BADASS WOMEN: CARRIE FISHER

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in her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, the then twenty-five-year old Carrie Fisher was a role model for a whole generation of young girls (yup, till they put her in a bikini! – she protested guys…as many of us knows). in 1977, feminism wasn’t exactly a care for movie directors, all male you think (more on this later? so, any surprise the character of Leia had to swoon & act as if, though the future of the universe was in fact, leaning directly on her shoulders as well as Luke’s (she’s a Jedi too, damnit!) she needed rescuing (cue the “kiss for luck” & being carried via rope on Luke across the inside of the Death Star). &, although she managed to get in a few great shots at Storm Troopers, did you know Fisher (revealing in her memoir Shockaholic,) was cast under the strict condition that she lose 10 pounds – putting her weight at the time an anorexic 95 pounds! this really should embarrass Hollywood…but it won’t.

Fisher’s memoir also reveals that since her role in Star Wars, she continued to struggle with her weight (cue a small eating disorder) & a severe mood disorder that required the last resort measure of electro-convulsive therapy. sure, depression & bipolar disorder have a DNA basis, but I have to wonder if those experiences also contributed…oh wait, I don’t actually have to wonder because it’s so OBVIOUS. it’s an industry that uses people & discards them when they’ve passed their too-brief “prime”…but it’s worse because of the lack of females in charge. I’m thinking of Maggie Gyllenhaal revealing that at age 37, she was considered too “old” to be cast as the love interest of a 55-year-old man.

some fun facts. in 1979, the later Emmy-award winning TV director Victoria Hochberg & five other female directors began collecting data on the numbers of women working in the industry. known as the “Original Six,” they found that of all the assignments in both television & motion pictures, 1/2 of one percent of all those jobs were going to women. they partnered with the DGA & the EEOC to file a gender discrimination lawsuit against the studios…quickly thrown out…things started to look a bit better, in TV anyway, from 1980-1995, where stats for female directors jumped from one-half of one percent to sixteen. but, never happened in movies, & only got up to three point five percent, where they remain this day. &…in studio diversity agreements, ethnic minority men & women of all ethnicities are clumped together in one category, meaning, when studio reps need to hire a minority for diversity’s sake, the job almost always goes to a minority male. the numbers confirm this — men of color make up 18 percent of the population & 17 percent of TV director jobs, while women make up 51 percent of the population, but make up 14 percent of TV director jobs. (me, shaking my head…)

after Twilight, which earned 400 million & was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, people were excited about Divergent as well as The Hunger Games. they show there’s an audience! you see a brave, badass girl out there…lo & behold…people will go see the movie. but, even though a female director directed the first Twilight — none of the other Twilights, or The Hunger Games, or Divergent…all books written by a woman & starring a woman…not one of them was directed by a woman.

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back to Carrie Fisher’s return to the big screen…apparently the cave-dwellers at THE NEW YORK POST (!) or those lurking on her Twitter feed could only focus on the fact that the actress, at 59, was no longer the waif in the infamous bagel buns & bikini, but a distinguished & accomplished author, actress, comedian playing a military general…who by the way, looks awesome! Fischer looked by FAR & ABOVE the least weathered of all (& she went through drug & alcohol addiction & recovery, a childhood with Debbie Reynolds, dating John Belushi & being married to Paul Simon…geesh! need I continue?! 🙂 I mean the woman is a warrior in real life!) &, I mean, if you are going to point out such silly, trivial things like how an actor has aged, where are the Mark Hammil posts? looking like he came off a 3-month bender & years of Krispy Kreme runs while Harrison Ford…watching the man ”run?” can we call it that(?) with jowls wobbling, was it really cute? who cares! good god & come on guys?! the very least you can do is get with the times & play it equal here! I actually liked ALL of them! I cared not at all about their age. I enjoyed seeing them again…but, while MEN criticize, women admire. women seem to have daddy issues & men have insecurities, so (& I’m talking generalities here 🙂 men seemingly see only girls as sexy & girls see dads as sexy. hmmmm. on the topic, while Fischer has to deal with the nonsense of being body/age shamed online, females are now furthering their own cause so well…making the “dad look” popular…what is the “dad look”? a “kinda in shape but not too in shape guy who isn’t super cut, plus we’ve got leading feminist, Mindy Kailing leading thousands, hell maybe millions of mindless women settlers who are furthering their own cause on a personal level by decreeing the 73 year-old actor is, “still mega bangable on all planets.” are you fricking kidding me here!?

