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Hello and Welcome! March 4, 2012

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Uncategorized.
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My name is Erin and I am The Skeptical Hippy.  My hope is simply to bring you along on my journal into Hippydom.  I would have other goals, but I like to start small.  If it didn’t sound so convoluted my blog would have been called The Perpetually Procrastinating, Lackadaisically Lazy, Semi-Skeptical, Wannabe Hippy.  See, I like to write and share my thoughts but only when the spirit moves me and trying to invoke the spirit at will can be difficult, especially with small children who demand your constant attention.  However, I figured keeping up with a blog would be a nice challenge and cognitive exercise.  I welcome you to my journal of fits and starts of learning to live a healthier and ‘greener’ life while also examining all the various claims of how best to do these things.

Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter February 22, 2013

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Product Review.
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IMG_0269Who doesn’t like peanut butter?  Even those whose throats swell up when given just a whiff of the stuff think “Oh, that smells good!” right before they hit the floor.  We go through quite a bit of it because of the kids and is my oldest daughter’s go-to for curing hiccups (it totally works!).   I figured I could check out the natural alternatives seeing as how all the major brands are hoping on this bandwagon.  Why natural?  The regular stuff has ingredients that I cannot pronounce, so that must mean that they are bad. [1]  Ingredients such as fully hydrogenated veggie oils, mono and digylcerides and salt [as if that’s a real thing].  One website warned of toxic build-up from the hydrogenated oils and everybody knows that nothing is worse than a toxic build-up, except for the colon cleanse that is required to remedy it.  This informative site states that gylcerides aren’t really all that bad, simply unnecessary as they are used to make our food more ‘pretty’.

It’s been damn near a year now since I decided to check out what’s available in Natural Peanut Butter Land.  Many labels promised “No Need To Stir” and “Refrigeration Not Required”.  Sweet!  As I am just a fledgling  lazy hippy, I need to go into this natural peanut butter world with baby steps.  The natural peanut butters with the visible layer of oil on top were just not for me, at least not for now.  The organic ones, oil layer or not, were not in my price range so it was off to the big players in the peanut butter business.  I have always purchased Jif (me being a choosey mom and all) so I compared the ingredients of Jif’s natural product to other brands.  The ingredients were the same between brands, more or less: Peanuts, Sugar, Palm Oil, Salt, Molasses.  Even with the salt, the label stated “Low Sodium!” and the nutritional information showed just 80mg/3% of daily requirements of sodium.  The regular stuff has 140mg/6% of sodium.  I was going to stick with Jif.

I was nervous.  Would I really have to stir?  Would it taste good?  Would my children like it?  No, yes and yes!  You can see just a bit of separated oil but not enough to compel one (at least not me) to stir it up.  It tastes really good, even with the lower sodium.  My daughter never noticed a difference and my son has sunk his entire hand into the jar and gobbled up the mess stuck to his fist.  It’s very creamy and simply delicious.

Well, that’s all well and good that it tastes well and good but there are other things that hippies have to consider when reviewing a product.  First, let’s talk numbers.  The natural and regular varieties are the same price (at least where I shop). However, the ‘natural’ version expires about a year earlier as the hydrogenated oils in the original product acts as a preservative.   So, is Jif a product that is hippy friendly?  Well, it’s mixed according to http://www.goodguide.com.  It’s overall score was 5.20 with the average of all companies rated on that site being a 5.00.  Things that really get a hippy worked up, such as ‘Indigenous Rights’ and ‘Child Labor’ got a score of just 4 out of 10.  Paradoxically, however, their ‘Leading Edge Practices’ score was a 9.  This category was defined as ‘”…human rights campaign corporate equality index score as well as any corporate responsibility awards won”.  For comparison I checked out Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.’s ‘Leading Edge Practices’, they received an 8.  Maybe Wal-Mart isn’t all bad.  Anyway, Jif probably isn’t the ideal source of peanut butter for hippies but for this hippy, it works.  The highest rated peanut butter was Kettle Foods Organic peanut butter with a score of just 6.4.  I reckon True HippiesTM just make their own, with peanuts grown in their front lawns.

