Chemicals, chemicals, everywhere Part I -Household Cleaners


By trying to keep our homes clean and healthy, we are poisoning ourselves.

The second leading cause of death in the United States is cancer. Over 1500 people die every day from it, and there are 10,000 new cases among children every year. According to the American Cancer Society, only 5%-10% of cancer cases are genetically related, leaving the other 90%-95% to be caused by things outside of our bodies. The government has studied the ingredients in products we use in our homes. Did you know there are chemicals  in products we use every day that are outlawed in other countries because of their toxicity??? Skin irritations, tumors, cancers….all caused by these chemicals. Chemicals in nearly every type of cleaning supplies used in the U.S. every day. This includes organic cleaners which contain carcinogens that are naturally derived.  Less than 30 seconds after exposure, measurable amounts of chemicals can be found in the human body. These chemicals are all around us…..not just in the household cleaners. Air fresheners, candles, make-up, body soaps and shampoos, laundry and dish detergents, deodorants, dryer sheets, on and in the foods we eat, etc….. the list goes on and on. Even if we don’t end up developing cancer, there are other side effects felt in our bodies. Lethargy, sleep trouble, inability to focus, chronic inflammation, unexplained pain, fibromyalgia, skin issues, hormone imbalances, hot flashes, stress, anxiety, and fear….just to name a ‘few’. (Fearless by Sarah Harnisch)

Seems a little overwhelming, doesn’t it? But you can start making changes, little by little, to round up the chemicals in your life and take them out with the trash. the first thing you can do is not take my word for it. Do a little research onf your own.  You already know we are creating super germs with our abundant use of anti-bacterial chemicals/hand cleaners. Are we doing the same with our household cleaners, as well as poisoning ourselves??

One of the simplest changes I’ve found is switching out my household cleaners. I used to buy a popular cleaner by the gallons. I used it in the bathrooms and the kitchen. This one doesn’t have an over powering chemical smell, but it did have one, nonetheless. Then there was another to clean windows, and another for the floors. I have developed asthma. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t be in a room using these products for very long and had to have windows open.

Over two years ago, I was introduced to essential oils. I began using Young Living essential oils and their Thieves Household Cleaner. There is no poison in it. And I use that one human-friendly cleaner for everything. Not only that, there is no chemical smell (duh, no chemicals mean no chemical smell). I LOVE the smell of it. And no irritating my asthma either. One simple switch. And guess what? I have been sick and at the doctor less than ever before. All the other cleaners I had been using were not keeping me safe and well. They were keeping me sick.


Up next: Part II Detergents


Bucket Lists.


Should we have buckets lists? I mean, are they really worth having? I think so. "What's your dream?….always time to dream so keep on dreamin." (Pretty Woman)
Will we reach every item on it? No. We may not get to check off a single one. But the importance of a bucket list is to keep our goals in mind. Our 'fun' goals. I started one years ago in my mind. And really only had a few things on it. 1) to visit NYC 2) to see Lee Miserables and / or The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. I knew I'd never make it but it was nice to have those goals. Well, I've actually done all of that. I've taken students on two awesome trips to NYC. On the first we saw Phantom, and on the second we saw Les Miz. So breathtakingly beautiful I cried both times. (The kids were not crazy about going to see Les Miz but by intermission the excitement on their faces was undeniable. "You did GOOD, Miss Elkins! This is way better than Lion King!!!"-They were jrs and srs) So my 'sort of' bucket list is empty. And I'm also getting close to retirement. Think of the butterfly and what their list must be like. They don't land on the same type of flower and plant every day. They seek new color and design….. Some times even visiting in our hands.
I need to set some new goals. I need some new dreams.
Do you have a bucket list? A list of fun things you want to do in your life? If not, sit down and think about it. Write down some that are totally attainable and some that aren't. Think I'll start my day by creating my list.
Hmmmm…. I've never been on as cruise before. Sounds like I already have number one.
Be like the butterfly. What different plants do you want to explore??? Some nearby? Some far off?

