Monday, March 31, 2008

Cool Green Site

Blog reader adrian2514 recommended Earth Lab, so I thought I'd swing by. It is a great site with resources for living green and links to other relevant sites. I plan to check it out in more detail when I get time (lol... I can hope...). But I really enjoyed the 2008 Earth Day Challenge. It calculates an Earth Conservation Plan score, and this is one test where the lower scores are better. The average ECP for the US is 325, so I was a little proud of my 222. Obviously it leaves plenty of room for improvement. My carbon impact has been drastically lowered in the past year, mostly by general common sense and being aware of my usage of resources, so I can say with confidence that this year will bring more... err, less... of the same. Here's to another year!

What I Did to Save the Earth... Giving Up Paper

Last week, I gave up paper products. Well, kinda. Read on.

We already use cloth instead of things like paper towels, paper napkins, and swiffer-type things. Most American families use these items on a daily basis, adding considerable expense to their grocery budgets and sucking up valuable resources. If they just tried a week without them, I think they'd find that they can live quite comfortably. To prove this, I decided to go a week without the few paper products we use, which are diapers, wet wipes, toilet paper, and note paper.

Giving up diapers was an issue. Disposable diapers are ultra-absorbent, so I let my baby fill'em up before I change them. I couldn't find plastic pants in my area, so our cloth diapers were leaky and soggy after a half hour. I only have four, so I would use them in the morning, wash and dry while baby napped (in a disposable), then use them again in the afternoon. I also used dispsables on evenings, nights, and excursions. Altogether we saved two diapers and thirty cents a day, but used that thirty cents and more in electricity, water, and soap.

If you, like me, don't think cloth diapering is necessarily the answer, you can find earth-friendlier disposable diapers at Amazon. Bought by the case, they are just pennies per diaper more than other namebrands.

Wet wipes were easy. I used baby washclothes, which I already had on hand. I just held them under warm water for a second. It is so easy, and so comfy on the baby's skin, that this is a habit I will keep.

Then there's toilet paper. Ahhhh, where do I begin? I cut up old t-shirts into TP sized squares and put them in a pretty gift bag. The used ones went in a covered garbage can. I decided to use the cloth just for number one, so this was a female only project. I also decided to leave regular TP out for non-family members--there are some things my friends and I don't need to share. And ya know what? It was not as bad as I expected. We had the normal flow of guests throughout the week and they didn't seem to notice. There was no noticeable increase in laundry and we saved a roll or two over the week.

For notes, to-do lists, and rough drafts, we use recycled paper from my dh's office. I originally intended to give that up because I figured most families don't have access to this. But then I realized, they do! Every office goes through tons of paper. Ask your boss, lawyer, doctor, or friend to give you the leftovers.

Someone asked me about feminine products. This wasn't my week for experimenting with that, but if it had been... well, I would consider it.

Why do this? Unfortunately, many of our everyday paper products come from 100 to 150 year old virgin forests in Northern Canada. When virgin forests are cut down to supply our paper needs, they can no longer help process the gases which are warming our planet. It's worth a try.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday's Feast, on Saturday

Does that make this leftovers?

What does the color dark green make you think of?

Forests, algae, and other chorophyll-ed things.

How many cousins do you have?

This shouldn't be a trick question... let me least 15. It's a large and complicated family.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highest, how honest are you?

9.5. I know everyone says that, but honestly, I can't even lie to telemarketers. I have trouble lying when it would be morally correct to lie.

Main Course
Name something that is truly free.
This is harder than it sounds because even the obvious answers like love and peace have some price. I would say: a relationship with God. Unless you're a Scientologist.

Using the letters in the word SPRING, write a sentence.

Do you mean:
Somehow Pensive,
Rain In Naked Gardens

Sprigs spin in rings.
?? Whichever

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Don't Like Mondays

Me neither!

Especially Mondays after weekends. I have shreds of paper Easter grass hiding in every corner (it could be worse ... remember the plastic stuff?). Candy wrappers under the table, pastel dresses with stains to be removed, and I'm sure there is one more egg hiding in my yard festering into a stinky time bomb.

This is a pretty song, but now that I'm listening to the words, it's a little twisted. I don't dislike Mondays that much, for the record. lol.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What I'm Giving Up to Save the Planet This Week

This week, as suggested by steviesmama, I am giving up paper. Here is a list of the paper products we use in our house and how I plan to replace them.

