Where each day's colors blend to become "My Stained Glass Life"

Archive for the ‘Queenie’ Category

Beauty – what is the cost to my health?

In the past year, our family has begun to look carefully at what we are putting in and on our bodies for a number of reasons.  With the passing of my sister due to cancer, we are looking at how we can reduce our exposure to toxins and chemicals in our environment that put us at increased risk of cancer.  I have lost some of the most significant women in my life to cancer, and I don’t ever want to add my daughters to that list!  We also are looking for any environmental links that may help relieve some of the symptoms of autism that the kids struggle with.  I have been struggling with health issues for almost 2 years related to a hormone imbalance and endocrine issues, both of which have been linked to exposure to the use of paraben, a preservative used in over 13,000 cosmetic products.

We figured that if there are ways that we can reduce the amount of chemicals we use in our daily lives, that is a good thing.  So we have started in baby steps.  We started with the obvious things, like reading food labels, buying fresh not preserved, etc.  Then we began looking at the things we use in our home on a daily basis.  We started with cleaning products and laundry detergent.  These seemed like big inconveniences to change, and I didn’t really think I would like the results.  But I DID!  It takes less time for me to make a batch of laundry detergent or whip up some air freshener than the trip to the store to buy it.  And then I realized how much money I was saving by not buying a $12 bottle of laundry detergent, $6 bottle of bathroom cleaner, and the $5 bottle of air freshener.  I realized how much less waste we were producing by not replacing the spray bottles of cleaner or gallon jugs of laundry soap.  I also like the results I get from my homemade products better than the store bought.

So then I started researching personal care items.  Boy, have I gotten an education!  One of the most significant exposures to chemicals that we face on a daily basis is our personal care products!  Shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, cosmetics, nail polish, moisturizers, sunscreen, perfume, and more!  These products are marketed as necessary for daily life.  The average person uses 15 to 25 different products each day that contain at least 200 different chemicals!  And only one percent of the chemicals that are found in our cosmetics are safety-tested ingredients.  We slather, brush, rub, and beautify ourselves with CHEMICALS!  We pour the stuff on our bodies, layer upon layer, increasing our exposure to toxins and preventing our body from releasing toxins, on a daily basis!  Not only are we exposing ourselves to all of these chemicals, we are mixing them to form a cocktail of chemicals.

This is a scary thought.  The thought that the products I love, the perfume I can’t leave the house without, my favorite nail polish color, my beloved shampoo, could all be harmful to me is overwhelming.  Almost every brand of these products on the market today contain harmful chemicals. Everything from Lead in lipsticks to SLS in everything that foams (shampoo, toothpaste, shower gel),  Mercury in Mascara, Propylene Glycol in moisturizers along with DEA, TEA, MEA, PEG, Fluoride, Mineral Oil, Coal Tar, Formaldehyde, Aluminium.   The list goes on and on.  

The European Union recently passed a law banning the use of suspected CMRs —  carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins — in any cosmetics sold in the  25-member EU. The major U.S. cosmetics companies that sell abroad have had to reformulate their products to conform to these guidelines, but most haven’t changed their formulas sold in the U.S.  The FDA does not review the safety of cosmetic ingredients.

So how do you know what to look for?  Marketing of products tends to be misleading.  We buy things that are advertised as natural, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, or organic, thinking that we are making the right choices.  But it is important to read the ingredient labels.  Below is a list of chemicals that you do NOT want to find listed in the ingredients.

According to the Safe Cosmetics Campaign, avoid the following chemicals in  cosmetics whenever possible:

Butyl acetate, Butylated hydroxytoluene, Coal tar, Cocamide DEA/lauramide DEA, Diazolidinyl urea, Ethyl acetate, Formaldehyde, Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl and butyl), Petrolatum, Phthalates, Propylene glycol, Sodium laureth/sodium laurel sulfate, Talc, Toluene, Triethanolamine

We LOVE our pretty things.  It is hard to imagine not wearing make-up, not using nailpolish, not coloring my hair.  There are some things that I don’t anticipate us EVER giving up.  I don’t see any of us as vain, but we do feel better about ourselves when we look pretty.  However, we have decided that we want to be informed about what we are buying and minimize our exposure to chemicals that are known to be harmful.  We are beginning to wean ourselves off of some of the daily chemical cocktails we are pouring onto our bodies.  We are also getting involved in The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to voice our concern and encourage change in how the cosmetics industry is regulated.

