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Category: happy living

Posts that have to do with getting more enjoyment out of life.

A Gift of Hair

I just chopped off 10 inches of hair and mailed it away. I loved my long hair, but last weekend I had the realization that, since donating my hair was on my bucket list (my lil sis has donated her hair before), there was no better time to do it than now, in honor of my mother-in-law who passed away just weeks ago. Making the cut felt a tad impulsive since I hadn’t been actively considering it even though it was in the back of my mind… the idea popped afresh into my head one night and wouldn’t leave me alone.

I chose Pantene Beautiful Lengths over others hair donation options. Donating hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths lets them create free real-hair wigs that will be given to low income women who have lost their own hair to cancer treatment. Wigs are made by HairUWear and are distributed by American Cancer Society wig banks.

The requirements for hair donation to Pantene Beautiful Lengths:

  • Donated hair must be a minimum of 8 inches long (hair is measured from just above the elastic band of the ponytail to the ends).
  • Donors may straighten hair to measure wavy/curly hair.
  • Hair is washed and completely dry, without any styling products.
  • Hair may be colored with vegetable dyes, rinses and semi-permanent dyes. It cannot be bleached, permanently colored or chemically treated.
  • Hair may not be more than 5% gray. This is because it takes six ponytails to make each wig, and the ponytails for a single wig will be dyed a uniform color. Gray hair (along with permanently colored, bleached, or chemically treated hair) doesn’t absorb color at the same rates as other types of hair, making a uniform color unachievable.

I chose this hair donation option primarily because it makes wigs for adult cancer patients and I wanted to give something tangible to those dealing with the multifaceted challenges of cancer, like my MIL did. Other options are Wigs for Kids and Locks of Love. Here is a nice article that discusses factors to consider when deciding where to send your hair donation. It also debunks the myth that any of these 3 options makes recipients pay for the wigs, but explains how they do sell unusable (too short, too gray, etc) hair to help offset the manufacturing costs.

Seeing my MIL slowly lose her hair brought the reality of cancer treatment home, even before we knew the chemo wasn’t working for her. She gracefully accepted that she would never grow her own hair again, and ordered a wig. She had it styled by her regular hairdresser, something that never occurred to me as a possibility (but then, I had not deeply considered wigs before either). In writing this post, I happily discovered that a small local salon company in my county, Brown and DeLine, has partnered with the ACS as a wig bank location to generously give cancer patients private appointments to fit and style their wigs.

So, here I am a few days after the chop… a little lighter, a little richer. I loved having long hair, but I have no regrets. We get so much by giving.

Karen, post haircut

You Learn by Living

You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

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You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life was written by Eleanor Roosevelt and published in the 1960s as an answer to questions she received in the mail. After watching Ken Burn’s The Roosevelts, I realized why Eleanor was so admired as a public figure, and why her wisdom was much sought.

In You Learn By Living, Eleanor covers a lot of ground. Her 11 keys to a more fulfilling life include learning to learn, fear – the great enemy, the uses of time, the difficult art of maturity, readjustment is endless, learning to be useful, the right to be an individual, how to get the best out of people, facing responsibility, how everyone can take part in politics, and learning to be a public servant.

keep reading…

Vermicomposting – 1 Month In

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That’s right. Vermicomposting.

Alternate titles for this post might have been “Random Stuff That Makes Me Happy” or “Got an Amazon Prime Shipping Box Problem?”. Apparently worms are a secret to my happiness. Or maybe it’s that the resultant worm castings and worm tea make gardens grow, and gardening makes me happy. Or maybe it’s that a budding horticulturalist child of mine is SO EXCITED about our myriad new “pets” (which he also intends to use for bait). Regardless, we’re currently whole hog into vermicomposting, an apparently hipster thing to do (?), and we’re not looking back.

Vermicomposting essentially utilizes the eating habits of certain gregarious shallow-feeding worm species (mainly Eisenia fetida, aka red wigglers) to aid the decomposition of organic matter into a nutrient dense vermicompost. It is a natural organic fertilizer which contains water-soluble nutrients… a plant megafood. You can buy pre-processed vermicastings, but it’s generally very expensive, and for good reason.

Materials & Supplies

Some six weeks ago or so, I picked up a used (but very clean) vermicomposting tray system for $5 at a my neighbor’s church’s rummage sale (did I mention I love rummage sales? I do. I luuuurve them). These things new can cost well upwards of $100, so I knew it was worth a shot. It had all its parts, including the manual! No worms though. But I ordered those through Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm (I bought direct through Uncle Jim’s website because they had a Spring sale going, but they sell through Amazon too).  I bought 2000… the smallish extra cost for twice as many seemed worth it for the insurance. And we have a lot of worm food around these parts (aka junk mail, cardboard Amazon Prime boxes, food scraps, leaf litter, etc).

vermicomposting unit

I had one previous failed vermicomposting attempt with a DIY bucket system last year, but it may have failed for any number of very plausible reasons. Number 1 on my guess list is that I tried to harvest worms from my backyard (which is apparently possible), but I maybe collected 50. Not a major composting force at that number, sadly. Also, moisture imbalance. Also, poor aeration. Also, overfeeding. And the list goes on.

Unboxing the Worms

Anyway, our official worms arrived via Priority Mail last month. We had prepped our first tray with moist newspaper mixed with a handful of dirt with leaf litter, a handful of crushed eggshells, and a few cupfuls of chopped up kitchen scraps (banana peels, spent tea leaves, carrot peelings). We opened the breathable fabric bag of worms… and it was admittedly kind of gross. We dumped the dry peat moss/worm mix into the tray, and were lucky enough to witness a baseball-sized ball of wriggling worms (apparently they can do that when they get stressed from shipping). I didn’t see any dead worms, hooray! They began working their way into and out of the mix, and I was initially concerned that they would  try to climb out of the bin. We covered them up as directed with a solid layer of moist newspaper, and they seemed to find conditions acceptable. I haven’t seen any strays thus far.

red wigglers

High Hopes

Once they settle in under ideal conditions, a pound of worms can eat 3 times their weight in “food” (half bedding, half kitchen scraps) every week, and can double in number every 3 months. The wisdom seems to indicate we might be getting a tray of finished compost every month at about the sixth month mark. Time will tell. But in the meantime, it’s been a fun experiment… our worms are happy and chomping away and seem to be pretty content. Expect an update in another month or so!