I have tried other brands: Great Value, Planter’s and Smart Balance (not a fan).  Jif is the best, by far.  I should try Peanut Butter & Co.  Their Dark Chocolate Dreams is fabulous and worthy of its own blog post.  Please, dear readers, tell me what your favorite peanut butter brand is and if you have made your own!

FOOTNOTES

[1] – This should be its own logical fallacy.  Argumentum Ex Confusam Lingua (argument from confused tongue…thank you Google Translate!)

I’m Back! February 22, 2013

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Uncategorized.
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It’s been almost a year, but I’m back (yay!).  I also have a shiny new computer (double yay!!).  I’m working on posts about the creamy deliciousness that is peanut butter, the word ‘why’ and why it’s oh so important.  I reckon I should post about my experience with Instead cups (you’ll find out when I write about them).  And if I can manage to lose a few pounds, I’ll blog about that also.  Stay tuned folks, new and exciting posts from your favorite Skeptical Hippy will be coming soon!

Just Look Under Your Ass —Or— Thoughts On Hospital Birthing Practices June 17, 2012

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Childbirth.
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It’s under yer butt.

Humans don’t like spending energy (physical and/or mental) on tasks that are considered unnecessary.  How many times do we look for keys, rush for an appointment or just get up from the comfy couch to change the channel because the remote cannot be located, only to realize that the energy used for those tasks was spent in vein?  The keys were in our pocket, the appointment is next week, the remote was under our ass.  How do we feel when we realize that the frustration could have been avoided?  Sometimes we’re slightly annoyed, sometimes the time spent on the activity actually had negative consequences, but often we are simply relieved that the chore is done, extra energy spent or not.

Imagine that the extra work/energy spent went into getting poked, prodded and then cut open.  After those events, you don’t feel relieved, you feel robbed of your time, energy, expectations and oftentimes, dignity.  But you are told to be grateful because at least you are alive.  You try to be grateful but can’t help feeling like something was taken from you.  It’s later that you learn those events may have gone differently if only you had the information to realize that the remote was just under your ass.  You were cut open, scared, scarred but how dare you feel angry and a little betrayed.  All the while listening to people complain that their time was wasted spending unnecessary energy on tasks due to a lack of knowledge: “I spent 30 minutes looking for her coat!  I was late to that appointment.  Ugh, the coat was in the damn car!”  You hear that they are angry and some still complain about their inconveniences days later.  However, you mention how your C-Section left you feeling traumatized and you are simply patted on the head, told “But you’re FINE and you have a beautiful healthy baby!” and they grumble behind your back, stunned at how ungrateful you are.

The knowledge that the remote was simply under our asses wasn’t always lost on us.  In Jacqueline Wolf’s book, “Deliver Me From Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America”[1], she tells of a time before doctors were considered the star of the birthing show.  Women were intimately involved with not only their own child’s birth, but the birth of their family’s and friend’s children.  The laboring woman was surrounded by other women who had accumulated hundreds of years worth of knowledge through their mothers and their mother’s mothers.  It was considered common knowledge that if you were hungry, you ate (although I’m sure there were cautions as to not eat too much), thirsty, you drank and if you want to walk around, you walked!  Very few women labored on their backs for the simple reason that it didn’t feel good and the women around you would tell you that it’s not the best way to deal with the pain.  Women gave birth standing, squatting, on their hands and knees, on their sides, however nature seemed to guide them.  The pains of labor were taken care of by massage, breathing, meditation and the calming reassurances of women who had done this before.  Screams, grunts and silence were all to be expected.  The woman was the center of the show.  This was HER event.  She gave birth, someone else didn’t deliver her child.

For a variety of reasons the communal experience of giving birth gave way to (male) doctors being involved; ignorant male doctors.  This isn’t some feminist dig on men.  Men were not involved in the birthing experience.  Men didn’t know that the primal grunts and screams emanating loudly (and in their view, disturbingly) from their wives as their children entered the world, were more or less the result of nature giving us a vocal outlet for our efforts.  If you were to ask most women at the time “What was the most painful part of labor and childbirth?”  they would answer, “Transition” not, “Delivery”.  However, the doctors didn’t ask this question, they just assumed that these women needed pain relief as the child was crowning.  So women slowly became ignorant of the birthing process as doctors became more involved, shoving ether soaked rags in their faces past the time they would have wanted pain relief, the ignorant women grateful that the doctors must have saved them from most painful process of labor and delivery.  These women sang the praises of their benevolent doctors, encouraging others to do the same.  And hence, the beginnings of losing the knowledge that the remote was just under our asses.

