Monthly Archives: January 2014

Just filter your tap water!

Just filter your tap water!



Last week I watched the documentary Tapped, which taught me some disturbing things about the bottled water industry. I don’t normally drink bottled water (see reason #1), and after watching this documentary I don’t think you should either. I’m not alone in thinking this — communities around the country are starting to ban the sale of single-use bottled water. And in December, city supervisor David Chiu introduced a proposal to limit the sale of bottled water in San Francisco — making SF the first major city to tinker with a ban. Why all the fuss?:

1) Bottled water is expensive. Okay this is rather obvious, but why pay for bottled water when you can drink water from your tap that is virtually free? If you don’t like the flavor of your tap water, or you’re concerned about chlorine or metal contaminants, then filter it.

2) Tap water is safer to drink. Yes it’s true! Tap water is highly regulated and tested multiple times per day for safety. Bottled water is rarely, if ever, tested for safety (thanks Food and Drug Administration!). Oh, but here’s a silver lining: if you’re drinking Aquafina or Dasani water, it’s just filtered tap water, so those brands should be pretty safe.

3) The bottles may not be safe to drink from. The plastic bottles contain harmful chemicals, that may leach into your water if stored at warm temperatures. Drinking bottled water is a relatively new phenomenon, so we don’t really know the long-term safety effects (i.e. is there a link to cancer?)

4) Plastic water bottles are a waste of oil. The bottles themselves are made from oil, a non-renewable resource. It takes more than 17 million barrels of oil each year just to make enough bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water. That’s enough oil to 1.3 million cars for a year. Furthermore, the process of turning oil into plastic bottles releases toxic chemicals into the air and water around the manufacturing plants, causing health problems in individuals who live in those areas.

5) Plastic water bottles are killing our oceans. Americans are recycling plastic at an abysmal rate of 24 percent. So, when the average U.S. citizen uses 167 disposable water bottles per year, he only recycles 38 of them. The rest end up in landfills and tragically our lakes, rivers and oceans — where they take 500-1000 years to fully degrade. There’s a large floating plastic island twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean! Marine life and seabirds are frequently killed from eating or becoming entangled in plastic. Sad.

These are all good reasons to stop buying bottled water in and of themselves, but here’s another disturbing question. In an era of climate change and increased drought, do we trust large, profit-driven corporations to have such unregulated access to our water supply?

For further reading, check out these sources:

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water: Rethink What You Drink

Ban the Bottle

Oceans: Plastic Pollution


The festive busyness of the holiday season is over. A bone-chilling fog, evocative of a dementor infestation, has enshrouded Eugene for the past week. And I have just been informed by Target that the Russian mafia may now be in possession of my personal contact information and credit card number. My instinctive reaction is to sit on the couch with a warm blanket and microwaved popcorn and binge-watch old Parks & Recreation episodes on Netflix. But, this may not be the best way to combat the January Blahs.

Sometimes it take a little effort to climb out of the fog.

Sometimes it takes a little effort to climb out of the fog.

Here are a few of my strategies for boosting my happiness level in this dark and dreary time of year:

1 ) Invest in my spiritual practice

Going to church regularly, reading the Bible and seeking God through prayer are my most important tools for maintaining a positive outlook on life. And the research backs me up on this — religious people tend to consider themselves happier than the nonreligious.

2 ) Keep exercising

Though I don’t feel much like running when the whether is cold and gray, I feel so much happier and relaxed when I do. If you’re not a runner you might try walking, biking, swimming or taking a dance class.

3) Focus on healthy eating

What’s good for your body is also good for your brain. Amidst the craziness of caring for my toddler, I need to remember to fuel my body with fresh fruit, veggies and lean protein — and limit my sugar intake. I also increase my Vitamin D intake in the winter, and take care to continue taking Omega 3 supplements.

4) Plan fun activities

I’ve realized that having something fun to look forward to is important. I used to look forward to weekends, but now that I’m a mom I don’t really have weekends “off.” Also my husband works long stretches of 12 days on and 2 days off. So I’m trying to make the effort to plan little things to look forward to. Last weekend we went to the movies for the first time since before our daughter was born, and in a few months we’re going on an actual vacation. Participating in fun activities also gives the added benefit of having positive memories to look back on. Win-win.

5)  Laugh

Like exercise, laughing releases endorphins and boosts mood. So maybe it’s okay to snuggle up on the couch and watch Parks & Recreation episodes from time to time.

6) Give thanks

It’s easy to take for granted the blessings I do have and instead focus on what I don’t have. Practicing gratitude helps me re-frame my perspective to view my life in a more positive light. Even simple things can be worth expressing thanks for. Some things I’m thankful for today are my morning into the sunshine, my dishwasher, and the lavender latte and pastries my husband brought home for breakfast.