The Lone Butterfly



Just some random thoughts about butterflies and relationships. Have you seen the migration of the Monarchs? They travel in bunches and it's amazing to see. They share branches in trees and bushes with each other … I like to think they do it for companionship. So they aren't alone. But have you also seen the lone butterfly? Without companions? Seeing this made me wonder. Are butterflies as fickle as humans? As dramatic? I'm the type of person, you know if I like you or not….you know if I consider you a friend. It's hard for me to hide that….and really, if I could, I wouldn't want to. How fake can we be? Be real. Be honest. I am a people watcher. And what I see makes me wonder about the human race sometimes. Where do we learn to be fake? Where did we learn to care more what people think about us than how we make people feel? I have a grand imagination. I can just imagine….a single butterfly on a branch, resting. One of his buddies comes along and takes a break with him….until….a butterfly that doesn't care for him comes along. When his buddy sees this one flying in on the horizon, he turns his back.  Maybe even leaves like he had never been there. All because he cared more about what the new butterfly thought of him than he did about how doing this makes the lone butterfly feel. Once the other is gone, he flies back to the branch, wanting to rest and visit. I wonder, are the butterflies as fake and fickle as some humans can be?

We humans are as fragile as butterflies in some ways. Our egos. Our self-esteem. We don't need the 'fickle pickles' making us feel less than another or unworthy. A lot of times, we do a good job of telling ourselves those things…without the help of others. And, really, that's all the fake butterfly is doing. Saying, "Hey, this other butterly is more important than you. They don't care for you so excuse me while I run to them like I was never here. I'll be back. When they aren't around, I'll come back to your branch ."

I am like the lone butterfly. Everyone is as important as everyone else. If you leave my branch because you don't want someone else to see you with me, don't expect to be invited or welcomed back to it. Not to be mean, but I don't need another making me feel less worthy than someone else. Hopefully the lone butterfly can find a few honest ones to share a branch with. But if not….being a lone butterfly and feeling good about where you are going is always better than one who has no direction and depends on others to get his self-worth. That ego is as fake as the butterfly that makes you feel it.

What do the butterflies do?

What do the butterflies do?

What do you do when you’ve either reached all your goals or they’ve become unattainable. What do the butterflies do when they reach their destination in their yearly migration? They’ve reached their destination. Their goal.

Yes, I know I tell my students nothing is impossible. But I guess I lie to them. Because some things actually are. So. What do you do when you have to set new goals for your life???and you are middle-aged. I currently find myself in this situation. There are several options for me to pursue. Now I have to ponder and pray and consider which I want to go after. For the first time in 28 years, I’m teaching something (well, several different something’s) totally different. I’ve always been in core areas. Now, I’m more in the career technology area. I love it. It’s been stressful-because I’m not confident in what I’m doing. But it has been a fun, challenging, and growing experience. I’m finally getting sort if settled in it. So there’s one option. Continue what I’m doing and get this going strong. My family lives 5-8 hours away from me. And has for the past 20 years. I’ve missed so much time not sharing with them. So. There’s another choice. Move to a new place. No telling what I’d be doing.  Then there’s my photography.  I love that and want to pursue that more. But doing what I’m doing now, I’ve got little time for it. Several options. Then there’s he goal I shut down-having a family. I’m almost 50 so that’s pretty much become the unattainable one. Do I even want to keep that alive? Or just write it off completely? At my age, the thought comes-do I even WANT the complications that come with a relationship? I’m so tired most of the time me from work, the thought of having someone to come home to isn’t exactly appealing. I’ve done a lot of pondering on this. I feel in limbo without any real goal set for my life. So what do you do when you meet all the goals you’ve set? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Time in a bottle….

Time in a bottle….

“But the never seems to be enough to time ….To do the things you want to do, once you find them.” – Jim Croce

Time. I’ve never really thought much about it….I just lived my life. This sounds so cliche’ but there are so many things I wants to do, to see, to hear…..and now I’m almost 50 and am realizing……I’ve spent my life living and breathing my job. Have I really lived? Does it really matter if I don’t ever see or do or hear most of the things I always wanted to? Have. I. Really. Lived?

