Exactly, I thought. What might her baby already have been exposed to? And what more can we be doing are we doing to protect that baby’s environment from toxic chemical exposures?
Pregnant women have been on my mind lately as the scientific evidence piles up about the devastating effects that prenatal chemical exposure can have on later-life health.
Take bisphenol A, or BPA, for example. It’s the ubiquitous toxic chemical used to line most of the canned foods on our supermarket shelves. BPA exposure in the womb disrupts fetal development and sets the stage for later-life diseases, according to the Breast Cancer Fund’s just-released comprehensive review of more than 60 peer-reviewed animal and human studies on prenatal BPA exposure. The science is showing us that these exposures increase risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer, metabolic changes, decreased fertility, early puberty, neurological problems and immunological changes.
Wait, so we may be setting the stage for diseases like breast cancer before a baby is even born? Tragically, but also logically, yes. The developing fetus is busy forming organ and endocrine systems, which are particularly sensitive to the disruptive effects of chemical exposures. My colleague Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., founder and president of Breastcancer.org, explains, “We know that a baby growing in utero is laying down the foundation for her future breast health, and the cell damage from prenatal chemical exposure can lead to a higher risk of cancer later in life.”
So what should we do? First, what we shouldn’t do: We shouldn’t place yet another burden on pregnant women by giving them the nearly impossible job of avoiding chemical exposures. Yes, women who are pregnant should avoid canned food, but that’s not enough. The science shows us that the first 11 weeks of gestation may be the most critical window, and we all know that many women don’t even realize they’re pregnant until well into or even after this period.
How about this for a start: Get BPA out of all canned food. If we know that eating canned food is a major route of exposure, to protect every woman who’s pregnant or may become pregnant, banning BPA from food packaging and replacing it with a proven safe alternative is the only logical solution.
We know we can get BPA out of cans because, after years of hard work by the Breast Cancer Fund and others, we got the chemical out of baby bottles and infant-formula packaging. First manufacturers began moving away from the chemical; then state governments began passing laws; and finally the FDA imposed federal bans on these uses.
We can’t afford to wait years more to get BPA out of food cans. The Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer campaign has secured vague commitments from all the major canned-food manufacturers to move away from BPA, but no major company has given a precise timeline, nor are they telling us what they plan to use as a substitute. So we’re calling on brands like Campbell’s, Del Monte, Progresso and Healthy Choice to set a timeline and to be transparent about alternatives. We’re also calling on lawmakers to take action, because ultimately we need more than voluntary action by industry — we need laws that ensure that chemicals like BPA are not used in food packaging. Jeanne Conry, M.D., Ph.D., president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, agrees. In a statement in support of the Breast Cancer Fund’s report on fetal BPA exposure, Dr. Conry says, “At this point, potential toxins are released freely into the environment and used broadly without any research assuring their safety before their use. ACOG’s most important role will be in supporting legislation that prevents exposure to chemical sources until those chemicals are studied and deemed safe for us.”
It’s up to all of us — consumers to say no to BPA and yes only when we know the substitutes are safe; voters to demand laws that protect all of us; health professionals to inform patients of the dangers; industry leaders to invest in safe alternatives, and lawmakers to require it. We have to take decisive steps to protect the next generation’s first environment from toxic chemical exposures. Eradicating BPA from our food supply is a good place to start.
Back then I lived a vastly different life brimming with stress: ever-looming deadlines, uncomfortable shoes, the constant ringing of the telephone (cell phone and fax machine, too), stacks of papers, a lack of sleep, a pen in one hand and a paddle in the other (a paddle I was using to ferociously row up a dimly-lit creek — we all know the name of that creek). Despite this, when I asked the aforementioned question above in said paragraph one (yes, I am a lawyer), I answered with an out-of-breath yet enthusiastic, “I want to be happy!”
As I spent years chasing the elusive and fleeting feeling of happiness, I came to realize that I was in need of a new GPS, so to speak. At this brilliant pause (admittedly, I sometimes used to do a “slow-down-rolling-semi-stop” when driving) I realized the true answer to the question was that I desired peace.
Why peace? Peace is truly what we yearn for, because without it, real happiness is simply not possible. Peace is foundational to happiness. Peace, I have discovered, is foundational to everything!
Back to my stress-filled life… As I took that pause, the thought that peace was indeed what I longed for was an intriguing proposition and so as a lawyer, I set out to prove it. To reroute my GPS from seeking happiness to peace, I started with a simple question. Where in the H-E-double hockey sticks does one find peace? I came up with four simple steps:
Step 1: Think of a time I felt peace.