well, here for you too, to become nauseated over, are some of the low points of the dialogue:

SurferJoe ‏@surfJoeMalibu  29 Dec 2015

YOU DIDNT AGE WELL AND U SUCKED IN STAR WARS. IT WAS A REST HOME FLICK. WANT MY MONEY BACK  @Variety @carrieffisher #StarWars @badrobot

Tom Roberts ‏@TomRoberts983a  29 Dec 2015

@carrieffisher So you want the money & adulation that comes with being a famous actor but not the criticism. Whoever told you life was fair?

never beaten down, the quick-witted Fisher has been retorting since & here is one:

“Please stop debating about whether OR not [I] aged well. unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My BODY hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us!”

you go woman!

Bette Midler chimed in (& so many others have as well): Brava to Carrie for standing up for the radical notion that women have the right to get older! Youth is temporary, diva is forever!

this is of course a topic close to my heart, & not just because I am a woman, not just because I am a 49-year-old woman, & not just because I am a 49-year-old woman in the skincare industry (a truly insidious industry that often longs to make women feel awful about themselves in an effort to sell products! I mean, have YOU been looking a bit “crepy” lately? a brand new word recently heard in skin “care” ads created by those awesome marketing “geniuses” to make us race out to buy the latest & greatest bullshit product that will NEVER “turn back the clock” – ahhhhhh.

yes, I make skincare products. but, I refuse to use the term “anti-aging”, I refuse to make people feel bad about themselves! it’s about nurturing HEALTHY aging, it’s about working with the underlying causes of skin problems to make us feel & look better of course, the best we can feel & find OUR TRUE SELVES, not change & plasticize & fill & alter who we are, including the smile, stress & life lines we have earned through our experiences & histories…in an effort to become more “youthful.” I wouldn’t, for all the money in the world, wish to return to my twenties, or my thirties, or actually to any age! I love who I am now & in fact, how I look & feel now more than at any time in my past & I SO wish the same for everyone out there!

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we have it so backwards with regards to enjoying life & self. we work so hard for monetary gain & pick ourselves to pieces over the smallest wrinkle & blemish. I do have a mission to help people avoid toxic synthetics & get real results, solving problems that, like my lifelong struggle with whole body eczema (which landed me nicknames & bullying & loss of self-esteem – now THAT is a real goal to help solve I believe), staying off fabulous pills like Accutane which, forgive me but if you tell me you can’t take something if you are even thinking about getting pregnant, I say no thank you! I endeavor to get folks to see for themselves that a properly formulated product, with 21st century science at its core, utilizing 100% pure actives from botanicals, highly-potent yet stabilized & safe, in 100% pure formulations that penetrate the skin will actually stop a toxic cycle of imbalance in the system (the same sort of things we talk about with food & lifestyle nowadays). it’s all about systemic imbalances & treating the whole body, not symptoms. &, it’s NEVER about promising something that is impossible, such as getting rid of wrinkles, an impossibility for ANY product!

know your beauty is my philosophy & it means so many things. the foundation behind suki® skincare, it means accepting ourselves for who we really are, never punishing ourselves for being “less than perfect” or needing to live up to an outside definition of beauty, & acknowledging we must always take & own our power, including the power over our health & well-being.

I applaud Fisher for surviving addiction & depression, for writing about it so well, so comically & in such an inspiring way in one of my favorite books & movies, Postcards from the Edge. I thank her for being an awesome part, in a classic movie I waited in line with my mom to see when I was 12, & kind of saw again at 49! not only that, but for being a fabulously funny character in one of my other faves, When Harry Met Sally!

&, thanks to her & JJ Abrams, for moving Leia beyond the damsel in distress role to offer a strong role model to a new generation of fans.

@ Carrie Fisher: you are what “know your beauty” is all about. looking forward to seeing you as the badass GENERAL Leia Organa Solo again in the next episode of Star Wars!

xo

—Suki

 

BADASS WOMEN: OPRAH!

