Friday, May 02, 2008

Fashion and Orcas Island

The fashion show was tons of fun. I was totally out of my league, but I decided that being goofy and silly was better than being stiff and cold, so I played the extrovert (not much of a stretch for me!) and I think it went well. It was memorable, anyway!

And now I'm off to Orcas Island, and I can't wait for my girl-time to begin. And reading. And relaxing. And painting my toenails. And doing yoga on the deck. Maybe going for a hike. Sitting in the hot tub. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............

See you on Monday!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The first time

Today was the first time, ever, that I wished that Tessa would have a sibling.

Today Camille was over for the morning - and Tessa made my "job" so easy. She shared, she helped Camille, she even told me when it was time for a diaper change. She encouraged Camille, she tried to teach her things (like "Camille, this is a baby horse. Do you know what a baby horse is called?" and then supplying the answer, "A foal!"). She was gentle, tender, and delightful. And she was having a blast, too - I could tell she felt like such a "big kid" and was delighted to show someone younger the ropes...on her own terms. I was able to do tons of chores, chat on the phone....and just delight in watching them. Camille had a smile on her face the whole time, following Tessa's lead and playing and chatting. It was nothing short of lovely.

I do not want a second child. I'm not changing my mind. I have been expecting this moment for years, wondering when I'd have the pangs, and I've actually been quite startled at my level of contentedness at having one child - feelings of joy mixed with relief, because I know I'm a better parent to one child than I could be to two. (I admire parents of more than one child immensely: I know them to be more patient than myself! It's a good thing I know my limits.) I LOVE having an only child, and it is absolutely the right thing for our whole family. I even think that Tessa loves being an only child - she adores her playdates, but at the end of the day she wants time to herself.

But today I saw what kind of big sister Tessa might have been. Today I saw how the other side might have looked. Of course, it helps that Camille is such an integral part of our lives, and has a very special place in my heart....I adore her and love her and delight on her, all on her own. Today I saw how fabulous Tessa would have been, and how much she would have enjoyed a sibling, and I ached for what will not be.

This moment passes. We dropped off Camille (funny enough, roadside! - we were walking to the Junction and Heather drove by and scooped up Camille), and Tessa and I fell back into our usual talking about this and that and though I'd been enjoying having the two children together (Tessa was pushing Camille in the jogger, at Tessa's insistance and Camille's delight, while I held Shep's leash; I was proud of myself for getting it together and walking with them, even though we WERE five minutes late for preschool) the end of the day I love it being just Tessa and I (and Ryan!).

Siblings don't always get along, and I know that not every moment with siblings in a household is like what I saw today. I'm glad that I got to see today's events, and see the love between these two children, and the joy they had in one another's company. I have not changed my mind about the path we chose. Still, it was bittersweet to see what might have been. Tessa would have been a great sister.

We find our joy in a different package, but it's not often that I get a complete window into the road not taken, and today I saw life through different eyes. It doesn't make me regret our choices, even though I felt my chest tighten as I realized what I was seeing. It is what it is; there are different ways to find joy.

And Camille is welcome here any day of the week. :-)

Fashion Show Day

Today is the Northwest Hope and Healing Fashion show, and I'm modeling as a survivor in the show. I need to be downtown at 3pm to do hair, make-up, and hopefully get some instructions on what a model must do (I didn't study that in college ;-) ) .... it will be a blast but I'm also nervous. I hope to be able to get lots of photos to post.

I still can't believe I'm going to model lingerie. It's beautiful, and it's only one (of three) outfits I will be wearing.....please help me to remember that this is for charity, that nobody cares about my cellulite, and that I don't have to be ashamed of my body, even if I do have a muffin top!

But it's a busy time to ruminate on the environment or frugality. Gotta run - wish me luck tonight!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why I garden

I garden because it is giving me joy.

Joy to do something good for the earth - land previously used for weedy grass with no benefit to anyone is now being used to grow healthy food in a sustainable way.

Joy because this fits into my budget - in theory, anyway, I will reap what I sow and will collect a financial benefit as well as a healthy bite to eat.

Joy because I'm reconnecting with the earth - feeling wind on my face, feeling the texture of the soil, learning about growth cycles in plants.

Joy because I'm teaching my daughter these things.

Joy because a sun ripened strawberry, warm from the vine, is about the most delicious thing on earth.

Joy because it's something our family can do together, interacting with one another.

Joy because it's useful, purposeful.

Joy because it's "fun" physical therapy, working my body the way it's meant to be worked.

Joy because it's about life, not illness, not worries.

Joy because I'm proud of my learning, proud of my accomplishments (weed-free dirt....!), proud of what it is I'm attempting to do.

