Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's been a rainy June, a busy June. At times I find myself thankful for the rain because it means my small herb garden will live despite my neglect. I have a pile of unread New Yorkers on my dresser, a Sandra Cisneros book that's long overdue but somehow I made my way through it, reading a few minutes on the bus, during the second half of my lunch break. For my standards, my life is a bit overbooked. There's work, volunteering, dance classes, babysitting from time to time, the weekend baby showers and weddings. I don't know if I like feeling pulled in so many directions - I think of David Brooks' notion that "we do not all have to shine" a lot these days - but right now, those things that stress me out also cure my boredom. I'd like to pare down, focus more on less, but maybe that's what winters are for. 

For now I'll just be busy, doing all of the things I've always wanted and am lucky enough to do, and when time permits, I'll walk around the block at the magic hour, sit on my steps with thai leftovers, and count the fireflies from my stoop.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My senior year of college, I got really into the idea of soapmaking. 

I never actually made soap but I did start to take a second look at my beauty products, thinking twice before I reached for that $2 bottle of Suave shampoo at the drugstore. All the blog reading I did, the experimenting with making my own products, was fun and reminiscent of my days as a kid playing arts and crafts but I've come out the other side a moderate.

Mostly I've made the switch from commercial products to eco-friendly ones because I like things that are cheap and all-purpose. Coconut oil, Borax, vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, Dr. Bronner's, the DivaCup are my go to products but I'm not a purist. I wasn't a fan of making my own deodorant because well, sometimes I don't even have time to make my own dinner. My hair is also addicted to commercial shampoos, and when it comes to make-up, I just check the Good Guide before making any purchases and the highest score wins. 

I do believe that we should think about what we put in our waterways but in terms of personal health, I throw up my hands and honestly couldn't care less. I'm not wholly convinced parabens can kill you, and if they can, I'll just put it on the list of all of the other things I do that are potentially unsafe like ride a bike in the city, live in Honduras, drive a car and really, just walk out my door into the world every day.

The truth is that I know that those other choices like flying to Honduras and driving a car are more taxing for the environment than my soap choice. I try my best to minimize as best as I can. I think about my environmental footprint probably to an unhealthy degree, and in the end, remind myself to subscribe to Anne Lamott's advice that a good night time meditation is just saying to yourself "Oh well". High ambitions are great for the morning but also, come the end of the day, it might not hurt to forgive yourself every once in a while. 

Mark Bittman recently wrote a thoughtful piece in the New York Times about whether or not our health conscious, vote-with-your-dollar food movement is making any real wins. He made valuable points, as he tends to do, reminding us of an often forgotten part of the whole struggle: "[We need to learn] how to use basic organizing skills and how to fight. We need to prioritize one or more issues, we need to unite on those issues, and we need to gather others to apply pressure on politicians at every level and directly on corporations when possible." Rather than rearranging my medicine cabinet, the real fight (regardless the cause) should be to organize. Not that rearranging one's medicine cabinet is bad. That's the fun part, whereas Bittman's suggestion is the more complex and frustrating option.

There are a lot of ways to be an advocate. "Change requires a constant drumbeat," Rex Huppke wrote in an op-ed about an entirely different subject. "It requires calls and emails to lawmakers, support for legislation that rights what you see as wrong, a continuous hand stretched out into communities in turmoil, mentoring, donating, advocating. It requires presence and a relentless will to turn things around, preferably before something tragic happens." 

I don't know how I ended up quoting an article about Chicago gang violence in this post about coconut oil but I guess to me the message is all the same. 

But back to beauty. Here are some resources that I found helpful in my quest for a bit kinder beauty routine, which I think emphasis sense and simplicity:

A french woman's beauty routine
Lykke Li's favorite products - for those who are a bit more luxurious
Sierra Club's guide to safe cleaning products - sadly the original PDF is MIA
Also, just for fun, some Instagram beauty that's been coloring my days recently

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When I'm living in Chicago, I have a tendency not to tune in to the everyday magic that surrounds me as much as I would abroad. Chicago is all very normal and commonplace but still, it's nice to remind myself of a few things that are especially beautiful right now, like walking down the boulevard in the morning on the way to the bus with the morning light shining through and the leaves emerging. And having a job to go to every day. And cooking and chopping vegetables and collecting recipes in the kitchen while I listen to podcasts or dance bachata in place and wait for the water to boil. Also, seeing the skyline while driving down the highway at night, going back home on Sundays to see family, and mainly just feeling like I am where I should be.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

It’s still a bit chilly in Chicago.

But even though my fingers were growing a little numb, I was all smiles waiting for my bus this morning sipping on iced tea, listening to Selena’s “Amor Prohibido” next to a boulevard full of sprouting magnolia trees. I have some ideas for this blog and plan to write something beyond my mental wanderings but this month was full of unexpected car repairs and hospital visits and other just general, not-so-fun life stuff. Sometimes these budding flowers are the only thing keeping me sane, especially since on top of all this, I just learned what the Trans-Pacific Partnership is (also, Derrick Rose in the playoffs makes me a nervous wreck. His poor knees.).