Oprah

Oprah never stops moving in her external persona as our Oprah Winfrey, inspiration, talk show host (seems so trite to even write this one), ever changeable television / movie producer, book & script finder, & indeed, host & inspirational “speaker” in our homes). she is not just inspirational but truly aspirational & I think this is what she would like most of all, getting us off our asses & thinking/doing for ourselves rather than against ourselves…since 1983.

unlike many sensationalist daytime talk shows of her era (here’s looking at you, Jerry Springer, even with your “maudlin endings”), Oprah used much of her airtime to promote reading itself (a lost pastime in our age of 140 word limits & big graphics that say it without words, heck, we are graduating kids who actually CANNOT read or write – I’m telling you…they allow phonetic writing, OMG can you believe it, & I personally have proof of this guys!), self-improvement & empowerment, spirituality (not necessarily religion) & charitable giving, & hopefully bringing out that impetus in people. Oprah was also Academy Award nominated for her role in The Color Purple, not to mention her involvement, production, finding amazing stories & acting in several other movies including Selma, The Hundred Foot Journey, Precious, Beloved, Nine & too many TV shows, specials & movies to name.

cited as the richest African American of the 20th century & born Orpah Gail Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, a former maid, & Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner, barber, & city councilman. she was raised by a single, teenaged mother in the city of Milwaukee, & shortly after her birth, her mother left & Oprah to be raised by her grandmother, Hatti Mae Lee in terrible conditions. her only friends? farm animals. however, even at that age Oprah had a very imaginative mind & would frequently give the animals dramatic parts & include them in games. due to her grandmother teaching her to read & write before the age of three, she was often promoted several grades ahead of her age in school. (sorry, but suck it Waldorf “we wait till our kids express the desire to learn” theory…ugh).

sadly, at nine she was raped by her nineteen year-old cousin, & this wouldn’t be the only sexual abuse she experienced. her cousin, a family friend, her mother’s boyfriend & her uncle during her stay in Milwaukee rack up the list of the core challenges that made her not only the strong woman she is today, but the empathetic one. like many of us who have had such experiences, she never told a soul because the predators swore her to silence. at thirteen, Oprah ran away from home & at the age of fourteen became pregnant with an ill son who died shortly after birth. she took the death as a second chance in life, but was sent to live once again with her father in Nashville. Oprah’s father was very strict & made education the number-one priority.

in high school, she began reading news on the radio & later, during college, was offered a job as a co-anchor on the CBS television station, declining several times before being convinced by her speech professor that it could be the ultimate step to launch her career. Oprah wanted to find work outside of Nashville & was soon offered a job in Baltimore. the job offer came a few months before graduation, so she had to make a choice between taking it & finishing her degree. she turned out to be not the best reporter & was shortly fired…just going to show that even immensely talented people sometimes take a while to find their niche. however, in 1981, Oprah sent recorded tapes of her show to a talk show in Chicago called “A.M. Chicago”.

during this time, I actually met Oprah filming an interview at my high school! this was a performing & visual arts “fame school” as folks called it, where famous folks came & went to inspire us “future creative types”. I have to say, Oprah is one of those people who burned an image in my mind that I still see clearly. she was, even then, totally in charge. I remember her as the lone woman on set, demanding & directing the men to get it done & moving around like a hurricane. I’d literally never seen anything like it. I watched intently, & little did I know then that it would be a reminder to me during dark times to stick to my instincts & vision to matter what. needless to say, she sunk in…& I am privileged for the seeds planted early on which I have tried to manifest, & continue to! 🙂 I’ve been lucky enough to have others pick up where my vision left off, but Oprah was one of my first images of what a woman can do when she puts her mind to it, throws outside constructs to the wind & holds her vision & goals as most important. I’m quite sure Oprah’s goals have shifted multiple times over the years to where she is today, & they will continue to shift, but her role is clear to all of us.

in September 1985, she changed the name of her show to “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, which ran ‘til 2011, sweeping 47 Emmy awards & inspiring millions. Oprah has published numerous books & her magazine “O” reaches over 2 million people each year. in 2006, Oprah held her Legends ball—the first of its kind—honoring African-American women, including Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Toni Morrison & so many more, including women from all ethnicities, all inspirational for what they offer the world. & now her “Master Class” which includes topics from A to Z has broken barriers & continues to inspire in new ways we’ve never seen on TV.

the real take away from Oprah is not her fame, her money, her largess…to me, anyway. it is how she rose like a phoenix from the atrocities in her childhood & utilized her past to recreate herself anew, for the purpose of helping others. she isn’t hiding her story in the shadows, it’s right out there for all of us who can identify with so much of it. we know we can do so much more than “make it through.” we can thrive, achieve, succeed, struggle through our relative challenges & come out the other side incorporating the totality of all our experiences. I see them as our histories, that make each of us, indeed, who we really are. none of us are perfect, nope, not even Oprah herself…but like her, we can use our experiences to show empathy to others, show them they aren’t alone & so importantly, be inspirational ourselves, saying with our actions…anything IS truly possible! through aggressive effort, through love, through assertiveness, through not “guilting” or “shoulding” ourselves, but going after our deepest desires for our lives & being in our own corner! I think Oprah has lived that example – & I’m grateful for that aspect of her bigger-than-life icon status & the chance to look deeper into the person she actually is.