Joy because gardening is a form of slowing down.

The flowers are nice, but largely ignored right now. I'll have to figure out something sustainable and lovely to plant in the front once the tulips die down; we have lavendar, Grandma Tess's daisies, roses, and just a few other things....but I know we'll need a bit more. It looks like our other daisies and giant pink poppy are coming back, but the flower garden is rather hodge-podge and in need of help.

I have so much to learn. I haven't got composting figured out at all, though the worm bins work overtime. I haven't figured out how to cycle crops so that I have lovely winter crops as well. I haven't figured out if I really do need to plant fava beans to prevent erosion and keep nitrogen in the soil. I haven't even figured out if I've done anything right yet....the only proof will be eating these delicious foods, and not finding out that they cost $10 per bite. (This DOES need to be economical.)

Our back bed has wild geranium growing through it - it's actually pretty but it's going to choke out the irises and peonies if I'm not careful, and I want to do the squash there...but there are only so many hours in a day!

Despite the mountain of mulch we got, and the fact that it isn't all used yet, we're going to run out. Hmmm!

But I garden for the joy of it. It's a very different joy than the kind I'm used to - slower. But joy, none-the-less. It's a peaceful kind of joy.

Garden - with pictures

Our lilac is about to go into full flower - today it really started to open, and the scent was heavenly. It grows next to our living room window (it must be 12 feet tall) and when we open the window the scent of lilacs -which I love - wafts through the house.

No blog post with pictures is complete without one of Tessa - here she is with some flower pots in front of our house.

Tulips in our front garden bed....

I've had some requests for pictures of our garden, so I'm obliging. I have to say, I am very, very proud of my work in the garden. My body is not used to the physicality of such work, and I started this project with almost NO knowledge of gardening, but I'm learning as I go. First I read at least a half a dozen books on gardening (no, scratch that...probably more than a dozen books) from the library, then Ryan did the grass removal, and since then it's been dribs and drabs of work as my body will allow.

Currently, the crops in the ground are:

- two kinds of carrot seeds

- leeks (now I'm learning that there are autumn leeks and winter leeks and I have no idea what I've just said "leeks")

- two kinds of onions

- early cabbage (which doesn't look like it's doing well....any ideas, anyone?)

- two kinds of sugar snap peas

- four kinds of strawberries (in addition to our alpine strawberries from last year, which overwintered well and are doing fabulously in the bit pot)

- kale

- mixed lettuces

- two kinds of blueberries

In pots in the back, I have planted cilantro, and I have basil growing in the kitchen. Parsley, chives, and oregano overwintered really well in a planter, and we always have rosemary in the raised bed. I still want to plant basil in the ground, as well as thyme, garlic, and some other herbs.

In old yogurt and salsa containers, sitting in a warm window in the basement, I have two kinds of tomatoes and an early pepper variety, all from seeds. I'm also planning to get some more tomato starts, because I love tomatoes, and I would even like to can some.

I still have radishes, beets, spinach, and more lettuce that need to be planted.

And if I get all that done, then I want to prepare the raised bed for potatoes and two kinds of squash (one summer and one winter squash)...but I'm not there yet.


First, the view of our garden from the front porch.....looks like a lot of dirt, doesn't it?! We've planted in rows, with mulched walkways between the rows so that we can tend the vegetables.

Next, a picture taken of 1/2 of the garden from the view looking from the street. The front poles are bamboo supports (bamboo=sustainable resource) built to hold up the sugar snap peas. We planted sugar snap peas from starts, and also from seeds (one set to each teepee). We'll see which ones grow best.

Next, a close up of one row - this one has rainbow Swiss chard and mixed lettuce plants, from starts. The soaker hose runs through the middle, and I think we need to mulch on top, too, when the plants are a little bigger. The soaker hose is a place-holder right now, as with spring rains we haven't watered at all. Our plan is to hook up the soaker hose to a rainbarrel at the corner of the house, and harness a rainfall "harvest."

Near the front flower beds, a strawberry patch. So far I've got 17 plants in (not including the 5 or so Alpine strawberries), including Shuksan, Rainier, Quinault, and "everbearing" (?) varieties. I think I'll buy a few more - our family will eat as many strawberries as we can grow, no problem, and sun-sweetened on the vine they are more delicious than anything I've ever tasted. Today I mulched around the strawberries, in part to keep down weeds and keep in moisture, etc., but also because I'm told that if strawberries sit on dry mulch they don't rot as easily, and slugs don't like the harsh (rough) mulch, so will avoid them, too. We'll see if that's true!

