Getting over myself

At the beginning of July I started attending the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, which is basically boot camp for cops. This involved a switch to day shift, a 4-on, 3-off schedule, and travelling to and from Indianapolis each week. Needless to say, this has been a big source of stress and a big adjustment. Not that I'd been making much progress on the house anyways...

In the few weeks that I've been at the academy, I've learned quite a bit about motivation and dedication. I've been pushed beyond the physical limits of what I thought I could do. And even though this is just the beginning, I also have a new confidence in myself and a realization that I can push through the times when I don't want to keep going any longer.

I'm really going to try to apply this to the house. It's to the point where the living room upsets me, since I know it should be done by now and I just can't seem to find the initiative to get moving again. I'm pissed at the house, pissed at my lack of motivation, and pissed that I've let it go this long without really trying. I've never really accomplished anything difficult in my life until now. Looking back, it doesn't seem like I really had to try every hard to accomplish whatever I wanted to do. I don't mean that to sound arrogant, but I've been blessed with having everything I've ever really wanted. That's not to say I haven't had to work for it, or work towards it, but there haven't been any major setbacks or huge obstacles to overcome.

But right now the only obstacle in my way is me. And, like I have at the academy, I need to get over myself and get to where I want to be. I can make all the excuses I want, but none of them mean a damned thing. I'm the only thing keeping me from finishing my projects. Not time, not the weather, not work. Me.

It stops now.


The Academy: Week 1

Week 1 was something of a revelation. Jason (the other new recruit) and I drive down to Plainfield on Sunday night, since we had to register by 0740 hrs on Monday morning. We were both incredibly nervous, having heard horror stories about the terrible food and the evils of the drill instructors. Neither of us was looking forward to the next 13 weeks.

By Monday morning we were a little less nervous, but neither of us had gotten much sleep. We registered, then stood in the doorway of the little auditorium where we had been told to go for briefing. I think we maybe had a foot each out in the hall, but it was enough to incur the wrath of a drill instructor. "Get your asses out of my hallway!" he shouted. We scrambled into the auditorium, then looked at each other, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

All through the briefing, I could see the drill instructors up by the doorways, hovering like angry shadows in their black BDUs and straw hats. I pride myself on being an independent and somewhat fearless person, but I was more intimidated than I think I ever have been in my life. In the background we could all hear the state police recruits getting yelled at by their drill instructors. All I could think about was how long these 13 weeks would seem to last.

After briefing we were sent out numerically to be issued our linens and towels and bring our gear from the cars to our rooms. A guy in front of me was very intimidated and turned the wrong way down one of the hallways. A D.I. swooped down on him without mercy, berating him loud enough for everyone in the building to hear. He got flustered and asked a question, which only resulted in him getting yelled at for not paying attention the first time. I put my head down and hoped nobody would notice me and I wouldn't screw up.

It was back to the auditorium after collecting our gear, without any time to unpack or attempt to settle in. We were told the rules and expectations, then turned over to the drill instructors so they could "have some fun" with us before lunch. We'd been assigned squads upon arrival, then each squad was placed into order by height. Each recruit was assigned a particular tile on the gym floor. That tile is ours until we leave the academy. We were taught the intricacies of the position of attention, and I thanked God for my 4 years of marching band. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad...

Some people weren't so quick to catch on that when you're at attention you do not look around, especially at the D.I.s. One unfortunate guy made the mistake of scratching his face, and he was made to scratch that same spot until the D.I. was satisfied that it wouldn't itch anymore. Then we were all placed into the "front leaning rest" position (the up position of a push-up) to get acquainted with our tiles. I don't know how long we were down there, but it felt like an eternity. We were then made to "stand" at attention face down with our noses on the floor. I don't know about everyone else, but I was thrilled to be laying there unable to see anything around me. Throughout this entore lesson in drill, the D.I.s were shouting at those unfortunate enough to make a mistake or to catch their attention. Thank God I wasn't one of them.

We were marched down to the chow hall at a 6 inch interval, which meant that we looked like a train wreck as we all crashed into each other and tried desperately to stay in step to a non-existent cadence. Chow wasn't much of a break, as there are protocols for the way you can get your food and how much you can take. There was also no talking, and we were given maybe 10 minutes to wolf down our food. Through it all, the D.I.s were still yelling, and I was wondering how I'd ever survive the week, let alone 13 of them...


"Green" cleaning products: Laundry detergents

The first laundry detergent I tried was Earth Friendly Products ECOS powder. I found it at Meijer one day, and just decided to give it a shot. If I remember correctly, it was about $9 for the box. I had been using Tide liquid before, and I wasn't really sure about using a powder. I was pleasantly surprised, as it disolved readily and cleaned well. Since it was unscented, it didn't clash with my dryer sheets. Unfortunately, it also left some kind of residue on my clothes. After several washings, they started to feel a little... crunchy. I don't mean that my clothes literally crackled, but the did seem rather stiffer than they used to. I've since found that it may have been a reaction to the extremely hard water we have in this area.