xo

—Suki

WINTER SKIN BLUES?

even though the snow hasn’t yet settled in New England, it’s still officially winter folks, & I know all too well how awful this season can be for skin—especially if you’re prone eczema, allergies, dryness, sensitivities & immunity issues…like me. stale air, cold air, heat of all kinds, lack of sunshine (for those of us who get that the sun is actually a healing force rather than a force of evil J)…I hate the feeling of dry, rough hands on my favorite silk shirt, or looking in my magnifying mirror at a flaky face (which in turn promotes blemishing…it’s all a crazy cycle)! &, don’t get me starting on that tight feeling when you stretch your lips into too big a smile & it actually causes a tear in the flesh! worst of all? thinking you’d solved your eczema problem, when bam! it returns as if to the scene of the crime…like it was waiting under the surface all along…for you to get comfy…

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& then, of course, there’s the great shower lie. the hot water & steam feels great while you’re in it, but the minute you dry off, you’re actually more dehydrated than before. huh?

it’s not all gloom & doom & darkness by 4:30 though—if you add a few simple steps to your daily & weekly routine, you really can have smooth & hydrated skin all year long. so without further ado, here are my top 10 tried & true maintenance points for winter skincare:

1. apply a pure body oil right out of the shower, while your skin is still damp (in fact, all moisturizers are best applied while damp from bathing, washing, wetting the skin – water / toner brings moisture into the skin)

2. use a thick, dense, synthetic-free body balm on top of that for sublimely smooth, dryness-free, eczema-free (if you are good & use your body scrub…skin! yes, on top of your oil—sounds decadent, but it’s not overkill, I promise, when you use a completely absorbable oil that matches your skin chemistry & really forms that base of moisture you need.

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3. use your hand lotion & lip balm all day long—keep a bottle & tube on your desk at work & another on your bedside table.

4. don’t think a facial cream applied once a day is gonna cut it. in winter especially, a reapplication is key to great looking, feeling & BEING skin. a touch of toner or even mineral water spray helps it absorb without the need to massage in & smear your makeup.

5. use an exfoliate on your lips once a week, then follow up with lip butter to kiss cracked, peeling lips goodbye. (a dry toothbrush can work too, but I’d use both for best results).

6. speaking of which: exfoliate. exfoliate. & exfoliate some more! slough those dead cells to make room for the fresh new flesh, then moisturize it like crazy to a baby soft smooth texture.

7. take a steam or sauna now & then. it’s great for detoxifying the body, your overall circulation & boosting your immune system. adding essential oils gives added glow to your skin & mood. lavender is great here as both stimulant & relaxant!

8. it’s a fallacy that you have to wash your face day & night. once daily (end of the day is most important for this reason…) with a moisturizing cleanser is fine, unless your work or hobbies expose you to lots of grit & grime. in winter, you want to do all you can to retain that moisture layer.

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9. don’t use super-hot water in the shower—it’ll seriously dry out your skin, & substitute a body oil every other day for soap. oils are wonderful cleansers that lift the dirt from your body without removing essential oils. you don’t have to have a squeaky rinse to be clean, I swear.

10. look for body products that contain coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter & other truly natural ingredients. stay away from synthetics like parabens & sodium lauryl sulfate because they are impostors! they only ACT like they are thick & moisturizing, but in reality strip your skin rather than nourishing it.

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I can honestly report that since adopting this regimen (especially scrub & moisturize), my skin stays well-hydrated & so soft all year. I may occasionally have a touch of tight feeling hands (‘cause I never wear gloves!), but I never have rough skin, chapped lips, scaling, bumps, or blemishes throughout whatever harsh winter weather my hometown of Chicago & my adopted home state of Massachusetts throw at me… & you can too.

so let it snow! please?

xo

—Suki

BADASS WOMEN: GWENDOLYN BROOKS

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Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (1917 –2000) was the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950 for Annie Allen, the tale of an African American girl’s transition from child to woman as she faces racism, war, death & ultimately falling in love.

