Scrubbing Bubbles and the middle school maid


To make money for clothing and important things like makeup and Bonne Bell flavored lipgloss, I babysat and cleaned houses in middle school.

Stay away from me, Mr. Scrubbing Bubbles!

Scrubbing Bubbles was a new product and the commercials with cartooned, mustachioed scrubbing bubbles made me chuckle. Do you remember the birth of Scrubbing Bubbles or is that before your time?

Well one day, I was cleaning a shower stall. The shower door was closed and I began to coat the tile with a thick layer of Scrubbing Bubbles. As if I were attacking a blaze and holding a fire extinguisher, I doused that sucker. Every tile square received a foamy blast. I wanted to unlock all the cleaning power contained in the Scrubbing Bubbles. As an adolescent fashionista, I needed to keep my job; customer satisfaction, don’t you know.

In the shower stall with the Scrubbing Bubbles can, I prepared to remove all the goo and grime off the tile but then I began having trouble breathing. I didn’t collapse but I began to choke. Since I was a boy crazy, junior high girl, I doubt I had the wits to know to open the door. If Michael Jackson, Keith Partridge or Bobby Sherman would have come to rescue me that would have been a different story but that didn’t happen. I had an epiphany though, something in those Scrubbing Bubbles was rockin’ my world/body. With the door closed, I surely inhaled a fury of aerosol and chemicals.

Screen shot of Scrubbing Bubbles info on the Environmental Working Group

The more I read about chemicals and toxins in cleaning products, the more I wonder exactly what I breathed in that afternoon. When I use soap nuts, I don’t have anything to worry about. I use Extreme 18X (which is a super concentrated version of soap nuts that goes a long way) or make some soap nut “tea” and I don’t need rubber gloves. I’m never concerned about adaquate ventilation either. Did you know that according to the Environmental Working Group, many of the Scrubbing Bubbles products are rated D or F? In my extended family, we have asthma, COPD, migraines and allergies – my loved ones don’t need to be breathing toxins any more than I did as a middle school “maid.”

Obviously I don’t have the original bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles. But this is what the label says now CAUTION: EYE IRRITANT. READ BACK PANEL CAREFULLY. / CAUTION: EYE IRRITANT. Contains lactic acid, solvents and surfactants. Avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing. Wash thoroughly after handling. May cause respiratory irritation if used with inadequate ventilation. FIRST AID: EYES AND SKIN: Immediately rinse eyes and skin with plenty of water. If irritation persists, seek medical advice. INHALATION: If breathing is affected, get fresh air. CHEMICAL HAZARD: Never use or mix with bleach-containing products or other household cleaners as hazardous fumes may be released. KEEP OUR OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND PETS.

“One day, gf, you’re gonna write about that weird time when Scrubbing Bubbles nearly jacked you up.”

Funny, isn’t it, the weird memories our minds retain? For me it was this strange encounter with a cleaning product. There are greener, safer alternatives for cleaning our bodies, homes and clothes. Soap nuts work. They are 100% organic, biodegradable and effective. Your family deserves someone to be an advocate and a savvy consumer and that’s probably you. Take a look at the products under your sink, read the labels. Look beyond what the brand name company websites tell you about the chemicals they are using. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts. I welcome them, this is a journey. Here are two other independent reviews of soap nuts also. Check out spoonfulatatime and naturallifemom. I highly recommend these websites for their wealth of information in general.

What makes you buy certain cleaning products?


laundromat in France. Thanks to Paul Filleau for supplying this cool pic! Merci bien!

I never really considered the chemicals used in everyday cleaning supplies and laundry until January 27, 2012. That’s when I became a half-century old and my first order of soap nuts arrived.

Now I pay attention. I read labels, get angry and frankly, feel kinda duped about all the crud I have unknowingly put into my body and offered to my family without any concern.

I don’t appreciate people overwhelming me with scary facts if I’m not ready for them. Maybe you’re the same way and I totally respect that. But here’s what I want to do and I hope to be consistent.

I want to occasionally offer blog posts about cleaner, greener living and help you as my friends become more savvy, questioning consumers.

Here is the ingredient used in soap nuts…SOAP NUTS! That’s it!

