Entries Tagged 'Getting green' ↓

Share Earth Day with Your Children Everyday

On April 22nd, local and global communities alike will stop to recognize and celebrate Earth Day. And so with our green flags flying in anticipation, I would like to offer readers a solution to all of our environmental woes. You heard me right; I know what will end global warming, stop excess waste and create renewable energy resources. What, you ask, in our slowly warming world could possibly make all of this happen? The answer is right in front of us, running around with PB&J on their cheeks and a Spiderman costume on: our children.earthday

You could laugh at me and say that they don’t understand just how far up this polluted creek we are or that they are too young to take on responsibilities such as these. But I disagree. This is their earth, we are leaving it to them. And just like they learn how to kick my behind in Wii Sports Baseball or memorize the names of every Star Wars character, they can learn how to sort their trash. They can learn what how to turn off lights and brush their teeth with the water off. They can learn how to respect the earth and understand how to care for it. Because if they don’t? We’re all in big trouble. So it’s up to us to teach them. No matter your political background, your religious affiliation, where you’re from or how big your house is: a clean, safe environment is something all of our children deserve.

So, with Earth Day right around the corner, let’s use this opportunity to begin educating our children. And then let’s keep it up throughout the year. One day of talking about our environment won’t change habits for a lifetime.

Please note, however, that reducing, reusing and recycling should be encouraged as something positive – and even fun. If it isn’t a positive topic, they won’t want to participate. As parents, we can harbor all the eco-guilt for them for now I think. And with that said, here are some suggestions to encourage eco-friendly habits in your children.

Recycle with the Kids: Make the recycle bins easy to find and tell apart. Then make sure your children learn what used materials can be trashed, recycled or reused. Don’t forget how much waste can go to good use in a compost pile too.

Start a Garden: I’ve mentioned this tip before but nothing will give your child more respect for their earth than allowing them to play in it. Consider planting something special on Earth Day to mark the occasion!

Reward Good Habits: When kids remember to turn off lights, the TV, the computer and the water when they are done – reward them. Positive reinforcement creates great habits.

Get Outside: There is no better way to appreciate your environment than getting out there and enjoying it. Go explore local parks with your children, learn about the indigenous plants and animals in your area, stop to watch the clouds go by or spend an afternoon throwing rocks and leaves into a nearby creek. Your children will grow up bound to protect the outdoors if they grow up loving it.

Explain the Concept of Waste: This is a tough one. Kids don’t always get what doesn’t affect the immediate world around them. So when they throw out half a bag of grapes or use too many paper towels, it’s hard for them to understand what they have done wrong. Keep telling them to use only what they need and reward them anytime they reduce waste in any way.

Be an Example: I have worked very hard to remember the cloth bags for the grocery store. I talk about remembering them and grumble loudly when I forget. My kids have been paying attention and now never let me leave the car without them. If you care for your environment, your children will too – it’s as simple as that.

Continue the Conversation: As I said before, April 22nd shouldn’t be the only day you promote eco-friendly habits with your children. There are opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle every day. Get out there and show them their environment, teach them to love their earth and the amazing natural resources all around them.

And as a mother who uses the computer often, I have found some great links to keep the conversations happening with your children in a fun, productive way. Whether they are online games and videos, educational printables (on recycled paper!) or cool crafts – there are lots of ways to teach our children how to put the Earth first. Check out these links here.

  • Nick Jr.: Guides, gifts, crafts and garden fun
  • Kaboose: Crafts, food, games, projects and fun

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

My Thoughts on the Presidential Address to Congress

The other night after putting my children to bed, I settled onto my couch with my laptop and switched on MSNBC. I was ready to hear from our President. I was looking for hope, for answers, for any sign that there will be a light at the end of this very long and difficult tunnel. Homes in my neighborhood stand empty, friends are losing their jobs, funding for my son’s education is being cut drastically and I’m getting nervous about affording even groceries right now. This speech needed to assure me that eventually everything is going to be alright. And did it? Here is my reaction to the President’s address to congress.

After thunderous opening applause and a quick introduction by Pelosi, President Obama launched enthusiastically into his speech. Right away he recognized just how bad it’s gotten. He explained that he didn’t need to rattle off any more statistics about this recession since we are all experiencing it first hand.

With my arms folded and my heart sadly resigned, I certainly agreed. As much as I support our President whole-heartedly, I know the reality and can’t help but worry the obstacles in front of us are impossible to overcome.

He then reminded us that we are all responsible for our economy, for our environment, for our children’s futures. After years of excessive spending and with no regard for the consequences of bad loans or oil dependence, we’ve wound up where we are. His words were strong, he spoke plainly and he spoke right to me.

All this time, I’ve been smugly blaming the previous administration and everyone else for this mess. But it was at this moment when I realized that this problem is all of ours. We have all played a part in this mess and we all need to make an effort to fix it.

“Now is the time” he demanded. Ok. You’re right. I’m listening.

He then went on to explain this recovery plan will do the following:

  • Create 3.5 million jobs
  • Give 95% of Americans a tax cut by April 1
  • Give families paying for college tuition a $2,500 tax credit
  • Allow unemployed Americans extended unemployment benefits

Honestly? These promises practically make me giddy with hope. I was ready to leap to my feet during this part of his speech faster than Pelosi herself. But I didn’t. I was still holding myself back. These are promises and certainly look great on paper – but I am still waiting and seeing.

Obviously, this recovery plan means that a lot of money (read: trillions) will be floating around. Considering our reckless past, I appreciated the President explaining that careful tabs will be kept on every dollar spent. Americans can go to recovery.gov to see where our money is going. This is good. Actions and process have to be kept transparent if we want if regain any economic confidence.