Yes, it’s true what people tell you when you are young. “As you get older, time will fly.” “You will look back and wonder where it went.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to ponder such things. I haven’t lived the life I always wanted and dreamed. From a very early age, all I remember wanting to be was a mother. I wanted to get married and have lots of babies/children. I never really thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up…..I know. A mother and wife. Those are the two things I grew to realize I’d never have. But after living alone all of these years, something else has proven to be true. “The grass is always greener….” There are good and bad things about both single hood and marriage. It’s all in how you look at it. And…as far as children go….I’m a teacher who loves my job and my children.  I have lots of kids. And would do anything for them.  And they know it. I may not have to put them through college (I would try my darnedest if one of them needed my help with it) but I love them like my own flesh.

So-do the dreams of childhood really matter? Do we get to the end of our life and think, ” Where did my life and time go to???”  Yes and no. They matter to give you directions and goals. But they aren’t written in stone. They are fluid and ever-changing. As for the question of where time went, it was lived. By you. By me. By us all. So things didn’t turn out like we had dreamed. They still turned out. 

And the question-have I really lived???? Yes, I have. My life’s not perfect-far from it. I’m not perfect, far from it. But-I have lived, laughed, loved, and learned through it all. No, Jim, there never seems to be enough time. All we can do is manage the time we have to the best of our ability. Do the things you want when you can, IF you can. If not, it’s ok. 

Start a bucked list if you haven’t already. Give yourself some goals to shoot for. I never really thought about having one. But did subconsciously. Several things have been checked off. I always wanted to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Always wanted to go to NYC…..wanted to see Les Miz on Broadway. Those have been  done. I never really thought I’d ever make it to those things. Now I’ve been to NYC twice, planning a third trip and seen both plays ON BROADWAY. And bawled my eyes out through them. 

Life is what we do while we are living. Only we can make them meaningful or not. 

Make your life count. Make your time count. 

The Perfect Parent


Listening to the sermon this morning, something struck me. It's no great revelation. Just a simple thought. That probably many already know or realize. God is the perfect father. I know many, myself included, question why some things happen. Why did God allow this? Why didn't he heal that? He can do miracles. He DOES allow miracles to happen sometimes. Why not every time one is needed? The answer is simple. Perfect parenthood. I may not physically be a parent. But I do understand some things of parenthood. We want the best for our kids. We don't want them to hurt or struggle. But we also want them to be strong, independent adults. You can't have both. Because to be strong and independent, you must suffer and struggle some. If we give them everything, if we make life easy for them, we have only hurt them in the long run. That is God. If he healed every hurt, if he made smooth every rough sea, think how spoiled we would be. Think how thankless we would be. Think how little we would depend on him. Think how little we would grow. Who knows how he decides who to heal and who not to…..but….to heal everyone would create a bunch of thankless children. To heal none would create a bunch of non-believers. Look at it like this-a little child with candy. Do you give them as much as they want? No. They'd be bloated and greedy. Do you withhold all candy or sweets? No. They'd likely gorge on it once they did get it. But if you give it to them sparingly, as treats, at special times, they appreciate it and learn to enjoy it when they do get it. At least, that's how I see God. Do I still get angry with him sometimes? Sure. I am nowhere near perfect. But he loves me anyway. And even though he may not chose to grant the miracle I want, I know he is still there for me to lean on, to rely on, to give me strength through my pain and struggles. I'm pretty lucky. He also blessed me with parents who try to immulate him and his parenting skills. They haven't given me everything I ever wanted. They've given me everything I've ever NEEDED……advice, shoulders to lean and cry on, support. They haven't spoiled us-no matter how much they wanted to-they simply loved us enough to allow us to struggle, grow, and learn. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Thanks, Father.

A new year….a new beginning?

A new year….a new beginning?

Well, it isn't THE new year but it is A new year. A new school year that is. And, while I've had many new beginnings in my career….a few town changes, a few grade level and subject changes…..this may be the biggest new beginning yet. In 27 years of teaching, this will be the first year I am not a core subject teacher. This will be the first year to teach MULTIPLE grade levels (freshman through senior). This will be the first year I'm not in a regular classroom or regular hallway where my kids can stop. This will be th first year I don't have a YAG or benchmark or six weeks test. This will be the first year without TAAS, TAKS, STAAR, or whatever test-stress. Lots of 'news' this year. You see, while I have a Master's in educational technology, there has never been a position open OR the school wouldn't let me out of my ELA teaching position. Last year, both the technology and journalism positions became available. Since it's -generally-easier to find English teachers than it is to find technology teachers, I was asked if I minded moving into the position and taking over the journalism area also. After much thought and prayer (a whole 5 seconds), I gave a shout, "YES! I'll do it!!!" One of my former students, when she heard of my move, said, "But Miss Elkins! You LOVE teaching reading and English!" To which I replied, "Yes, I do, but you guys don't. I'm tired of fighting you all." She admitted the truth of this and agreed it would be a good move. 😄 

It is nice to finally teach something most of the kids like, are interested in, and WANT to take. Of course, the classes are all electives so there are some students stuck in classes they don't want, but they are in the minority. 