The soap nuts thing intrigued me because I thought they sounded funny. Soap “nuts,” really? I’m the mama of three boys so yes, I did chuckle and you probably know why… I had never heard of such a thing. How could some soap nuts, berries from a tree in the Himalayas clean my family’s clothes? When they arrived, I was skeptical but eager to try them. Even though it was my birthday, I sacrificially scrounged up some dirties and put them to their first challenge. I’ve been a soap nut nut ever since. The concept of cleaning my clothes more naturally appeals to me as a wife, mother and consumer.

How’s this for vague product labeling? Hrmph

One thing led to another and in August, I began my own business, Olive Shoot Institute selling soap nuts and related products. It’s a weird compilation of olive shoot stuff but yeah, somehow it works.

All I wanted to do was clean some clothes but this has unleashed a passion. Armed with knowledge, maybe I can help you make informed decisions. I don’t think we should be bamboozled or especially trusting of the cleaning/beauty/personal care industry.

Here’s something to look at the next time you are getting ready to do a load of wash or clean your house. Read the list of ingredients in the product you are using. It’s pretty sad because I guarantee you, it won’t take long at all.

A quick perusal of left-over cleaning supplies still around my house led me to see this. I gathered all the products together. I turned the bottles over and over trying to find a list of chemicals/ingredients used and guess what?

I could read instructions in English, Spanish and sometimes in French, but in many instances, no details about the chemicals/ingredients were found. Why is that? It’s a $14 billion annual business for goodness’ sake! Don’t these corporations have enough money to type what is in these products? Shouldn’t consumers know? Specifically, shouldn’t YOU?

New York Times article reported that in January 2009, manufacturers of detergents and household cleaners voluntarily started to disclose much of what is in its cleaning products. But just this morning, I went to the grocery store to do my own “research.” And here’s what I noticed. In many cases, the actual ingredients aren’t really listed. Some have an 800 number and I guess you can inquire but they don’t list the chemicals specifically. That is stupid. Check out this popular laundry detergent and see why it got an “F” from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

So many families have loved ones suffering with childhood asthma, cancer, lung conditions, multiple chemical syndrome, auto-immune diseases, don’t we deserve to know what we are using in our homes? It’s taken me 50 years to care about this, I wish I would have started sooner.

I’d really love to hear from you. If you want soap nuts stuff, I’m your girl but I am truly curious. Why do you purchase the laundry and cleaning supplies you use? Is it price? Brand? Coupons? Smell? Effectiveness?

I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any specific subject you’d like covered or have a question, please tell me, I’ve got a million ideas but would welcome yours.

Cycling is like life – another woman’s story


My inbox held a special treat. A friend from a former church had written me with something to share. Honestly many times a feeling of nervousness comes over me just before I read an email or a message. Am I in trouble? Did I tick someone off? Are they going to tell me something really sad or disappointing? That’s honestly what I wonder but whew, that wasn’t the case with Debbie’s message.

She told me that after returning home from a recent solo, very warm bike ride, many thoughts flooded her mind. Although not typically one who uses writing as a creative outlet, she felt compelled to write about an epiphany of sorts she had experienced on this ride.

As I read it, I knew I wanted to share it with you and so with Debbie’s permission, here are her words. As you read these, I encourage you to think of a daily activity or passion that you have…how does God speak to you through it?

This bike has taken Debbie on quite a journey

cycling is like life:

Super cool pic of Debbie and her hubs out hiking, one of her favorite pics following a really long hard hike in TN/VA

some rides I anticipate, look forward too, am excited for,
others I dread, look at as a chore, see as mundane,
some rides I encounter difficult climbs or easy descents, others rolling hills,
some rides I encounter beauty beyond compare, others not so beautiful,
some rides I encounter bee stings and accidental ingestion of bugs,
others I have witnessed awe-inspiring butterflies, birds and animals,

some rides I get a flat tire, many I don’t,
some rides I have been cursed at, spit on (yep), given the finger when I was doing everything right,
others I have been shown immeasurable grace when it was me who made the mistake,

I mean seriously, how could anyone spit at this lovely woman while she’s biking?

some rides I have been disliked just because I am a cyclist on the road,
others, maybe, I have inspired another,
some rides are extremely hot, cold, or surprised by storms,
others beautiful, sunny and calm,

some rides I have met wonderful, ‘want to be around’ folks, others not,
some rides I have gossiped unfairly, others I have been gossiped about,
some rides I put my best effort forward, some I have not,

Here is a huge turtle Debbie and her cycling buddy stumbled pon this summer!

some rides I have encountered dogs that want to attack, others that don’t,
some rides have unknown potholes, rocks and gravel, others smooth and beautiful,

some rides I am inexplicably weak, others I am inexplicably strong,
some days I have great ride, others not so great,
but no matter how the ride was,in the end,
I am so glad I have gone,
I am joyful to accomplish the ride
I am thankful to be healthy enough
thankful for my experience,
thankful for the journey.