Diapers--I only have a few cloth diapers, so this should be interesting. No plastic pants, either. I've looked at a few stores and will explore this further tomorrow. Until then, I'll just be throwing the diapers in with other laundry and trying to stay on top of it.

Toilet paper--I cut two old t-shirts into toilet paper sized squares and put an old gift bag full of them in the bathroom. I am using a covered trash can for the used ones. They will be washed if they are umm, salvageable. I think I'll do a load per day and wash them with the cloth diapers. DH and oldest stepson are refusing to cooperate with this one, so it will be mom and kids only.

Wet wipes--I'm using baby washclothes, but you could use more cut up t-shirts if you didn't already have them.

Notepaper--I usually use leftover paper from my husband's work, but I am going to use our dry erase board instead. Although, I don't see any cost or carbon savings because we were already using pre-used products.

Paper products we already don't use:

Paper towels/napkins--I clean my house with old rags that I keep folded in a kitchen drawer. We use nice cream-colored linen napkins at meals. I buy paper towels and napkins, but we use them so rarely that one package lasts us more than a year. They are generally for cat vomit and things that so thoroughly gross me out that I don't want them in my washer.

Swiffer/disposible cleaning miscellanea--They're just too pricey for me and I am suspicious of the chemical cocktails involved. It seems like the more conveniences people use, the messier their houses are, so I don't think we're missing out on anything.

I guess I am showing how out of touch we are, because it doesn't seem like we use that much paper but I know it makes up a substantial part of most household waste. What am I missing here?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday's Feast

I love reading other bloggers' Fridat Feast posts, so I am going to join them:

Given the choice, would you prefer to live in the country or in the city?

The city! I love cities, especially San Francisco. You can smell the free thought! I am amazed at how condensed everything is... I can find everything from authentic Chinese food to a French briche within a five block radius.

Who is the cutest kid you know?

I am assuming they mean BESIDES my own adorable little ones. Mrs. Hannigan has a daughter with the sweetest, squeakiest voice. It's not quite like Minnie Mouse, but close. She is a tiny little thing, which just adds to the general cuteness of it all.

Fill in the blank: I couldn’t believe it when I heard ___________.

...about 9/11. When I was on the way to work, they were talking about it on the radio and I thought they were talking about some bombing in London. When I got to work, my office mate was like, "you didn't hear???" She dragged me to a TV and we watched live as the second plane few into the second building. Lesha liked to pick on me for not watching TV--she considered staying in constant touch with the world a necessary thing, while I prefer reading--and this just proved her point.

Still reading, though.

I don't think it's a hoax, but I can see why people do. It's a shocking event, even almost a decade later. It's hard for me to understand people who hurt others, no matter what the reason. I don't know what the answer is, but I know that's not it.

Main Course
If you could star in a commercial for one of your favorite products, which one would you want to advertise?

I think we'd be a great family for Annie's Bunnies mac and cheese or any of the other organic children's foods we eat. We're a cute and normal looking family, so it would dispel some of the myths about the crunchy hippies that people think make up the green/organic movement.

What type(s) of vitamins and/or supplements do you take on a regular basis?

I don't. I drink various herbal teas, does that count? I dutifully pass out organic children's vitamins every morning and sometimes I take one while I'm at it, but in general I eat a balanced diet full of leafy greens and such. A daily vitamin would be overkill.

Extreme Easter Fun

Here are a few of the wacky things my family and I have done to celebrate Easter.

  1. Dyed eggs. Okay, that's a standard, but we get bored easily and start pulling out the crayons and mixing dyes together. We end up with something resembling the batiked sarongs found in little Hawaiian shops.
  2. Mouth painting. No, not painting ON your mouth, but painting WITH a paintbrush held in your mouth. We paint on bunnies and eggs cut from paper. You can string the eggs on a long length of yarn and make Easter garlands to decorate the house.
  3. Do the bunny hop. How many times can you hop around your yard? Who can hop for the longest time?
  4. Baked easter cupcakes. Make your favorite cupcakes and top with white frosting and shredded coconut dyed green with food coloring. Nestle a few jelly beans in the coconut "grass".
  5. Cut flowers out of tissue paper or coffee filters and paint with watercolors. These are pretty taped to windows.

