Friday, May 02, 2008

this, I believe

My first day back to work went great.

Even though I called our computer help desk six weeks ago to inform them that I would be coming back to work, and then called them again four weeks ago, and again two weeks ago to make absolutely certain that they had received all the necessary approvals from management to activate all of my computer accounts ... when I drove three hours to Los Angeles yesterday, upon my arrival, nothing had been done to prepare for my return to work.

Their response?

"Well, yes, we do have a record that you called on three separate occasions to inform us that you were coming back after a 10-month leave of absence and that your computer was not operational, but you didn't specifically indicate that you needed to have your main LAN account activated. From our records, it's been disabled and needs to be re-enabled and in order to do that, we need to have management approval. We'll mark it high priority."

My response?

"Well, yes, I suppose even though I called and told you that ALL of my accounts needed to be reactivated on three separate occasions, this is my fault. It kind of reminds me of that time I went out to buy a car and I didn't specifically indicate that I wanted to have TIRES to go with it. See, without having the LAN account re-enabled, my computer is nothing more than a piece of useless plastic. My mistake for thinking that the people in the IT department would know that. Here, let me have it back so I can SMACK myself a few times over the head with it."

Thankfully, I had zero expectations going back to work that anything would be accomplished, so Charlie and I met with my friend Lorie and we spent a glorious day at the Long Beach Aquarium.

Meanwhile my computer sat on a technician's desk waiting for the "high priority" approval to reactivate my account to be processed. Thirty two hours later, it is still sitting there.


This just proves my theory that if you go in to something with lowered expectations, you're less likely to suffer from increased disappointment. It also proves my theory that the larger the company you work for, the more bureaucracy there is to deal with.

We returned home late last night. But instead of going straight to bed, I decided to detox from spending six hours on the road, by browsing through various blogs and headline news.

You know what I saw?

Several posts about the concerns surrounding plastic water bottles. Word on the street is that toxic chemicals are leaching out of plastic (and canned products) and this can have detrimental health impacts on people, particularly children if they are exposed during critical stages of their development. The culprit, bisphenol A, a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxicant which is commonly used to make clear polycarbonate plastic for consumer products.

Armed with this information, people around the world are tossing their reusable water bottles (i.e. Nalgene) in to the trash and buying aluminum or stainless steel varieties. They are feeding their babies with glass bottles. They are ditching all things plastic.

I read a few articles on this topic and could feel my heart start to beat out of my chest.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found bisphenol A in the urine of over 95% of people they tested and, alarmingly, the median level of bisphenol A in humans is higher than the level that causes adverse effects in animal studies.


Our triplet babies were all fed with plastic bottles. They eat off of plastic plates and drink out of plastic cups. Their vitamins are in a plastic canister. I feed Henry fruit puffs and on occasion baby food, that are packaged in plastic containers. Our apple juice comes in a plastic container. So does our milk. And our vanilla. And all of our condiments. And my Trader Joe Peanut Butter Cups!!!

For a moment, I imagined throwing out everything plastic in our house. I was prepared to spend a small fortune on new water bottles and plates and bowls and cups and mugs. I even found discount codes, although I don't know if they are still valid, for purchasing SIGG water bottles at 30% off, and Klean Kanteens for 20% off. Then, I went to bed wondering how many more days I had left on this planet and what kind of irreparable damage I have inadvertently done to my offspring?

Today, I've come to terms with the fact that we just aren't safe.

Because we drive vehicles that use gasoline which contaminates our air and water; run our homes with electricity that is contributing to global warming; and purchase food that is grown somewhere other than our backyard, we are negatively impacting our land and our bodies.

If our microwave ovens don't give us brain cancer, our cell phones will. Toxins or suspected toxins, are bio-accumulating in our body. Among them, C8 from the teflon on our pans and dioxins from the lumber industry. Harmful pesticides and herbicides and hormones are used in, on and around our food.

There's groundwater pollution and air pollution. There's thimersol in vaccinations that may possibly be linked to autism. There are additives and preservatives in food that lead to attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. There's high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, congestive heart failure, obesity, infertility, early onset of menopause, and erectile dysfunction - which have all been linked to the food that we eat.

Unfortunately, bisphenol A is a key ingredient of that bubble I have been living in.

Sometimes, I allow myself to buy in to the hysteria. Then, I come to my senses because I work as an environmental engineer in an industry where hysteria over contaminants are common and because I know that there are entities and "studies" out there that hype up everything, just to get the masses in to a frenzy.

