Monday, August 23, 2010

Gratitude for the Earth: Harnessed Power!

Nature does nothing uselessly.

I used to hate cleaning the house when I was a kid. To be honest, I probably never cleaned the house as a kid. The smells from chemical cleaners made me nauseated and sick. But my mom was a junkie for a streak-free shiny home so she chemically pulverized whichever home we were living in at the time with an armory of Windex, Mr. Clean, Green-All, and Comet. I found any reason to leave the house and avoid inhaling the fumes for as long as possible.

It was the same story with classrooms. I could smell the Clorox bleached desktops and flooring every Monday morning. I got headaches and nausea. I was lucky though, and never developed asthma which is now on the rise, tripling in the last two decades. Literature attesting to the harmful effects, both on people, pets and the environment, because of chemical cleaners or other chemical solvents is on the rise. When I lived by myself, I was my only concern and I was able to clean (or for that matter, not clean) in the manner I wanted to. Now that I live with Clint and cleanliness concerns more than a one bedroom rental I had by myself, I have had to get creative with cleaning.

One word: Vinegar. I am amazed. What used to be an ingredient in my dumpling dipping sauce is now the main bacteria fighting agent in my household. Nature has provided a solution for everything!

What used to be needed:

Clorox bleach, fabric softeners, Windex, Comet, Ajax, Resolve, etc.

ALL that power is now harnassed in a simple solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part distilled (I use Brita filtered) water. It cleans EVERYTHING! I use a plain white cloth and this bottle of magic around the house to clean the windows for streak-free shininess, pet stains (it both lifts stains and neutralizes odor), and disinfecting hard surfaces (bathroom sinks -> kitchen counters). A tablespoon or two in your laundry makes for a fabulous fabric softener. I use baking soda and vinegar to unclog shower drains and I use a cup of vinegar in the toilet to clean the toilet (in a last ditch effort, I once left bleach in the toilet overnight... we came back and it didn't do anything. A week later, a lightbulb moment led to an idea to soak vinegar in the toilet and it worked!)

Ah vinegar... while cleaning the house now makes my mouth water because of the aromatic reminder of dim sum, the smell goes away in minutes and all that's left is a non-toxic clean home.

(Other non-toxic, cheap, genius ways of cleaning the home: baking soda. A non-toxic, fragrance free replacement for deodorant: baking soda and corn starch.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dear little shit: Looking forward to someday

What feeling is so nice as a child's hand in yours? So small, so soft and warm, like a kitten huddling in the shelter of your clasp.
Marjorie Holmes

The truth is I didn't want you. Well not you  per se, but children in general. To clarify further, when I was younger I didn't want children. Remind you, I'm the type that started planning my collegiate ambitions when I was 5 so to say that I was young when I started planning did actually mean a bit. As a child, I thought children were gross, babies grosser. Who wants to put up with exploding diapers, runny noses (I could barely tolerate my own runny nose), and the worst criminal act of children--spit up, yuck!

When I started coaching elementary kids in high school, I started to see more of their adorable side. OK, I thought, kids aren't that bad but babies are still gross. The kids were so eager to learn and were so able to learn! Fast forward a few years and there I am standing on a balcony overlooking the San Ramon hills with my pregnant friend Becky and her parasitic baby inside. I never questioned pregnancy before but now, standing there with my friend exhausted all day, everyday, with this life-form inside her getting first dibs at everything she ate, drank, and absorbed, I wondered why women put up with that! A few months later, little Callie was born. She was adorable. I visited the family in Bellevue and watched my friends converse with their little infant using baby sign. I watched her absorb all this information from the outside world: she mimicked her dad use the sign for "more", she watched her mom use a spoon, and best of all, she learned to throw that spoon like dice on a card table just like daddy.

Becky and Daryl were are amazing parents. I questioned my abilities to show a child the world and all the possibilities in the world without also screwing them up irrevocably and irreversibly. I didn't want to be the reason she was in therapy at 42 and blaming me for her neurotic tendencies that left her single and working for the man while struggling to find herself because her mommy made her nuts.