Now, the tides of ignorance started to come in as early as the mid 1800’s.  Surrounded by knowledgeable women or not, birth at that time was dangerous.  Babies got stuck in the birth canal, women bleed to death, immature babies didn’t have much of a chance.  Hospital birth became the norm around the ‘30’s.  Maternal mortality and morbidity dropped during this time (thanks to the use of forceps and antibiotics and other medical advances that I am forgetting) but infant mortality and morbidity took an upswing.  Women at the time were pumped full of drugs, most of which were used to counter-act each other.  The effects the drugs had on the infants weren’t lost on the doctors but the systematic process of documenting those effects were not used until much later.

By the time it was realized that powerful depressants used during labor should be nixed (and therefore decreasing infant mortality and morbidity), over 90% of women were delivering in hospitals and the many practices that came along with hospital-birthing were well established.  Women were ignorant of the birthing process and were fully dependent on doctors, whose accumulated knowledge was more or less based on incorrect assumptions.  Obstetrics had become a well respected field of medicine and it was those doctors, not the women, who most definitely “knew better”.

Even during the ‘70’s when women were foregoing pain medicine and encouraging others to do the same, they were foregoing the analgesics in a hospital.  The hospital was still the default place to give birth and it continues to be now.  The infant mortality rate in the United State was 6.9 per 1000 births from 2003-2005[2].  It could be better in this country and there are various reasons why it’s not but overall it’s pretty good and women feel secure giving birth in a hospital.

So, why do women chose to birth at home?  There are various reasons but I reckon many make the decision by realizing that the remote is just under their ass.  All the procedures that have evolved over the years that are common in most hospitals are not based on quality scientific evidence.  To paraphrase my doctor “One of the first things I learned in medical school about obstetrics was that most of what is done isn’t based on good science.”  Being strapped down to the bed to counter-act the effects of twilight sleep, turned into being told by various nurses to “lay down” and not move during labor.  Yanking listless infants from their unconscious mothers’ turned into the default, push-on-your-back, position to deliver.  Cutting a woman’s perineum either because doctors at the time felt that pushing destroyed the “pelvic floor” or they needed the room for forceps, became the norm even after the myths of pelvic floor destruction were dispelled and forceps use went down (only recently have doctors stopped the “standard“ episiotomy).   Being too numbed up to feel the natural urge to push turned into “keep your chin down and push until you can’t any more” purple pushing.  Vaginal exams and continuous electronic fetal monitoring continue to be the tea leaves of nurses and doctors.  Women were given IVs to deliver pain medication, depressants and various other drugs are now given just to be sure that women are hydrated (and it’s considered necessary, which I don’t dispute, when given an epidural).

When one realizes that many of the uncomfortable procedures during labor could have been avoided and perhaps some of those procedures lead to unnecessary surgery, one tries to avoid those procedures in the future.  For some women that means avoiding the hospital all together.  For low risk pregnancies, the data seem to suggest that this is a safe option for most women.  However, despite the evidence against many common procedures and the evidence that is neutral on the safety of homebirth, it would seem that the obstetrical community misses the point entirely when homebirth is discussed.  They don’t focus on why women are choosing homebirth, simply that they are choosing it.  They scratch their heads and admonish, happy to tell tales of shoulder dystocia and uncontrolled bleeding.  Tales of triumph, the obstetrician coming in like a shining knight on a white horse.  “Why?” they ask.  “Why wouldn’t you want ME??”