Brooks was, like me, a Chicago native. she always wanted to be a poet & didn’t bother going to college because she thought it was unnecessary—to be a writer, she believed (& proved) all you have to do is write. she was already published at thirteen & as a young woman, she created poetry workshops for African American woman in Chicago’s South Side. Brooks helped lead a whole generation of black woman (& white male poets & reviewers) to realize that great poetry is universal & not restricted to any race, gender, age or class.

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“we are each other’s harvest” reminds me, this holiday season, to be grateful for more than any material possessions I’ve accumulated—it’s the loved ones in my life who are my greatest wealth & bounty.

xo

—Suki

LAST MINUTE “eco” LUXURY!

last week, I posted on fair trade/sustainable/organic gifts for all ages. today, I’m featuring some items with heart, soul & responsibility that are actually cool too (!) & will make this a memorable holiday (they don’t have to know it was last minute! 🙂 & I’m thinking new years is a time of these sorts of luxury items…but today, grab your overnight gift & be a hero!

  1. Brilliant Earth Jewelry

this brand of gemstone jewelry is “beyond conflict free”, meaning it’s responsibly-sourced to help fuel economic change & growth in developing countries, often mined for their resources with only a tiny fraction of profits going to local individuals & businesses. diamonds, colored gemstones & vintage jewelry (oh my!) to cater to every style, like this elegant sapphire pendant & unique art deco ring. since the ethics of Brilliant Earth shine as bright as their jewels, you can feel good as well as gorgeous while wearing them! get on it men & women 🙂

artdecoring   sapphirependant

  1. Breville espresso maker

a trip to the coffee shop can be a comforting part of the daily routine…but sometimes, a day in the home office doesn’t have to be interrupted by the hassle & paper waste…not to mention the questionable ethics & sourcing of Starbucks & other chains (& hey, your daily routine could use a change up too!). with this espresso maker, you can make café-quality java in your own home using your own fair trade organic beans…& what better way to maximize on the antioxidant health benefits of pure, unsweetened coffee?

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  1. Vitality sauna system

the toasty warmth of a sauna is the ultimate winter treat (& toxin releaser!) when living in a cold climate like New England, like I do (blah)! with its low emf emissions, reasonable water / electricity usage (less than the average shower can you believe) & wood sourcing from sustainable forests, this home sauna offers luxury without wastefulness. plus, regular sauna use has health benefits similar to exercise (this woke me up immediately…not that we should skip the gym & bask like a lizard all day, oh noooooo! but boosting the impact of our workouts with a 20 minute session sounds good – or hey, they OCCASSIONAL okay…sauna instead of the daily pounding J might be ok every once in a while! :)—or…slip inside for a few minutes to warm up your muscles for a yoga class, or your workout itself!

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  1. Eco Spa Vacation

what better way to unwind from holiday stress than a week at a full service resort? this list features green spas from around the world. some locations are no surprise, like the Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, California and La Clairière Bio Hotel in Alsace, France, but there’s green gorgeous luxury to be had in less expected climates, too, from Alaska’s Chena Hot Springs Resort (run on geothermal energy, featuring the stunning Aurora Ice Museum) to the Lied Lodge (conservation land & Arbor Day education center plus a full-scale luxury spa) in Nebraska. they’re all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, so the hardest part is choosing which gorgeous locale to check out first! I’m just trying to figure out what year I might be able to get away….hmmmmm…..

  1. Tesla model S

let’s face it, there’s nothing cooler than a new car. This is luxury at its finest…the ultimate dream gift & the Tesla’s a dream for the planet, too—way ahead of the curve, the first totally electric sports car, & can travel on one battery like, 2-3 hours, which means zero fossil fuel emissions…& did I mention it can do the ol’ zero to sixty in about seconds?! I’m waiting for the convertible, but yea, Tesla is way cool! (& they do have a totally plexi roof model).

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I’ve gotta say, though, if I had to choose just one thing from this list…that vacation is looking pretty good (hey, it’s only been a few years since I took one! 🙂 I’m going to go fantasize with that list now).

so, hurry hurry! oh, &…what’s on your wish list to Santa this year?

xo

—Suki

SHOWDOWN: LOCAL VS. ORGANIC

imagine this: you’re at your local co-op & you see a package of organic celery from California on sale—but wait, right next to it there’s a pile of leafy, elastic-bound bunches from a local farm, but they’re not organic. which do you choose?