Next I tried Seventh Generation's laundry powder, also found at Meijer. I don't recall the price, but it was more expensive than the ECOS. This detergent also cleaned well and had a fresh, citrusy scent. Unfortunately, it also made my clothes kind of stiff. Your mileage may vary.

I went back to using Tide for a while, but really felt guilty about it once we moved into the Prairie Box. We do a lot of laundry, and I was just imagining the cesspool clogging with soap bubbles...

Then I found Method detergent at Target. It's biodegradable, phosphate free, and smells very nice (I use "fresh air"). It also leave my clothes residue free. Oddly, the detergent doesn't make a lot of bubbles compared to Tide, but it cleans just as well. The price is comparable to "ordinary" detergents, but the bottle is smaller since it's a concentrated formula. The cap/measuring cup is about 1/3 the size of Tide's. The bigger bottle of Method costs about $12 and seems to last us about 3 months. I've also used the "free + clear" version with good results. Since I line dry some items, though, I prefer a scented detergent.

After liking Method detergent so much, I also bought the dryer sheets. I've read that these contain tallow, an animal byproduct, which upsets some folks (I'm not one of them). I'm not sure that they're biodegradable, but they smell great and leave my laundry static-free. Bach also likes them and will chew them up any chance he gets. Half a sheet seems sufficient for most of our loads of laundry, and the box contains 100. Cost: About $6.

I've also tried the softener-infused dryer cloths but don't like them nearly as much. They're more like wet wipes than traditional dryer sheets, and they need to stay moist. I'm not crazy about the scents. Two cloths were needed to kill the static in an average-sized load. Bach also did not approve and won't touch them. These cost about $5.50, less at Target than online, but there are fewer in the container (32).

I feel obligated to mention that I am not affiliated with any company or product mentioned, nor am I receiving any compensation for these mini-reviews. Just in case... :)


Of cesspools and biodegradable cleaners

I've mentioned before that we have to be careful which cleaning products we use because of our septic situation. Actually, we don't even have a septic. That's the problem. Back when the house was built, there was less concern for polluting the groundwater. The wastewater from the home simply emptied into a brick-lined hole in the ground called a cesspool. From there, the water would seep out through holes left in the sides. It's the same concept used today in parking lot drainage, and it's now called a drywell. Drywells are approved in Indiana for greywater systems (no human waste), but codes now require a septic system. Since ours is grandfathered, we're trying very hard to preserve it. Not only would installing a septic be expensive, we'd also have to have the cesspool filled in. And we have two of them. Luckily, we do have an access hatch built into the driveway, so it can be occasionally pumped out like a regular septic.

What all this means for everyday life is that we need to be very careful what we put down the drains. Ordinary commercial soaps and cleaners inhibit the soil's ability to absorb liquid. Over time a scum builds up on the surface, and no water will leach out at all, which would mean our cesspool would be nothing more than a holding tank. As far as I know, this hasn't happened yet. All of our drains run quickly and there are no strange odors in the backyard. Since we'd like to keep it this way, we are pretty picky about what cleaning products we use.

The transition began even before we moved into the Prairie Box. I read an article somewhere (sorry, no idea where!) about how the chemicals we use in our homes can cause the indoor air quality to be worse than that outside. I also found that many cleaners are petroleum-based (laundry detergent, dish soap, and many others). I'm not a crazy hippie-chick, but it bothered me that I was using oil to clean my home and clothing. And myself. It also concerned me that some many substances we use to "clean" our home had warning labels on them. "Vapors can be harmful", "may cause skin irritation", "avoid prolonged exposure". Does this sound like stuff we want to prepare our food around? Take a bath in? Expose children to? No thanks.

And so the quest began. It started with a non-petroleum-based laundry detergent, but once we moved into the Prairie Box, I wanted as many products as possible to be biodegradable. Over the next few days, I'm going to take a look at the cleaning products we use in the house, and write about what works and what doesn't. I'll also include where we bought them and what they cost.

Here are the criteria we use when evaluating a product prior to purchase, in no particular order:
  1. Price: I don't care how well it cleans or how good for the environment it is if I can't afford to buy it on a regular basis. I try not to spend more than $6 for most cleaners, but there are exceptions.
  2. Biodegradability: A necessity. If I switch from a mainstream product, it's never to something non-biodegradable.
  3. Ingredients: I prefer products that are pH balanced (i.e. phosphate-free), since I have well water.
  4. Fragrance: Many "green" products are perfume free. Others smell like various herbs or flowers, which is usually okay. Some smell like patchouli. Ick.
  5. Availability: Some products I buy are only aavailable to me online. Others only at certain stores. When possible I like to buy from Meijer, since it's where I go for my groceries.


A little too late?

I'm not sure why I'm even bothering to water. I think the grass has had it, don't you?