The seeming refusal of the OB community to look in the mirror is frustrating for women who have realized that the remote is under their asses.  Hospitals that respect a woman‘s right to forgo those procedures are in the minority.  Tales of respected birth plans are few and far between.  My doctor is seen as enlightened to many women simply because she won’t perform vaginal exams unless she sees an indication for them and she “allowed” me to birth on my hands and knees.  I feel very comfortable in a hospital and much of that is due to the fact that my wishes to have my body do what it does are respected.  I also want the security I feel the hospital can provide by way of technology in case something goes wrong.  But many women feel (justified or not) that the facilities available to them will put them through those unnecessary procedures and often at the expense of their dignity and once in a while, their health.

If the obstetric community would find the remote under their ass, more women would willingly and quite comfortably chose to birth at hospitals.  Women who would chose to birth at home would do so not to avoid trauma but simply because that is what she wants.  Her decision would truly be a choice.

[1] – There are many facts stated in this piece.  Most of them are from this book and recited by memory.  If I had the book, my facts would be properly cited.  Oh, and BUY THIS BOOK!!  It’s now available for Kindle!  If you’re tight on cash, order it from your local library and if they don’t have it, suggest that they get it.  Many libraries will work with other libraries to get a book that you want.

[2] – Wiki baby! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_mortality

Mommy’s Little Kitchen Helper March 22, 2012

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Product Review.
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It’s small and so unassuming but it’s marvelous!  It’s a little plastic scraper dealie that I got with my Pampered Chef baking stone.  I’ve had this great little tool for 7 years but it’s only been recently that I’ve discovered its full potential.  Not only does it do a fine job of scraping cookie residue from my baking stone but it scrapes food from pots and pans and stickers from the floor.  The secret to this tool’s power is its stiff plastic, rounded corners and fine edge.  It can get under just about anything, cutting down scrubbing time dramatically.  I don’t really have to soak anything anymore.  I keep it with me when I’m sweeping, a little nudge nudge and the dried up veggie matter stuck on the floor is ready to be swept up.

“But Skeptical Hippy!” you implore, “I don’t have a scraper dealie!”  Well, as it turns out Pampered Chef sells them for just $2.75 for a set of 3!  (I only have one)  “But!” you insist, “I only support local businesses that donate 50% of their profits to animal shelters!”  All is not lost!  A credit card works well too (I recommend using one that is expired).  And if you don’t have one of those, perhaps even a plastic spatula would work just as well.

If dried on, baked on, stuck on anything has been a bane of your house keeping existence, I highly recommend this product or something similar.  It really makes life easier!

Where’s your toilet paper?? March 22, 2012

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Natural Living.
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They keep our bums clean.

We don’t have any.  OK, that’s an exaggeration.  We do have toilet paper but my husband is the only one that uses it.  Myself and the kids use what is referred to as Family Cloth.  Family Cloth sounds so damn hippy but I suppose it’s better than the more descriptive, Washable Ass Wipes.  I was introduced to the concept at least a year ago in Trolls.  I was intrigued.  The paper consumption in my house was already bugging me.  I hated using paper towels and although napkins are nice, I figured we could do without them (and we do).  But toilet paper?  I didn’t cloth diaper (could never really commit to it) so family cloth would be a totally new experience for us.

Before I considered the type of cloth and size, I asked The Hubs about it.  “Uh, no.” was his response.  I replied, “That’s fine.  However, the rest of us are going to start using them.”  He didn’t care just as long as I didn’t force him into this strange uncharted territory.  It didn’t hurt that toilet paper is expensive and using less meant spending less.

Now, usually my flirtations with new and exciting hippy concepts are fleeting; met with hesitations, mental blocks and finally resignation.  However, I had an ace in my proverbial pocket, my mother.  She can sew.  I spent my younger years wearing homemade Easter dresses and my adult years watching my children sleep on their handmade blankets.  I’m cheap and the thought of paying over ten bucks for a dozen cloth wipes gave me heartburn.  I would just make my mother make the cloths for me!

The conversation I had with my mother wasn’t as easy as it was with my husband…

“I’ll send you the fabric and the dimensions I want.  Make as many as the fabric allows!  I don’t care about the edges as long as they don’t fray.”

“You want me to make what?”

“It’s called Family Cloth.  It’ll save us money.”

“What?”

After going back and forth about how I would clean them and answering such hard-hitting questions as “What if you need more than one?” my mother reluctantly agreed to make the cloths for me.