Purim started last night, but we're skipping it this year. The Jewish and Catholic holidays line up in a weird way this year. Usually Passover happens during Holy Week (it "matches" well because Christ was celebrating Passover just before his death) and Purim is way before. If I were a better planner I might be able to do all. Or maybe not--the drinking and sweet cookies and costumes of Purim would contradict the solemn fasting of Good Friday.

The joys of being bi-religious...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Emmie Hates Her House

I hate my house.

Okay, let me rephrase that. I appreciate having shelter and all of the accoutrements that come with modern shelter. Therefore, I merely feel ambivalent toward my house.

In Washington, people think Home Depot is top-of-the-line, so even though this house was totally remodeled just a few years ago, we have breakage drama after breakage drama.

When you walk through the front door, you are in the kitchen. Where is the sense in that? I don't need the Jehovah Witnesses smugly noting that although it is 11 AM, I still have not washed the waffle iron from breakfast.

The carpet is light colored and stains if you breath on it. I have lived with light colored carpet before and never have I had trouble keeping it pristine. Until now.

There are teapots stencils all over the kitchen. TEAPOTS. With pink flowers on them. Speechless. The landlady was so proud. If I owned this house, those would have been gone the day we moved in, even if I had to do it myself a magic marker.

There is a large and shabby pool table that takes up half of our family room. The owners couldn't move it. My husband told them it was fine. We don't play pool, and I can think of eight thousand better things to do with that space.

Supposedly we are going to buy a house of our own. Note "supposedly". DH says he is on board with this plan, but he has spent three months ignoring mortgage papers that require only his signature. I thought maybe he just didn't like the particular house I wanted to buy, so we toured a few others. We found one he LOVED. Okay, so let's make an offer. At this point I'll live almost anywhere with a consistently working hot water heater and no tea pots. He smirked and said it can wait. That was about two months ago.

I'm not sure what's going on, but I think I'd better make my peace with this house.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

10 Frugal Things I Have Done Today

Obviously I missed most of NaBloPoMo (ko-so-sho-to-jo or whatever) this month, but I'll post a list anyway.

  1. Dressed in the clothes I wore yesterday.
  2. Drank organic, free trade coffee in my home instead of buying it at a coffee shop.
  3. Cooked homemade whole wheat waffles for breakfast.
  4. Applied for about five house parties at If you're chosen, you get a big box of free stuff, which is like Christmas without the credit card bills.
  5. Left the heat off until a few minutes ago when the house temperatire dropped to a frigid 55 degrees. Um, hello Mother Nature? It's supposed to get warmer during the day, not colder. Now we'll heat our house to a toasty 62.
  6. Decided to skip a few activities today, saving gas and time as well as eliminating the need for a shower.
  7. Dug out scratch paper for my kids' daily art expo.
  8. Cleaned the stove and counters with vinegar and an old rag instead of storebought spray and a sponge.
  9. Hung out a load of laundry.
  10. Evaluated my cloth diapering options for next week, when I will give up all paper products, forcing me to try cloth diapers for a week. I have three cloth diapers, no pins, no plastic covers. That should be enough, right? ;-) I've heard you can use bread bags. We'll see how that goes.

Most of these fall into that sweet spot where frugality and ecology intersect. What everyday habits have you incorporated to keep costs down?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We Green, We're Clean, We're... Something Else That Rhymes

Someone told me that I should use my dryer instead of my clothesline because dryers kill MRSA.

A few thoughts:

1. Bacteria usually can't live on dry, light surfaces. Like, um, the air on a sunny day.
2. Dryers don't actually get that warm. At least mine doesn't. Gosh, I hate my dryer. Freecyclers can't be choosers, ya know?
3. No one in my home has MRSA. Believe me, we'd know after the last few weeks. After a decade of perfect health, we have explored every possible facet of illness...
4. ...and if we are exposed to it at the grocery store or something, the dryer won't help us because we will have practically bathed in the germies by the time our clothes make it to the dryer. We wear our clothes more than once.

At this point, I think we're safe with our line-drying/dryer-drying combo. I'll let you know if anyone dies of MRSA.

I know this is not a joking matter, but it just seemed like a ridiculous worry. I mean, maybe I shouldn't line dry because I might be attacked by a rogue band of South American killer bees.

