Tuesday, June 29, 2010

From the Interstates to the Highways

I'm a big consumer of the country's interstate system...I think it's officially the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate System, recognizing that president's role in its creation. Regardless of its name, I've tended to use the interstate. Alot. Not only is it the most reasonable way to drive 1000 miles to Kentucky when visiting family, it's also one of the fastest ways for both R and I to get to work, albeit it in opposite directions. The tough part is that here in Massachusetts, the interstate we need to use has a toll on it in both directions. Incidentally, R and I both pay the same toll rate at different exits in different directions. But whatever.

The other day I was looking up some information on the automated toll system you can use (instead of paying cash you have a transponder and it automatically deducts from your account...and then deducts from your bank account when the balance gets low). Neither R nor I use this system, partially because we've never gotten around to getting the transponder, but I don't really like the idea of the state of Massachusetts taking money out of my bank account when the balance gets low...given my current financial situation (which plays into this post alot), that could have some overdraft consequences that I don't really want to think about.

What I found most interesting is that there is a state commuter tax deduction for those who use this transponder and commute to work, which both R and I do. As I was reading through the information on the deduction, I stopped and asked R how much he spends on tolls per year. He said about 550. Not five dollars and fifty cents, mind you, but five hundred and fifty dollars. I realized that by the end of this year I would have spent roughly the same. Whoa.

Let's do the math. My toll, if I take the interstate (which actually only takes me halfway to work, as the other half is on state highways), I pay 1.10 each way. If I'm going to UConn, it's .65 each way. Let's say I go to UConn 4 days a week, and Amherst 2...that comes to 9.60/week in tolls. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that I make this drive 52 weeks a year (which takes into account the fact that during school vacation I'll probably head into Amherst more often, where the toll is higher), I'd be paying 499.20 in tolls. Per year. Or to put it in a monthly perspective, that's 38.40/month. I don't know about you all, but for me that's a huge impact on my budget. I'm sure once school starts the impact would be less huge, but regardless of how much it hurts to pay that amount (or not, if you have a lot of money), 38.40/month, or 499.20 a year is a huge amount of money! That's part of a vacation right there! Or lots of good beer! Or many other things!

With that in mind, I've decided to stop taking the MassPike as much as possible. I don't want to spend that money on road improvements I never see (I will hand it to the state of New York, though, when I had to drive through the thruway crazy snow to my grandmother's funeral, those roads were incredibly clear and well-maintained. I didn't feel bad paying the money then).

But then I got to thinking of the other benefits to staying off the interstate. I don't have to deal with crazy numbers of semis-this is especially great considering the time I was run off the road by a semi into the emergency lane during the rain. This doesn't mean they're not on the state highways (they are), but chances that they'll be passing me and such are much more slim. Also, Massachusetts is a beautiful state. The state highways to work take me through really gorgeous scenery, and I can breathe in the summer air and just think. Not to mention that going slower is better on gas. I felt less harried when I get to work having taken a state highway route this morning, and it was nice. I hate trucks passing me mostly because I don't have AC so all four windows are rolled down and the trucks are so loud I have to cover that ear when they pass. This isn't really a problem on the state roads. I also get to experience seeing all sorts of random places along the road, such as new ice cream stands or farms or trails. I wouldn't see these things on the interstate. Oh and in the summer, traffic on Sundays heading home from work is pretty awful, usually slowing down to a standstill at points due to all of the folks coming back from their summer homes or whatever. The state highways tend to be less clogged.

The downsides are there, to be sure. It takes a bit longer-about 25 minutes more each way, which turns into 50 minutes total. That's a pretty decent chunk of time, but it's time I can spend in prayer, or just thinking, or singing along to the music, and enjoying God's creation. I'm less likely to do that when I'm dealing with interstate traffic.

So yeah. I'm sure there will be times when it's hard not to take the interstate, or times when I can't avoid it (I'll likely take the state highway halfway to UConn and then pickup the non-toll interstate when it begins), but for the most part I'm going to try to make a conscientious effort to stick to the highways, and bypass the interstate.

It's more interesting anyway.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I've been thinking about strangers lately, in large part due to two recent experiences. The first involved my nephew. My sister, brother and I had taken B to the doctor for his 4 year check up, which included his various vaccinations and such as he's starting preschool in the fall (!!!). I have to admit it was a pretty fun to watch B interact with someone who's not family. I don't get to see this very often, and aside from the part where the nurse and my sister (who also happens to be a nurse) were holding B down so he'd actually get his shots, it was nice just to watch what happened. The doctor came in and started asking him questions, one of which was a series of questions about colors (I'm guessing to see if he's color blind), and other just general things. Then came the following conversation:

Doctor: If a stranger came up to you and wanted you to go with him, would you go?
B: (shakes his head no)
Doc: What if that stranger said he had some puppies to show you?
B: (shakes his head yes)
Doc: (Goes on to explain why we don't go with strangers even if they have puppies). So, would you go with the stranger who had puppies?
B: (shakes head no)
Doc: Good!