The view of the blueberry patch - it's hard to see more than mulch in this picture, but if you look very closely you can see four small blueberry bushes (with tags hanging off them, identifying their type and care) in the foreground. You can also see our neighbors' big blueberry bushes, which are years old and doing well, along the property line. The picture after that is a close up (sideways, sorry) of one of the bushes.


We've rediscovered the movie feature on our camera - love it! Here are a few short clips:

Tessa's first sewing machine lesson, from expert Grandma.

Story time with Aunt Susan in the guest room at Grandma and Bopa's.

Tessa jumproping in our yard in front of her new swingset.

Dear Michele with baby Everett. I want to bottle up the sound of that laughter - isn't it the best? Everett was watching Tessa jumprope and he just adored it. Big brother Elliott wasn't as convinced, but a good time was had by all.

In a nutshell

I know that this blog has become all over the map, and I hope you're okay with that, because I'm okay with that. This blog is fulfilling several functions for me:

- Communicating information about my breast cancer treatment, including reconstruction

- Keeping friends and family updated about the ins and outs of our lives as a family

- Personal therapy for me - a chance to vent my feelings and sort them out and even occassionally get some online support from my readers

- A chance to work out ideas in writing (which is how I do my best thinking) on subjects such as compassion, joy, the environment, frugality, lifestyle, etc.

- A chance to share with others some of my ideas about how to change the world in small, incremental, easy-to-bite-off steps

- A documentation of the changes in my life in my quest for a balance between health, environment, and happiness (with a big dose of frugality thrown in!)

The more I write here, the more into I become, and blogging has become one of my favorite activities. As usual, I wish that I had more time for it to craft my messages, organize them, make them more readable, edit for stupid mistakes like using the same adjective twice in the same sentence, etc. (in addition to myriad spelling errors!). But I'm also trying to live in the moment, and I consider the blog my raw material, not the final result. What will I turn it into? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps a series of books. Perhaps a couple of essays. Perhaps something different entirely. Still, I'm drawn to keep writing it I write.

I've mentioned our trip to Portland, but I haven't posted anything yet, so here goes - pictures! We had a lovely trip, and Mom & Dad S. were fabulous hosts (as always), treating us to home cooked meals, shared laughter, a trip to Bob's Red Mill so that Tessa could learn how they ground flour in "olden days," a visit with Scott & Susan, etc. The train ride was a pretty near perfect way to travel for our family, very relaxing, but the most fun was had with our family.

Some pictures:

Here's a picture of Tessa getting her first sewing machine lesson from Grandma - she was fascinated, and believes her grandma to be the most talented seamstress around. (Thanks so much, Mom, for mending Ryan's things!)Aunt Susan was one of the highlights of the trip for Tessa. Not only did we celebrate Aunt Susan's birthday (meaning that Grandma made her famous Surface Birthday Cake - angel food with the family recipe frosting), Aunt Susan read Tessa stories (this picture) and played Littlest Pet Shop with her. Tessa LOVED it!Ryan helped out a bit in the garden, and Tessa made short work of climbing the trees in the yard.
Here's Grandma, Bopa, and Tessa in front of Bob's Red Mill. It was a beautiful, sunny day.

And one more picture of Grandma, Bopa, and Tessa, this one taken in their back yard.

Here is a picture of Ryan's brother Scott (Uncle Scott) with Scott & Susan's new car. Usually, I think "big deal" when people get cars (much to my dad's dismay, I just don't care that much about cars) but this one was of particular interest to me, as it's a Toyota Prius. In my eyes, this thing is gorgeous, and probably my dream car. Scott is a research hound - even more than myself - and he and Susan looked into every detail before deciding on this environmentally friendly vehicle. Even new (it's only a month old) it's getting 45 miles per gallon of gas, and Scott & Susan know people with Prius's that are more broken in and sometimes get 80 mpg. That is a beautiful thing! It's the first time I've been in a Prius, and I was also incredibly impressed by it's roominess. I thought it would be too small for us as a family (especially with our lovely but giant black beast, Shep, as we don't like him in the backseat but in the "way back") but this proved untrue; it's a remarkably large small car. Ryan and I will not be buying a car for years and years if things go well, but when we do, this is what I hope for.

Tessa is awake and ready to go about her day so I need to cut this short, but here are my quick other thoughts....

= The garden continues to be a source of pleasure, frustration (I am so lacking in knowledge!) and activity for us. Every day we make some minor progress, and I'm so hopeful about what it will yield.

= I can't get enough reading in about how to alter my small world to make our bigger world a better place. I'm really enjoying the process - it gives me a sense of peacefulness that I am living in a "right livelihood" manner, and this in turn gives me joy.

