For many years, we have been shameless consumers of Bath & Body Works Foaming Hand Soap. It is so easy! It smells so pretty! You can always get a double discount!
Then last week, out of complete nowhere, all three of the sinks in my house were on their last bottles and there was no phone app discount to be found. I started muttering to myself about how much plastic we waste buying that stuff and anti-bacterial blahblahblah is supposed to be bad for you anyway and I don’t really have to have the instant foaming soap…
I wonder if I can just make my own?
Last winter, I had a similar mini-tantrum about the mass consumption of body butter in my house. I found a recipe and made my own. In the end, I decided:
(And then I discovered massage bars at Lush, but that’s another story.)
I kinda figured that I would land in a similar spot with the hand soap, but I looked online and found a ridiculously simple formula without even trying. Then I took a look in that section of Whole Foods. A great big bottle of Castile soap was.. $12 or $13. I still had that bottle of essential oil from last winter and I liked it a lot, but while I was on this kick I bought a bottle of peppermint. Incidentally, Castile soap has its own scents, but since I was buying the big bottle I went with Unscented.
But what about the container? Whole Foods only had one tiny bottle with a soap dispenser. I figured I could just reuse an old one in my house. So the total cost of this experiment was in the neighborhood of $20.
I rinsed out the old dispenser and put in a bit of the Castile soap. Then I shook in some essential oil and filled the bottle almost to the top with water. It didn’t take much to mix the liquids. The post said the soap would be much thinner than we are used to, which was true. Then I wondered..could I just use this formula in a foaming dispenser?
Why yes, I can!
The foam isn’t quite as..fluffy as the commercial brands I’ve tried, and I use a bit more each time I wash my hands. Three pumps instead of one or two. Still waaaaaaayy less expensive than buying bottles of the stuff. I made four bottles of this mixture and barely put a dent into the big container of Castile Soap.
Further online “research” suggested a few things:
Overall, I am very pleased. My mother was thinking “stocking stuffers” and went to Amazon and found some foaming dispensers. For gifting, I think that’s the way to go. But I will be re-using for as long as I can.
Now I am wondering if I can do my own hand cream…
It started with an article in Vanity Fair magazine entitled The Bitter, Not-Sweet Cadbury-Chocolate War. From the May, 2015 issue which I read…probably mid-July. The summary reads, “British-expat enclaves across America are furious over a recent move to halt the import of U.K.-manufactured Cadbury chocolate, the nostalgic English childhood treat. The villain? Hershey, which licenses the Cadbury name for chocolate made in the U.S.”
In the article, a British-expat running a small tearoom/British grocery in New York is interviewed. She says, in short, that American chocolate is crap and Hershey’s in particular is like biting into a bar of wax.
A few weeks later, I was craving chocolate at work, so I picked up one of those little Special Dark bars from a lady who keeps a permanent stash at her desk.
It was like biting into a bar of wax.
A week or so later, I was having lunch with a couple of colleagues in a strip mall that also contained a Fannie May candy store. Lisa hadn’t had…something in awhile, so we went in and she got me an almond cluster.
It tasted waxy.
I walked over to Lisa’s desk, wondering if I was just so terribly vulnerable to the power of suggestion. Lisa said that her chocolate also tasted wrong and are they going cheap since they re-organized a few years ago? And it all went downhill from there. She said that even the baking chocolate she has used for years (famous brownies) tastes wrong. We speculated about the coming global shortage of cocoa beans.
We have vowed to find the solution.
It’s called Feed My Starving Children, which is a bit of a turnoff for me (Note: Not sure if it is the word “my” or the word “starving”. Wouldn’t “Feed the Children” have been enough?). But my co-workers like it a lot so when there a group volunteer session was scheduled at the office this week, I signed up.
FMSC organizes volunteers to package meals – specially formulated for maximum nutrition – to partners around the world who distribute them to children who are literally starving. There is a location right near my office and volunteers are organized every day in two hour shifts. Food is scooped into the bags, weighed, sealed, boxed and labeled for shipment. The meals we packaged were rice-based with soy protein and added vegetables and vitamins. It looked like your average pre-packed rice dishes from the grocery store.
