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    Not Today

    If I look I'm not sure that I could face you.
    Not again. not today. not today…


    September 11th. So much changed in these twelve years, and yet… here we are standing - again - on the brink of more war. This knot in my stomach - stubbornly unforgetful when the calendar turns to 9-11 - I can't help but think back.


    I want this day to pass peacefully; I want that my children will never experience a day like that day.


    Love & peace, for those taken on that day, and those left behind.


    video: REM - Final Straw

    …love will be my strongest weapon.
    I do believe that I am not alone.
    For this fear will not destroy me.




    Posted: Sep 10 2013, 23:58 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    C-Section as Spectator Sport?

    You may have read about the "First baby born on Twitter" (which is, of course, debatable). The first C-section --- perhaps. But not the first homebirth. Or unassisted birth.

    But let's talk about this Twittered cesarean, shall we?


    Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX has been advertising their live broadcast of a C-section birth on Twitter & their website, and encouraging people to sign up for an "event reminder" and to "tune in" with varied sensationalized exclamations:

    "C-Section Live on Twitter!"

    " A look inside 2nd most common surgery in the US!"

    " Watch a surgical birth live on Twitter."


    They even have their own hashtag.

    Now, mothers (and parents) should be able to make fully informed choices about their own births and should be able to birth in whatever way - and wherever (even on live Twittervision) - they feel most safe.  My issue is more with the hospitals' choice to make a "reality show" out of a surgery, broadcast it on social media, and call it "educational" in the midst of a cesarean section epidemic in this country. The World Health Organization suggests that the C-section rate should not rise about 15% in developed nations, yet, in 2009, 32.9% of all births in the US were cesarean deliveries (compared with 20.7% in 1996 and 5% in 1970).  The rate of C-section in this country is increasing to alarming numbers - in New Jersey, my homestate for example - the rate was 39.4% in 2009 (and NJ is not alone in this), choice in birthing options is becoming less, and this hospital's Twitter account is flaunting the stat of "1 in 3 moms" having C-sections almost as celebratory.


    Now, in fairness, Memorial Hermann has indicated on their twitter feed that,

    "We'll explain that C-section is associated with risks & should only be done if necessary."

    I am pleased to hear this, but doubtful; given that they also say:  

    "This is a medically indicated C-section. 39-year-old mom previously had an urgent C-section and chose not to attempt VBAC."


    Unless there are other factors we're not privy to, simply having a previous C-section does not make a repeat C-section necessary. Coupled with the following bizarre quote makes me even less than confident that the risks of cesarean sections will fully be explained:


    "Join us as we pull back the curtain w/live play-by-play."


    Excuse, me? Is this a baseball game?


    Cesarean sections are major abdominal surgeries. They are an unnatural state of birth for both mother and baby. They can interfere with bonding, healing, breastfeeding, introduction of healthy bacteria (from not passing through the vaginal canal), and breathing (from baby's lungs not being appropriately squeezed through the vaginal canal). They increase the risk of infection and scarring to mother, and injury to baby. Recovery can be hard. It's not a spectator sport.


    I'm in full support of increasing the information to mothers about the choices and options available in birth - from unassisted birth to homebirth to birth with a midwife, doula, doctors, with and without medications, to vaginal birth, to surgical birth. Birth is one of the most amazing and powerful events in a woman's life; and she should always be able to make the choice to birth in the way she wants. But without KNOWING all of the risks and benefits and truths of different birth options, mothers can't make fully informed choices. So when @HoustonHospital says,


    "Our goal is to educate."


    I'm glad. Education is important and powerful. But can a repeat C-section taking place because a VBAC wasn't chosen, aired and advertised like a sporting event truly be an appropriate or likely venue for educating about cesarean birth?


    I am hopeful that the real risks of cesarean-as-normalized-birth will be discussed, that the potential emotional trauma to mother, and challenges to breastfeeding and recovery will be illuminated so that women really CAN make fully informed, educated choices. But, when a birth is advertised as a "HEY! COME CHECK IT OUT!" reality show; it leaves me dubious. It really remains to be seen whether the intent to educate will actually play out.  There's a lot of responsibility wrapped up in this "show".