Now, before sending my mother the fabric, I had to decide what type of fabric to use.  I was leaning heavily toward flannel.  I was already using a homemade flannel burp cloth I received at a baby shower and I really liked it (it was soft and pretty).  I purchased 3 yards of purple flannel at just $3/yrd.  (I think flannel is one of the preferred types of fabrics for this particular use.)  I figured that 3 x 2.5 in. wipes for pee and 6 x 5.5 in. wipes for poo would be good sizes (they are).  I believe my mother made about 40 wipes total (the edges are serged).

So far, so good!  It’s been at least six months and the wipes are holding up well and few have stained.  They add almost no bulk to my wash.  I need to wash them about every 2-3 days to keep stocked (sometimes more often if I find myself using them for things other than behinds).  I throw them right in with whatever I happen to be washing: towels, pants, socks, whatever.  If they are particularly soiled, I’ll wash them on warm or hot (depending on what I’m washing them with) and use an extra rinse.  If some have solid messes on them, I will quickly rinse the excess off before putting them into the machine.  I have not needed to “strip” them and I bleach them only if I’m doing a “bleach” load (not too often).  Since my laundry room and my bathroom inhabit the same space, I can literally toss the dirty wipes into the washer machine as I sit on the toilet.  I do not have a “wet bag“, but you may want to consider one if you do not have the same bathroom/laundry room configuration.

I could be using the cloths more efficiently.  I recommend filling up a spray bottle with water (and maybe some essential oils for a nice scent, be sure it won’t bother your bottom) and just spraying them before cleansing.  I always forget to fill the bottle back up so I waste a bunch of water running the wipes under the faucet.  Most normal people put the wipes on the back of the toilet.  However, my son would have them scattered all over the house if I didn’t put them on a shelf above the washer and dryer [see photo].  I grab what I need before I sit down and I’m trying to train my daughter to do the same.

Overall this transition was painless.  We were used to throwing baby wipes into the trash so throwing a cloth version into the laundry basket took just a slight adjustment.  Hubs is happy because he still has his toilet paper and it’s good to have on hand when you have guests.  I feel better about lowering my paper consumption while also spending less money on a product whose sole purpose is to be covered in crap and flushed down the toilet.  I encourage others to make this leap.  It’s easy and it gives you serious hippy cred.

Homeopathy: An Overview March 10, 2012

Posted by theskepticalhippy in CAM.
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[This is a slightly revised edition of my Cafemom journal.]

Many people state that they use homeopathy in their arsenal of health remedies.  I wonder if many of these people actually know what constitutes homeopathy.  The word is used on several products that aren’t really homeopathic.  If you chose to use a homeopathic product (I wouldn’t recommend it) you should at least know what to look for so you are getting what you paid for.

Well, what is homeopathy?  Homeopathy was “discovered” by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700′s.  He had the notion that medicine’s function was to “balance the body’s ‘humors’ by opposite effects”.  He figured that if something caused an ill, that ill could be cured by the offending substance if the substance was ingested in very small amounts.  He called this notion the “law of similars”. [1]

How small are the amounts of the substances being ingested?  It depends, homeopathic solutions usually state the concentration noted as (x)C.  The “x” representing a number, anywhere from 1 to 30 (Oscillococcinum uses 200C).  Hahnemann created the centesimal scale or C scale.  The C represents a dilution of a factor of 100.  Straight from Wikipedia:

“a 2C dilution requires a substance to be diluted to one part in one hundred, and then some of that diluted solution diluted by a further factor of one hundred. This works out to one part of the original substance in 10,000 parts of the solution.[58] A 6C dilution repeats this process six times, ending up with the original material diluted by a factor of 100−6=10−12

30C dilution would be one molecule of the substance in 160 (that’s a 1 with 60 zeros behind it).  It turns out that number happens to be greater than the number of water molecules on the Earth, times 309.  Anything 12C or greater probably doesn’t contain any molecules of the original substance in the solution.[2]

According to homeopathic literature, homeopathic remedies are considered more potent the more diluted they are.  The product Head-On is a good example of this.  The “extra strength” product has its “active ingredients” more diluted than the regular Head-On product.