The next points he brought up were about banking, credit and loans. The message came across loud and clear that our money in our banks is safe and that we cannot stop loaning to individuals and businesses. This will stop economic growth in its tracks. Clearly, trust needs to be rebuilt again.

He also pointed out that “responsible” families struggling to hold on to their homes will be assisted. He said that:

“…the average family who refinances today can save nearly $2,000 per year on their mortgage.”

For a family like ours who followed the rules, bought a home within our means but are still scraping to pay our mortgage – this was very encouraging to hear.

Further into his speech, I was thrilled to hear the three priorities of the recovery plan:

 “…the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.”

He explained that ignoring these areas will change the future of our country if we do not give them immediate support and attention.

This was where my cautious “we’ll see” grumblings gave way to affirmative exclamations. I was emotionally on board then. All I could think about was my child’s school staying open, my $150 co-pays to treat my son’s flu that never responded to his $25 flu shot, and the empty homes scattered all over my neighborhood. Maybe? Could it be? Well, it seems there actually is hope.

As our president concluded his speech, he mentioned the stories of individuals who have made differences in their communities. He then introduced us to the young high school girl who reminded our congress that “We are not quitters!”

You see, that is exactly it for me. I am scared right now. I am nervous that from the bottom of this economic hole, these promises are just too good to be true. I want to hide my head in the sand and wish it all away. Or maybe just wait for someone else to fix it. But we are not quitters. No matter what side of the tracks you fall on: get up, get out and do something. This is everyone’s problem. Not just Wall Street’s or Congress’s or our President’s.

No doubt about it, our President is a fantastic speaker. But he is also an extremely smart and capable leader. The impossible is ahead of us but instead of moaning about what can’t be done, I will follow his lead and consider all that can be done. He is inspiring me to take responsibility, move forward and do my part. It was an excellent speech and I’m excited and ready to see what our future has in store.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

Keeping it Green this Holiday Season

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While getting caught up in the fun of the holidays, it is very easy to throw your usual rules aside and go all out - hoping to ensure the perfect holiday gathering for your family. We go on endless shopping sprees, the budget is long forgotten and so are some of our better “green” habits – all in the name of holiday cheer. The holidays don’t have a reputation of excess for nothing. However, here are some ways to try and keep your cool and stay green without having to forget the fun of the season too.

Decorating

Some of us will be buying Christmas trees this year to decorate. If you do decorate a tree, consider buying a potted tree and planting it after the season has passed. If that isn’t possible, be sure to contact your local Waste Management Program to find out how to recycle your Christmas tree. Also check Earth 911 for local Christmas tree recycling options.

When it’s time to string up the lights in my home, my inner Clark Griswold comes shining through. However, this year, if you happen to need new lights anyway, consider buying LED holiday lights to save energy. Or if you don’t have to buy new lights, be sure to keep your current lights on a timer so they are off during the day and when you go to sleep.

If you are looking for new ornaments this year, All Free Crafts suggests making ornaments out of recycled Christmas cards. I love to make salt dough ornaments with my children and those treasures will stay on my tree for years to come. Don’t forget about the extra things around the house that might spruce up your tree too like left over ribbon, restrung beads and buttons and even stringing good old fashioned popcorn garland for your tree.

Holiday Cards

It has never been easier to send e-cards or virtual greetings. I use Hallmark Smilebox to send festive slideshows, greetings and even movie clips. If you still prefer sending mailed cards, consider buying cards made on recycled paper this year. Some options are Cards Direct, Cards for Causes and Green Field Paper.

Cooking

Part of the holidays always includes cooking traditional meals for friends and relatives. Plan ahead and try to be a green chef this year. For example, try to buy organic foods when possible, think about some vegetarian meals and buy free range poultry and eggs. Another fun tip is to track down a local farm and buy your fruits and vegetables locally – they taste better and are usually more affordable.

Green Gifts

Gift giving is on everyone’s minds right now. Think carefully about what you are giving and why your are giving it. Grabbing as much “stuff” as possible just to wrap and stick under the tree isn’t a smart idea. Rather, buy one or two quality items, than a bunch of less well made, more likely to break items. Also, think about buying things that are personal, make some gifts and put your heart into the giving process. A hand knit scarf is always more valued than another boring tie.

Another inexpensive way to buy green gifts is to hop onto Craig’s list or shop in consignment stores. Recycling and saving a dollar never came so easy.

Finally, here are some links to articles or websites with green gift ideas: EDF.org, NRDC.org, Ecomall.com, and Treehugger.com. One of my favorites? Consider buying your loved one some poopoopaper. A fun gift and it’s certainly, er, been recycled.

Gift Wrapping

When I was a child, it was inevitable that as we opened our gifts a relative would shout out “I forgot one!” And they would run off and return with a gift wrapped in a towel or pillow case. We used to laugh about it then but now it really isn’t such a bad idea after all! If possible, try to make your own wrapping paper this year by using beautifully decorated paper bags, magazines, old posters, old maps and even the tried and true funny pages. And make my family proud, an old piece of cloth might even look beautiful with the right ribbon and sprucing up.

Another thought? Wrap presents that go together in one package. Also, try to avoid buying gifts that are too large that would take extra wrapping – they probably have too much packaging in them anyway.

If you do need to wrap some gifts in paper, track down some recycled gift wrapping.

Shipping

I know I still have to get my gift boxes sent off. When you do, try to find old boxes to mail your gifts, be sure to avoid the plastic peanuts and use old newspaper and other pieces from your recycle bin to pack your items. Sometimes I save my sons used ziplock bags and then blow them up for cushion in the boxes.