Now, to be fair, B just got a puppy for his birthday and puppies are pretty enticing. So that afternoon, while walking to the barber shop for a hair cut (for B), my brother and I talked with him about strangers and posed different scenarios-candy, puppies, etc.-and this time B had gotten the gist and said no every time.

That was experience one.

The second was on my way to work. The town in which I work tends to attract all sorts of folks, and I've found a much larger number of hitch hikers there than I would ever have expected. On the interstate heading in, I passed two women who looked to be about my age and a massive dog, with backpacks on hitchhiking down the interstate. I didn't stop. This struck me, though, because while you might see these folks on state highways around the town where I work, rarely does one see a couple of folks like this on the interstate (rarely do I see women hitchhiking at all, for that matter).

And it got me to thinking-where do we draw the line about strangers? These women needed a ride, and while I couldn't have fit all of them and their giant dog into my car, if I could have, would I have stopped? No. I wouldn't have. There are too many red flags that go up when I see a hitchhiker, regardless of who they are, all of which surround my own personal safety.

This in turn got me to thinking about the role of hospitality in our society, and how it compares to the role in earlier societies. In Jesus's time, for example, it was an essential part of the way things were. Or you could look at medieval England. Or any earlier place that didn't have our "modern conveniences" or whatever. Welcoming the stranger was essential to how society worked, and breaches of that hospitality (either on the part of the guest or host) were a huge deal.

So what would happen, I wonder, if Jesus were walking down the highway today? Do angels still function in the roles of hospitality in earlier times, or would they function in the ways we're more used to? If you could afford to put a stranger up in a hotel, would you do that or welcome them into your home? My guess is go for the hotel option. I'm not saying that in a judging way-I'd probably do the same thing-but there you go.

Sorry this post seems rather scattered. I haven't fully developed my thoughts on the matter, but I wanted to go ahead and write before I let them go away. And I have an allergy headache. And I need to do Welsh. And there's more World Cup football to watch.

So yeah. Hmm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No Poo

No poo. That's right. And I'm not talking about irregularities, as Maggie used to call that discussion at camp. I'm talking about redefining normal and getting rid of the shampoo. Here are my reasons:

1. Shampoo and conditioner are expensive, and it's money that's literally going down the drain.
2. These are full of chemicals that I would be putting on my skin. To find the stuff without chemicals you spend more money. Said money goes down the drain.
3. I try to work out every day, and usually do. However, I tend to sweat a lot when I work out and like to shower after said exercises. I felt like washing my hair twice a day was just too much-I didn't notice changes in my hair itself, but it just felt wrong.
4. In my reading up on this, I found out that shampoo wasn't really common until the early 20th century. That's right folks, it's only about 100 years old, and the shampoo most like what we use today didn't come around until 1930, meaning there are folks out there who predate shampoo.
5. Washing your hair strips it of natural oils. Then your body goes into overdrive to reproduce the oils that were taken out. So then your hair looks greasy and you wash it again.

This isn't some sort of crazy hippie routine (not that I have anything against crazy hippies). It's become more and more common from what I can tell. I tried making my own deodorant, but that didn't work out so well. I'm hoping to make my own laundry detergent once my current batch runs out. And I'm going to try the no poo routine now.

I've read what feels like a ton on this, and they pretty much seem to advocate similar methods, involving a baking soda wash for your scalp and an apple cider vinegar rinse for the rest of your hair (which you don't even have to do every day). Another method is to "comb" through your hair with a washcloth. I'm not sure how that works in a practical way, but it's supposed to spread the oils throughout your hair.

So I've started my experiment. I'll probably do the baking soda/vinegar thing tomorrow night, as I'm going to an ordination on Saturday and have church on Sunday (having a job that requires personal grooming skills and all), so we'll see how that turns out. I thought I'd include a few pictures in this post as well for your viewing pleasure.

Oh and apparently this is supposed to work even better on curly hair. I have curly hair that often turns frizzy, but this should get rid of the frizz (making me exponentially more likely to wear my hair down if it's less than 70 degrees outside) and maybe even make it curlier (a la what my hair looks like in the morning if I go to bed with it wet, i.e. fabulously curly until the frizz sets in). So here are the pics.

These are my materials. And no, I'm not washing my hair with ketchup (or catsup) and mustard, but I couldn't find clear bottles at the grocery store and forgot about the dollar store nearby until I'd already checked out. They were only 2.99 anyway. But I needed something to use for the baking soda wash and for the vinegar rinse. How much did this cost, you might ask? .99 for the baking soda (I splurged and got Arm & Hammer), 1.69 for the vinegar, and 2.99 for the bottles. That's it, folks. And this should last me for quite a while-longer than a .99 bottle of conditioner, that's for sure (considering that the ratio I've seen most often is only 1 tbsp of each to a cup of water). So this is what I have to start with.

Me in my glory. The shirt was tie dyed by R in college but he didn't like it. I think it's an amazing tie dye job and it's one of my favorite t shirts. It was in the Vanagon for a while as a spare until I came along and rescued it. But I digress...