All of this diluted business begs the question [3], if the homeopathic product you are ingesting actually doesn’t contain the substance said to cure you, how does it work?  Well, Hahnemann figured that the solution carried the memory or “essence” of the substance.  The memory was created by the process of diluting the substance.  “Succussion” is the vital step in dilution.  Succussion involves shaking the container in a vigorous fashion (I’m sure there are techniques to this, but I do not know what those techniques are).  This succession is what creates the imprint or essence of the substance in the solution.

Now, I must admit that this worries me a bit.  If water carries a memory of substances that were once present in it, I have to wonder what other essences are in my water.  Most city water comes from the closest water source (lake, river) and treated sewer water.  We have all heard of news reports that state that there are wee amounts of all sorts of things in our water, heavy metals, medication, the all encompassing “chemicals”.  So, if we were to purify the water, wouldn’t that just make the effect of these substances stronger?  Although, if the law of similars were true, then the water should be extra healthy.

Now, our current knowledge of physics does not leave room for the plausibility that homeopathic solutions actually do what they purport to do.  However, just because we don’t know how something works, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t actually work (as far as I’m concerned, my computer works on magic).  So, homeopathy must be tested.  Well, as it turns out, it has been tested. [4]  However, the (good) studies that have tested homeopathy do not show that it is any better than placebo.  Poo.

What’s a “good” study?  Well, a good study is one where variables are accounted for.  This is done in a number of ways.  For instance, the person taking the substance should not know if they are ingesting the actual substance or a placebo (placebo controlled).  The person administering the substance should not know if what they are administering is the real thing or not (double-blinding).  The medical history of the person (current meds, ills, family history) should be known.  And a good sample size (whatever that means, I’m not a statistician) should also be used.  The studies that controlled for these variables showed that homeopathy was no better than placebo.  Anecdotally (sample size of one) James Randi ingests a whole bottle of homeopathic sleep medication at the annual TAM meeting.  He doesn’t pass out.  Perhaps he really should only take one.  And, really, he’s just showing that homeopathy is harmless.  I wonder if homeopathic remedies have child caps on them, hmmm.  They’re “safe” only by the simple fact that there is nothing in the remedies besides what the substance was diluted in (except when they’re not).  However, “safe” is a relative term.  They’re not safe if someone is forgoing evidence based medicine in favor of homeopathy.  (check out whatstheharm.net for some graphic examples of CAM gone wrong)

Some closing thoughts:

Homeopathy uses a lot of water.  If you are concerned about water conservation, I would contact your homeopathic provider and ask about their water use.  Also, many of the substances used in homeopathic solutions are dangerous at full strength.  The process of diluting actually introduces those substances into the water supply.  Again, contact your homeopathic provider and ask about how the water is disposed of when they are creating the solutions.  Now, homeopathy isn’t regulated.[5]  The companies that provide homeopathic remedies are not required to regularly test their products and provide an independent regulatory board with a sample of their product.  So, Buyer Beware.

Footnotes:

[1] – Quoted statements were lifted straight from Quackwatch.org.  I summarized the paragraph from where these statements originated.  http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html

[2] – Wikipedia has a great article on homeopathy, complete with charts and even some math.  Check it out.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy

[3] – Not to be confused with the logical fallacy Begging The Question.  Here I am using it as often understood by the general public: to ask questions thought to logically follow an argument.

[4] – See [2]

[5] – I am not a fan of governmental forced regulation (is there any other kind).  I am, however, a big fan of independent agencies that test products.  If there is such an agency/ies for homeopathy please let me know.  I am aware of the Council For Homeopathic Certification but a quicky look at their website doesn’t seem to state that they are involved in testing products.

Please remain calm! Tips for staying rational during emotional discussions. March 5, 2012

Posted by theskepticalhippy in Skepticism.
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This is what brought me into the Wonderful World of Blogging.  I finally had a subject I wanted to write about and I figured I could use Christine at Skeptical Mothering to get it out into the ether.  I decided to take the ‘next step’ and just start my own damn blog.  Anyway, show her some love by reading my post from her page.

Please remain calm!  Tips for staying rational during emotional discussions.

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