Finally, you should know that the USPS is actually doing an excellent job of being green about their shipping. They have eco-friendly packaging and even soy based inks and non toxic adhesives. To learn more, go check out their site.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

Maintain the Grassroots Momentum and Make Change Happen

On November 4th, we elected Barack Obama to become our 44th President. And on that evening, as a democrat, a woman and an American citizen, I could not have been more proud of my country. In a couple months, we will celebrate his election with an Inauguration, as he’s officially given the title “President of the United States of America”. But afterwards, with confetti still falling to the ground and his pencils freshly sharpened, we will be left to wonder… “Now what?” It’s time for change, right? So how does that happen? One thing is certain: Obama will have to work very hard to right this sputtering, smoking plane that we call our country. But we’re all passengers on that plane, and its up to all of us to fix it.

Over the past year, I think what amazed me most about Obama’s campaign was the unique, unprecedented support he received from individual voters. He made an effort to interact with voters in a way no other has. Yes, his outstanding speeches and a well thought out policy for change certainly resonated with citizens. Those two points were impressive in their own right. But what truly inspired me was how many people took charge and decided to give this election momentum by their individual actions.

Patrick Levine Rose wrote an insightful article about his experience working on the Obama campaign. Once again, it is a testament to how many people went door to door, how many phone calls were made, personal emails sent out, new voters registered, millions of donations (offering as little as $5.00 a piece) were given, large rallies and small get togetherswere organized. There is no doubt in my mind that this election was won because of powerful, individual grassroots efforts. He will be President not because of one brilliant campaign manager and a ton of loot – he will be President because thousands of regular people heard an important message and were called to action. Regular folks, with hardly much political clout other than their right to vote, are the ones who ushered Obama into the White House. What an inspiration.

So now we live in a country that has seen the power of individuals focused on a common goal. We know a grassroots effort can work. Thanks to every individual involved in his campaign, Obama will become President at the start of this upcoming year. And he has one hell of a mess on his plate. Obama Zombies aside, should we retire our Obama pins, put our feet up and breathe a sigh of relief exclaiming that everything will now be taken care of? Um, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. If we ever needed to get organized and do our part, it would be now. In my opinion? We have to keep up this kind of momentum if we want to get our plane running smoothly on all cylinders again.

Here’s the first step. Consider some of these questions and think through ways you might be able to make a difference on a local level:

What do you expect of our country? What do you expect your responsibilities are as an American citizen? What can we do as individuals withbusy lives? What can we do as mothers? How can we come together with Americans who didn’t vote for Obama? (Because guess what, we need their help too.) What can we do on a daily basis to change our environment? Can we stop hate on a local level? What can we do to fix this economy? (I can’t help but wonder if more shopping will stimulate our economy or just get us all in more debt?) What do we teach our children or how do we involve them at their schools? How can our place of business make a difference?

Now I need your feedback. I am going to list some spots where we can go online to get involved and make this exciting new concept of “change” actually start to happen. But these are certainly not the only places we can go to make a difference. Check out my list and then comment back with some of your suggestions. Think about those questions and remember that individuals working on a grassroots level can actually move this country forward. Yes we can because… yes we did.

Change.gov: Obama is offering Americans a platform to “Tell their story”. Take some time to write your perspective, your ideas and how you might want to see change happen.

BarackObama.com : If you volunteered for his campaign or would like to volunteer in the future, log in and take the survey offered.

Momsrising.org : A bipartisan group promoting mother’s rights.

MoveOn.org : A progressive, liberal group bringing individuals into the political process.

Dividedwefail.org: The AARP, SEIU and NFIB have created this group to bring about bipartisan change.

Wecansolveit.org: Founded by Al Gore, a non profit, bipartisan group focused on climate change. There is currently a petition asking you to support the EPA’s regulation of carbon monoxide pollution. If you are interested, click here. You have until Friday, November 28th to sign the petition.

HRC.org : A civil rights organization advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered citizens.

What groups or websites would you add to this list?

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

The Top Ten Reasons I Voted for Obama

It finally happened. I voted today. As an democrat and American citizen, I could not be more proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. However, as a fellow American or global citizen, you may potentially be asking me: Why? Why did I decide to vote for the Obama/Biden ticket? With November 4th only days away, I thought I would share with you my own personal reasons for voting for Barack Obama to become the President of the United States.

1) The Economy. You and I know that our economic troubles are extraordinarily complex. Neither candidate is going to have an easy go at fixing these issues. However, I believe Obama’s focus on creating new jobs, supporting small businesses, holding banks and lenders accountable, and providing tax relief to middle America will certainly make an enormous impact. He is not about protecting the wealthy elite, he is about creating job opportunities and supporting hard working regular middle class folks – like me.

2) The Environment. We need alternative energy resources. We need to quit our addiction to oil and focus on more environmentally friendly transportation options. We all need to be held accountable for our planet. Obama takes our environmental issues seriously. However, he also sees this crisis as an opportunity to create new jobs and empower our own nation to reverse the damage done.  By putting our greatest minds and entrepeneurs on task, I expect we will discover clean energy solutions and escape out from under the thumb of foreign oil companies in the near future.

3) The Supreme Court. During the next four to eight years, it is very likely that the President will have to appoint one or more supreme court justices. As a woman who firmly supports a woman’s right to choose, I believe Barack Obama would appoint Supreme Court justices who will serve fairly and protect my rights as a woman.