This is me with my hair in it's usual longer state-up and in a pony tail because the frizziness makes me look like a triangle head and invites innumerable and infinite taunts from my brother and sister about it. So I throw it in a pony tail and get on with my day. I washed my hair yesterday morning, so I guess this is day 1 of no poo, with the hair up. I stuck my head in R's face and asked him to smell it. He said it smells like hair, so that's good. And I don't think it looks greasy, but I could be in denial. R had no comment on that one, so I'm suspicious...

And here's the hair down, having gone one day without shampoo. It's still a little damp from my shower earlier (I have really thick hair that some days never dries completely so this isn't a total surprise). Sorry the lighting's not better. I didn't even think to take these pics when it was still light outside, but I tried to get my desk lamp to shine on the hair so y'all could see it. It's definitely less frizzy and it feels a little dirty, but I think that's because I'm not used to not washing it. Anyway, here we go. This should be an adventure, but if it works (and I really hope it will) I imagine getting rid of shampoo will be so liberating!

These are a few of the many websites I looked at in this process, if you're interested:
One Green Generation (this is the website I found the homemade deodorant recipe on too)
This article in the Boston Phoenix
Naturally Curly (this one involves using conditioner and hair product, but I read it anyway)
Google (just search "no poo" and you're off!)

If any of you out there already do this and have tips, feel free to share! I'll keep y'all updated as this comes along.

I've been remiss...

...about keeping this blog up to date. Sigh. One of these days I'll actually be good at this whole blogging thing, but in the mean time I thank you faithful readers who keep up with me anyway (namely, my Mom). I feel like I have lots to write about and nothing to write about at the same time...so we'll see how this goes. I'm going to save my garden for another post, hopefully one that I'll get up this afternoon (I want to take a few pictures of the garden today before I do that post though). So maybe we'll have 2 posts in one day!

Anyway here are a few random musings from my direction:

1. I realized that I never updated you all on the homemade deodorant campaign. It was a complete flop. The baking soda/cornstarch mix did keep the smell at bay, but it didn't last as long as my Tom's does and, to make matters worse, it dried out my underarms and made them irritated on top of the initial irritation. So I went back to my Tom's the minute I retrieved it from my office. I still haven't been able to find it in stores anymore (it seems to have been replaced by a roll on) but I'm going to Maine on Saturday for a friend's ordination and plan on stopping by the factory outlet store and stocking up on deodorant and toothpaste. Woot.

2. Medieval Welsh. I think I may have mentioned somewhere that I'm taking a medieval welsh reading course this summer. Well, it's not so much of a course as it is a bunch of people getting together to translate. It's going pretty well so far (I think). It involves lots of flipping through the vocabulary section, but such is life. It's also been a good way to get to know some people in the UConn community before school actually starts. I'm the only student in there who's straight up history (although my advisor is in the group as well), but still. Meeting people is good.

3. R and I got season passes to Six Flags. It's not too far from church and it's our entertainment budget for the summer. We've only been able to make it once so far, but we plan on going again this Sunday. It's not a huge theme park, but it's not bad. And for 50 bucks each we can go anytime we want through the end of October, so that's all good.

4. I'm currently starting some summer reading that's more school-oriented. There are a few books I'd like to get through before class starts, and on top of that I'm experimenting with a new way to read, so to speak. When I take generals in 2 years I don't want to have to reread everything, so I'm taking notes on each chapter as I read. It's more time consuming but I think it will pay off in the end when I'm researching for the orals and for the dissertation. This way I'll know where to flip when I need particular information. The only downside is that I have to have my computer with me when I'm reading (I can take the notes by hand but that's even more time consuming). This method is similar to what I did in the fall while I was applying to programs-I'd read books by the folks with whom I wanted to study and take notes along the way. So we'll see how this goes.

5. I'm seriously considering going "no poo," which is the short term for not using shampoo. The more I read about the chemicals in that stuff, the more ridiculous it seems to me that we put it on our scalp, mere inches away from our brains. Not to mention that cosmetics are expensive. The no poo method will take a little getting used to and experimentation (some folks use a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse, others use nothing), but I'll keep everyone updated. It seems that it works best for the folks with curly hair, so there's a win! I just hope it doesn't look overly greasy, particularly for church on Sunday. I have to look presentable and all that...but it would be great not to have the extra expense of shampoo. And apparently when you stop using it and your hair has started to reproduce the natural oils that protect it, you have softer hair that's less frizzy (oh I can't wait!). So woot. Not to mention that people didn't actually start shampooing their hair until the 20th century. Before that it was just rinsing.

It sounds weird, I realize, but I did find a phrase that captured this for me. It's called "redefining normal." Today, not using shampoo is not normal because that's what society tells us is not normal (even though it didn't become normal until the early 20th century). So I just have to redefine my own normal and off we go.

6. R and I went to a local farm last Saturday and picked some strawberries, as well as bought some veggies. I swear these are the best strawberries I've ever had-absolutely amazing! I hope the ones in our garden bear fruit, literally. I hope next summer we can do CSA at a local farm. I think the cost ends up being about the same in basic how much we spend terms, but the environmental cost is so much lower that if we can afford it, I hope we can do it. That will have to wait until next year though.

OK well, that's enough randomness for now. I'll get some pics of the garden and update you all on that later, especially as we've tried something new this year (well, a couple of new things).