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for many of us who are trying hard to make healthy & ethical purchases, it’s a common dilemma. for those of you still shopping at Whole Foods, it’s a massive one since they are still not labeling their GMO foods! yikes!

it’s only heightened this time of year, when many of us have the pressure of cooking for a big holiday meal, & when buying locally, we aren’t getting the cornucopia of foods we do in summer (ahhhh summer, I should really live in California, you know!). should we pre-order our turkey from that farm on the other side of town, grab an organic one from the Co-op, or just use that coupon for the conventional Butterball the local grocery chain sent out? does it really make a difference? oh yes, it does! if only the sake of the animals’ well-being, & I for one think if you’re gonna eat it, you owe it to the animals to visit both a commercial & a real down home slaughterhouse to see the difference in the treatment of animals. trust me, it will effect what you buy forever, unless you don’t have feelings of course 😉

but seriously, as far as meat goes, “organic, free range, etc.” these terms are totally meaningless on the shelves of your grocery store. there is actually no legal definition for free range eggs in the U.S.! the chickens must have “some” access to the outdoors, but this could mean time on a screened porch for as little as an hour a day! how is that “free” in any way? small, local farms with animals you can see grazing in front of you…that is the way to go for anything animal & that’s a fact.

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in this PBS article & video on local vs. organic, the experts weigh in on the side of local. in one way, it’s all about carbon. when you buy local, you are cutting down on carbon emissions. same with organic, but maybe less so if your produce has crossed more U.S. states than your last road trip.

on the other hand, it’s just possible your neighbor selling tomatoes from his front porch is spraying them with heavy-duty pesticides. knowledge is always the best policy. most farmers or small producers are happy to tell you about their methods—in fact, they are probably proud of the effort they put into their products & will tell you more about homemade compost or crop rotation than you ever wanted to know!

even so, the benefits of organic over conventional are huge. if all tillable acreage in the United States began to be farmed using organic methods, this would be the same as taking 216 million automobiles off the road, which amounts to 25% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions!

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so, according to this, the answer is simple: should you buy local or buy organic? yes!

both options usually cost more than the conventional produce you find in the aisles of a big chain grocery—but not always. farmers might cut you a deal for buying in bulk, & those organic sweet potatoes might go on sale just in time for you to whip up a batch of your signature holiday casserole. in choosing organic, you also avoid the hidden costs to your health & planet.

did you know that studies have found that organic produce contains up to 69% more antioxidants than conventional & is 4x less likely to contain toxic pesticide residues that have been linked to cancer & neurodevelopmental problems? yikes! that’s got to be worth the extra $2 for a carton of organic blackberries!

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if the product you need isn’t grown in your region (you’re not gonna find any Massachusetts oranges, for example!) go organic. given the choice between certified organic & a reputable local farmer who hasn’t sought that label, support your community & buy right from the farmer’s market or the farm itself. also look into CSA shares in your area—you might be able to bring your very own sweet peas & strawberries from farm to table. many CSA farms also have winter shares, which are great for cooking big, sustainable holiday meals.

xo

—Suki

FRAGRANCE FACT & FICTION

perfume1scents surround us every day, from that less-than-refreshing lemony bleach smell of a public restroom to a coworker’s unfortunate obsession with Axe body spray. there’s even a trend toward scented jewelry!

we can’t avoid scent in public spaces (short of wearing a gas mask to the office or the mall in protest!) but what about the products we bring into our own home? learn the surprising truth (& industry lies) about your favorite berry-scented lip balm or “summer breeze” in a spray bottle…

FACT: perfumery is as old as civilization

“…the Graces bathed [Aphrodite] with heavenly oil such as blooms upon the bodies of the eternal gods—oil divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance.”

Homeric hymn, 7th century BCE. 

aromatic substances like rose oil, labdanum, myrrh & ambergris were symbols of status & wealth from ancient China to Rome. many also had sacred uses. back then, all the raw materials came from plant or animal sources. today, 90% of fragrances are synthetic, created in laboratories to mimic natural aromatics at lower cost.

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(perfume making in ancient Egypt)

FICTION: fragrance is regulated for safety & quality.

there is no governing agency that regulates scent in commercial products, & little monitoring of the few standards that exist. companies don’t have to disclose specific ingredients in these formulas, hence the generic term “fragrance” you see on many ingredient lists. allergy testing before marketing is not required, & when testing occurs, it’s often on animals who are doused with toxic levels of the fragrance in question. (check out this list of companies that—still, in 2015!—test on animals.)