Step 2: Replicate.
Step 3: Rinse.
Step 4: Repeat.
Step 1 was easy to recall, and I am sure many women can relate — maternity leave! Well, what I am actually referring to is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding my three children was always an ultra-peaceful experience for me. So, as for Step 1: Check!
Step 2: Replicate. Easy. Start breastfeeding again. Wait! No! That would be rather difficult unless I was to become a wet nurse (doubt anyone was hiring). Thus, an analysis began and I surfed my way through research that led me to the interesting subject of hormones.
The oxytocin hormone is a powerful hormone, often referred to as the “love hormone,” but I refer to it as the hormone of “peace and calm.” Both sexes produce oxytocin but women, in larger amounts and in a uniquely robust way. (You go, girls!)
Oxytocin is best known by mothers — it is released when a woman nurses her baby. Nature created it this way to help form an emotional bond between her and the little one. In other words, it helps bring us back to a place of peace and love, while intermittently dealing with poopie diapers and nighttime cry fests. Ah, now it makes sense why I loved breastfeeding.
Humans release oxytocin not only when breastfeeding, but at many other times as well. For example, oxytocin is released when people hug, make love, laugh, and gather with friends to name just a few. Cool beans for all mankind, but even cooler beans for women and here is why. 2006 research at UCLA demonstrated that women release oxytocin as part of their stress response. This research shows that in stressful situations, women have an innate tendency to desire peaceful interaction because when stress hits, our bodies immediately produce oxytocin. What’s more is as we engage peacefully in a situation, it causes us to release yet greater doses of oxytocin resulting in further calm and providing us with a secret weapon: inner peace.
This response is unique to women, and unfortunately, does not occur in men. Because men also tend to release testosterone when under stress, it cancels out much of the peaceful effect of oxytocin. By contrast, the estrogen present in females, serves to enhance the oxytocin effects.
Knowing this, we, as women, can harness the power of our hormones in remarkably productive ways. We are living in times where women have more opportunities to bring about change and utilizing this knowledge can help create more peace for ourselves, our families and our communities. Now ladies, I must ask, are you feeling empowered yet?
Step 3: Rinse. The rinse step is when we purposefully call upon our peace hormone, oxytocin, during stressful situations and allow it to fill our systems. Just as when we rinse away shampoo from our hair, leaving it freshly clean, the “rinse” step allows the peace innately produced in our female bodies, to cleanse negativity and chaos from our beings. When we get in touch with this naturally occurring internal peace, we can share it with those around us through our love and encouragement. “The rinse” is how I personally created calm in my world. Back then, I appealed to my oxytocin to toss my paddle into the creek, jump ship and swim ashore to a more peaceful and secure place. Nowadays, I appeal to my oxytocin to remain safely ashore, even when life becomes hectic.
Step 4: Repeat. Carrying this on as a central theme in our everyday lives is crucial. Daily, I call upon my desire for peace, as well as my almost magical intrinsic ability, as a woman, to create peace. When I shifted from living in a manner where I seek peace (instead of happiness), my life changed in simple, yet exceptional ways. I became empowered.
Lastly and interestingly enough, I have found happiness to be a fantastic byproduct of my peaceful life.
For more by Fiona Childs, click here.
For more on happiness, click here.
I was automatically drawn to her. Maybe it a was knowing that at times in my life, I was not too far off from being in her position. Maybe it was the kindness she held in her eyes. Or maybe it was the simplicity in her message. Just need a little help. Who hasn’t needed a little help now and then?
I had no cash in my wallet. Instead, I gathered all the change I had in my car. I rolled my window down.
“Hi. What’s your name?” I asked.
“Joyce,” she responded with wariness in her voice.
“Hi Joyce, I’m Kelley.” I put out my arm to shake her hand. She reluctantly shook my hand. “It’s nice to meet you. I wish I had more to help you with but this is all I have right now.”
She graciously cupped her hands and accepted the coins. She then told me that things were beginning to look up for her and her husband. She started telling me how their house burned down last year and they lost everything. With no insurance and both loosing their jobs they were starting over.
Completely engrossed in conversation I was startled back into reality when a loud horn honked behind me. The light had turned green.
“Guess I have to go now. Will you be here later this week?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m usually at this intersection every night,” she answered.
“Then I’ll see ya ’round. Bye Joyce.” And I drove off.