It starts with a video of what we were going to do and why. The instructions are simple and clear and there are cheat sheets at the tables. Then we were sent to wash hands before starting.
Everyone sort of gets into a rhythm and it is funny because someone will eventually need to change jobs. For example, my hands cramped with the cups that scoop the soy and rice. Then everyone switches places and the rhythm is all messed up. But there were lots of laughs and music playing and the staff is really efficient, which is great.
We had a group of kids on the shift with us. Many of them had been there before and were excited to contribute, which is always nice to see. When Time is called, there are specific instructions for cleanup, which goes very quickly. Then there is a closing video and optional prayer circle. I don’t go for prayer circles so I went browsing in their gift shop, which is filled with handmade free trade items from the countries FMSC serves.
The session’s impact report. I’d do it again.
I had dinner with my grandfather, GP, last night. This was particularly awesome because I don’t see him very often these days and certainly not without the distraction of children and dogs. Besides the fact that he’s a great guy, he helps me to check my politics (he was ahead of my family curve of swinging to the left) and reminds me that there are plenty of Christians out there that are standing among those I would call The Good Guys.
We’d planned for an early dinner with his lady friend, J, and I arrived at his place around 4pm. We sat down and started talking books, because I had spent the day trolling every bookstore from Andersonville to Lincoln Park, and he told me that his church had a book club. The most recent title was the memoir of a transgender lady. He stumbled a bit over the word “transgender”, as though he wasn’t entirely certain that was the correct and/or polite adjective. I didn’t really notice that at the time, since my head had exploded, but I managed to ask the title of the book. He didn’t have it quite right, but I am pretty sure it was Crossing: A Memoir, by Dierdre McCoskey. She is a professor at the University of Chicago.
Me: So, did you read it?
GP: No, but J did. She can tell you about it. I went to the discussion, though.
Me: What did you think?
GP: Mm. I don’t like her politics.
Me: What’s wrong with her politics?
GP: Well. She’s an economist and she was talking about minimum wage. She said that it is better for the economy if Wal-Mart is allowed to pay its employees whatever it wants. You know, I am a fiscal conservative and even I think that is wrong.
That was it. That was all he had to say about her. At dinner, I asked J about the book:
J: Yes, I read it twice.
Me: Why did you have to read it twice?
J: It was a lot of information and I wanted to be sure I understood. It’s very…detailed. About the process a person goes through.
Me: GP says he doesn’t like her politics.
J: GP! She said she’s a Libertarian!
GP: I know! That’s what I don’t like!
J went on to tell me that the book club meeting was packed full.. far more people than usual. She expected that people were just curious. I understood her to mean “curious” in a tabloid story kind of way, but I don’t even care. This church – which is not just open to, but led by gay people – invited its parishioners to read and discuss the story of a local lady whose experience was completely foreign to them. They invited the lady to meet with the parish and talk about it.
And my grandfather didn’t mention a man or a woman. He only saw a Libertarian. Happy Pride Day.
Not long ago one of my people came in to my office to talk about her recruiting project. She was starting to schedule interviews, but two of the five people she contacted hadn’t emailed her back. Someone in her department suggested sending a follow up text.
I had an immediate, negative response. After that, I wondered if I was being old school.
I am as flexible with the rules as any HR person can manage while still breathing, but in certain matters of etiquette I am complete snob. For example, when I post a job on LinkedIn, I find a huge number of candidates will “Apply” without including a resumé or cover note. “Why can’t you just go to the LinkedIn profile?” I can. For 14 seconds, which is more effort than the candidates put into the “application”. And as a practical matter, that makes it really difficult to sort candidates for the hiring managers to review. I understand this might be a losing battle.
So I asked myself why texting a candidate made me feel so icky. I came up with the following:
I asked around my office, beginning with some of my youngest people. I asked my people on Facebook. And I started to feel more validated. Then, I grew really bold and started asking job candidates the question during their interviews. Hey – straight to the source, right?
My conclusion is this: we should be communicating with candidates in a way that is most comfortable for them. If that turns out to be texting, then Fine. But the only way to answer that question is by asking the candidate directly. First Contact should not be done by Text.