FACT: fragrance can have powerful physical & psychological effects.

fragrant botanicals contain active ingredients that can alter mood, memory, appetite & arousal. also, some fragrances are allergens, irritants, carcinogens & hormone disruptors (often synthetics, but some natural essential oils, too!). strong fragrance can also make some people feel ill—hence those signs in gyms, yoga studios, etc. requesting a “fragrance free zone”.

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FICTION: natural fragrance = safe.

whether a product is natural or synthetic is not itself an indication of safety. natural essential oils have longer histories of use, but processing methods can vary widely. for example, essential oils are often extracted with toxic hexane gas. there’s also no legal definition of “natural”, so perfume marketers (like many other industries) often use this term misleadingly.

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pure essential oils have a 2,000+ year history of helping people with conditions from anxiety to hormonal imbalances, so there’s no need to totally fear fragrance—I use a natural, gentle citrus aroma in many of my skincare products. look for organically sourced oils & consult a trained aromatherapist or do your own research. respect your allergies & follow usage instructions carefully, especially when oils are used topically rather than diffused.

so what scents inspire you & which make you want to rush for the nearest window?

xo

—Suki

TESTIMONIAL I AM GRATEFUL TO SHARE

to say nothing makes my day like a letter from someone I’ve helped is an understatement. these are truly the things that get me through all the tough times & they’re the reason I began this journey–the reason my company exists. here is a testimonial I had to share from someone who had eczema (the condition I used to have that  inspired me to create my whole product line) & I helped them stop suffering from it, which is humbling to even write.

“I have had eczema for as long as I can remember,” writes J. “the older I became the worse my eczema got. my arms and hands were covered in red rashes and scabs. it was extremely painful. I was having a difficult time sleeping, and working. working made my eczema even worse, because I had my hands in chemicals every day. eventually, my hands and arms were bleeding daily. not itching was impossible.

J’s eczema before trying suki®

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I tried every OTC lotion and cream I could find, and nothing touched it. I went to my doctor who gave me steroid cream. the steroid cream did give me some relief, but it did not get rid of my eczema. I continued to live with the pain.

one day a friend saw my eczema and suggested that I try the suki product line. after researching Suki’s products online, I was intrigued. the company’s philosophy and all natural approach seemed to be the answer I was looking for. I received several products and started a twice a day ritual. I began with the exfoliating foaming cleanser, followed by the concentrated clarifying toner and ending with ultra-protect body balm. the results were nothing less than amazing!

I immediately saw and felt a difference. after my first use I had significant relief from the itch. after 2-3 days the redness and swelling were noticeably diminished.  after the first couple of weeks my eczema was barely noticeable.  nothing I had ever tried before even came close to the results I received from Suki’s products. if you suffer from any skin problems, you owe it to yourself to try the Suki product line. it’s pure, natural and kick ass strong! Suki changed my life, I’ll never be without it!”

 J’s skin 3 months later

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her note & pictures changed the whole direction of my day from dark to sunny. & I still think of her often, especially during stressful & difficult times when I need that extra support & reminder that the original mission of my business—helping people get healthy, beautiful skin—is fully intact. I think about how grateful I am that I get to feel this way forever, because the formulas are made & that part of my hard work is finished. I should feel this gratitude & positivity every day…but do I?

of course not! scientists say any negative thought releases destructive neurochemicals, & the more you engage in shaming or blaming dialogue, the more difficult it becomes to stop. vocalizations of negativity = more stress chemicals released, not only in your brain, but in the listener’s brain as well. &, get this, the brain barely responds to our positive words & thoughts. why? they’re not a threat to our survival, so the brain doesn’t invest as much attention in them. in fact, you need to be positive (even if it’s fake!) at least 3x as much to negate the impact of negative self-talk.

gratitude is basically awareness –of the good things we have or difficult situations we’ve conquered, of what we’ve achieved, of what we’ve learned, of whatever enriches us! as Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to put a positive spin on this hardcore stressful year…turns out I’ve got a ton to be grateful for. this eczema success story is just one of many things.

so thanks “J.” 🙂 for reminding me…

xo

—Suki

BADASS WOMEN: MAYA ANGELOU

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Maya Angelou (1928 –2014) was a woman unafraid to live as boldly as she wrote. throughout her life she worked as a fry cook, opera singer,  journalist, actress, director, civil rights leader, nightclub dancer & yes, a prostitute. of course, she was most famous for her plays, poetry & autobiographical writing.

although she was open about her past & the traumas she suffered, she never let herself be defined by them, or by the gender & racial labels that suffocated so many voices in her time. she won three Grammy awards for her spoken-word albums & her childhood autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings reveals the struggles of growing up black & female in the pre-Civil Rights era to new generations of high school students & other readers across the world.