The truth is, at some point, you need to draw the line. To exist in this world, in this day and age, without driving yourself constantly insane about what is harming us - or might harm us - you must draw the line.

I believe that our children are more at risk of becoming ill from not receiving a vaccination than from receiving it. I believe that eating organic is overall, a more environmentally friendly way to live, but I don't believe it is saving me from cancer. I don't live wholly organic because I can't justify spending $4.00 on a bag of cranberries, when I can spend $1.00 on the same quantity, and apply the $3.00 savings towards Montessori school.

I believe in recycling. We recycle at least twice as much as what we throw in the trash each week. But the reason that we recycle so actively, is because our City has appealed to their citizens laziness. They have provided us with huge recycle bins and do not require that we separate paper from plastic from glass.

I believe in wearing your seat belt and driving a vehicle with air bags; eating fruits, vegetables and drinking water as opposed to soda; and wearing adequate sun protection coverage and clothing when in the sun between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM. I do not believe that my tap water will hurt me. I have a carbon filter on my refrigerator for taste and a water softener so I don't have to deal with hard water spots in the shower.

I believe that we should all do our part to pick up trash where we see it, walk or ride a bicycle whenever we can, turn off lights if we're not using them - and every so often, turn off all the energy and use candles. I also believe in turning off the television and getting outside. I believe in reducing clutter and living within your financial means. I believe in having meals together and reading books to your children. I believe in beautiful wooden toys as opposed to cheap plastic ones. I believe it is much more important to shower your child with your time and your love than to shower them with gifts and objects.

I believe the things that save us today, will be the subject of the things that kill us, tomorrow.

I believe in consumer advocacy. I've met Ralph Nader twice and sat next to him once on an airplane. I believe that there are things in this world that are bad for you and I believe that knowledge is power. But I believe that the knowledge shouldn't solely come from research on the internet which may or may not be accurate. I also believe that the mass hysteria that sweeps the world regarding things like lead in children's toys ... methyl tertiary butyl ether in gasoline ... boycotting items made and exported from China ... and now, plastic in water bottles is probably more harmful than the objects themselves.

I believe that lack of exercise, poor dietary habits, lack of sleep and the stress exerted over political matters, financial matters, environmental matters, neighborhood matters, family matters and questioning if the safety of the water we drink, food we eat, air we breathe and plastics we use are more to blame for attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis, congestive heart failure, obesity, infertility, early onset of menopause, and erectile dysfunction.

I believe that Charlie has a stronger stomach than me.

He just came in the house to tell me that he dug a snail out of Henry's mouth. Apparently, my baby gummed it to death. Charlie walked in to the house with an outstretched hand and what remained of a shell and slimy mass. He told me that he was wondering what Henry was chewing on about the same time he saw his mouth start to foam.

I must end this post now.

For I believe I'm going to barf.


  1. Good post.

    Henry will be fine. I ate a cricket when I was a baby and I turned out OK. Of course, when I rub my legs together I make kind of a chirping noise....

  2. We had an awesome time with you guys, too! Thanks for dinner last night!! AND, thanks for making me not want my food or drink in ANY type of container! I will go to the supermarket and purchase things that are plastic (I mean poison) free. You are too funny!

    Shayna asked me a 100X today, "Where did the Trip-e-lets go?" I told her they went home, but hopefully we'll see you guys real soon - like when they finally get your computer running and you have to pick it up... oh, well, that may be Christmas... good luck with that!

  3. I love this post. Its so real. And how COOL to have sat next to Ralph Nader for a flight! I would have loved that!

  4. Yuck a doodle! I guess I used to eat sand... Thanks for the reality check

  5. Can I get an AMEN! (you nailed my sentiments exactly, including the nausea over the snail)

  6. AMEN - couldn't have said it better!!! Every time my father comes over these days he asks about the baby bottles. The milk is literally in there for five minutes before my 18 month old boys suck it dry. I am too lazy and cheap to a) get them to drink milk from a sippy and b) get more bottles.

  7. ewww....gross. i had planned what i was going to respond to this post but now i can't think of anything but the snail...{vomit}

  8. After reading all of that stuff recently I did a tiny bit of research via Google on plastics. The site that I saw said that some plastics are safer than ever since I've read that I've been turning over plastic things and searching for the number on bottom. Ice cream at McDonald's comes in a 6! A 6!!!

    I'm trying not to be paranoid (can't you tell?). So I'm just going to go about feeling informed and making informed decisions whether I really am or not.

    Oh, and maybe Henry just has expensive tastes...escargot anyone?