= I am trying so hard to focus on what is meaningful to me, and to leave the other stuff aside. I'm trying much harder than ever before to live within my values, and you see the struggle and joy of that on just about every posting these days. I am committed to being happy, and I believe strongly that to do so I must live my life in a way beneficial to the planet and its inhabitants. Compassion is a major part of this, and I'm trying to incorporate more compassion into all I do. It does pay back, interestingly.

= Chasing a more frugal (aka living within or below our means) lifestyle is a challenge, but I am feeling the challenge and not deprivation. This is a major learning curve for me - I know little about frugality! - but I'm actually enjoying it.

And today's plan? Get the rest of the strawberry plants in the ground, and get the pea vines up. Lunch with my mom and GG (Tessa too). An afternoon at our home with Abby, Gabe, and Soleil (Abby is even more into this environmental stuff than I am!), and then a family evening together. Many other chores and details call, but the day is full. Oh well!

And this weekend I'm off to Orcas - hurrah!

And Tessa insists that I am done now. Ciao!

BPA: Watch out for your cans

In all of the hubbub about baby bottles containing BPA (worthy hubbub, don't get me wrong) I think that I was unaware that BPA is contained in potentially toxic levels in CANS as much as in water bottles and #7 plastics.

As I said before, we don't eat a lot of canned goods, but we're about to eat even fewer.

For those of you concerned, here is a partial list of companies who make canned foods and their public responses about BPA in their cans. The list (and interesting/scary information about BPA in cans) is located at:

Common Brands of Canned Foods and Company Responses
Amy's: Not SafeCompany says they DO use BPA.
Bionaturae: DependsBionaturae carries tomato paste and strained tomatoes in jars, but the company says they DO use BPA in cans. However, they are researching an alternative.
Eden: DependsCompany says they DO use BPA in tomato cans. However, organic bean cans do NOT contain BPA.
Muir Glen: Not SafeCompany says they DO use BPA.
Trader Joe's: SafeCompany says they do NOT use BPA.
Westbrae Natural: UnclearCompany email response says "We do not test our packaging for Bisphenol A."
Westbrook Farms: SafeCompany says they do NOT use BPA.
Wolfgang Puck: Not SafeCompany says they DO use BPA.
Progresso NOT SAFE
Today 4/23/08 (a customer) spoke directly to the companies listed below and they all said they use BPA as a chemical component in the lining of theirfoodcans:
Bush Brothers & Co (known for their Bush's Beansbrand)
Swanson division of Campbells
Campbell's Libby's, Nestle,Carnation (different divisions of the same co)
Con Agra (Ex:Rosarita brandrefried beans)
hope this helps.
S&W Organic said theydo have trace amounts of bp-A in their cans.
Santa Barbara Olives NO BPA
Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk HAS BPA and defends it. This makes me very sad!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Easy action

I'm not the only Crazy Lady around, according to a recent comment on my previous blog entry. Hurrah! Crazy loves company.

There is a petition that is in circulation to get The Clorox Company to take back their Brita filters and recycle them, as the original Brita company (Brita GmbH in Germany) does. Currently, there is no way to recycle Brita filters in the US, though it's being done in Europe.

Please sign the online petition stating that you believe that The Clorox Company should offer alternatives in their products to keep plastic out of landfills.

Thank you Beth Terri for taking action and making a difference. (And don't you love the 'net? One minute I'm rambling on and on and on about plastic, and the next my inbox tells me a simple, neat, easy way to make a difference....with a link to the petition. LOVE IT!)

Another bee in my bonnet: Plastic

(Warning: Long and rambling post. I know, most of my posts should have this warning, but this one in particular. I "crafted" it as I was doing online research, and so it's a rather organic writing process, and rather un-edited. This one could stand some editing, but alas, it's time to make dinner. Editing later...or not.)

This time it's about plastics.

There are all kinds of things in the news lately about BPA - a toxic chemical - that emits from plastics. Plastics that are used for water bottles, and even plastics that are used for baby bottles. (I signed a petition, and found out today that it worked: Babies'R'Us has promised to eliminate bottles with BPA from their stores by the end of the year. I'm not even going to ask what makes them think it's okay for babies to drink toxins for the rest of this year, until the change occurs....but it makes my blood boil to think of it.)

Still, I digress.

All this plastic talk has me thinking. My "Cousin Diana" - a lovely, intelligent woman who is actually my mother's cousin - has done research on plastics for years, focusing on their toxicity to humans. She's been telling us for YEARS that plastics are terrible for us, and I confess that I've been slow to listen. Now I'm embarassed that I didn't listen better, because even mainstream media sources are talking about their levels of toxicity, and changes in production are being made. In the meantime, I've been injesting poisonous plastic molecules for years, thinking that I was "safe" because I didn't microwave plastics. Ouch.

