are searching for these things too, here's my long-winded breakdown of what works for me:

Skin Care: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay ―  It's kind of a messy product to use but the 1 lb. jar I have lasts forever (years!) and in addition to being safe to use, it really clears up my skin. Plus it's only $9, which in the world of acne solutions is quite cheap. 

Hair Care: I've tried a plethora of natural shampoos and had luck with very few of them until I found Acure Shampoo and Conditioner (Acure products can be found at Target). Recently, I switched it up and am now trying the Seaweed Bath Co. Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner. Both work for straight, oily hair, are free of sulfates/parabens/phtalates and are only $10 each, which honestly is the most I'll pay for hair care.

Hair Cleansing Rinse: I am addicted to using an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse for my hair to clear up dandruff. I fill up 1/4 of a bottle with ACV, dilute it with water, add a few drops of essential oil and then work it into my hair a few days a week. It works wonders.

Moisturizer: I use Coconut Oil or Almond Oil, basically whatever I have on hand. The bottle of Almond Oil I have has lasted me years, which makes me feel like it's lower waste, packaging-wise, because it lasts so long before I recycle it. Using oil on my face does cause breakouts though so I avoid that.

Face Moisturizer: Right now, I'm using Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15. I can pick it up at my neighborhood Walgreens, which I like, and it only has a level 2 rating on the Skin Deep guide so it seems safe to put on my face. It's kind of on the pricey side at $17, comes packaged in plastic and I go through it every 6 months so I don't know, still searching for a good option here...

Soap: I use whatever unpackaged bar soap I can find at the store when need be, like this one.

Razor: I'm a bit scared of safety razors so I picked up a Preserve Razor from Whole Foods last time I was there. Although the razor handle is plastic, it's made from recycled yogurt containers so it's not terrible. I'm trying to hold onto the razor handle as long as I can and just replace the blades in order to reduce waste.

Deodorant: In terms of eco-friendly deodorant, the only one I have had any luck with is Schmidt's Natural Deodorant, which comes in both plastic and glass packaging. Recently I took a nose dive into natural deodorants on the internet and think I might try Magnesium Oil next. I'll report back!

Dental Care: In addition to using Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes, I pick up Tom''s from Maine from Walgreens and then stock up on EcoDent floss at Whole Foods. Tom's has a level 2 rating on Skin Deep so it works for me. The tubes of toothpaste can't be recycled commercially but they are recyclable through TerraCycle, which works to divert hard to recycle materials from the landfill. Also, EcoDent Floss comes in a cardboard container, which feels like a much better option than all of those oddly shaped, plastic floss containers I've used for so long.

Makeup: My makeup is still of the drug store variety but maybe, maybe one day I'll shell out $100 on organic, recyclable makeup with RMS. I am almost 28 so perhaps it's time?

Makeup Remover: I use reusable cotton rounds (in black preferably) and water to remove makeup at the end of the day. No complaints, they do the trick and last forever.

A lot of this is not exactly zero waste, i.e. comes without plastic, single-use packaging, but it's much less wasteful than what I've used in the past. The majority of these products are rated safely on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database, fit my budget, come in bulk quantities, can be found at my neighborhood Walgreens, Target or Whole Foods (which avoids the carbon footprint that comes with shipping) and they work, most importantly.

For more on the subject of zero waste swaps, I'm in love with my friend Celia's blog Litterless. This article is a great place to start if you're hoping to make a switch to a less wasteful, sustainable lifestyle.

Also, FYI, none of the above are affiliate links  ―  just sharing because I'm semi-obsessed and hoping someone may find something they need!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My month in Mexico has almost come to an end. It was different than expected. Usually I try to find a way to have built-in community whenever I travel solo, and for this trip, I thought there would be other artists and writers working on their projects alongside me but it looks like I should have done a bit more research regarding my accommodations (I was swayed by the B&B's pretty pictures and semi-reasonable price I guess). It turns out more artists come in the summer and so what I came down to find was along the lines of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, i.e. a bunch of American retirees who had traveled south for the winter.