What I'm Giving Up to Save the Planet Next Week

We all know what we can and should be doing to lower our carbon load, so why are we still wasteful beasts? Because we are afraid to make changes that may be uncomfortable without knowing in advance how they will impact our daily lives. If you've ever wondered whether buying without packaging or going auto-free for a week are feasible options, here's your chance to try them out without actually trying them. This is a priceless opportunity to use a fellow blogger as a guinea pig.

Remember how I was doing that cool thing where I was trying new ecofriendly habits by giving up something every week? One week it was showers, another week it was meat... there were a few others, but the whole project got left by the wayside in the medical drama miniseries that has become my life. However I am restarting it! So email me or leave a message here.

The Rules: Nothing requiring a large financial investment or anything that will compromise health or get my children taken away. Etc. Sage Mommy reserves the right to reject ideas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Web Awards

The Cleaning Junkie Award goes to Mom Advice for their awesome spring cleaning lists.

The printable lists are handy, and they are thorough enough that this obsessive list maker doesn't have to add to them. It's like a curriculum with a really great teacher's manual--homeschoolers will feel me on this--sparing me from having to spend more time planning than doing the intended task.

The Just What I Needed At This Precise Moment in My Life Award goes to Freelance Parent. I am focusing more and more on writing, more for a sense of fulfillment than for the (lousy) money. Although, even low pay buys Easter baskets and Hanna Andersson clogs!

The Needlessly Creating Public Panic Because It's a Slow News Day Award goes to The New York Times for their article on rising grocery costs. I have the same grocery budget for my household of seven as I did ten years ago for a household of two. Granted, I have made some budget-friendly changes to my shopping and eating habits, but I think we can call off the alarm for a while. My food prices are downright stagnant compared to my taxes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Book Review: The Ten-Year-Nap

I am waiting eagerly for Meg Wolitzer's The Ten Year Nap to pop up on my library's New Books shelf. The author addresses what is now called "The Opt-Out Generation," educated female Gen-X overachievers who give up promising careers for a life in snot-stained capri pants.

It's an angst that is close to my heart. I think we can all agree that my children are better cared for and better educated than they would be by a team of preschool teachers and nannies, but at what expense? I have given up more than the average mommy, including a scholarship to an Ivy League college and the career that surely would have ensued. I know that I am doing the right thing by maintaining a constant presence in my children's lives, but at what expense? When I die, will my loved ones have anything to put in my obituary besides: amateur gourmet cook, fabulous accessorizer, planner of amazing vacations, keeper of an immaculate house? None of these issues compel me back to work, but I can't ignore the pervasive emptiness of a hausfrau's existence.

I have talents, damn it. Underneath my hoodie and boot cut jeans lies a woman with a genius-level IQ who can write poetry and play piano, who would be more comfortable having two martini lunches with sparkling conversation than hanging out at a playdate. This guilt compels me to over-do things a little--do the mouldings really need scrubbed once a week, after all?--as I struggle to fill the days with tangible results: tasks, however small and mundane, that I can point to as proof that Emily Was Here.

So I'm not the only woman who feels this way, apparently. I haven't read the book yet, but thank you, Mrs. Wolitzer, for letting me know I'm not alone.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Favorite Songs As Of Today

These are the songs I just can't stop singing.

'Love Song' by Sara Bareilles. I think everyone is singing this one along with me.
'Happy Ending' by Mika. Everything by Mika in fact.
'Flashing Lights' by Kanye West. I start dancing whenever I hear it, even if I'm only hearing it in my head.
'Girl Disappearing' by Tori Amos. I'm a longtime fan of Tori and this new album was a delightful surprise. It's reminiscent of the emotional early work that made me fall in love with her back in 90. It reminds me of the Beatles' 'She's Leaving Home'.

What are you singing this week?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Green Pets

Is there a green pet?

By green, I don't mean a lizard or a toad. I mean, what are the environmental ramifications of owning animals? Here are a few general notes on sharing the green life with your furry household members.