Like my bike rides,
some days are smooth with perfect temperature,
sunny skies, dog free,
full of stranger kindness and feelings of strength,
other days are wrought with potholes, heat, bugs, winds, meanness and weakness.

Pic of new freeway intersection – this stretch of road actually promoted Debbie’s writing. Old US 1 just reopened after putting the bridge for 540, an ominous intersection for cyclists “out in the country side” in the heart of North Carolina

In spite of my anticipation and preparation, each ride has a life of its own.
I choose to embrace the journey of each ride, each day, for I know it will make me stronger and I will be glad for it, but I can only do it if I rely on the One Who is bigger than me.

cycling is like life

The more I read Debbie’s words, the more I relate to them. The more I want to take my bike to the repair shop and get on it! Thank you Debbie for inspiring me and trusting me enough to share it. I’d love to hear from you also. If  you have a story to tell, let me know, maybe I can help you speak your words to others.

A few other things about her: Debbie Douglass is married 25 yrs to a wonderful man, Jay  and mom of two sweet college aged kids. She’s also been a cyclist for 30 years. I’m not a biker but Debbie and I have a few things in common, we both are a lover of pretty tables and we’ve both been Christ-followers for 16 years (and oh SO thankful!!)

It’s truly a privilege to share her lovely message.



Results are in and the diagnosis is status migrainosus. I’m not clapping for joy but I’m praising the Lord we aren’t dealing with a brain tumor. My father died of brain cancer and I’d be lying if I said that a pervasive fear of those words hadn’t swept over me the last week.

Aaron was not thrilled to learn that he might be out of school for another 2-3 more weeks. As we begin this new medicine protocol, I pray he can return to school sooner. My middle OS has started a course of steroids and although we have been getting along famously, I suspect that prednisone is going to jeopardize that a bit. 

what a beautiful sight seeing Aaron upright and being goofy!

Today we ventured out for sushi. My OS has lost weight since falling ill and if that boy wanted sushi and our new budget could handle it, for goodness’ sake, he was going to get sushi. 

We, well, at least me, I take so much for granted. Lord, forgive me for the times when I just assume my kids are going to remain healthy. I overlook that my OSs will rebound from an illness and don’t always recognize that as a true blessing from you. Father, I’m sorry for all the times when I don’t give you praise for my own body functioning as it should.

We have gone from this….

wow, i hate this picture

to this…

Aaron + food = optimism
Confucious say contemplation over a fortune cookie is better than contemplation over a sick child

He still is gaunt and not 100% but I see glimpses of my boy returning. When he is back to his “normal” self, here is how we’re going to celebrate.

feel free to borrow this recipe for your next celebration

Nothing says fiesta more than Party Lentil Soup, right?

Thank you gentle readers for your support and prayers!

aaron’s mom

The soul of MY soup

“To possess a cook who makes perfect soups is to possess a jewel of great price. 
A woman who cannot make soup 
should not be allowed to marry.”

P. Mortan Shand, A Book of Food, 1928

Um, that seems a little harsh but when the going gets tough, I do what most women do…

I make vegetable broth. 

This is some serious broth action

As a foodie and mama of three OS, it’s my attempt, I guess, to put things together and make something good. Into the kettle, I put celery, scallions, garlic, half a red onion, a tomato and two cooked potatoes that were lounging in the refrigerator doing nothing. I then threw in some radish leaves, carrots, a stalk of frozen corn I bought in the summer at the farmers’ market. Half a red pepper, a handful of frozen leeks, kosher salt, bay leaf and spices bubble and mix with the other ingredients. The amber broth is flavorful. I have a sick child upstairs, I feel so confused. But this homemade broth imbues a sense of peace and accomplishment within me.