I may have mentioned that my awesome employer allows for each of us to have two work days each year for volunteering events. Last week we spent some time at Bernie’s Book Bank. Their mission: “facilitates the collection, processing and redistribution of new and gently used children’s books to significantly increase BOOK OWNERSHIP among at-risk infants,
toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland.”
They receive donations of used books from individuals and groups as well as new books from publishers. The volunteers sort, label, and package up books for the kids. My group did the packaging for second and third graders. It was sort of like wrapping Christmas presents! Except instead of wrapping paper, the books were in plastic bags. The regular volunteers told us to mix up the traditional gender books because the kids get an opportunity to trade with their classmates. (Or, I might add, second graders might be less hung up on the traditional gender thing.) So it was pretty easy.
When our session was over, we were shown a video of a school delivery and we could see how excited the kids were. And check out this Thank You note that was blown up and put on the wall:
Bernie’s has plenty of “drop in hours” so that people can show up and volunteer whenever they like without making a big commitment. And they can certainly accommodate groups by appointment. Even little kids can get in on the action, as one of the jobs is to put Bernie’s labels on each of the books. So obviously, I am endorsing this place as worthy of time and donations.
I have been a horrible blogger this year. So horrible that when I sat down to write about my goals and whatever, I went back to read my post on reflections from 2013 and found that I hadn’t written one.
In a larger context, I rather think 2014 sucked in a “validating the title of my blog” way. Yesterday, when news about the death of Mario Cuomo broke, someone linked to a clip of his address to the 1984 DNC. And I thought, “Thirty years later and not a damn thing has changed in this country.” Too many people still can’t make ends meet and even more feel hopeless, helpless, or otherwise disenfranchised.
For me personally, it has been a pretty good year. I continue to be unreasonably lucky in my health, family, finances and opportunities. I‘m afraid that I am becoming too comfortable. It has been five years since I finished my Master’s Degree and I haven’t seriously considered any other major pursuits. I continue to volunteer with the same places – doing good work – but hardly branching out. I continue to work with the best employer ever, which has me placing my work above other priorities. I’d planned to stop doing that. I’ve said before that when one chooses to be child-free, the question of The Meaning of Life is not a no-brainer. But we do know it is not to spend more time in meetings.
So maybe this year isn’t about how many books I am going to read or how many blankets I am going to make or how many volunteer hours I put in or how many visits to the gym. Maybe it is about getting the hell outside my comfort zone and doing something different.
I did an incredibly poor job of writing down my thoughts on books this year, but I can at least compile the list:
The news broke last night that a Grand Jury determined not to indict the officer that shot Michael Brown to death in Ferguson, Missouri. At about the same time, Marissa Alexander accepted a plea deal in Florida. Ms. Alexander was facing decades in prison for firing a warning shot – hurting no one – at her abusive husband. Her case has been held up in contrast to both George Zimmerman’s in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin a few years ago and this recent case in Ferguson. As you can imagine, both my Facebook and Twitter feeds are flooded with..conversation. In a lot of ways, these cases demonstrate the title of this blog. And with all of my white privilege, I have a sense of despair. But I am trying to listen more than I talk.
24 hours later, Ferguson is still burning and there have been a lot of suggestions tossed around about What We Can Do. One that I saw more than once was something like, “Ferguson schools are closed today, but its library is open. Donate to help the community.” Now you all know I am in favor of voting with my pocketbook, and I think libraries are the cornerstone of civilization. But somehow, my head keeps going back to Marissa Alexander.
Domestic violence. Self-defense. Stand your ground. Oh, how I hate guns.
Crowdrise, my favorite online giving tool, is having a – very well sponsored – fundraising campaign over the holiday season. I used it to donate to the WINGS Program.
The WINGS Program is “one of the largest domestic violence service and housing providers in the state of Illinois. Single women and women with children are able to receive temporary safe shelter through WINGS housing while staff provides one-on-one, individualized assistance that allows women to set personal goals that will enable them to work, continue their education, and care for themselves and their children.”
Instead of fighting racism, I am helping women. Instead of helping Ferguson, I am going local. But this Thanksgiving week, this is where I can find some meaning in the madness. I hope you can find some, too.