Over the next few months, I invite you to join us in The Beauty Project.  Through The Beauty Project, I will chronicle some of our changes, how we are adjusting to doing without our favorite products, and what we are replacing them with.  We have already experienced some epic fails, but we have also found some new favorite things!  I’m excited about our journey and where this is leading.  I encourage you to make just one simple change today.  You’ll find it’s easier than you thought it would be.

For more info on how to get involved in the The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, click here!

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My New Walking Partner

“Since 1995, Best Buddies High Schools has paired students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in one-to-one friendships with high school students. In the past, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have not had the opportunity to have friends outside of their own special education classroom. By introducing Best Buddies into public and private high schools, participants are crossing the invisible line that too often separates those with disabilities from those without.”  www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org

On Saturday, May 19th, we participated in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk in Delafield at Lapham Peak State Park.  It was a gorgeous day, 80 degrees, sunny, and breezy.  This was our first walk as a family.  Queenie was our Team Captain, raising $150 in pledges towards the event.  We had five members in our team.  We have decided that next year, we are going to try to have the largest team there!  The walk was 2.5 miles, but the pace was easy going and definitely family friendly!

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Lulu Grace was so excited to be walking with us!  She got all jazzy, as you can see from the picture!  She wanted to wear her striped knee highs, and I have learned with Lulu that some things just aren’t worth the fight.  Most days, it’s impossible to get socks on her feet, so I wasn’t going to argue about which socks she wore!  There were a lot of high school aged girls who participated, and they were dressed in capes and crazy outfits.  Lulu fit right in!Image

We ran into a couple of people we have met before.  We saw Brittany, a young woman who attended the pageant last year with her best buddy!  Queenie got her picture taken with the two of them at registration, and it was her facebook profile photo for a long time!  We also ran into a young man named Max who attends our support group meetings.  He is a budding photographer, and was asked to volunteer to take photos for the event!  We were so proud of him.  He did a great job!Image

There was no convincing Bass to come with us.  I was disappointed, especially once we got there.  The people that were there were so accepting, friendly, and open.  It is a community of people that I look forward to being more involved with.  It is rare that you find people who don’t question or look twice, who understand when Lulu didn’t want to talk or was upset when things were a little chaotic.  I listened in on some of the conversations that the ‘buddies’ had along the walk, and I was so touched by the genuine friendships that they have formed.  We were surrounded by t-shirts that said, ‘Be a Buddy, Not A Bully,” and “See the Ability in Disability.”  We were surrounded by people whose children were the target of bullying, whose children struggle with being seen for something other than their disability.  It was refreshing to be able to be in our own skin and be comfortable, because we were surrounded by people who get it!

Lulu Grace and Jon stopped along the walk to look at the butterfly garden.  I crossed the finish line and waited, and waited!  I was starting to think about heading back to find them, when I see Lulu’s shining face, bright red from her efforts.  She saw the finish line and started running!  It was such a cute moment.  She was incredibly proud of herself.  She wore her Best Buddies t-shirt to school yesterday, and was sure to tell everyone about her accomplishment.  I’m so proud of her!  And I think I may have a new walking partner!  🙂

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Puzzle Pieces & Pageantry

While we have discovered that pageantry on a budget is fun and exciting, it is also stressful at times!  So in an effort to ease some of the stress on Queenie, to alleviate some of the worry for Mom, and to allow Dad to leave work for a little while each day, we have been working hard all winter on a new product line for Happy Girl & Co.  The purpose of Happy Girl & Co. is to help Queenie raise the funds she needs to be competitive in this year’s Miss Wisconsin Teen USA pageant in September, to offset the expense of a formal gown, interview outfit, shoes, accessories, make-up and hair, as well as hotel and travel expenses.  All of these expenses add up to a good chunk of change!  In addition to that, Queenie also needs to raise $900 in sponsorship money.

“Why should I care?” you ask.  “What difference does it make to me if Queenie is in this pageant?”

Well, here’s why it matters to me.

Last year, I am proud to say that Queenie placed 6th out of 39 girls in the Teen division in the Finals of the Miss Wisconsin Teen USA pageant.  With that honor, she won a scholarship of $29,000 to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.  Queenie also competed in the Spokesmodel Competition.  The Spokesmodel Competition was a combined category with Miss contestants and Teen contestants competing for the same prize.  Out of almost 80 girls, Queenie won!  Her reward for winning is a $5,000 scholarship to the New York Film Academy.  These scholarships will be the difference for her!  The money she earns through competition will allow her to attend college.  It is a tremendous achievement!