    So, what do you think? Is airing a C-section live going to help educate women about birth? Will it help reduce the rate of C-sections in our country, or will it instead help make C-sections more "normal"? Will you be tuning in?

    Posted: Feb 19 2013, 17:25 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Hurricane Sandy and the Jersey Shore

    If you'd like to donate to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, click here (to jump right to the bottom of this post).

    Two weekends ago, we took the day to travel "down the shore" (that's how we say it here in New Jersey). We went to Long Beach Island because it's the closest to us - a little over an hour drive - or 35mi due West as the crow flies.

    (running along Spray Beach in LBI)

    (one of the street markers located at each opening in the dunes along LBI)

    I'd been meaning to share our trip with you here in pictures, because it was such an idyllic  weekend at the beach. But then... Hurricane Sandy (known pre-disaster by the moniker "Frankenstorm" for its proximity to Halloween) came through my state.

    For my family, the hurricane meant a bit of scrambling around in preparation - gathering supplies, the unique opportunity to witness a hurricane up-close, 24 hours of lost power, frantic working to keep our warehouse up and running, and a delayed Halloween. We were truly fortunate to have missed some of the worst weather and after effects.


    For other families, some I know personally and others I've only seen in the media reports, the hurricane brought power disruption, home destruction, and most devastatingly, loss of life. The pictures I see coming in from the shore (where we JUST. WERE.) and from the surrounding towns and cities are almost incomprehensible.

    (looking towards the ocean on LBI during the storm - source unknown)

    (car buried in sand on LBI after the storm- source unknown)

    (the dunes, no longer there - LBI after the storm - source unknown)

    (a beach marker, nearly covered in sand during post-storm cleanup efforts on LBI - source unknown)

    My heart goes out to those still struggling. It's COLD here in New Jersey right now; and there's a Nor'easter coming this week (that means a BIG snow storm for those of you not from the North East USA). Millions are still without power, thousands of homes were damaged, and there's a gas shortage in the Northern part of my state. It's hard to watch the news, to talk about it with my children, to understand what happened so close to home. But it helps to know so many people have have donated time and money to help those most in need. The generosity of the human spirit is alive and well in New Jersey; I am so thankful.

    If you'd like to donate to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in my state, and the surrounding areas hit hard by the storm, here are a few places you can do so. (Each of these charities are non-religiously/politically affiliated and have received a commendable rating at CharityNavigator.org)

    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy child welfare efforts: Save the Children


    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy hunger relief efforts at the Jersey shore: The Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties


    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy medical supplies and equipment: Direct Relief International


    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy companion animal rescue and care efforts: Best Friends Animal Society


    To donate directly to general Hurricane Sandy emergency relief efforts: American Red Cross


    To help find or to offer breastmilk storage to those without power: Human Milk for Human Babies - New Jersey


    Thank you for reading, for donating, for keeping those affected by Hurricane Sandy in your hearts and thoughts. Peace.

    Note: I am not affiliated with any of the above listed charities. When you click on the above links, you will leave my site, and go directly to the individual charity pages.
    Posted: Nov 03 2012, 17:10 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    The Problem with Palm Oil

    The other day after school, my 7-year old daughter went immediately to the kitchen and began reading the labels (like mama, like daughter) of all of the things on our shelves. She told me that someone from the Philadelphia Zoo had come to speak to their class about palm oil - where it comes from, which items contain it, what’s happening in our world because of human’s increased demand for palm oil, and what we can do about it. Her class is working to help spread the word about palm oil and how it is affecting our planet: from its human and animal inhabitants, to the land where it is grown, and how we can change the negative course production of this oil has taken. Now, I’m used to learning from my children - but often the things I learn are of the more abstract nature: patience, multitasking, how to have fun. This, however, was something quite different, far more concrete, and sobering. In sharing her knowledge, she has inspired me to become more informed about palm oil, and in doing so, I’ve learned more about rainforests and orangutans - the primary species negatively, and drastically, affected by palm oil - than I’ve ever known before.

    I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned, in hopes you too can become a bit more aware, and perhaps, might care to spread the word, and potentially take steps to help reverse the damage that’s been done to our primate sisters and brothers and the land where they live.