  9. I just wanted to let you know that I have Nalgene bottles from REI and they now make them BPA free. I took the old bottles in and they happily exchanged them for the BPA free kind. I agree with you about drawing the line and I really appreciate this post. I still use plastics and I just do the best I can.

  10. The SIGG 30 percent off WORKED. I got all five water bottles for $11.21 WITH SHIPPING. You spend more than that on a pillow cover from BPK. So c'mon, Jen. You are the biggest spender I've ever met. You ooze money, baby! You can do it. DO IT!

  11. I meant 11.21 EACH. That's only 5 minutes at Montessori school, Jen.

  12. Karen in Buffalo5/3/08, 1:23 PM

    Thanks for this post~
    A year ago when I read the initial BPA/plastics study I freaked and tossed all of our plastic bottles and sippy cups away. I do still watch what our food is stored in, but I have relaxed quite a bit.
    I'm sure you've read this, but just in case you haven't: safer plastic codes are 1, 2, 4 or 5; unsafe (containing BPA) plastic codes are 3, 6 or 7.
    Your day with the kids looked like a lot of fun. Have a great weekend!

  13. my god, Jen. You had ME worked up into hysteria in the middle. Then you calmed me down by the end.

    My company (former company, actually) deletes user accounts that have not been active for 90 days. Deletes them, not deactivates. Guess how long our maternity leave is. 13 weeks. 13 x 7 = ? yep, 91 days. OK throw in a weekend, stretch it to 93 days. I have come back from maternity leave TWICE to call the help desk and hear "oh, your account was just deleted the other day". And then it takes like 2 weeks to get all the approvals and actually have them get to it in the queue. If I'd've remembered the headache from the first time, I'd have called ahead too, though it probably wouldn't have done any good.

    You'd think a giant company like mine would figure out that it makes financial sense to have folks hit the ground running when returning from a leave. Especially a maternity leave, which happens ALL THE TIME. They gave me some line about how my manager should have known to send in some special request. In what parallel universe do managers "know" to do such things?

    Ugh. Sorry for the rant. You hit a sore spot. Good thing they laid me off, so I don't have to put up with it anymore!

  14. ME, OOZE money??!!

    Actually, I hardly EVER spend money. I'm sure Charlie will write about it when he's posting. It drives him CRAZY how I'm a total tight wad. But when I do spend $, I buy QUALITY stuff. I could spend money on cheap things that will do the trick and usually break >> or >> just buy nice things that I love and I know will last.

    I do like the look of the SIGG water bottles. Although, I like the Klean Kanteen b/c you can fit ice cubes in them. Or, I could just buy the new Nalgene that are BPA-free and half the cost.

    So many decisions.

  15. The children looks like they had a wonderful, wet time at the aquarium.
    I am shivering thinking of Henry picking up and eating a snail. Ugh.
    Hang in there--the wheels of progress work oh so slowly but they do work.
    The kids look so happy and Shayna looks great also.

  16. My good friend, who is also a biochemisty professor at a local university here in Seattle, posted about BPA recently on his own blog. If you want another perspective (that is decidedly less hysterical), you can read it at: - it is currently the post at the top of the page.

  17. I have also been reading the blogs about plastics and I was starting to get concerned. I have since asked several of my co-workers, who are health care professionals, what their opinions are and they pretty much said what you just said. I'm a little less upset that I nuked my babies plastic bottles before adding powdered formula. Thanks for this post.

    If you haven't barfed already check out my latest post. Don't if you really like red meat.


  18. Can't.Quit.Laughing!!!!!

  19. A snail!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!

    There's nothing like kids to make you realize how much there is to worry about and how much life just boils down to taking your chances and enjoying all the good stuff you can put in your mouth. :)

  20. May I ask where you got the girls shorts?

  21. A well-written post. Agree with you. You can learn more on how to cure attention deficit disorder at It may take quite some time to cure, but it's definitely a good try.

  22. Okay but it was an organic snail, with no BPA... You've probably read about the "clean house syndrome" where allergies, asthma and other illness seem to be more frequent in very hygienic homes, while families with pets, farm kids and those in developing nations have a far lower incidence of these problems? As the older generation used to say, "you've got to eat a peck of dirt before you die".

    I agree about finding a sensible balanced approach on the plastics and other "issues" in the media today. My husband is a chemistry professor who actually understands what they're saying in the latest studies. He says it looks like temperature is important, so baby bottles might be worth switching to glass because you need to warm up the milk. But a water bottle or other plastic dishes and toys at room temperature do not appear to be a significant risk.

    Good luck with the running! I'm more comfortable with walking and biking, hope to do lots this summer.