4) Foreign Relations. It’s time for a President who can put the United States first while also respecting the countries that support and work along side us. It’s time for a President who cares less about his ego and more about diplomatically and sensitively working out peaceful solutions.  Its time for a President who thinks before he shoots. As a South African friend of mine recently noted, the world is watching and hoping for Obama.

5) The Iraq War. This war was a mistake. We need to be held accountable for this war – and the damage it has left in its wake. And then we need to bring our troops home safely. It will not be an easy task and troops cannot be pulled out immediately. But Obama has a plan to actually bring our troops home within 16 months, including phased deployment and more emphasis on diplomacy.

6) No more hate. I am so exhausted by the hate in our country. Offensive, from the gut, hateful emotions have boiled to the surface recently unveiling our country’s true discriminatory colors. Obama will be an important example as he guides this nation away from divisive, destructive leadership and towards healing and resolution. It’s time.

7) Education. Obama believes in recruiting capable teachers and compensating them appropriately. He is working towards making a college education affordable for everyone. A priority will be integrating parents into the education process, encouraging them to play a more active role in their child’s learning. Obama also wants to reform the half hearted attempt at No Child Left Behind.

8 ) Women. Obama will work towards equal pay for women in the workplace. Both nationally and internationally, he will stand behind victims of domestic abuse as well as HIV positive women and their children. He will put an emphasis on women’s health care research. He will also protect a woman’s reproductive rights and her right to choose.

9) Biden would be an able president. If something were to happen to Obama, God forbid, I feel that Joe Biden is 100% capable and ready to lead this country.

10) A leader I trust. Obama communicates a steady, strong, smart, honest sort of leadership to me. Yeah, he’s a younger candidate and he’s newer to the game. However, I would rather have a sensible, capable person of solid character in office, than an erratic, inconsistent, temperamental Washington good ol’ boy.

Every American has an obligation to vote for their President. And every voter bases their choice on their own perceptions, opinions and retained bits of information. The reasons I have listed are simply my own. This is where I have landed after processing all the information thrown at me during an exhaustive election year. My reasons may or may not jibe with your reasons or choice for President. Never the less, from where ever you sit, you have the right to your own opinions. And it’s time to act on them. Be the change you want to see. Please vote by November 4th.

Cross posted at Type A Moms.

This Week: My Thoughts, Some Causes and Other Stuff.

Do you ever call a best friend or favorite aunt or your mom and just chatter endlessly? Filling almost the entire hour conversation with everything you’re doing, what you’re thinking about and what you kids did this week? Never quite taking a moment to breath and allow the other person to get a word in edgewise? 

Please tell me you do this, because I do this ALL the time.

And guess what? I consider you are all close friends of mine, so I am going yammer on here for a little bit. Inspired by my “always the link lover” friend Florinda at the 3 Rs, I want to share some links that have me thinking this week as well as just some stuff I like. I am warning you, it will be haphazard, one sided and excessively chatty. But you all don’t mind right? That’s whats friends do, at least what my wonderfully patient friends do, I guess.

First of all, Ike. Yup, the hurricane. It busted right through Texas last week, remember? I know all I saw were live garbled feeds of newscasters positioning themselves in the wind, doing their damnedest to get knocked over. (Is that like some sort of notch on a weather forecaster’s belt? To get blown over during a hurricane?)  And then I saw some pretty insane damage being reported the following day. But then little by little, I haven’t heard much else thanks to our piss-poor economy and election updates.

Well, here’s the scoop. A fabulous blogger, Julie Pippert, expereinced the hurricane for herself. Please read her plea for help here. Things there are NOT ok. And as you will read in her post, a donation to the red cross, even $5, will make an enormous difference. Please consider giving.

How much disposable stuff do you go through? How many paper towels? How many grocery bags do you stuff in your closet or throw away? How many diapers do you use? How many wipes? The Crunchy Domestic Goddess is running a Ditch the Disposables Challenge for September and October. She is asking all of us to try and cut down on some of your disposable products. My goal is to not use paper towels or paper napkins but use cloth towels and sponges. (Shoot, its partially a selfish thing, paper towels are expensive!) Also I am desperately trying to keep using those cloth grocery bags. I think I am doing pretty well with it actually! They stay on my car front seat so I have them ready to go. Also, I am using my old plastic grocery bags as my trash bags and won’t buy actual trash bags either.

Can I just make one more plea for folks? Join the 29 Day Giving Challenge! It’s really been a lot more do-able than I expected. Plus, I am having fun trying to think up a new thing to give everyday. Often I have 2 or 3 things on my list!

Um, this is kind of an obvious one (but who am I to ignore the obvious). A veeery important election is coming up. Have you registered to vote? Do me a favor and please make sure you are registered.

If you know me, you know I feel very strongly about equal rights. One of these rights is marriage – loving couples of every sexual preference deserve the right to marry. A fantastic writer and person, Lesbian Dad, is living in CA. right now with her family. Please read her blog when you can, and this post has a great video to watch. If you live in CA., vote no on Propostition 8. But you certainly don’t have to live in CA. to donate to the cause, so please consider doing that if you can’t vote. There is a long way to go to change discrimination against same sex couples. Did you know that here in Florida, a same sex couple, or single homosexual person, cannot adopt a child? It’s outrageous.

Speaking of discrimination, do you know what I have been recently stressed out about? Racism in this election. I wonder why this election is so close when Obama seems like such a strong choice. I wonder if he were white, if the spread would be larger. I wonder if this country really wants change… or can change. I know there is a post coming about this in my future but read this post here from Momocrats about individuals out rightly admitting they would never vote for a “black”. (Shudder.)

