Wednesday, January 31, 2007

All That's Natural and Smells Nice

Today, I read about a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed that Lavender and Tea Tree Oil when used in shampoos and the like, can cause breast growth in adolescent boys. This suggests that these essential oils have estrogenic compounds in them. Although the article does not sound an alarm, I would not want my son using a product containing these oils. More importantly, I would caution all women who have estrogen-dependent tumors to avoid these oils just as they would soy.

Lavender and tea tree oils found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions can temporarily leave boys with enlarged breasts in rare cases, apparently by disrupting their hormonal balance, a preliminary study suggests.

While advising parents to consider the possible risk, several hormone experts emphasized that the problem appears to happen infrequently and clears up when the oils are no longer used. None of those interviewed called for a ban on sales.

The study reported on the condition, gynecomastia, in three boys ages 4, 7 and 10. They all went back to normal when they stopped using skin lotions, hair gel, shampoo or soap with the natural oils.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For Inspiration

I've been meaning to write about the amazing accomplishments of three of my friends for a while. Sorry about the delay, but I had to get my graduate school application out by February 1st. That's done now and I hope to be here more regularly.

First of all, Lisa Erdman, who was a good friend and colleague of mine at Harte Hanks has found her own way of gaining good karma after working for big Pharma. Lisa is a multimedia artist, whose poetry and graphic work never failed to impress me. She has now done something beyond what I could have imagined, a large-scale exhibit with print and TV ads mocking pharmaceutical companies. Here's a link: Annual Checkup: Pharmaceuticals for the 21st Century

As Lisa describes it:

It consists of a series of fictitious, satirical pharmaceutical ads that serve as a political and social commentary. Any feedback/comments are welcome!

The project has traveled across the country over the past year, including the Corcoran Gallery in D.C., Houston International Film Festival, and SIGGRAPH International Computer Graphics Conference in Boston.
I hope to see it in person.

Melanie Hall, a friend from my writing group is also a talented artist. She has been an illustrator for many years and recently published a book called "Winter's Song." It's a poem by Shakespeare at the end of his play "Love's Labor Lost." Melanie's illustrations in this book are beautiful. She was surprised and honored that the New York Times gave her book a favorable review.

Look for a compelling essay by my friend and writing group member Kathy Rebeillot in the Spring issue of the Threepenny Review. This is Kathy's first creative publication and she hit the jackpot with this journal.

All of these accomplishments by friends inspires me to keep working, because I've learned from these women that inspiration, great ideas, and hard work are what lead to success. There is hope for all of us.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I've neglected this poor blog over the holidays. I see it's been a few weeks since I've reached out to cyberspace and not because I've had nothing to say. We had a house full of family here for Christmas and even though I wasn't in the spirit this year at all, we still managed to pull everything together and have a lovely Christmas Day. That holiday was followed by a quick trip up to Maine, where we closed on our new summer house. And then, back home to prepare for New Year's Eve and Chloe's birthday party.

It was a lot to accomplish, and because I'm a perfectionist I do tend to put excessive effort into the preparations. That may be part of the reason why I've been stuck at home the past week with a horrible cold. Each day, I think I'll feel better, but this nasty bug just digs in deeper and makes me feel even worse. Today it's my throat and no amount of hot tea seems to soothe the raw burn at the top of my palate.

I've missed riding and yoga and running this week, but I have regained a sense of what it takes to be a writer. My lifestyle has for the last six months or so, been one of hyperactivity. Each day starts out with an activity, a good thing of course to have a routine and to get exercise, but I've gone a little overboard and tried to do too much. Not content to just ride in the morning, I've gone from the barn to the yoga studio, or to a trail to walk with a friend. The weather this fall was enticing and drew me outdoors and away from my desk and projects. I did manage to keep up with my journal, in fact this has been one of the most productive journaling times of my life. I've filled over 400 pages since I returned from our cross country trip in September. That material will be put to some creative use, once I finish my memoir.

But even my journal suffered over the holidays. I just caught up this week--from 12 days behind. I'm lucky that I can remember things well enough to record details and points from conversations, with a little prompting from my calendar or emails from that day. I also finished the three essays I had to write for my graduate school application and read the autobiography to my writing group on Thursday (they loved it, phew!).

This week of illness has really been a blessing for me, because it reminded me how much I love to write and how much pleasure I can get from writing and being alone. When our days are full with activities and friends, we can't ground enough to get back into the groove. It takes the freedom of uninterrupted time to open up the channels that allow the thoughts and words to flow. I'm seeing that I'll need to be more protective of that time when I enter back into my routine next week (I hope I'm feeling better by then).

Finding balance is the hardest thing for me to do. When I'm out in the world living, I can almost feel myself converting to an extrovert. I can easily be lured into endless socializing, because the alternative is sitting alone at home at my desk with hard work to do. When I do have the will to sit there and I get started on the projects, I remember who I really am and who I want to be. Not a dilettante, but an observer, recorder, and interpreter of the world. Yes, it often feels like a sacrifice to say no, I can't do that, I have to work, and with no real deadlines or structure it's hard to do that sometimes, especially since it's such an isolating occupation to begin with. But, that's the difference between the work that gets done and the work that doesn't. Thank you nasty virus for reminding me of that and for giving me the downtime to start writing again.