  1. The hardcore PETA people are against it and call it animal slavery. But aren't they against just about everything? These people have clearly never witnessed the royalty-like treatment that the average housecat is given. Yet I feel bad for rats and birds and other little wild things that we trap in cages. At least a cat can go outside and stretch out in the sun.
  2. There are organic foods, but they are quite unreasonably priced, making them out of reach for the average family.
  3. Most responsible humans get their pets from rescue organizations because there are enough unwanted animals to make breeding a generally irresponsible idea.
My five year old daughter wants a bird, specifically a parrot. I am confident that I can talk her down to a parakeet. But do we really want to have a sweet little bird trapped in an itty-bitty cage? To have to cut back feathers so it can't fly away, because it will want to fly away so badly? Oh, and let's not mention the torturous amount of sticky affection it will have to endure from its young, grabby owner.

I am committed to physically caring for this hypothetical bird, so we know it at least won't be dependent on a fickle and forgetful kindergartener for food and water. Even so, is it morally responsible for me to buy my daughter a bird? It seems not, but I remember having a parakeet as a child that seemed chirpingly happy and incredibly bonded to me. Perhaps having an empathetic relationship with animals is the first step to becoming an advocate for them, the way camping teaches children to love nature.

What do you all think? Yes or no on the birdie? Is there a "greener" pet you can recommend?

Homeschooling in California

The official attitude toward homeschooling in California can be summed up by the following quote, left on an education website.

"I am a Californa teacher in a public school, and do not support homeschooling, private schools, or charter schools. They all damage public education, and they do not provide an unbiased education for their students."

Note that she cannot correctly spell the state in which she teaches. I know, it could be a typing error, but still.

Yes, homeschooling is dead in California. The governator hopes to resuscitate it, but until he does, families who refuse to send their small children on a one-hour bus ride to a failed and even dangerous school system are committing felony child neglect.

Unfortunately, California tends to a trend setter among states. With a progressive socialist heritage going back to the Great Depression, the state motto should be "Why isn't there a program to address that?"

I am not going to pick on progressives because I am one. But this is taking things in the wrong direction. With homeschoolers scoring on average in the 85th percentile, a state that boasts the poorest public schooling system in the industrialized world should be looking at how homeschoolers manage this remarkable success without certified teachers and a barrage of tests, not making it illegal.

As the child of a public school administrator and a former teacher, I don't think the educator quoted above is an exception. Her attitude is representative of most educational groups--if you don't believe me, just check out the NEA's website. Public schools are failing, and the only way to guarantee their continued existence is to remove all alternatives. The alternatives make them look bad, PLUS they give people a place to go. If they are allowed to end homeschooling, you can bet they will be turning on private schools and charter schools next. It's their stated goal.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Apparently I have been unknowingly lying to my children...

Lie #8017: You don't get your way from crying.

Unless you are a distressed mother trying to make a doctor's appointment.

My ruptured appendix kid had a follow-up appointment yesterday. Now, first, let me give you the back story on our doctor. We have a great doctor who for some reason works at a crappy family practice. CWFM, you suck! You suck because:

1. It takes an act of God to get an appointment with my doctor. When I call, you say, "He's busy for next week. We only make appointments a week ahead, so call back next Monday." But when I call on Monday at 8:05 AM, he's are already full, so clearly someone can make an appointment more than a week ahead. Several hundred someones, in fact.

2. You keep (oops!) switching my primary physician, so I have to beg my way back onto his caseload. And sometimes you say I can't see my doctor because he's not the primary doctor assigned by my HMO, even though my HMO swears he is and his name is printed in bold black letters on my insurance card. And then I can't see him until you get your freaking act together, which is how medical issues needing routine treatment become medical emergencies.

3. You make me wait about three years on the phone and entire decades in the waiting room.

4. When my son was in the hospital fighting for his life, the nurses called you and yet my doctor didn't know anything about it because apparently no one passed on that unimportant little tidbit of information.

5. Your nurse practitioner is incapable of diagnosing pink eye and eczema. She won't even entertain the possibility because I am just a hysterical mom who doesn't know anything. So my kids have to wait another week until we can see someone else and get the diagnosis and treatment I came in for in the first place.. A week is long time to have your newborn's eyes oozing and crusted shut.

These are only the top five... Blogger does not have enough bandwidth to store all of my complaints after just a year of seeing this doctor. We only rarely need to see the doctor, so it's not as big of an issue as it sounds, but I think we can all agree that MY DOCTOR"S OFFICE SUCKS. Anyway:

We waited for 45 minutes while the waiting room emptied and refilled three times. I had the recovering 12 year old plus my 5yo, 3yo, and 9 mo. They were starting to get wild, and then miraculously we were called back.