So why should you really vote for Obama? In case you still need more convincing (and assuming race has nothing to do with your decision… please, tell me it doesn’t), the amazing Queen of Spain did a fab job this week of continuing to back Obama. Read about it here. Don’t know who Queen of Spain is? If you have been watching CNN recently during both the DNC and RNC, you’ve seen her. Shoot, here she is – just a mom blogger in her own right – interviewing Obama himself.

After posting about my son C. getting his doll, I read this article here from Motherhood Uncensored about her son playing with “girl” toys. I thought it was fantastic.

Oh and hey, did you know I am writing for Type A Moms now? I am their “Liberal Moms Editor”. Perfect, huh? Here’s the funny part, I am nervous about having a grown up EDITOR title and, as a result, I am having some major writer’s block for my next (and really first ACTUAL) post. I’ll come up with something - I have ideas of course, but nothing seems good enough quite right. I just need to get into the groove of it and gather some confidence, right? Wish me luck.

Finally, I want to list some fun stuff I just plain old really like.

My 5 year old T. and I have been reading these “From the Black Lagoon” books about different people he might meet at school. They are hysterical and I really recommend them for your children if they are just starting at a new school too!

My 2 yo C. and I have just started Music Together classes. He loves them and the music is fabulous (we truly enjoy the 2 CDs you are given when you sign up, one for the car and one for home). There is great teaching about children’s development for the parents and I honestly get a workout every Friday jumping, spinning, dancing, and marching with my kid. If you’ve got the time, I wholeheartedly recommend signing up for a class with your children in your area.

Need a good gift idea for someone or for Christmas coming up? Hyper-dashis a huge hit in my house. I bought it on a whim and both kids really love it. It really gives them a work out too! Yay for tired children more likely to nap…

We recently were given a subscription to High Five Magazine. What fun for my kids to get a magazine in the mail too! They read it cover to cover, T. loves the Spanish learning section in particular.

And another adorable book that I can’t get enough of? The Peace Book. LOVE IT.

Maybe you haven’t heard of the website Starfall? It is honestly the best letter and phonics learning website out there. And that’s not just my opinion. My teacher friends, my pediatrician and my speech pathologist aunt all heartily agree. T. likes to put it on with C., teaching him the ABC’s while playing fun songs and games. Its really terrific, they are on it right now.

Oh and I saw a pretty funny movie last night that I hadn’t even heard of. The Promotion. Great actors you (and esp. your husband) love to watch: Sean William Scott (aka Stiffler) and John C. Riley. And the story is just about regular guys trying to get ahead and take care of their families. I really enjoyed it!

And…. I’m spent.

And how was your week?

The DNC: My Hopes and Worries.

After a week of democratic fervor, froth and frenzy; a week of endless pundit chatter, extraordinary speeches and historic nominations; and a week of way WAY too many cogs in my head spinning, churning and smoking away, I am left slightly short of breath. And as excited and energized as I feel after the DNC - honestly - I am left stressed out. For real. I am sitting here muttering and wringing my hands like a crazy woman.

What’s my problem?

Oh, Lordy. Well, I have just so much invested in this election. I have never wanted a candidate elected more in my entire life. There is so very much at stake and it’s freaking me out to care this much. And I know I am not the only one.

So what is my list of worries? Read along and see if yours are anything like mine. Here we go.

I am worried about the future of our supreme court justices.

I am worried about the future of this war and the lives of our military serving.

I am worried about my rights to choose.

I am worried about assuring equal rights for everyone.

I am worried discrimination of any kind has been acceptable for far too long.

I am worried about equal pay for equal work.

I am worried about our addiction to excess and stuff.

I am worried about how much less my house is worth.

I am worried about my outrageously expensive grocery bill.

I am worried about chocolate and tequila production prices going up yet again. (Didn’t you hear? Hershey’s chocolate costs were going up 11%! Damn this economy!)

I am worried that the average American family can’t afford to have one parent home with their children any longer.

I am worried Hillary supporters are going to dig in further and refuse to vote.

I am worried voters will choose their candidate based on race or gender ALONE.

I am worried Americans don’t look at themselves carefully enough.

I am worried we think more about ourselves and our own needs, than the needs of our society as a whole.

I am worried we are lazy and we won’t change old habits, focus on our environment, and break our addiction to oil.

I am worried Bush has permanently damaged our country.

I am worried this country has been dumbed down and can’t think outside the box.

I am worried we succumb too easily to fear mongering.

I am worried we have been at war for over 5 years and we are no safer from terrorism.

I am worried that Republicans and Democrats alike underestimate and make unfair assumptions about one another.

I am worried we really aren’t ready for change.

I am worried that no news is unbiased news and so I never know what  the real news is.

I am worried my sons might be drafted into war someday.

I am worried the rest of the world hates our country more than it did before September 11th.

I am worried about my horrid health care plan: if one of us were to become seriously ill, we would be in extraordinary debt.

I am worried about affording college in 15 years.

I am worried about trying to get some paid work within the next year.

I am worried about tax cuts and how they have already affected our local school system, public universities, our local infrastructure, my local library and other public systems set up to assist us.

I am worried that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.

I am worried about hate.

But I can’t forget Obama’s speech last night. I do believe their is some hope ahead *if* he is elected. And I’ve said this before, I know that even if he IS elected, he has one hell of a mess to untangle. But, there is hope. I will leave you with this last potion of his speech. (Please read his entire speech here.) I hope you find some hope in it as well.

