Sunday, September 30, 2012

PSA - The Death File

Usually I try to make my blog a happy little corner of the web.  I put in stories that are (hopefully) amusing and thoughts and recipes that are (hopefully) inspiring and instructive. Today's post is breaking the mold. 

Recently I got a phone call informing me that a dear friend's husband had died. It was quite unexpected,  shocking in it's suddenness. My friend, who I'll call Grace, woke up in her normal life and went to sleep with an entirely different life. 

I talked to Grace for almost an hour. She told about the numb shock of the first few days. How for 10 days she threw up everything she ate. How she didn't sleep at all for three days until she realized it was the empty bed that kept her awake. When she had her helpers move it out to the shed and bring the guest bed into her bedroom, she could sleep a bit. With the aid of sleeping pills.

And she talked about the financial chaos her husband had left behind. Her husband, who I'll call Peter, was a big thinker, a planner, making fortunes on big deals, or sometimes losing them when the deal went bust. He was good at vision, at seeing the big picture. What he wasn't good at was details. 

In scouring the house, trying to find the financial records to assess where she stood, Grace found some interesting things. In one bin she found a month old bill. Unopened. In a seed catalog she found, being used as a bookmark, an uncashed check for $900. From 2004. The record keeping was spotty and the finances were in total disarray. She is working her way through stacks of papers she gleaned from around the house, trying to piece together an accurate picture of his business dealings and figure out how long she can stay in her house.

Many years ago on a radio program I heard a brilliant idea that my husband adopted. It's called The Death File. In it he keeps all the information I'll need in the unlikely even of his untimely demise. Bank account names, numbers, passwords, life insurance policies as well as contact information for the insurance agent, names and numbers of anyone pertinent plus any hidey holes in which he might have cash stored. Everything. This file should be updated once a year and hopefully never, ever needed. But if it is needed, what a lifesaver.

Nothing can ever replace a loved one, but if you are the one in charge of finances, you can make sure that the loved one left behind doesn't have to bear the added stress of financial turmoil in addition to their grief.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Principle of the Thing

School starting up again has made me a little bit nostalgic. All of the pictures friends are posting on Facebook of their cute kids with their backpacks and excited/terrified faces remind me of when I was in elementary school.

I wasn't one of the terrified kids. I loved back to school time. I got new clothes, but that wasn't the real draw. The true enticement was shopping for paper, pencils, and notebooks at Grand Central. To this day I still love filling up a cart with lined paper, packs of pens and pencils, erasers and crayons. My kids moan, "Mom, enough already! We have all that stuff at home!" But it's the newness of it that matters. A Pink Pearl eraser at the beginning of the school year is totally different from that same eraser at the end of the year. It's soft and pliable, clean and smooth. It hasn't yet been whittled down to a stump in stupid math class when you can't find the right answer to save your life, or had a galaxy created on it with your pencil stabbing it repeatedly during a boring lecture.

And I won't even go into the thing I have with boxes of crayons! Well, except to say, I never got more than 16 crayons and I had total crayon envy, so I buy my kids the BIG box with the sharpener in the back. They may have to go into therapy later in life (um, no, most likely they will have to go into therapy), but it won't be crayon-related!

For some reason the things you learn in elementary school stick with you life-long. I'm not talking about stupid stuff like the state capitals and major exports of countries, I mean truly important things like when you play on the monkey bars, you need to wrap your coat around the bar, then hitch your leg over the coat to spin, otherwise you're going take get blisters the size of jellyfish on your bare skin (because, of course, all girls wore skirts then).

I learned the importance of holding your breath when walking around a lake of barf, otherwise you'll contribute to the pile.

I learned that if you volunteer for stuff (helping in the cafeteria, taking the erasers outside to clap them together, releasing clouds of chalk dust) you get out of class early.

Also taking up space in my brain is the mnemonic for spelling Arithmetic. Not politically correct, but:
A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tabacco In Church. Now you will never be at a loss for the spelling on that one. If that's the winning word in a spelling bee you're in, I expect a thank you note.

And if you've ever wondered how to correctly spell principle vs. principal, and which is which - the Principal of the school is a Prince and he's your Pal. Which mine was. Mr DeVries. He's in the upper left in this picture. Doesn't he look totally nice? He was. Although, it was a bit weird when he followed us to Jr. High as assistant principal there. I guess there's a ladder to climb, even for principals. It just felt a wee bit like stalking.

(Bonus points if you can guess which nerdy kid was me.)

And as to the other one, there are always principles to remember.

You might be wondering what the point of this rambling post is, and what it's got to do with that creamy deliciousness in the tea cup, and just what is that creamy deliciousness?

The point of the post is to tell you about a principle (no, not Mr. DeVries, the other kind. Didn't you look at the spelling??). The simple principle is "Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth." Now, obviously, this applies to personal care products, not clothing.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body and it absorbs things it comes in contact with. Don't believe me? If not, why are there such things as nicotine patches? Because it's absorbed through the skin. Trans-dermally is the $5 word for that. Now if you read the labels on things like shampoo, face wash, body lotion, and cosmetics, you'll find a lot of things that you wouldn't want as garnishes on your dinner. And some of them, like laurel sulfate, are even known carcinogens!

So what is a girl or guy to do when it comes to personal care? Give up and go cave man? No, no. Hygiene does not need to go out the window just because you care about your health. Like so many things, you can make it yourself better and cheaper than what you buy in the store. And you can customize it so it's exactly how you like it.

Today's luscious, creamy recipe is for body butter. I put it in the tea cup for it's photo shoot because it looks so thick and rich, you'll be tempted to eat it with a spoon. And you could, because all of the ingredients are edible! But I recommend you save it for your skin and indulge yourself with silky smooth skin and a happy body!

Rich and Clean Body Butter

1 cup shea butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond oil
essential oil

1- In the top of a double boiler, melt the shea butter and coconut oil. Let this cool for at least 30 min. Chill in the fridge, if necessary.

2- Stir in almond oil and your choice of essential oil. (Lavendar or peppermint are nice choices. Be sure it's not something that will irritate your skin.)

3- Wait until oils start to partially solidify (if it's a hot day, pop it into the fridge to speed this up), then put the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip till butter-like.

4- Resist the temptation to put a spoonful in your mouth, and scoop the mixture into clean, glass containers, preferably not too deep.

Store in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.