And producing plastic produces toxins that go into our air, landfills, water. Ouch again. And most of the plastic stuff we use DOES go to a landfill, and rather quickly, where it does not degrade in our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our grandchildren, or their grandchildren. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

So, today's project is getting rid of plastic stuff from my kitchen, and doing more research on BPAs.

According to the BRITA corporate website, their filters and containers are all BPA free. Excellent news - our family loves cold, filtered water. Still, I think that given that the production of those filters inevitably produces by products and the filters end up in a landfill, I'm going to phase ours out. Seattle has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world, and this is fortunate for us. Our water often tests "cleaner" than bottled waters, so it should not be an issue to discontinue filtering it. Instead, we'll drink tap water that we place in a glass pitcher in the fridge. Maybe in the long term we'll look at a permanent filter attached to our kitchen sink, instead of the BRITA in the fridge. (This works for us because our water supply is so great. When I've traveled in the US, I've been horrified at the chlorinated taste of some water supplies, and in Orlando I distinctly recall the chlorine/swamp taste of their tap water. If I didn't live here or some other place with "great" water, it would be worth it to filter my water, even if the plastic filter went into a landfill.)

Tessa sometimes drinks out of plastic cups, and they're OUTTA HERE. She's plenty old enough to drink out of glass, which she usually does anyway.

We sometimes store leftovers in plastic containers (Tupperware/Rubbermaid/Gladware/whatever), and I'm eliminating those, too. Costco sells a Pyrex set of storage containers that is a good deal, and it's now on my list. They have plastic lids, but still, this eliminates 75% of the plastic (glass bottoms) and the parts that the food touches are glass, not plastic.

I'm now looking for a good alternative for Ryan's biking bottles, which are usually made of cheap plastic (the kinds that SMELLS like plastic....if it's releasing enough molecules to smell, then isn't he drinking plastic molecules, too?). Any ideas? Our "Klean Kanteen" stainless bottles are great, but heavy for a bike. And Ryan drinks out of these bottles daily, so that's a significant source of liquid to him....and I want to keep him healthy. Ideas?

Not all plastics are labeled "bad." BPA isn't in all plastics. Still, I believe that more and more research will be done, and we will find that plastics are NOT benign, and that their production is intensely harmful to the planet, and their injestion is harmful to our bodies. I'm incredibly grateful for plastics, but I believe that we need to use them more judiciously. For example, I'm glad that there were plastic IV tubes to deliver my chemo drugs, and I'm glad to have my iPod which is partially made of plastics...but I'm convinced as well that we need to cut back on our plastic usage. Plastics aren't evil...but I think we need to think more before we create more of them or use them thoughtlessly. They do not come without a price, in my opinion.

And as a breast cancer patient, I'm particularly freaked out that BPAs tend to replicate estrogen in the body, and have been found in tumors. YIKES. I'm seeing some pretty big connections here.

(No, I don't think that we can say a simple, "BPA in plastic bottles caused my breast cancer." But I think we can say "It can't have helped and it may have hurt." It's a hurt I would have loved to avoid. I live with that every day - every day is side effect filled, and I don't talk about it as much as I used to, but suffice it to say that not a minute goes by that my cancer treatment doesn't impact me at a very real and present physical level. Ugh.)

I'm also looking into milk containers: it's often cheaper to buy milk in the gallon size, and our organic milk comes in a plastic container. Here's a radical stance:
This organization says that milk jugs are NOT recycled, and that they should be banned. Hmmm!

This website ("Treehugger" - you can guess their politics!) says something unexpected:
They say that it's actually more environmentally friendly to use the plastic jugs. What's up with THAT? Double "hmmmm."

This website talks about plastic recycling symbols....turns out that they label plastic types, NOT the recycle-ability of plastics. Great. :-(

This (slightly off topic) article actually sums it up best for me, and makes the most sense:
It says that "Both plastic and carton are cheap and technically recyclable, offering little potential for differentiation. But only carton comes from renewable resources."

I'm having a lot of trouble finding out if plastic milk cartons are healthy, or if paper cartons are healthier....but it seems clear to me that the production of plastics creates excess toxins (compared to paper) and are harder to recycle (the recycling process for plastics isn't all that clean) and plastics can only be recycled so many times before they must end up in a landfill (those labeled "7" are generally not recycleable). I did find out, quite inadvertantly through this search, that when temps are too low for new plant starts, a milk jug with the top cut off makes a perfect little greenhouse for plants to protect them from frost, so at least there's that!