So instead if teaching what I know-English and reading-to high schoolers, I'm teaching graphic design, principles of audio-visual, audio-visual production, journalism, and advanced journalism. Very exciting but also very scary. I've never taught these 5 subjects. And It has already had its pitfalls. We haven't had A/V in about 10 years so our equipment is sorely outdated. The journalism class was last taught by someone who didn't want it or care about it. So the very expensive cameras and lenses we had are almost all destroyed..roughly $10,000.00. As a photographer, this had me in tears at the amount of money thrown down the drain……for no reason other than the work ethic of someone else.  Those three things alone-video cameras and photography cameras and lenses are more than my budget will allow. So I'm working with limited equipment. I'm trying to salvage what I can of the photography stuff. The a/v….well, we just have to find funds for that somewhere. 

Also, I've inherited yearbook. A major undertaking. This in itself has been a headache the last two weeks. But hopefully I now have THAT issue all worked out and we can get the ball rolling this week.

I also found out that yearbook, newspaper, and production have UIL categories!!! So I can try to get my kids ready to compete in the spring!! 

All in all, it's been an exciting start to a new beginning. I'm back to working 12-14 hour days at school just to stay afloat…. already. Having 5 preps plus 6 UIL events to get ready for……it takes a lot of time. But my stress level is still so much less than it has been. AND I'm learning new, marketable skills in case I move. I can teach something other than ELA! 

So I'm flying headfirst into the unknown this year hoping my wings and dreams don't get crushed.    

Smooth sailing


  You know, things change. Sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better. I always tell people who say, “It’s scary how smoothly things are going. It just feels too good,” that the change must be the right change to make. The thing is-I think they only seem smooth because things are working out a that point in time ……be ready……it’s not going to be smooth or good for long. It can’t be. No situation is perfect. I don’t believe anything is perfect (without any flaws whatsoever). No situation will remain flawless for long. Bumps will come. They have to because that’s life. So don’t get disappointed when things aren’t as perfect as they first seemed. And if things aren’t going well at all with this new decision or change, maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Or maybe. Just maybe it was, these bumps are just happening because, well, that’s life. Lessons I need to remember also.  


Shields and butterflies.


“With brave wings she flies…”

I’m participating in a week-long daily post in Facebook where I post a sentence about God every day. Today’s sentence was, “God is my shield.” As it is summer and I have time to, I am sitting in my hand-painted rocking chair on my back patio with my baby – a wire-haired terrier named Ginger. She is ‘sunning’ herself while I am sitting back in the shadow of my porch roof because although it is still morning it is already blisteringly hot. And it comes to me that my roof here is like God. I can feel the heat from the sun but cannot get burned. The analogy being-I can feel the heat from life, but because of God’s grace I cannot get burned by it. No matter how hard it tries to consume me, I am saved from that. And to not feel the pain of a third-degree sunburn, all I have to do is keep my eyes on Him.  I used to compare myself to a butterfly, not for the usual girly reasons. But because I consider butterflies to be fragile yet strong and courageous. All it takes is the slightest touch on their wings to hinder them, yet look at how they fly.  They fly great distances….sometimes alone, sometimes in groups.  They fly very close to these giants who can easily destroy them into a colorful smudge. Yet they face the wind, the dangers, the predators head on  they don’t cower or turn back.  I moved a long way from all that I know and love almost 20 years ago.  I’m still far away but visit when I can.  Sometimes I’ve been alone in my storms of life here, others I have had friends and family with me to keep me steady. And through it all, I am still standing. Life and others have tried to hinder me, destroy me, but still I stand.  “I am a woman. A woman phenomenally.” A woman of God. With brave wings she flies.