    What is palm oil?

    Palm oil is currently the most widely produced edible oil - derived from the African oil palm plant. It is grown in rainforest areas; primarily Borneo & Sumatra. According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, nearly 150 million tons was produced in 2009(up from 40 million in 2007). It’s in food, baby formula, cleaning products, and cosmetics. If you check your pantry, shower, make-up bag, I’m betting you’ll see it hiding out in the ingredients’ lists, under several different aliases: palm oil, palm kernel oil, palmitate, palmate, palmitic acid, glyceryl stearate, or stearic acid. It’s ubiquitous. I know I was surprised.


    What’s the problem with palm oil?

    Since palm oil is often used to replace trans fats in foods, and is also used in bio-fuel development, the demand for it has exploded in recent years; particularly since many food companies have felt increasing pressure to remove hydrogenated oils from their foods. The problem with this rate of growth, however, is several-fold: the sudden and sustained increase in demand has led to outright destruction of rainforest in order to plant palm tree plantations. Millions of acres of pristine forest are being clear-cut, with no care being given to the inhabitants. Loss of rainforest means loss of biodiversity, as well as the reduction of filtering of vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, which can lead to further climate change. Not only are animals and land being exploited, but so are workers in these areas… because when you need to harvest a lot of land, quickly, you have to get a lot of people to work, quickly, without much care given to their well-being. Profits over compassion.


    On the biodiversity side of things: most affected by our seemingly insatiable desire for palm oil are organutans. Indonesia, where most of the world’s palm oil is derived, is home to 90% of the world’s orangutan population (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16336582). Our primate cousins, and their habitat, are in very real and immediate danger due to the demand for palm oil. Some staggering facts:


    - In 1900 there were approximately 315,000 orangutans in the wild. Today, there are fewer than 50,000 - and those are split into groups with grim long-term survival prospects. (source: http://www.greenpalm.org/en/about-palm-oil/environmental-impact) The organgutan population in Sumatra was cut nearly in half in a space of 7 years: from ~12,000 in 1993 to ~6,500 in 2000. (source: http://www.orangutan.com/threats-to-orangutans/)


    - In 1997 and 1998 it is estimated that nearly 8,000 (Eight THOUSAND!) orangutans were killed through uncontrolled burning (much of it due to clearing the land for palm oil plantations).


    - Because orangutans are seen as “pests” on palm oil plantations, some palm oil companies offer poachers ~$100 per dead orangutan. Between 2008 - 2009 at least 750 orangutans are thought to have been killed on palm plantations. (source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16336582)


    - A study by Forest Watch Indonesia indicates 15 million hectares of forests were lost to deforestation for palm plantations between 2000 and 2009 (source: http://www.orangutans.com.au/Orangutans-Survival-Information/15-million-hectares-of-forest-destroyed-from-2000-to-2009-FWI.aspx)


    - If nothing changes, experts estimate that orangutans could be extinct in the wild anywhere from 10-25 years from now - making them the first species of great ape to be extinct. (source: http://www.orangutan.com/threats-to-orangutans/)


    What is an orangutan?

    If you’re not familiar with them, orangutans are our brownish-red primate cousins (the name orangutan comes from two Malay words: orang meaning people and hutan meaning forest) who share 98% of human’s genetic makeup. They are considered extremely intelligent: they have a wide “vocabulary” of sounds for communicating with each other and they create & use tools: leaf umbrellas to keep rain off, leaf cups for drinking water, sticks for obtaining honey from beehives... just to name a few. Studies have shown orangutans are able to grasp abstract concepts - like exchanging “money” for food (source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7797776.stm). Female orangutans typically have their first offspring around 15 or 16 years old, and only have one baby at a time. Baby orangutans stay with their mother for many years (average of 10), nursing for an average of 4 years. They live almost solely in the trees - sleeping, eating, and playing among the branches. It is their low rate of reproduction, and their sole reliance on the rainforests of Indonesia which is making the destruction of said rain forests for palm oil so devastating to these creatures.


    How are these two related?