America, we cannot turn back.  Not with so much work to be done.  Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for.  Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save.  Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.  America, we cannot turn back.  We cannot walk alone.  At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future.  Let us keep that promise – that American promise – and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Have a wonderful weekend, I am going to do my damnedest not too think so flipping hard and maybe even have a good stiff drink. (Probably not tequila, though… damn…)

(Oh and please note. Comments that might disagree with my politics or points of view are absolutely welcome. It’s cool. I love open, respectful discussion. It makes the world go round. However, if your comment is rude, it’s getting deleted. Enough said.)

While we fantasize, Obama faces “The Devil in the Dark”.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the presidential nominee of your choice won this election? Of course you have - and I have too. I have been thinking about it a lot recently. Well, maybe “fantasizing” is a better word to describe what I’m doing. Every time I hear about gas prices creeping up or more foreclosures or famine or floods or earthquakes, I like to sit back and think about something very hopeful - Obama being elected as our next president.

(Cue dream-like chimes and fuzz the picture in your minds…)

I imagine election night, with my husband, at home, eyes glued to MSNBC, hastily gulping down my glass of wine – hopeful, hopeful, hopeful as the returns come back and show red states turning blue. And then I go further and imagine a landslide victory and sending my husband out for champagne (I could never buy some early, I’d jinx the whole campaign!) while I gleefully jump on the couch and scream and kiss my sleeping kids and call my friends and family. Because that win would be so huge, so tear-worthy, so much bigger than even the Red Sox winning the World Series (the first time). I know I would feel so much relief and optimism. I picture the celebrating in Washington - shoot, I’d want to have a party myself (c’mon repub friends, join the fun!), I’d want to dance in the streets, I’d jubilantly bust out “The Cabbage Patch” AND “The Running Man” in a fog of champagne and joy in front of anyone who’d want to see. And you can hold me to that too.

I can also imagine McCain winning. I have to, there’s nothing to say that possibility couldn’t happen. NOTHING surprises me after our last election. I can picture my husband and I sitting on the couch, quiet. I would probably be gulping that wine then too - and, yeah, that moment would be tear-worthy also. While impossible to imagine, it would actually feel so much worse than the end of the Superbowl when the Patriots managed to “poop the bed” and experience the biggest upset in NFL history. But as I did then, I would turn the TV off right before the end to avoid the celebratory speeches from the McCain camp; I’m not sure I could even bring myself to watch Obama’s concession speech either. That night, I’d probably have nightmares and fall into a stressful “when is it ever gonna end” slump for a bit. It would suck. Royally.

When the fantizing is over, I do actually think very hard and very realistically about what our next president is up against. Right now, along with many other fellow citizens (c’mon admit it), it is very easy to blame all horrible things on Bush. Granted, his antics, horrid judgement calls and general stupidity make him target rich material. So, the logic follows in my mind that everything is his fault. The value of my house went down $50,000 – it’s all because of Bush. My favorite bread rolls went up a whole dollar, Bush strikes again. I stubbed my toe on my bedframe, that asshole Bush, that never would’ve happened if he wasn’t president.

And as much as I blame Bush for all things evil, I often ask myself if everything is then fixable just because we elect Obama? I worry a great deal about all the eggs we have in his basket. While I know he is the best choice for president, let’s not forget that the actual act of electing him will NOT solve the gas, the floods, or the real estate issues come January 20, 2009. Yes, yes, having him president will bring us a great deal of hope for change. But, those are just dreamy, inspiring words. We need to prepare ourselves for all of the work ahead and keep ourselves in check here. We are so so many miles up shit’s creek, and Obama is a paddle that will have to bust it’s ass, like no paddle ever has, to steer us clear of the mess we are in. Let’s stop, think and truly consider what an enormous burden he will be taking on.

For many years, the world according to the Bush Administration has been an oversimplified, black and white, “you are either with us or against us” cowboy story. There is no complexity, there is no grey area. Uh huh. Well, just because you say there is no grey area, Dubya, does not make it so. It has been sitting there toiling and unheeded for far too long. Obama is staring this breathing, living, disenfranchised ”grey area” right in the face, and probably muttering – however eloquently – some version of “What. A. Clusterf*ck.”

(Can I digress here quickly? This mess? This grey area? I find myself picturing a Star Trek episode called “The Devil in the Dark”. You know the one where the moving rock is eating everything up, people included, and Spock mind melds with it to find out that people have been killing the rock’s eggs? Yeah, that’s what this mess – this angry mass of grey area - really is. …And please tell me you know what I am talking about and I am not just coming across as some Trekkie geek, ok?)

So what exactly does this complex grey area comprise of? Well, here’s only a small slice of it; you should all recognize it well enough. 

  • Obama has to get our troops home before any more are killed – but he must resolve the mess we’ve made while bringing stability to Iraq. And he can’t forget about Afghanistan – you know, where Al Queda originated from, poppies grow throughout and Taliban are thriving currently? Yup, the same place where, ironically, there are hardly any troops, support or resources available? Um, it’s kind of an important country too.
  • He has to focus on the environment, global warming and alternative fuel resources – but also smooth talk those oil companies into bringing gas prices down to something reasonable so we can actually afford to get our butts to work in the meantime.
  • He has to sort out the gridlocked rat’s nest that is our economy. Oy vey.
  • He has fix healthcare – and that’s like saying he has to fix that huge crack down the middle of the grand canyon.
  • He has to carefully and sensitively repair the remains of international diplomatic ties around the globe while assuring them of economic security and domestic investment promise. The dollar needs to be worth the paper its printed on again, and he has to convince the angry mobs outside our borders that it is.
  • Oh yeah, and borders, what are we going to do about those? We need migrant workers, they are part of what makes our economy work, right? According to farmers in California they are. But wait, do they get the same rights as American citizens if they’ve entered our country illegally?