Queenie fundraising at our local farmer’s market

Queenie is also passionate about Autism Awareness!  Through her fundraising, she is able to use her poise and grace to educate others about what autism is and how it affects families.  She feels honored to be able to do that.  Queenie is blessed with beauty.  With that beauty comes responsibility.  As much as Queenie would love to ‘win’ the crown to be able to affect change, she realizes that through the power of her beauty, she is able to affect change every day through her words and actions.  That’s why she’s so beautiful!

One of the products that Happy Girl & Co. has created are Puzzle Piece Magnets.  Why puzzle pieces?  Well, autism is often symbolized with the picture of a puzzle piece.  The symbol was first used by the National Autistic Society to show something about autism:  our children are handicapped by a puzzling condition; this isolates them from normal human contact and therefore they do not ‘fit in.’  It has since become an international symbol of autism.

Our take on the puzzle piece as it represents autism is a little different!  Autism Spectrum Disorders have been described as a disorder made up of 10 separate puzzles all dumped into one box.  Reserachers are in the process of trying to sort through the box to find where each piece belongs, and to which puzzle.

We believe that instead of using the puzzle piece to represent something that is missing or puzzling, it should be used to show the unique and beautiful characteristics of people on the spectrum.  Separately each piece has its own colors, textures, shape, and size.  The same can be said for each person on the spectrum.  They each have their own special gifts, talents, beauty, and individuality!

It is our privilege as family members, friends, teachers, co-workers, and community members to help children and adults on the spectrum uncover their gifts and create ways for them to share and celebrate their uniqueness!  Queenie hopes to use the Happy Girl Autism Awareness Magnets as a tool to educate others in THAT way!  While she lives with some of the daily challenges that autism brings to families, she has also seen first-hand the beauty of autism and the blessings that autism holds.

So, find us at the Lake Mills Farmer’s Market.  Like Happy Girl & Co. on facebook.  Visit Queenie’s website at www.reachingforthecrown.weebly.com.  Whether you are able to support her through a financial contribution or an encouraging word, I hope you can take something away from getting to know a little bit about her.  She’s on her way to fantastic!

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” ~Audrey Hepburn

Trash to Treasure

It’s a beautiful April morning, and I should really be outside working on some spring clean-up and outdoor chores.  I’m lacking motivation, however.  Maybe it has something to do with the 2 a.m. wake-up call from Lulu Grace, who came down with a stomach bug.  Nothing like washing sheets and her comforter in the middle of the night, let alone bathing a pukey rugrat!  So here I sit with my morning coffee, organizing my thoughts, and hoping that if I think long enough about yardwork it will be done through the power of my mind.  Kind of like in Sleeping Beauty, where the mops and brooms dance around the house by themselves.

I actually love flowers, the outdoors (minus the bugs), and the feeling of satisfaction that a long day of work brings.  I am a notorious starter of projects.  It’s the end I have trouble with!  As my husband will adamantly attest to, I am always so excited to begin gardening in May, but by the time June hits I just want to be at the beach!

So I am trying to become a more effective and efficient gardner this year.  It may have taken 40 years, but I am finally beginning to understand the benefits of perennials!  🙂  I began planning about six weeks ago.  My planning includes developing a theme for my yard.  Can you guess?  Yep, our theme is going to be ‘Trash to Treasure.’  Over the coming weeks, I will post updates and photos of work completed as we go along.

I am going to break the yard down into zones.  Each zone has to have a purpose if I am going to be spending my time on gardening in it!  As much as I LOVE to plant, I HATE to weed.  So we will have a play zone, a water zone, a meditation zone, and a food zone.

This area is traditionally where we grow veggies and herbs.  We also grow sunflowers here.  It’s always a fun area, where Lulu Grace and I splash in the kiddie pool, Queenie catches some rays, and we play with our beloved chocolate lab, Junior.  So this will be our play zone and food zone combined.

Our water zone is our Lulu Pond, which I created when I was pregnant with Lulu Grace.  April and Queenie helped me dig the hole.  It was a lot of fun and has brought us a lot of joy over the years.  We watch the birds take their baths here, host frogs all summer long, and love to sit on the front porch and listen to the fountain.  Yes, putting the fountain in is one more of those chores that I need to get done today!

I think this is the area that I want to use for a meditation zone.  Lulu Grace calls this her tree house and hides under its long, overhanging branches throughout the summer.  When the leaves fill in, it casts a green glow to this splendid little hideaway, where you can watch a whole insect world come to life.  It is a great place to just sit and watch the world go by.

Unfortunately, I peeked outside and there are no rakes or shovels dancing around my yard.  I guess that means it’s time to get moving, but that’s okay.  After laying out my plans, I am suddenly feeling motivated.  Thanks for the push.