And then came marriage with the baby carriage. Not my baby carriage but 14 carriages, er strollers, filled with other peoples' toddlers. (Correction: I wasn't actually married when I started working at the base daycare. I was desperate for a visa so I wouldn't be deported.) I spent 30 hours a week caring for the angry, the sad, the pitiful, the merciless, and the needy two and three year olds of enlisted military and officers. I cried every other day to Clint. I cried on the inside every other minute. But after a few weeks, I really started to love the little brats. While the CDC managers themselves were insane, I still managed to learn a thing or two about children and utilized the knowledge I gained in a Developmental Psychology class at UC Davis (I should really send that professor a Thank You card). I started to figure out my own way of teaching kids, consoling them, and making them laugh. I was their mom between 6am and 1pm and after an hour of destressing, I would daydream about the mom I would be someday. I started adding names to my list, crossed names off. I saw what some parents did and how that affected their children which led to hours of discussion with Clint on what we would do and what we would not do with you.

Now I daydream about the day there's a little Olivia/Eleanor/Sophie/Peter/Aidan crawling around the floor and figuring out how legs work. While we're not ready yet, just know you were never an accident-we have been planning you for a long time. Know we want what is best for you-we're not trying to make life harder but hoping to make your future easier. Know we are here to answer your questions-and we hope you learn to question and not just memorize our answers. Know that no matter how much your organic bamboo diaper explodes, your nose oozes, and your cries keep us up at night we will always love you... and will get you back for it when you're older and have your own kids.

(Future thanks to the grandmas who will be helping us... xox. And a word of gratitude to the toddlers I got to experiment with.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Impact Marge

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.

Robert Green Ingersoll

I once told Clint I wish I could be like Kendra Wilkinson and the Girls Next Door. We were watching an episode of the Girls planning a Midsummer's Night's Dream party at the mansion when I blurted out this guilty pleasure of a wish. While I was sure he wishes parts of me were like Kendra Wilkinson too, he gave me one of the biggest looks of disgust I had seen since I showed him the bunion on my right foot. But I had an explanation for him! I envied their ability to see the world and all the fun in it. I wished I could live a life where my conscience wasn't screaming at me every time I drove, turned on a switch, left a faucet on, or wasted a sheet of paper. I wish my perspective of life were as sequined and feathered as theirs but alas, it is not...

(People with environmentalist tendencies just don't seem to have as much flair as people with porn tendencies.)

I'm not sure if I'm an environmentalist or if I am just a concerned citizen. I have always had weird habits about waste and water usage. (My mom can attest to my hoarding of "garbage" but all those old notes and deconstructed school projects were reusable!) I had a fabulous fourth grade teacher who taught us the importance of environmental sustainability and preservation. Our assignments consistently revolved around the Brazilian rainforest or tropical animals. In college, an environmentalist friend taught me more about agriculture, animal industry, and how it only made sense to be a vegetarian. And my more recent studies of books and documentaries in past years have led to a more holistic understanding of the environment, how our actions impact the environment, and how the results of our impact affect people in other countries, particularly third-world countries.

I have now honed a decision-making thought-process that would blow Kendra's mind.

Take for instance, printing paper. I saw someone printing documents the other day and as soon as I heard the hum of the printer and saw the paper feed through, I was overwhelmed with visions of logging trucks, bare forest floors, paper processing plants, bleach-water running into streams and polluting the environment, large trucks spewing smoke into the sky while transporting reams of paper, until finally all that was there was a single sheet of fine white paper sitting in a printer tray.

It's the same thought process for everything... someone commented on their new iPhone4 and how they quickly replaced their old iPhone. That old iPhone had to be manufactured leading to fumes from melting plastic painted the sky, a trail of smog tracing its footsteps. That old iPhone was probably "e-recycled", which means it ended up in a heap of other old electrical waste in a Chinese village where e-recycling is outsourced and villagers are asked to remove any useable wiring and plating until they are consumed by lead and mercury. (See for yourself or read the article)

But no one wants to hear these things. No one wants to be inconvenienced this way. I would be such a funner friend if I thought like Kendra. But I just don't think that way and sometimes I wonder if I should. Life would be easier, maybe I would be happier, and my husband too.