But I promise, as spring so often reminds me, some goodness is on the way.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I am from Honduras. I lived in Honduras for 14 years. There was a time when we could go out in the neighborhood and play soccer all night long. The country itself is incredibly beautiful, and the people can be beautiful in so many ways. I used to sit outside with my grandparents in the evening. We would drink coffee and share with anyone who walked by. We would talk to strangers and friends and really just have a great time. It saddens me that this happens, for so much hate and violence to run freely on the streets. I do not understand how someone can torture and kill a 13-year-old. It really brings me down. Perhaps out of denial, I still have hope for the country and believe that not everyone is evil. I have nothing but love for the people down there. They are just lost and could seriously use less hate and judgement. Not everyone is bad. I guess I just want it to go back to its good days. Not really sure where you Redditors stand... but for me, my heart, tears, soul, prayers go to my country. For peace to return. For love to go back. I mean I've never had so much fun and felt so much love than the nights we would play soccer with a soccer ball made out of socks."

- Poetry from a Redditor

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ugh. This March weather has mirrored my life these past weeks: glorious rays of sunshine in between weeks of bitter winds and snowfall that at this point, just makes you want stomp your feet and throw a little tantrum. I've never expected anything else of March, or I guess of life either, but it's just been a bit up and down lately.

But about those rays of sunshine. A seventy degree day the other week reminded me that it's almost spring (I know technically it already is but I just don't buy it), which means I have the blossoming of trees and opening of windows to look forward to. Also, I can't stop gushing over this photo that came up on Twitter last week. Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, the organization where I worked last year, brought in a group of kiddos from their Guatemalan home to Chicago for a fundraising tour. The group happened to visit while Guatemalan megastar Ricardo Arjona was touring the U.S. and playing a sold out show at the Allstate Arena. NPH surprised the kids with tickets and talked to Ricardo Arjona's entourage, who then ended up inviting the kids to move up to the front row for the show and head back stage afterwards, where someone then snapped this glorious photo. It seriously melts my heart.

Other than that though, it's hard to figure out what to divulge here. I have no desire to say anything too personal but at the same time want to shout out to the interwebs that I've discovered the DivaCup this week and feel like my life has been changed (I mean, talk about personal). No more Walgreens runs! An eco-friendly solution! So much money to be saved! I wish I could find an environmentally sound shampoo and conditioner that did the trick as well but alas, I think I'll have to stick my Pantene Pro-V for now. It's strange though because these are not the true trials and tribulations of my life; I guess just the ones I wish to write about here. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

In February, I find the black hole of the internet particularly alluring. Sometimes I think I could do away with the constant scrolling and clicking all together but other times, I stumble upon some actual meaningful content. 

There are many articles that have stayed with me recently (The Shame of America’s Family Detention Camps by Wils S. Hylton, The Disappeared by John Gibler, What Can a Pregnant Photojournalist Cover? Everything. by Lynsey Addario, the late David Carr’s syllabus for his BU journalism class that was recently published) but sometimes I just have to stop reading. Stop taking in so much information. And when that happens, I open up Spotify and listen to Chance the Rapper or Jessica Pratt or Ana Tijoux. But I also – and this is what I really want to highlight – listen to NPR’s Alt. Latino.

I’ve said it in this space before and I’ll say it again, I love salsa. The upstairs neighbors probably wonder why a white girl blasts so much Latin music in the dead of winter but unfortunately that's because I don’t think salsa is on many peoples radars, which is why I beg my friends to listen to just one episode of Alt. Latino in between their This American Life rotation. John Leguizamo’s guest DJ spot is a phenomenal place to start and confirms that the best way to explore current events, at times inadvertently, is through music. Ernesto Lechner’s episode features the classic - and my favorite - Latin genres: salsa, cumbia, samba and a little reggaeton. Of course, Junot Diaz’s picks for his playlist are spot on; so is his comment that it’s good to listen to music in a language you don’t understand. A lot of people do it. (Although, Americans, sadly not so much.)

That being said, I realize the randomness of my internet wanderings whenever I see the videos that Youtube suggests for me. Next to videos of street salsa and Daddy Yankee, I have recommendations for interviews with Zadie Smith and David Foster Wallace. I admit, I did recently binge watch various conversations with the Nigerean author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Her Beyonce-sampled “We Should All Be Feminists” is superb but I was doubly struck by the “Danger of a Single Story”. I might be late to the party, but it sums up everything that first hit me about life in Honduras. The news reports about the country are both true and yet leave out so much. The horror stories that solo habla de miedo, as a friend of mine said, are not the only stories that warrant being told, just like music in English is not the only music that deserves a listen.

There are so many voices out there, and I find that the most important stories I hear are from people I meet on dance floors, on buses, at dinner tables, anywhere away from the internet. But then again, the internet leads me to some gems. And every so often, when I find them, I'll be sure to let you know.

Pictured above: my old home back when I lived without internet access