Oh, its a grey grey world and Obama has to find some sense of color and reason again within it.

I was in Washington D.C. when President Clinton was elected for the first time. That city was practically fanning itself from the exhilaration of hope, optimism and saxophone playing it had riled itself into. It sort of scared me. Would he live up to these expectations? Could he get all that work done from up top of such a high pedestal?

I worry Obama’s inauguration would mirror Clinton’s - but 100 times over, feverish with expectations and jubilation, frenzy and froth. Election night will not, in of itself, get this figured out. Let’s welcome him into office and then think carefully about what we, as a whole nation, can do to work these complex issues out. He is only a man – with extraordinary potential, YES – but he is only a man, becoming president for the first time, bringing a green yet talented team together. It’s going to take a little time and heaps of work on all of our parts to make the change we hope to see. Grey area, folks, don’t forget.

And if McCain wins, we all better take some deep breaths. Yup, this election is as partisan as it gets. But democrats everywhere can not take their ball and go home to pout if we don’t win. We will need to buck up and work harder than ever before. We have a supreme court on the brink. We have an environment that can not go ignored any longer. We have oil companies ruling our lives. We have a religious right butting their noses into government. We have citizens not being treated equally. We have rich folks staying rich but poor people getting very poor. We have to do everything we can to come together and fix this. It may even take some version of bi-partisanship to do anything and everything to push, ease, cajole, and even beg McCain in the right direction. But, if he is elected, we won’t have much of a choice, will we?

Granted, this sort’ve reality check is honestly no fun during a time that is “cheek to jowl” (as my mother would say) with sobering reality checks. I would much rather just let my mind wander back to that uncoordinated display of joy in my living room on November 4, 2008. Couch jumping, “The Cabbage Patch”, and I think my husband even knows how to do “The Worm”.

So, positive thinking folks. Drag your friends and neighbors out to vote and shine up your boogie shoes, we can win this thing. Those dances of jubilation ARE a reality. And, with work from all of us, so is cleaning up this mess. It has to be.

Getting “Green” Kids

The other day, while I was pulling out my recycle bins to the curb, T. asks me “Can I recycle?” I stand up, beaming with pride and a little bit smug thinking my kid is so brilliant and say “Of course you can!” Excited but a little expectant, he says back to me “Ok!…” But then, he gives me a blank look. ”Um, hon, do you know what recycling means?” “Nope!” Oh, alrighty then. Its time he learned. Its time he understands what it means to be (yup, I’m gonna use it, the cool, oh so “Al Gore” word of the moment is…) GREEN.

Now I am no uber-green mom. I hate myself for it but sometimes I do buy things out of convenience rather than their level of “greeness”. I live with guilt wondering what sort of carbon foot-print I am leaving when I buy the individual packages of goldfish for playgroup rather than the one big pack. And how many times do I forget the cloth bags for groceries and use the plastic instead? I’d say that has happened 75% of time recently. Not cool of me. I try though, I honestly do what I can. I’m just saying I’m no environmental rock star. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start teaching my son how to be more aware of what he is doing and how he might make a positive impact on his environment. Plus, if I show my kids how to be better with the environment, this could be my way of paying back the universe for years and years of sort’ve, kind’ve doing only the basics. 

To kick off getting my kids green, I thought I would put together a list of what I could realistically do with my sons. And selfishly, I think if I can succeed at teaching them to be more responsible with their environment, they can keep me on MY toes and maybe I will finally do a better job too.

But there are a couple things I want to do before I begin.

Firstly, I need to sit down and explain to my son what waste means. This is sort’ve a tough thing for them to get. What, there isn’t an endless source of everything like the endless source of crackers and water bottles in mommy’s purse, always there whenever I need it? Things actually RUN OUT!? I may need to sit down and physically spell this out to him. I might have to do some sort of demonstration or use a good website (I will get to those soon too) but it might break his heart to realize you can’t just keep going back for more of whatever you want. Honestly, its just a good old fashioned life lesson he needs to learn anyway.

Secondly, as I begin this process, one thing I absolutely DON’T want to do is make my children feel guilty or bad about the environment. There is plenty of time to feel bad about it as grown-ups (ugh, we’re screwed, seriously, my guilt is 100% “in check”, thank you very much…). Being a regularly green kid needs to be fun. It needs to turn into a habit. They can’t feel like the polar ice cap is melting JUST because they didn’t recycle that last water bottle. Lets make this a positive experience for them. If it makes them happy, they’ll actually do it right?

So here we go.

1) Turn the lights off when you leave a room. That’s not so hard to do! Maybe I could introduce a reward system? Or a glow in the dark sticker over the light switch that they can get excited to see? I think they can do this.

2) Be aware of water. Brush your teeth with the water off. Both kids should be in the bath at the same time and it doesn’t need to be “swimmable” full. Set a timer with the sprinkler or hose time. Have fun in it but, when you’re done, turn it off. Or even better, fill up the kiddie pool and play with water that way! Also, have them drink from a Brita or water filtering system and explain why.

3) Make a stack of recycle paper (usually left over from the printer) to color on. Make sure to use both sides before getting another piece!

4) Make the different recycle bins accessible and easy to identify. Make sure your child knows how to sort cans, plastic and paper (see cool websites again) and have them do this for you. Explain what it means to recycle and reuse. Point out everyday things that we can reuse (like the plastic grocery bags mommy always gets because she forgets her cloth bags – DARN IT). Even dropping off old clothes and toys at the salvation army is a way to recycle. Keep using these words in your vocabulary, they’ll get it.