The nurse didn't know which boy was the patient. Hello? Read your chart?

Then, she starts asking me about Tyler's pneumonia. "What pneumonia?" I ask. She says, "Isn't that why he was hospitalized?" Umm, no. So we clear up why he's there. Meanwhile, the baby is working up to a wail and the two others are dissecting the examination room.

They don't have his medical history despite the fact that I filled it out less than an hour before, so I have to fill out another.

Then the doctor comes in. Not MY doctor. Oh, no no no. My doctor is so busy not even the nurses at the hospital can swing an appointment. We're seeing a very sweet little boy who looks just like my little brother Evan. Which is odd because our real doctor looks just like my brother Alex. But I digress.

The doctor has to leave several times throughout the appointment to fetch medical records that for some reason are not in the chart. He tells me that the antibiotic my son is taking is not the one indicated for a ruptured appendix, and he's all "no biggie" about it. The baby is screaming because she wants to crawl around and find nasty things to put in her mouth. My five year old is egging on my three year old, who I have to keeping pulling off her and putting back in his seat. It's chaos.

When the appointment is over, I go to make the next appointment. "Dr. C. is busy that day," the scheduling girl says.

"Why do we have to see Dr. C.? Why can't we see Dr. D.?" A rhetorical question, because our doctor is always too busy to see his patients (ironic) so we usually see someone else.

"Because Dr. C. is your family doctor."

Please, not this again... "No, Dr. D. is our family doctor." As I tell her this, I am trying to separate my two fighting children. The baby is still screaming, and the 12yo is pale and leaning against the wall falling asleep because he is worn out.

"According to this, Dr. C. is your doctor."

I was trying so hard not to cry, because I hate when women use that to manipulate others. But I was very tired and VERY frustrated. So I started crying. And the lady decided she miraculously could switch us back (they have always insisted that it's not that simple) and that we could see Dr. D. for our follow-up visit on Friday (who last Thursday was supposedly booked for this entire week).

As I'm walking out to the car, Grace starts crying because she wants to go back in and get a drink from the drinking fountain. "You don't get your way for crying," I tell her.

Oh, wait, maybe you do.

More on Freeganism

The freegans have inspired me to come up with a few ways we can apply their philosophies to our daily lives. For people with families, "squatting" in abandoned buildings, living without electricity, and eating from dumpsters is not a feasible lifestyle. Most of us want the best for our kids, and this includes stable housing maintained at a reasonable temperature, indoor plumbing, and at least the appearance of middle class normality. Even if you could make a Freegan family lifestyle work, someone is bound to call Child Protective Services. But here are a few major expenses and a few ways to make them free or a whole lot cheaper.

1. Shared, communal housing means less money, less waste, and (!!!) less housework. I think it goes without saying that you should be careful if you have kids.
2. Buy a small house far below your means and pay it off quickly. It's not free, but it WILL be in 5 to 10 years if you are vigilant about diverting extra funds to the house payment.
3. Barter. There was a point in my life when I was a single mother and even a tiny apartment would have been a financial strain. I traded services for rent on a two bedroom home in the country. The family owned several rental houses and a farm, plus they had a retarded son. I babysat the boy, fed the animals, and generally did whatever they need in exchange for that house. In California at the time, the house could easily have fetched $500-$750 a month, while minimum wage paid $4 an hour, so we all came out way ahead. Plus, I could have my own son with me while I did most of it.

1. Well, with gas prices as crazy as they are, my family is going to be doing a lot more bus riding. We have the worst public transit ever in Yakima, so if I can do it with all these little kids, I know you can.
2. Routine maintenance makes older vehicles more reliable and economical than a poorly maintained new one.
3. Get an old Volvo or VW and learn how to fix it yourself. The seventies models in particular are easy to tinker with.
4. Drive less through carpooling and good old-fashioned bumming a ride.

1. Do without temperature control unless it would endanger your health. You can put on slippers and a sweater instead of cranking up the heat. Unless you can see your breath, a cold nose won't hurt you, and even then...
2. Hang out laundry. Let the sun do the drying for you. Why is that so hard? Everyone acts like I am an extremist hippie for doing it.
3. Turn off those lights. I know everyone says this, but still we have lights on everywhere we go, even during bright summer days. Your eyes will adjust, I promise.
4. Make a one-appliance-at-a-time rule. I know what you're thinking--if I'm going to use it anyway, what difference does it make? But I have found that the one-appliance-at-a-time policy saves more electric than any other rule. So if one kid is watching TV, no computer for the other. If mom is using the dryer, no microwave. You get it.