There is a small percentage of people in this world trying to fix these issues. They have a long hard fight ahead of them. Meanwhile, the remaining 99.95% of the population in the developed world is happy with the way life is; their favorite fruits and vegetables are always available regardless of the season or terrain, iPhones magically disappear when discarded, and the only waste paper leaves behind is in their garbage can. While I know I am not part of the 99.95%, I am also not fighting enough to really be included with the dedicated .05%. But I am trying, regardless of the upstream battle (actually, I think many people I know are in this little huddle with me but for the sake of easy reading, I won't redo the math and recalculate the Kendras vs. Environmentalists).

I recently read a book called No Impact Man. My goal is to acheive a lifestyle where I can be Minimal Impact Marge. My fear though is that my efforts will fall on deaf ears with the society around me.... I was already mocked yesterday for wanting to save paper. (Why are people so mean?) So why is that .05% fighting so hard when 99.95% aren't even aware of the battle? What if the 99.95% don't even care if we win the battle? What will we be fighting to save then?

What if the world doesn't want to be saved? What if my lack of impact isn't on the environment, but on the people (Kendras) around me?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Conversations with my daughter: Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say things just to be mean

A foolish man tells a woman to stop talking, but a wise man tells her that her mouth is extremely beautiful when her lips are closed.

Dear Little Shit;

Emotions boil, anger bubbles, tensions mount... sometimes all you want to do is say the thing you know will bring the moment to a point and let all the frustrations come spilling out. Maybe I've grounded you for dying your hair, or maybe Dad prohibited you from dating the guy with the 'tude problem. Maybe the world just doesn't understand the emotional abyss that is "teenage angst".

It's ok.

It will all be okay. Just be careful how you handle it all. Hopefully Dad and I have taught you well and showed you how to cope with anger. But maybe we missed a step or maybe we just are not the strongest influence in your life. Regardless of what the situation is, if you love the person you're in this situation with then learn how much more beautiful a situation can end when you compose yourself with sealed lips. I don't mean to bite your tongue or to not express yourself. I do mean to keep your anger in check and not say anything you don't mean. Sometimes it's easier to just say the hurtful thing because you want the other person to feel as betrayed or jaded as you. All that does is set things back, not move things forward. Maybe you really want to say something mean to me, Dad, your best friend. But once you release words, you can never take them back.

As angry as you might be, regret is a worse feeling.

Try and try again: Inspiration!

Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.
Tom Krause

I've been completing avoiding my blog. I don't mean to be so incognito but one could say I'm busy playing with my awesome new toy (Nikon D90) or that I am busy preparing for trips and vacations (California in 10 days) or that I have just been uninspired in the writing department.

However, I have been inspired in life. While my writing neurons haven't been firing much, my creative juices have indeed been flowing and my zeal for all the things life has possible is at an upturn. I've started playing soccer with Clint (yay for him pushing me because even though I have the skills of a dead goat, I love trying while I'm out there)and I've been marinating a been more on my plans for the Red Cross. I've also been excited about all my plans for... well... life in general. I was in a bit of a rut for a while but now with wedding planning behind us, I have so much more time to focus on school, life, environmentalism, etc. I'm a junkie for environmental tips and green living, and I am addicted to documentaries about the planet, food, healthy living, sustainability and the like so I have been watching documentary after documentary. Poor CLint has to put up with the after-effects of this though (I cried after The Cove... I couldn't help it. So sad....) Now, my environmentalist, hippie-heart is ready to fire up a new way of life. Clint and I have been talking about starting a garden in our next home and maybe even getting a chicken or two. (I don't know if Gwen and Will will love that or hate it but we'll see). I'm also aiming for us to take a volunteer-vacation at least every other year. I'm aiming for Thailand and an eco-tour to save sea turtles as our next trip.

While we may not save the world, I'm hoping to at least make an impact on my world. I also hope these efforts and this inspiration translate into great material for the after-school project I'm working on. No, I'm not part of some after-school club... but I am trying to start one. (Thanks to Allysyn who pushed me to 1)join the Red Cross, and 2)nurture my need-to-help instincts and translate it into something for the base high school.)

We didn't get to start the garden at our current home the way I had hoped but I have been given the time to learn new things and get inspired and be prepared for the next location so that we can maximize all our efforts... Looking forward to trying. Even looking forward to failing if it means I get a lesson out of it and can try again.