5) When you go to the grocery store, have your child be the “bag helper”. Make it a big deal that he or she gets to bring the cloth bags into the store. A reward system for this would be good too. Because if they remember and are excited to bring those bags in - FINALLY – you won’t have to use those horrid plastic bags!

6) Walk and ride bikes! If there is a location (like a playground) that is bikeable distance, call this the “bike or walk park”. No cars allowed! It will force you to park the car and get your butt in gear too.

7) Have a NO MEAT night. Whether its a pasta night or bean and cheese quesadilla night, skip the chicken fingers once a week. Put it on the calendar and make it something fun to look forward to.

8 ) Have a monthly earth day. See how little electricity you can use in one day. Its like camping in your house! No TV, play outside, eat sandwiches for dinner, no lights at night, get out flashlights, tell stories, have fun!

9) Teach your kids to love the outdoors. This is a big one for me. Teach them that the trees and grass actually make the air we breathe – more trees, the better we can breathe! Teach them to appreciate bugs, and worms, and birds and all the parts of our eco-system that we actually depend on. I often do plant and animal scavenger hunts on walks: make a list of things they have to find such as a bug, 4 birds, 6 different kinds of leaves, 3 flowers, etc. If they grow up loving the environment and the animals in it, they will be much more likely to protect it.

10) Invest in a zoo or aquarium annual pass. Again, show them animals and have them talk to the zookeepers who are loaded with cool facts and ideas about how to protect and respect our wildlife.

So that’s a start. I do think these will work. Like I said, I am no expert here or HARDLY the green mommy of the year (cough, choke, hardly). But I am going to TRY putting these into affect. Wish me luck!

Finally, I found some really cool websites that might be fun to try with your kids. Check them out, make them favorites, sit with your kids and explain. There are some great games, interesting animations and cool learning tools. Have fun!

PBS Kids EEKOWORLD: Games, interactive fun, information

EPA Climate Change website for kids: Games, links, animations, explanations

EERE, Kids Saving Energy(US Department of Energy)

EPA Student Center (US Environmental Protection Agency)

Earth Matters: Games, information about Otis the Otter and the ocean

Ben’s Guide: U.S. Government websites for kids (Smithsonian, National Zoo, etc.)

I Buy Different: For Teen kids, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund

Everyday is Earth Day: Starfall, a ‘learn to read’ website

Meet the Greens: Cool kids website about the Green Family, sponsored by Public Television.

Trees! Get into the coolness of trees at this website sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Write it! Feeling passionate about this subject too? Here is how you and your kids can contact your senator, representative or even the Prez!

Cross posted on BlogHer.

My French Fry Fuel Fix

OK folks, I think I have the answer. I think I can solve all our expensive gas woes. I honestly have NO idea why anyone hasn’t thought of this before. And I should know, being entirely uneducated in car design, or the business of running and fueling one. But hear me out. I am telling you, THIS is the answer we have been looking for.

The first step is a bit tricky. My plan requires that we run our cars on straight vegetable oil. Yeah, I know. Not exactly the quick fix you were hoping for. This step requires that we either buy cars with diesel engines (um, ok, those are super easy to find) and convert them, or buy cars already primed for biodiesel that would run entirely on vegetable oil (again, just as easy to find – but that could change with enough demand).

Now, here’s the step I am most excited about. Where do we get the bio-diesel easily? Obviously this is an infrastructure issue. We have gas stations on every corner. But we don’t have vegetable oil stations on every corner. But you know what we DO have on every corner? McDonalds! They are probably MORE common than gas stations! And can you even IMAGINE the kind of vegetable oil they go through and toss out? All we need to do is get Mickey D’s in on the plan. They just need to work it out with the bio-diesel experts and design some sort of fancy schmancy fuel pump that will process, clean and recycle their oil so that it is ready made for any bio-diesel car that runs on pure vegetable oil coming through the drive through. Do you have the visual yet? “I’ll have a big mac, a small fry and fill ‘er up.” All for $10! Brilliant, no? So, your car will smell like McDonalds. That’s a heck of a lot better than your car smelling like the regular unleaded it does now.

Ok, so I am suuuuure there are a thousand holes that someone can poke in this plan. Plus, there needs to be a huge, guaranteed demand for a new fuel system - as outside the box as this one - to actually succeed. Mega corporations across the board need to work together to make something like this move forward. Consumers need to be mentally ready: they need to trust that this will work, they have to be on board with a massive overhaul, and they need to truly understand that the gas we know and hate right now is NOT the best fuel for our cars.

And it would certainly not surprise me if the oil companies did everything in their power to undermine a massive change such as this one. You and I both know that they sit smugly in their secret lairs, with their Mr. Bigglesworth kitties on their laps, cackling evil cackles and pushing buttons to up the price of gas everywhere. After being so used to running the universe, I am SURE they’d be a bit miffed if they lost business.

But here’s my bottom line really. This idea may be impossible on many levels (I’m not sure which levels but what clue do I have) and I get that. But if we don’t start thinking up crazy ideas like this soon… if we don’t start taking our fuel crisis seriously and stop assuming “oh it will get better, gas will get cheaper, we’ll be fine”… we will never find a dependable, renewable source of energy to run our cars. Folks, being concerned about fossil fuel consumption is not for hippies and earthy crunchy types ANY longer. (Check out today’s article on MSNBC to prove my point.) THINK, people. We need to come up with something – FAST.

Until we get an alternative source of fuel and we can escape the choke hold of our current gas guzzling, money eating, gross emissions spewing, rattletraps we all own and curse, I will fantasize that one day, the car I drive, smells exactly like one ginormous french fry. Please pass the ketchup – let’s go get a clue.