And finally - paydirt! Here is the article I've been seeking:
From this article, here is a list of 12 ways to protect yourself from BPAs:Protect you and your familyIn the meantime, there are steps that we can take immediately to lessen our exposure to BPA:
Use a metal or glass water bottle
Limit your use of canned goods or choose canned foods from makers who don't use it, such as Eden Foods
Learn how to cook your own foods that you typically buy in cans -- like beans or chickpeas
Choose soups, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard "brick" cartons, by Tetra Pak and SIG Combibloc, with safer layers of aluminum and polyethylene (#2) that can also be recycled
Use glass food storage containers instead of plastic
Use glass baby bottles or plastic bag inserts made of polyethyelene, or switch to non-clear polypropylene bottles that are labeled #5. Don't buy canned infant formula.
Eat fresh foods in season to reduce your consumption of canned goods
Buy or can your own foods in safe glass jars
Stop using plastic wrap and plastic containers to heat food in microwaves. Ceramic and glass are better.
Throw out any old and scratched plastic bottles or plastic containers
Buy organic wine since many commercial wines can have up to six times the amount of BPA than canned goods
Let your grocer store know you want BPA free cans and are boycotting those products with BPA in them.

The media has focused on plastic baby bottles, but it seems that cans are perhaps an even bigger culprit (to those of us over the age of 2, anyway). Maybe this summer I should can (in glass) my own tomatoes, as that's a canned good that I use often....

And another fabulous document:
This one breaks down the safe and unsafe plastics (as they are currently understood), and even has a nifty slogan to help us remember: "With your food use 5, 4, 1 and 2; all the rest aren't good for you." (My milk jug is a 2, by the way.)

(See? I'm the crazy lady, and getting crazier with every minute. What's funny is that I am starting to love being the crazy lady! I think that I've been crazy all along, and supressing my craziness is what was making me feel crazy. Now that I'm letting my crazies out, I feel much better. Look out, world!)

I'm not going to go 100% on this, because I need practical stuff, too. A few years ago I bought plastic dishes to picnic with, and when we have BBQs we use these instead of paper and plastic products. I think it's better for the environment, and hence my body, to use a reusable plate than a throwaway one, even if it is made of plastic. And there is no way I'm schlepping our heavy dinnerware up and down the deck stairs into the yard each would look very Martha Stewart but I don't have it in me, sorry. (Send me a maid and I'll reconsider.) I'll still use plastic for our camping stuff, too, until we have budget to replace with old-fashioned splatterware metal ones.

I'll also keep a few plastic containers to transport snacks in. I still carry snacks for Tessa in my purse, and I'm not willing to risk breaking them, and I'm not willing to risk breaking my back carrying three varieties of glass with me.

So, I'm not a purist, but I think that I'm making great strides, none-the-less. I'm crazy, sure, but not a total lunatic (yet: jury's out).

Want to know more? Check out:

and this older (2003) article:

Sign the petition to remove BPAs from baby bottles:

Ready to make a small, small change? Do you read this and think "Okay, the crazy lady is changing her world upside down, but I'm not ready to go through the whole kitchen freaking out about this stuff!" Then start small.

Start by simply deciding not to buy bottled water, and to carry your own water bottle instead.

If you do that, you will:
- Stop putting plastic into landfills (please don't tell me that I have to explain why that's a good idea!)
- Reduce production of toxins into our air and water through production of those plastic bottles
- Reduce your carbon footprint (there are studies that show that a single plastic water bottle, of the throwaway variety, might as well contain 1/4 its volume in oil, because that is how many petrochemicals go into its production and transport for sale) and reduce our need for oil as a nation/world
- Help your body - keep the BPAs OUT of your body!
- Feel good. It's such a little, teeny tiny thing to do, but it makes a huge difference.

Want more information? Check this out:
I do see the irony of my posting THIS website on THIS posting. It's sponsored by Brita. I don't have anything against Brita, and I'm glad they're promoting something healthy....even if I'm not going to use their plastic products.) One of the statistics taken directly from that website is that, on average, each person uses 166 disposable plastic water bottles per year. Picture that in a big pile on your dining room table, and multiply that number times the number of people in your home. See why making a little change (carry a water bottle of your own) can make such a huge difference?

Oh, and here's the frugal thing, too. How much are you PAYING for that water? More than you pay per gallon of gas. Here's a secret: you already have water. It comes through a tap into your home. It's available in drinking fountains and taps at your gym. It's free at your office. You could save money by saving your body by saving the earth....and won't that make you happy?!

Have I convinced you yet? I'm getting pretty passionate here...have I lost you yet?