Maya Angelou’s life was fearlessly far from “normal” & without a doubt amazing!

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xo

—Suki

DANCER’S DATELINE FEATURE: HOW DANCE IMPACTS THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MIND

Suki Kramer, Skincare Entrepreneur by Day… Professional Ballroom Dancer by Night

(re-reprinted from Dancer’s Dateline, October 2015)

My only dream when I was little was to be a dancer. Back then I had every younger dance student’s mentality, “dance is solely a young person’s game.” Then, I was also dumb enough to believe only ballet was “real dance.” How wrong I was on both counts(!) and how surprising for me now, as a 48-year old woman, finding myself not only in better shape but more confident than ever before! I also had no idea back then that my path would require this journey of almost 30 years, many odd jobs and eventually, finding my sense of purpose building my company, suki skincare.

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The kind of hyper-focused discipline it takes to create a business is exactly the kind it takes to dance competitively! Dance is a daily exercise working through and despite pain (no whining!), fear, frustration, and with goals that feel so far away but we keep trying with everything we’ve got, and little by little, we get a step farther each year. We persevere because of the passion we have for dance, not knowingeverything, ever. We, as the phrase goes, “just do it!” And, if there’s any preparation for a life as an entrepreneur/business owner, it’s a childhood taking dance lessons.

When I could finally take a bit of a breather from building my business, about 10-15 years in, I found the time and felt that pull and really wanted to explore ballroom…probably because I grew up listening to Glen Miller and watching Gene Kelly! As I now, 6 ½ years later, know my styles (International Ballroom and American Smooth) are as painful, technical, difficult, wonderful, empowering and incredibly beautiful as any other.

As I look back to myself a young insecure girl, I know I could never have experienced any of what dance had to offer then, because I was so debilitated with self-doubt. That’s not to say I haven’t been deeply afraid recently and continue to work through tons of insecurity, perfectionism and fear! But my dance teacher, Gunnar Sverisson, has filled me with his positivity daily and never allows me even a grunt of negativity. This has led to so many amazing changes for me on and off the floor.

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(painting by Leonid Atremov)

As I look back to myself a young insecure girl, I know I could never have experienced any of what dance had to offer then, because I was so debilitated with self-doubt. That’s not to say I haven’t been deeply afraid recently and continue to work through tons of insecurity, perfectionism and fear! But my dance teacher, Gunnar Sverisson, has filled me with his positivity daily and never allows me even a grunt of negativity. This has led to so many amazing changes for me on and off the floor.

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Being brave, trusting and proactive or competitive in dance expands into so many things: being fully engaged in the process of learning, which involves letting down our egos and facing our fears, opening our minds to new things, putting ourselves out there, even if it means we will potentially fall on our butts right in front of the audience or a judge. All of this courage reminds me of how I started my business when I had nothing and knew nothing about how to run a business, about design, marketing, I could go on and on! I had to learn it all (not to mention chemistry!), with no money to start a business, just my brains, determination and tenacity as my tools and exactly what I needed to motivate me to do what has been probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Without all the experiences I’ve had – the struggles, mistakes, the realizations, hardships, facing all sorts of people and the mistakes I’ve made – I’d have never grown into who I am today. And ironically, I’d never be able to be the dancer I am finally capable of becoming. Even recently, I had another growth spurt and finally turned into a real boss after almost 20 years! Dance plays a huge role in pushing me toward being a confident leader. While being an entrepreneur at first had a great deal to do with me facing some of the greater challenges of my dance journey, they’ll always go hand in hand.

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With the intense stress that comes with years of being a business owner, dance provides me the mental and emotional outlet and flat out fun nothing else does. When I’m at practice, I am happy and present. It is my respite – invaluable just in terms of stress relief alone! The lessons of dance and entrepreneurship go hand in hand and they naturally flow into all areas of my life. I am a different woman than I was 6 years or even 1 year ago…and I directly hold my experiences on that dance floor responsible for the confidence and strength I now enjoy.

And, I am so lucky I get to experience all this in my prime at 48! Right?

xo

—Suki