1. It literally grows on trees. So plant a few.
2. Buy raw ingredients and make your own everything. It's not free, but so much cheaper it can revolutionize your grocery budget.

Here are a few reasons to be a part-time freegan:
1. The less you participate in a cash economy, the less you will be affected by the natural cycles of inflation and recession.
2. Buying less means less waste. Always. Without exception.
3. The less cash you need, the less you need to work. This means less transportation and more time for other carbon-saving activities. Or, you could work and earn at the same rate and use the money to save, improve your life, pay off debt, or donate to a good cause.

I know our Calvinist American heritage urges us to keep busy even when there is no need, but how many Calvinists are left? It's a dying religion, so let's let go of their neuroses.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Freegan Awesome Idea

Also known as not putting your money where your mouth is.

Freeganism (def): dumpster diving as a conscious lifestyle choice. It's pretty self-explanatory, so I won't go into details. You can get a comprehensive view of the movement at

Freegans are not bums or street people. They are seemingly normal Americans who choose to boycott the waste and materialism of modern life by completely removing themselves from the economy.

Obviously we couldn't all do this, because there would be no waste to forage through. But--what a concept! what a world that would be! I look forward to the day when empty dumpsters and landfills are our largest problem.

My only issue with is a political one. I think that when environmental and activist groups ally themselves with one or another of the two major parties, they effectively alienate half the country. There should be no political or religious slant to conservation. It's about doing what's right. And the left has done nothing for the green movement except talk. Al Gore had eight years of office to DO something about this impending global crisis and instead he did... ummm... well, I'm sure he did something, but it wasn't anything green. As I recall, he and Clinton were too busy kissing Monsanto's big backside and loading their pockets with polluted cash. Also,our friends at are union supporters, and I've never heard of a union using their considerable clout to encourage environmentalist changes in the numerous companies they control. My point is that the political issues divide us on a topic more important than economics and foreign policy.

You probably won't see me in a dumpster any time soon, but I wholeheartedly support this lifestyle. If there are any would-be dumpster divers in Yakima who want to take me on a tour, I'm willing to try it for a test run and report back to the internet community.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Very Sick Little Boy...

So here's what I've been doing instead of blogging over the past ten days:

  • Waiting in the aptly-named waiting room while my son has emergency surgery
  • Dealing with 8,000 doctors and specialists, none of them nice and only one of them in any way accommodating. Apparently the golden standard in the medical industry for dealing with distraught, sleep-deprived mothers is dismissiveness and sarcasm. I am starting to suspect that there is an entire section of medical textbooks entitled Blaming the Caregiver: An Easy Out When Examination and Diagnosis is Too Time-Consuming.
  • Contemplating how patients heal while being fed nutritionally void foods in an environment filled with toxic chemicals.

Yes, it has been an exciting two weeks. Remember that stomache flu roaring through the house? It ends up three kids had the flu and one had appendicitis. Appendicitis acts just like a stomache flu, so when I took my 12 year old into the ER with what I thought was dehydration, I was shocked when people started talking about CT scans and then emergency surgeries. An ER doctor was screaming at me: How long has your son been this sick? And if I wasn't speechless, I would have told him, not long at all. He was skateboarding on Monday, less than a day and a half before.

He didn't technically have appendicitis by the time I brought him to the hospital. It was then officially peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix. There was a massive infection followed by respiratory problems from the anesthesia. I am so grateful to all of these doctors for saving my child's life, but would it really have killed them to be a little kinder? And to actually talk to each other before spouting off their theories? At one point, I had three different doctors in our hospital room at the same time, all saying contradictory things and not even registering what the other two were saying. I know they don't listen when I talk, but don't they listen to each other? These people are in charge of making decisions that may save someone's life (or remove it) and they don't know how to turn on their listening ears. Creepy.

The nurses, on the other hand, were angels. And considering that everyone has survived the experience, I'm going to chalk this up as one of those traumatic life experiences that I just have to learn from and then try to forget. And I will, once again, be blogging actively about my crazy little life here in Central Washington.