Ready to pick up a "safe" bottle for refill? I love my Klean Kanteen, and they're available on (we ordered one for each member of our family, and hence didn't pay shipping; there are greener companies than Amazon but I haven't got it all figured out); they're also available at REI (though in limited size choices). There are other brands, as well, that people love equally. I picked Klean Kanteen because it was less costly than some brands, and because stainless steel is so strong it doesn't dent like some of the others do/might do. (However, some of the other brands have very pretty designs painted on them, and mine is rather plain. I put two pink breast cancer bracelets on mine to dress it up and identify it as mine; Ryan has a yellow LiveStrong bracelet on his. Tessa has a smaller size one but amazingly likes hers plain.)

And just FYI....just as a disclaimer: No, I don't have any product relationships, except with Genentech, the company that manufactures Herceptin. (Herceptin is my wonderful anti-breast-cancer drug - not the technical term! - and I'm a patient ambassador for them.) Any product that I promote here is because of personal preference, and any website I post is because I found it interesting or valuable, not because of any other reasoning. I certainly don't make any money from keeping a blog, and that is not my purpose here.

While I've been surfing for this information and piling it up in this post, Tessa and Anna have been playing. Now, life calls, and dinner must be made.

I won't even get into the fact that I spent half an hour trying to find shrimp from this continent. I ended up buying shrimp from Bangladesh...or is it Thailand? Anyway, I need a new shrimp source if I'm to try to be local. (But in an effort to be moderate and not completely insane, I bought the shrimp that was part of our menu and didn't give it up....yet.) Another post for another day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More commited than ever

We had a lovely weekend in Portland. Visiting "Grandma and Bopa" is always fun, and the train was a fun twist (and highly recommended).

While I was gone, I finished reading the David Wann book, and then I came home to a gift in the mail from Carolyn - a new book called, "Farewell, My Subaru" about a guy who decides to move to New Mexico and attempt to live an off-the-grid-petroleum-free lifestyle. (The title is because he has a beloved Subaru with 200,000 miles on it, but he decides to switch over to a giant truck....that runs on bio-diesel, aka vegetable grease, that he gets from fast food resturants.)

All of this reading has me more convinced than ever that I am okay with being "that nut" - the crazy lady who jumps societal ship to do things in new ways. I am more and more convinced that this is less "weird" and more "cutting edge" and that I am finding the wave of the future. My rationale?
- Our planet can not sustain the level of resource use and abuse that it currently takes. We're running out of petroleum (and sometimes paying $4/gallon for gas - ACK!), our water and air are polluted, our biodiversity is in jeopardy, and the things we take for granted are proving themselves to be in short supply.
- Our bodies can not sustain this level of abuse. Our bodies need clean air and water, for instance. And healthy food with vitamins built into it. Don't believe me? Look at cancer rates on the rise. Look at diabetes rates. Look at the rate of heart disease. You might be able to get away with it, and your body might keep you going....but for how long? And what will it take for us to stand up and notice that our bodies are crying out for help?
- We're not happy. Something is inherently wrong in a system where people feel disconnected from community, friends and family. We buy and buy and buy because "they" (marketing, corporations, and even governmental advertising that says "go out and boost the economy!") say it will make us happy. Well, national happiness levels are lower than ever. People are buying, but they're getting stuff, not happiness. Doesn't this tell us something?
- I'm starting to really "get" that we can live much better on our salary than we have been living. We can have all that we need - and more - and have money left over. We can eat well (organic, healthy food) and spend less. Money issues are stressful, and so my happiness increases when I reduce this stress. Much of our spending is bad for the environment (how do they manufacture that plastic stuff, anyway?), so less spending on "stuff" equals better environment, too.

Environment, bodies, happiness, money. All tied

So here's what I want. I want to be happy. I want to breathe clean air, to drink clean water. I want to be healthy. I want to live within our means. That's it. The reason for my craziness is that I want these simple things.

Here's what I'm doing right now to get to where I'm going:

Plant a vegetable (and fruit!) garden. Such a simple thing, but it's giving me a lot:
- time outdoors to breathe fresh air and work my body
- fresh food that is as healthy as anything on the planet
- reduced carbon emissions - did you know that the average piece of food travels 2000 miles to get to your table? Well, my garden will travel about 20-40 feet to get to my table. By foot, not by gas powered vehicle, so not producing crap for the environment to deal with and for my body to deal with.
- a sense of well being. I'm not a gardener (au contraire), but I'm realizing that there is something meditative about working the soil, about doing this project as a family. I know what I'm doing and why. Simply put, it's satisfying. Amazing. All this satisfaction from seeds?!
- Improved biodiversity. I'm not buying seeds from Monsanto, I'm buying heirloom vegetables. Why? Because the biodiversity of crops is falling annually, and because this makes crops less pest-resistant, drought resistant, etc. As a result of my eating this crop, I'll get a greater diversity of nutrients, as well. Earth wins, body wins, Monsanto loses. I'm okay with this.