It rained that night and I stayed up half the night thinking about Joyce and her husband. Where did they sleep? Did they get wet in the rain? Were they cold? Would I see her again?
3 a.m. Still up. I remembered the first time I was ever aware of helping a fellow human being and complete stranger.
I was 8 years old. I had gone to the grocery store with my dad. We were next in line to check out. A boy not much older than me stood before us. He was buying bubblegum baseball cards. He handed the cashier handfuls of change and after she counted it, she coldly announced, “You’re 67 cents short.”
The boy turned red and began digging in his pockets but came up with nothing. He didn’t speak. He was beyond embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Without hesitation, my dad reached in his pocket and handed the cashier a dollar.
The young boy looked up at my dad with big astonished eyes, and in the quietest, tiny voice said, “Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome, son. We all just need a little help every now and then, don’t we?” Dad answered back.
The boy nodded then took his cards and left.
As we left the grocery I was in shock. I thought to myself wow we must be so rich! My dad is just giving away money to people he doesn’t even know. And he called that kid son, like he was his own child.
What I didn’t know was that we were not rich. We were nowhere near rich.
What my dad did was recognize the oneness in us all. We are each other. And if we cannot help out our fellow humans when they need it most what does that say about us?
All week I drove by that intersection hoping to see Joyce and give her more. One week later, once again I was the first in line at the red light and as I neared the light I smiled. There was Joyce. I rolled my window down.
“Hi Joyce,” I said with the same excitement I would have had of running into a friend.
“Hi Kelley,” she responded. Wow. She remembered my name!
This time I asked her what her plans were. Was she looking for a job? A house? Would she go to temporary emergency shelter?
She responded that her mother-in-law lives in Texas and they are saving for two plane tickets to go there. The mother-in-law owns a few rental houses and has agreed to let them stay in one until they get jobs.
“I have a little something to help you get there,” and I gave her a 20-dollar bill.
Joyce beamed a smile and offered up a thank you.
“We all need a little help every now and then, don’t we?” We both smiled and nodded in agreement.
Who knows if I’ll ever see her again. But I know in that instant she smiled and she knew that things really are going to get better for her. And maybe that’s just the boost she needed to get her through to the next day. And seeing her smile and the glimmer of hope in her eyes is what I needed to get me through the problems I had been facing.
The feeling I have for helping Joyce, even in such a tiny manner, is one of overwhelming gratitude — gratitude for all the people in my life who have helped me when I needed it most. Because without them, and without my dad first showing my how to help others, I would not be in the position I am in now.
Who in your life needs a little help? Who can you offer a smile to? Some encouraging words? A random gift? A little understanding? More patience and less nagging? I challenge you to do one random act of courage and kindness today to help someone and see how it affects both their life and yours.
For more by Kelley Whitis, click here.
For more on conscious relationships, click here.
Have you noticed that when people die, their eulogies celebrate life very differently from the way we define success in our everyday existence? Eulogies are, in fact, very Third Metric. At HuffPost we’ve made the Third Metric — redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give — a key editorial focus. But while it’s not hard to live a Third Metric life, it’s very easy not to. It’s easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It’s easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It’s easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It’s easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we’re living them. Until we’re no longer living them.
For most of us, our eulogy will be not just the first formal marking down of what our lives were about but the only one. The eulogy is the foundational document of our legacy, of how people remember us, of how we live on in the minds and hearts of others. And it is very telling what you don’t hear in eulogies. You almost never hear things like:
“Of course his crowning achievement was when he made senior vice president.”
“What everybody loved most about her was how she ate lunch at her desk. Every day.”
“He was proud that he never made it to one of his kid’s Little League games because he always wanted to go over those figures one more time.”
“She didn’t have any real friends, but she had 600 Facebook friends, and she dealt with every email in her inbox every night.”
“But he will live on, not in our hearts or memories, because we barely knew him, but in his PowerPoint slides, which were always meticulously prepared.”
No matter how much a person spends his or her life burning the candle at both ends, chasing a toxic definition of success and generally missing out on life, the eulogy is always about the other stuff: what they gave, how they connected, how much they meant to the lives of the real people around them, small kindnesses, lifelong passions and what made them laugh.
So the question is: Why do we spend so much time on what our eulogy is not going to be?
“Eulogies aren’t résumés,” David Brooks wrote in June. “They describe the person’s care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage. They describe the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region.”