The group was a wonderful, eccentric bunch, all dressed in huipiles (which I have weird feelings about but generally think I'm okay with). They spent their days laughing and shopping and inviting me over for a margarita from time to time. But since they weren't really the type of group to go out at night, I missed out on exploring Oaxaca's nightlife and meeting some locals my age. No matter, what I ended up getting in return was a month with very few distractions, a rough draft of my novel done, a lush garden and sunshine out my door, and a small yellow room to call my own.

All in all, it was a success, although at times a solitary one. I'm ready to go back home and give my novel some space to breath while I figure out what's next. Still, my heart aches a little as I leave this charming, noisy, earthquake-prone town. I'll miss Oaxaca, inevitably, like I do with all things when I leave them.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

I have been in Oaxaca for about two weeks now and must admit, I've become a bad tourist. There is much to see and do and eat here but I've found myself forgetting to explore, mainly writing, reading and wandering off when I need food. To be fair, I came here to write so there should be no guilt there but of course, in my mind guilt and anxiety always find their way in. 

Which leads me, I guess, to a fun story: a few days before I left, I had a scare that my arm was at risk for paralysis. It was my last week of work and I was frantically tying up loose ends, finishing up every project I could while also ignoring the fact that I was about to solo travel down to Mexico in a few days, and all of sudden my arm went numb. Fully numb.

My initial diagnosis was that it was due to the fact that I had cut my wrist while doing dishes a few days earlier. A ceramic plate broke in my hand while I was washing it, and I was worried that the plate had dug in, hitting a vital nerve. But after a trip to the doctor's, I realized that no, it was just too much computer use and most likely, anxiety. In all of my years, I've seen my fair share of ways in which anxiety can manifest itself but that was definitely a new one for me.

Now that I'm here, I'm trying to be anxiety-less. Honestly, it's almost absurd to have any anxiety, being that I'm able to spend a month writing in 80 degree weather. But talking to other writers here, I see it everywhere. The anxiety that you're not writing enough. The anxiety that you're not enjoying yourself enough. 

An interview with Chicago author, poet and sociologist Dr. Eve Ewing stumbled into my inbox this week and summed it up so well. Her motto? "I always forgive myself for what I'm not doing."

"This is really dramatic," Ewing later says, "but when I finished my dissertation at two in the morning in my house in Boston, the very first thing I thought about was Harriet Tubman and slavery. I burst into tears. And I was like, 'I just finished my dissertation, and my ancestors were enslaved and if they tried to read people would punish or murder them! And they were ripped apart!' That was straight to where my mind went. I also was extremely sleep deprived. But you know, when you get that perspective, it's like, 'Uh, yeah, I got it pretty good.'"

So as of right now, I'm channeling Ewing, forgiving myself for whatever I'm not doing, being as easy as I can on myself, acknowledging that I've got it good. I've picked an achievable daily writing goal and every day, I do it. I am here, I am fine, I am writing! It is sometimes torture but it is also sometimes pure bliss.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I suppose these are a bit late but I wanted to write down my resolutions for next year mainly as a way to remind myself to keep coming back to them, even if I let myself slip a few months in. They are realistic resolutions (my favorite kind); small in scope, do-able and yet somehow they'll still take a bit of dedication to keep up with. So without further ado, 2018 will be the year I ...
1) Finish my book (My motto for this year: I don't care if it's any good, just that it's done.) 
2) Join a writing group 
3) Read at least 25 books (and one in Spanish)
4) Continue rock climbing / salsa dancing
5) Keep up with this space here 
6) Call senators / representatives once a week (failing at this now but will keep trying to make it a habit) 
7) Floss every day 
8) Save what I can 
9) Join a CSA 
10) Bring a resusable water bottle everywhere I go (currently on a very slow journey to being less wasteful)
I would love to have a buy nothing year next year and just work at an aggressive savings goal but with a move coming up (details soon!) I know that it's not realistic for 2018. Regardless, for now there's lots to do, lots to look forward to, especially being that in three days I will be heading to Mexico for a month-long writing residency to work as hard as I can on goal number one. 

Of course there will also be plenty of moments this next month where I'm working less hard, drinking fresh squeezed papaya juice in the Oaxacan sun, which I am also very much looking forward to. Hasta pronto, friends.