Lowering my house temp (and programming my thermostat).
- We used to keep the house at a steady 69 degrees (when I was first a stay at home mom; I worried about Tessa being cold). I've read that we can cut our heating bill by 3-5% per degree lowered (in the winter; we don't have air conditioning so that's not an issue for us). Well, now we're keeping the house at a high of 66 degrees, and lowering it to 60-62 degrees at night and while we're gone. If costs equates to energy use, then just by putting on a sweater (if you come over and you're cold I'll loan you one!) we're lowering our energy use by something like 15%.
- It's not weird to wear a sweater. It's NORMAL. It's healthy. There is no down side.

Walking, biking, bussing....not driving.
- We live in a great walking community. How often do I go to the Junction? And how often have I DRIVEN to the Junction? That's crazy! We're less than a mile away from grocery stores, Farmer's Market, specialty shops, resturants, coffee shops, art gallery, live theater. A great percentage of the miles I drive are within West Seattle. Well, why not walk? My body loves it. My brain gets endorphins (there's that happy thing again). The environment loves it. It takes a little longer, but even that can be a good thing. I am so tired of rushing! I love those walks with Tessa....we talk, we notice things, we feel the seasonal changes.
- I don't need to tell anyone who knows us that Ryan is a bike fanatic. He's HAPPY when he's on his bike. He's gleeful when he bikes to work....passing all the stopped cars. Good for body, good for soul, good for environment.
- It's not possible to walk or bike everywhere. So I'm adding the bus to my list. We take it downtown whenever possible (so much easier than traffic and parking issues) but I'm trying to use it even more than that. Yesterday, we walked a few blocks from the Amtrak station to a bus stop....and Ryan discovered a beautiful park downtown with a waterfall. We caught the bus, and ran into some friends. I was scrambling to find a quarter (bus fare is $1.50 and I had $1.25 and a $20 bill) and a nice lady gave me a quarter with instructions to "pay it forward" next time I was on the bus.
- I found out that the bus by our house goes to the Target/Westwood Village area. So next time I need to go to the library, Marshall's, or even (sigh) Target, I could bus it. I'm committed to taking the bus even within West Seattle when possible.

Stop buying "stuff."
- When I look around my house, I don't see needs. We have furniture, blankets, clothing. We have decorative stuff (candlesticks, pictures, etc.) We have entertainment (games, television, stereo, even Xbox). Our cupboards and closets and attic are overflowing with things. We "need" very, very little.
- The pursuit of stuff makes me temporarily happy....but then I usually feel bad. The items are often not quite right. I spend too much time in pursuit of these items (shopping) and not enough time in parks, at SAM or the zoo or the aquarium or the beach. Then I spend a ton of time organizing my stuff, cleaning my stuff, getting rid of my stuff (come see us at C&P May 10 for the yard sale!). In short, stuff doesn't make me happy.
- All that stuff produces insane quantities of waste. For every one can of garbage at the household level, 70 cans of "garbage" (including toxins in the air and water) are produced earlier in the production cycle. See if you haven't already. I don't want to add to that kind of waste!
- The production of stuff requires huge amounts of petroleum/oil, and that's awful for the environment and my body.
- I shouldn't need to say it, but I will: stuff costs money. Money I could be using to live within my means. Living within my means = feeling happier.

I'm rambling (in the time I've written this email, I've also prepared snacks for girls, done chores, gotten the dog out of mischief, etc.) but I think you're getting the point.

The bottom line? I'm the crazy lady. And I'm okay with that. It's going to get crazier, too. And that makes me happy.

If you're reading this for ideas, and you're not prepared to tear up your lawn to plant a vegetable garden, or you're not ready to retire your car keys, try these simple things instead:

- Replace conventional lightbulbs with energy efficient ones. Major positive impact on the environment, and they're said to last up to 30 times longer.

- Choose something that you eat that's not currently organic, and replace it with organic food. Maybe apples - start small like that.

- Next time you have a small errand, consider walking. Choose a nice day - and walk to the mailbox, the coffee shop, the corner store. Leave your car at home. Enjoy the weather, the flowers, the conversation along the way.

- Find a bag (you've already got one....maybe a lightweight beach bag, maybe a giant purse, maybe a canvas tote, maybe a backpack, or maybe one that they sell at the grocery store) and take it with you whenever you shop. The grocery store, but also any other errands you're doing. Keep those bags out of landfills! This isn't newfangled, this is old school. In Europe, this is what they've been doing "forever."

- Plant something edible in a pot, and grow it organically. Maybe just basil for your kitchen, or maybe a few strawberries, or maybe a tomato plant. Harvest from your small crop, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you've done this.