And yet we spend so much time and effort and energy on those résumé entries, which are gone as soon our heart stops beating. Even for those who die with amazing résumés, whose lives were synonymous with accomplishment and achievement, their eulogies are mostly about what they did when they weren’t achieving and succeeding — at least by our current, broken definition of success. For example, look at Steve Jobs, a man whose life, at least as the public saw it, was about creating things, things that were, yes, amazing and game-changing, but when his sister, Mona Simpson, rose to memorialize him at his memorial service at Stanford University, that’s not what she focused on.
Yes, she talked about his work and his work ethic, but mostly as manifestations of his passions. “Steve worked at what he loved,” she said. But what really moved him, what he really loved, was love. “Love was his supreme virtue,” she said, “his god of gods.” And though yes, he loved his work, he loved his family too:
When [his son] Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.
And then she added this touching image: “None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.”
And about his wife: “His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic.”
And then there were lines like these, sprinkled throughout:
“Steve was humble.”
“Steve liked to keep learning.”
“Steve cultivated whimsy.”
“With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.”
“He treasured happiness.”
“He was an intensely emotional man.”
His sister made sure in her eulogy that we knew that Steve Jobs was a lot more than just the guy who invented the iPhone. He was a brother and a husband and a father who knew the true value of what technology can so easily distract us from. Even if you build an iconic product, even one that lives on, what will be foremost in the minds of the people you care about most will be the memories you built in their lives. In her 1951 novel Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar has the Roman emperor meditating on his death: “[I]t seems to me as I write this hardly important to have been emperor.”
And Thomas Jefferson’s epitaph describes him as “author of the Declaration of American Independence … and father of the University of Virginia.” No mention of the presidency.
What the old adage that we should live every day as our last usually means is that we shouldn’t wait until it’s our last day on Earth to begin prioritizing the things that really matter.
Anyone with a few smartphones and a full email inbox knows that it’s easy to live while not being aware we’re living. So a Third Metric life would be one lived in a way that’s mindful of what our eulogy will one day be. “I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it,” joked George Carlin. We may not be listening to our own eulogy, but we’re actually writing it all the time, every day. The question is how much we’re giving the eulogizer to work with.
This past summer an obituary of a Seattle woman named Jane Lotter, who died of cancer at 60, went viral. The author of the obit was Lotter herself.
“One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen,” she wrote, “is that you have time to write your own obituary.” After giving a lovely and lively account of her life, she shows that she lived a life with the true definition of success in mind. “My beloved Bob, Tessa, and Riley,” she writes. “My beloved friends and family. How precious you all have been to me. Knowing and loving each one of you was the success story of my life.”
Just months before the historian Tony Judt died of ALS in 2010, he gave an amazing interview to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. She asked him about his spiritual beliefs. He replied:
I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t believe in a single or multiple godhead. I respect people who do, but I don’t believe it myself. But there’s a big “but” which enters in here: I am much more conscious than I ever was, for obvious reasons, of what it will mean to people left behind once I’m dead. It won’t mean anything for me, but it will mean a lot to them, and it’s important for them, by which I mean my children or my wife or my close friends, that some spirit of me is, in a positive way, present in their lives, in their heads, in their imaginings and so on. So in one curious way I’ve come to believe in the afterlife as a place where I still have moral responsibilities, just as I do in this life except that I can only exercise them before I get there. Once I get there, it’ll be too late. So no god, no organized religion, but a developing sense that there’s something bigger than the world we live in, including after we die, and that we have responsibilities in that world.
So whether you believe in an afterlife, as I do, or not, by being fully present in your life and in the lives of those you love, you are creating your own afterlife and writing your own eulogy. It’s a valuable lesson, even more so while we have the good fortune of being healthy and having the energy and freedom and lack of impediments to create a life of purpose and meaning.
It shouldn’t take a near-death experience to remind us of what we’re all going to lose one day. According to Colors magazine, something called “living funeral therapy” is becoming increasingly popular in South Korea, which has the highest suicide rate of developed countries. It can involve actually getting in a coffin and having it nailed shut, to experience a glimpse of the finality and closure of death. One operator sometimes has the participants make a list of the people in their lives who matter to them. One woman said the process made her realize she’d been neglecting her husband. “I feel like I’ve been reborn,” she said. “I want to call my husband, to tell him ‘thank you,’ and ‘sorry.'”
It’s an extreme method, and hopefully most of us won’t need to be nailed shut inside a coffin to get a sense of what we really value. But the good news is that if you’re reading this, there’s still time to live up to the best version of your eulogy.