Dramatic, slightly forced vegetable broth smile

In some ways, I think this is like the Scripture found in

Romans 8:28 (English Standard Version)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Aaron is eating next to nothing. He needs nutrition and hydration. I picture my OS sipping on this broth. Not sure that’s going to happen but wow, if it did, that would be the best. I’d feel like I did something significant. 

better than the boxed stuff, fo’ shur!
God is going to use this trial in our lives. He is more resourceful than I’ll ever be. My simple efforts at gathering things together to make a hearty broth pale to what Jesus does with our lives. He uses ALL things together for good for those who believe in Him. I believe, Lord. Aaron believes too. Let it be. 



When Aaron woke up from another nap this evening, his headache was terrible. We have tried many things and the remedies available to us at home aren’t working. The doctors do not believe he has meningitis because if it were bacterial, he wouldn’t be alive.

droplet precaution – not a good look on me but it’s ok

I have been hesitant for him to have a spinal tap because he doesn’t have a fever, can move his neck up and down and back and forth. If he has viral meningitis, they can’t treat it with antibiotics and if he doesn’t need to endure any painful medical procedure, I do not wish to make him feel even worse. If you think this is stupid, please keep that to yourself. You might have chosen differently and that’s ok but you’re not the mama of this OS. 

Right now we are in the ER. I called the ambulance, so thankful that the Hubs and I didn’t have a fight over this. He trusted me. 

So as my middle OS winced in pain and we awaited a doctor to prescribe stronger meds or do something, I prayed. Scripture verses came to me and I couldn’t tell you where to find them in the Bible but they are there. Sometimes Aaron would fill in the pauses. When I goofed up a verse, he corrected me. We both kinda laughed. 

As hours passed, as they are apt to do in an Emergency Room, we rubbed Aaron’s head, covered his eyes and assured him it was going to be ok.

Friends from church came by and prayed in the waiting room. Facebook messages flooded my phone. In this time of feeling so powerless, I noticed that Aaron, true to his nature, seemed to calm down a bit when I claimed who the Lord is in alphabetical order…

B…Bright Morning Star
C…Chief Cornerstone
I…(ok, I forgot an “I” attribute at the time but nonetheless He is Immanuel)
O…Omnipotent, Omnipresent
etc., etc., 

Then the pain meds arrived. He is sleeping. How could he not? Dilaudid, Toradol, Ativan pumped into his IV. We are resting not only because Aaron is not in agony but because of whom we are trusting. No one should do this without Jesus. Not a 16 year old child. Not a 40 something 🙂 mama or daddy. Not a 14 year old brother or a 20 year brother/Soldier. It’s just too hard to do this alone and although it is far from easy right now, I’m choosing to give this burden to the One who can carry it. 

Perhaps the reason I had such an epic birthday was because God knew I was going to need the boost for this week. 

Thanks for checking in, caring and praying…

Aaron’s mama

Still sick

Aaron, my sweet boy

Look familiar? Same child, same symptoms, different medical facility…

Aaron awoke this morning with the same pounding headache accompanied by a new symptom, vomiting. For your information, retching, dry-heaving teenage boys with persistent headache are a rather pathetic sight. Last night he played his guitar a few times. It was good to hear his familiar singing and strumming. I got so hopeful, I allowed myself to think that life might be getting back to normal. I thought too soon. 

But as has been the case for several days now, the Hubs and I were awakened in the early hours to our middle OS begging for help. 

We are at the doctor’s office trying some anti-nausea meds along with migraine medication to stave off this pain. The only upside to any of this is that Aaron needs me. He puts his head on my lap and lets me rub his back. I bet if I asked him right now if he was going to go far away for college, he might actually say no. Why? Because he needs me (at least for the moment.) And since I want to live in this fantasy land, I’m not going to ask him that question. I’ll just intuit that is currently his dutiful answer.

I know there are (click the underlined links) many families enduring serious medical crises. For them, the possibility of relief is distant. You know many of those people too and might even be one of them. During my years as a mother, as a general practice, I have prayed for children that possess my OS’s names. At the end of the night, as I am tucking in my guys, occasionally we have prayed for a child whom we don’t know who might be suffering. Usually the Hubs prays for them and tucks them in. But when it’s my turn, for example, we might pray for an Aaron who is in the hospital, or an Isaac who is going to bed hungry or a Nate who has nowhere to live. 


I guess I’m hoping that at this very moment, some mom is doing the same thing. For an Aaron she will never meet. And that prayer is lovingly received, dear mama out there. Right now, I am thankful for those of you who are praying for my Aaron. The child I adore who is sick and in pain.