7) Call a friend

Even though I’m rarely alone, I still get lonely from time to time. I mean, conversations with my 1.5-year-old can only go so deep. When I start feeling lonely, I know that it’s on me to reach out to others, rather than wishing that others would reach out to me.

What are some strategies you use to boost your mood when you’re battling the blahs?



You’re still breastfeeding? How old is your daughter?

Yes, I still nurse my daughter, who is almost 21-months-old.

OK, that’s cool, but this topic makes me uncomfortable. Can we still be friends if I don’t read this article?

Sure, why don’t you check out these photos my husband and I took on our recent hike to the top of Spencer’s Butte. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable,  but I do think it’s important to raise awareness about this topic.

Are you some kind of breastfeeding activist?

Not exactly. I’ve never been very comfortable nursing in public, and I never nurse her in public now that she eats solid foods regularly. But I would like to live in a society where any woman would feel comfortable nursing in public — since breastmilk is the healthiest possible food you can give a baby.

Is it normal to breastfeed a toddler? I thought you were only supposed to nurse until age 1.

Both the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding until two years or more. Check out this Huffington Post article for more on the topic. True it is not the norm in the U.S., but Americans have very low rates of breastfeeding when compared to the rest of the world.

But doesn’t it hurt? Toddlers have lots of teeth.

Imagine sucking your thumb. Would that hurt? Sometimes babies go through biting phases, but if they want to continue nursing they will learn not to do so.

My pediatrician said there was no medical reason to breastfeed past age 1.

This is what my daughter’s former pediatrician implied, and although he was a very nice man, he was apparently misinformed about this topic. According to the Mayo Clinic “Breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition…There’s no known age at which breast milk is considered to become nutritionally insignificant for a child.” In addition to high nutritional value, breast milk also contains your antibodies to viruses, which can help your toddler stay healthy while her immune system is still developing. Extended breastfeeding also has many positive benefits to the mother’s health including reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

I weaned my baby when I went back to work at 3 months. Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?

No way girlfriend. Being a mom is oh so challenging — we’re all just trying to do the best we can, right? In fact, nursing a newborn was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do, so kudos to you if you made it through these early weeks!

Grandma Alice with Baby -- and Papa too!

Grandma Alice with Baby — and Papa too!

A guest column by Grandma Alice

One of the presents I bought for my granddaughter this Christmas was a CD of children’s folk songs published by Smithsonian (Smithsonian Folkways Children’s Music Collection). I was particularly interested in acquiring a recording of Woody Guthrie singing his classic “Why Oh Why Oh Why,” which I had entertained Marie with on the way to Portland one sunny October day when I was helping the family prepare to move. Spencer drove and Ursula sat in the front passenger seat while I took the job of keeping Marie happy in the backseat. Singing was my choice, and one of the first tunes that surfaced from my labyrinthine store of folk songs was the Guthrie ditty, his effort to explain the world to his children. Picture little Arlo asking, “Daddy, why does an elephant have a long nose?”

As Woody Guthrie put it to Arlo, “Because because because because, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”

I’m not sure what brought the song back into my memory. I don’t remember ever singing it to Ursula when she was a child.  Perhaps Marie had already begun to ask that eternal toddler question, “Why?”  and that day, the song just reappeared from out of nowhere. “Why does Marie like to sing,” I sang, “Why oh why oh why?”

Marie began to sing along with me in a gentle, lovely soprano, a remarkable clear tone, and altogether in tune. I was impressed and rather astounded, as she was then but barely 18 months old.

We went on together, with me making up new verses, for a good 45 minutes before Spencer and Ursula began to show signs of annoyance. It’s not so much that they complained. They simply turned on the car radio, at a fairly high decibel level, in an apparently mutual decision to drown me out.

Oblivious, I kept going with it. “Why oh why oh why?” So did Marie.

Call it the grandmother-granddaughter conspiracy.

Now, when I call on the telephone and speak to Ursula, I often hear Marie in the near background singing in that gentle, clear soprano: “Why oh why oh why?”

She’s been listening so much to the new CD that she’s found a new favorite, which is beginning to replace the “why.” Maybe you know it? “Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack, all dressed in black, black, black.”

I’m enough inspired by having a young granddaughter to get out my guitar again on a regular basis. I’m beginning to remember more oldies but goodies. Did you ever hear Odetta sing, “Froggy Went a-Courtin’”?

Do you have any favorite folk songs from your childhood? Or favorites to share with children?

My husband and I decided to kick off 2014 with a hike to the top of Spencer’s Butte. Even though he carried the tot, he was still quite a bit faster than me. It’s just because he has really long legs though, right? Happy New Year to all, may your year be filled with peace and joy.

Glorious sun! A rare sight in the Oregon winter.

Glorious sun! A rare sight in the Oregon winter.



Above the fog and looking out towards the Three Sisters.

Above the fog and looking out towards the Three Sisters.



I'm being adventurous and standing on top of a boulder.

I’m being adventurous and standing on top of a boulder.