Here are some of my favorite eulogies, courtesy of Alison Nastasi of The Atlantic. Do you have a favorite eulogy, or something in particular you remember from a eulogy you heard? Please use the comments section to share.
I am strong because I labored for 12 beautiful hours and gave birth to my stillborn son in a silent room.
I am strong because on October 22, 2010, my husband and I buried our first child.
I am strong because 12 weeks after we buried our first son we found out we were expecting again.
I am strong because on May 2, 2011, at 18 weeks pregnant, we found out that our second son Jacob would not be coming home with us, he was given a fatal diagnosis.
I am strong because despite having a fatal diagnosis we chose to carry Jacob and do everything we possibly could.
I am strong because during the next 18 weeks Jacob’s diagnosis changed into something no medical doctor had ever seen before and his prognosis became unknown.
I am strong because on September 5, 2011, our son Jacob was born via c-section. He cried even though we were told he would not.
I am strong because for the next 2 1/2 days Jacob fought so hard to stay with us and we fought so hard to keep him comfortable and did everything we could.
I am strong because at 7:45 p.m. on September 7th, we had to make a decision no parent should ever have to make; we pulled his life support and Jacob peacefully passed away.
I am strong because on September 14, 2011 we buried our second child.
I am strong because nine months after we buried Jacob we decided to try once more.
I am strong because we became pregnant with what we hoped would truly be our rainbow babe.
I am strong because at 18 weeks we found out we were having a healthy little girl.
I am strong because I carried her for 36 1/2 weeks all along knowing we could lose her too.
I am strong because on January 8, 2013, I was induced and we were on the way to meeting our miracle babe.
I am strong because after 16 rough hours of VBAC labor, our miracle baby, Phoebe Faith, was born. Crying, screaming, healthy and alive.
I am strong because even though I only parent one child, I am a mother of three.
I am strong because I have carried three children full term but two already reside in Heaven.
I am strong because I chose to cling onto hope and faith when everything else was against us.
I am strong because parenting a rainbow baby is a challenging time in life.
I am strong because I now live with PTSD and fight with it on a daily basis. But I REFUSE to let it define who I am.
I am strong because my hopes and dreams have been shattered, but I chose to hold on and now have a beautiful little girl who is the light of my life.
I am strong because I am sharing my video about my journey with you.
Please know my video does contain pictures of my boys after they have passed. If this is too much for you, please do not watch.
Mamas who have endured loss, don’t ever give up. Your rainbow could be one more rainy day away.
This post originally appeared on Birth Without Fear’s Facebook page, as part of the “I Am Strong” series.
But Dave and Jan Cox got quite the surprise when they saw a young moose in their backyard in Entiat, Washington. Apparently, the animal has been hanging out in the couple’s yard for nearly three weeks, according to the Wenatchee World.
“I’m not surprised he’s choosing our place to hang out, because we’re right up against the mountain,” Jan Cox told the outlet.
Wildlife officials have been monitoring the moose and waiting for him to move on, but he appears mellow and not frightened of humans. They caution that wild animals can be unpredictable and the National Park Service advises against feeding or approaching those you may come across.
Two tourists in Yellowstone National Park also had a similar experience with an adult bison earlier this month, which they caught on camera.
Before the surgery, the Star-Ledger reported, Ruggiero, who was 19 at the time, had a message for doctors: “I promised you I’m going to tap-dance again.”
He’s come through on that promise.
On Friday — three years after the amputation — Ruggiero appeared on ‘The Ellen Show’ to show the country just how well his recovery has gone.
Now 22, he dances on a metal post that his prosthetics craftsman made him.
He’s learned to adapt to his new circumstances.
He even has some new tricks up his sleeve.
Ellen understandably was impressed.
And when he finished his performance, Ellen had a big (OK, HUGE) surprise for him.
“I know the whole situation prolonged college, and that was expensive” Ellen said, “So our friends at Shutterfly want to help.”
Then, a $10,000 check came out.
Ruggiero will undoubtedly continue to inspire people — those with disabilities and without — to follow their dreams. Because he faced his challenge and came out on top.
“I’m a more beautiful dancer now,” Ruggiero told the Star-Ledger this past April. “I dance for life.”
Check out Ruggiero’s full performance:
In this video above posted by Blow, the bovines are very curious and seem to appreciate the short but sweet slow jam.
Click play to check out the saxophonist equivalent of “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Now that’s some seriously good mooo-sic there!
#alkalinity #alkalinitymovement #7.2 #sevenpointtwo