    In addition to rain forest destruction that is happening in order to create palm plantations, there are other factors, such as ongoing kidnapping of infant orangutans for the illegal pet trade (whose mothers are often killed while defending their babies), orangutan poaching by palm plantation owners, and clear cutting/burning for logging purposes. Orangutans rely on the rain forests to support their life - food, shelter, safety from predators. Without the rain forests, orangutans can’t exist in the wild. They are currently considered critically endangered - estimates suggest if things remain unchanged, they will be the first great ape species to become EXTINCT (some estimates suggest this could happen in less than twenty years).


    Typing this makes me shudder. These loving, feeling, thinking animals - who carry, nurse, and care for their babies for years, are considered one of the most intelligent of the great apes... will no longer live in the wild because of what humans have done, and are continuing to do.


    What can we do about this?

    One school of thought is to boycott all companies that use palm oil, or refusing to buy or use palm oil-containing products is the answer to this crisis. This may certainly lessen the pressure over time on the orangutans by reducing demand, but it may be too simplistic an answer, particularly when palm oil is so ubiquitous.


    Another factor to consider is that many humans lives in the rainforest areas where palm is grown and harvested, have been impacted (positively and negatively) by the increased demand for palm oil. Much of the palm oil produced is grown by smallholders for whom palm production is their ONLY source of income (in Indonesia alone [orangutan’s primary habitat], 4.5 million people earn a living from palm oil). Palm oil produces far more edible oil than any other oil-producing plant and doesn’t require the type of pesticides or herbicides that other vegetable oil crops require (like soy). Reducing demand doesn’t necessarily mean helping people, land, or animals.


    Another line of thinking is that if palm oil can be produced sustainably - by ensuring respectful and responsible treatment of the land and its inhabitants - the destruction of rainforest and speed of climate change can be slowed, while still protecting the livelihood of people. Sustainability efforts also address issues of safe and fair worker treatment (ensuring a living wage, restricting child labor, and exposure to pesticides by pregnant or breastfeeding women).


    The WWF, Oxfam, and Conservation International support a move towards sustainable palm oil production, though some environmental groups, like Greenpeace, say the process of implementing sustainability measures is too slow, and amount to nothing more than greenwashing. The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO http://www.rspo.org/) has been created to help palm oil producers become certified “sustainable” (this includes adhering to standards for issues such as: fair and safe worker treatment, fertilizer & pesticide use, soil and groundwater condition, waste management, and endangered species conservation) - which can in turn help consumers feel more confident that the palm oil they are purchasing isn’t contributing in as big a way to climate change, habitat destruction, and loss of life.


    In the US, these major brands (http://www.virginiazoo.org/documents/palmOilShoppingGuide-Sept2010.pdf) are RSPO members (though, for other reasons, you may wish not to purchase from these companies… For example, Body Shop still uses parabens in their products, ConAgra uses foods that contain GMOs, Nestle promotes formula use in under-developed countries, and L’Oreal has a spotty record on animal testing):


    Body Shop









    Johnson & Johnson

    Sun Products



    Since starting research, I am left with mixed feelings about palm oil and sustainability. On one hand, I would like to just stop buying it. We don’t need it, there are products out there without it, and there are certainly other oils that can be used in lieu of palm, and if I’m not using it, I’m not contributing to hurting animals, land, and people.


    On the other hand, there are gains to be had by purchasing products that speak to their sustainable production. When you buy something from a company that cares enough to talk about what they are doing and why - when it comes to sustainability and environmentalism - you’re sending a message that you want MORE of that type of behavior, from more companies. I think about where vegetarian/natural/organic options stood over 20 years ago, when I first stopped eating meat, to where they stand now. In the 90’s, I was lucky to find one brand of soy burger in an out-of-the-way health food store. Now, there are several brands, on the shelves in every major grocery store. Even discount grocery stores have some organic offerings. This has happened because people have let companies know they are interested in buying products that are natural, organic, vegetarian. Companies listen when their customers talk.


    For us, since learning about palm oil, we have become much more aware of checking ingredient labels. I do try to avoid palm oil when possible, but when not, I choose only those companies which list their certification or talk about the issue of palm oil prominently on the label. I have written to several companies, asking about the source of their palm oil. Through interest and effort, I believe people can change what’s happening in the world because of palm oil.


    Some organic & natural companies who use sustainably sourced palm oil (as I’ve evidenced clearly on their site, or packaging):


    Dr. Bronner’s

    Earth Mama Angel Baby


    Newman’s Own Organics

    Seventh Generation


    Whole Foods Market (on their website, they pledge to be using only sustainable palm oil in all of their store-brand foods by this year)


    I’m really interested to hear what you think about this issue. Have you previously heard about the concerns surrounding palm oil? Now that you know, will you change the way you buy products? Do you know of any companies I’ve missed in my lists? Thanks for reading & sharing.

    No Nestlé Halloween

    As Halloween is fast-approaching, you may be thinking about what kinds of treats you’ll have available for the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood. Now, maybe you don’t give out treats (the Mom-side of me thanks you for your pretzels, fruit leathers, pencils, stickers, or pennies for Unicef!). But if you do offer candy, you may want to consider keeping Nestlé treats out of your trick-or-treat bowl this year.
    Why No Nestle? A very short synopsis: there has been an active boycott on Nestle since July 7th 1977, stemming from their promotion of breastmilk substitutes (infant/baby formula) over breastfeeding, particularly in under-developed countries. Nestlé continues to violate the WHO (World Health Organization) code by persisting in their marketing of infant formula in places where doing so (instead of promoting breastfeeding) can lead to illness, malnutrition, and death of babies (for reasons such as formula mixed with contaminated water is dangerous, formula is too expensive for many women to purchase, and often gets watered down, resulting in malnutrition). Nestlé also controls much of the bottled water industry (and thus the sources of water) in the United States. (If you’re ready to be frightened by the state of water in our country, I highly recommend the movie Tapped) Nestlé also promotes unhealthy eating through their production and marketing of high-sodium “Gerber Graduates” processed foods to toddlers.
    For more information on the Nestlé boycott, here are some good places to start:
    So, you'd like to try to keep your Halloween Nestlé- free, but not sure which products Nestlé produces? Well… take a deep breath; they’re everywhere (I'd rather not directly link to their site, but if you Google Nestlé, you can find everything they have their name on - and it's a ton)! For the purpose of International Nestlé-Free Week (which runs from October 31st thru November 6th) I’ve created a list, limited strictly to candy.
    List of Nestlé Candies, Chocolates, and Confections:
    100 Grand
    Aero Bar
    Baby Ruth
    Bit O Honey
    Bottle Caps
    Carlos V
    Chewy Spree
    Chewy Sweetarts
    Crunch Bar
    Everlasting Gobstoppers
    Fruit Runts
    Kit Kat (outside of the U.S.)
    Laffy Taffy
    Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip
    Mix Ups
    Nestle Milk Chocolate
    Oh Henry! (inside the U.S.)
    Pixy Stix
    Smarties (outside of the U.S.)
    Wonka Exceptionals
    So… Which candies CAN you buy this year?
    My vote is for Fair-Trade Organic Chocolate or Organic Lollipops! Of course, that’s not always practical nor affortable! So, here’s a list of...
    Conventional Candies NOT Produced by Nestlé:
    3 Musketeers
    Almond Joy
    Bubble Yum
    Cadbury Crème Egg
    Cadbury Dairy Milk
    Dove Bar
    Good & Fruity
    Good & Plenty
    Heath Bar
    Hershey’s Kisses
    Hershey’s Special Dark
    Ice Breakers Gum
    Jolly Rancher
    Kit Kat (inside the U.S.)
    Mars Bar
    Mauna Loa
    Milk Duds
    Milky Way
    Mini Eggs
    Mr. Goodbar
    Oh Henry (outside of the U.S.)
    Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
    Reese’s Pieces
    Smarties (inside the U.S.)
    Symphony Bar
    Take 5
    Wrigley’s Gum
    York Peppermint Patty
    Thanks for considering participating in Nestlé-Free Week and... Happy Halloween!
    Posted: Oct 28 2011, 09:59 by kelly | Comments (27) RSS comment feed |
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