Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When doing your best is not enough

I have blogged before that when it comes to going green, you should do the best you can rather than feeling guilty about what you can't do. I've blogged about the importance of making small steps, and how the small steps of many can make a big impact. I've even ranted about those who would criticize the green steps of others because those steps are less than perfect from an eco-perspective, not considering that that step may be the best the person can do in their circumstances, and may lead to bigger steps if you don't turn them off with smug attitudes.

I still think those things are true. One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage people who feel left out of the environmental movement because of race, income, time, access, knowledge (both skills and awareness), etc., that green really can be for the rest of us.

But what happens when the best you can do isn't enough? When the small steps don't add up enough to save our world? I read this article today, about the threat of mass extinction of all marine life due to climate change. If that happens, humanity and our planet are screwed. There is so much division, greed and hostility in our nation and world that I fear we might never come together even to address our species' very survivial.

It makes me feel at times as if my green journey is for naught, and my green steps are just useless gestures to make me feel a little more in control and less overwhelmed. Any thoughts? Ideas? Reasons for hope?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cars, the Year from Hell, and My Delight

Crazy title, but bear with me, it's all related!

My dad died when I was 16, and as a result, my mom freaked out about the thought of her kids driving. Thus, I got my driver's license just before leaving for college, primarily to have a form of identification.

I lived the next 16 years car-free in the Boston area (easy to do, their public transportation system is very good) until I married a man in 2001 who owned a car. Even then, I continued to take public transportation to and from work and only used the car for road trips and shopping.

And then came the Year from Hell. In one year (actually, about 15 months), my husband had emergency open heart surgery, my father-in-law died, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with a high-risk pregnancy*, one of my sisters-in-law had a stroke, another had a kidney transplant, two relatives died of cancer, and a young niece, distraught about all that was happening in our family, was hospitalized for cutting.

Buying a car: On top of all this, my husband totaled our car that year, and given that he was still recovering from surgery and not working and I was working sporadically depending on the state of my pregnancy, we had no money to replace it. (The insurance payout was eaten by other bills). That year Boston had one of the worst winters on record, and I found myself frequently trudging though several feet of snow to get to work, while pregnant, incontinent, and suffering from hyperemesis (extreme morning sickness).**

When I gave birth to our daughter***, my husband was working again but I had been on bed rest for four months, so we were still broke. And now with a baby, we desperately needed a car. We bought two clunkers off Craig's List for about $700 each, both of which lasted about 3 months, while we tried to save for a newer car. We eventually purchased a 3-year-old used Subaru, which, because we had excellent credit at the time, we were able to finance over 5.5 years.

Preserving the car: That Subaru is now 9 years old and has 155,000 miles on it. Among other things, it moved us cross-country, was hubby's on-the-road vehicle when he was in traveling sales, and now carries me on my 45-minutes-each-way commute to and from work. (We now have a second used vehicle that hubby drives). We'll make our final payment on the Subaru this summer.

When my car was out of commission this past winter, it cost $1,800 to repair it. At that time I made a decision: I want this car to last at least another three to five years after we own it free and clear.

I recently read an article about a man who owns a 1992 car with 2.5 million miles on it. His secret? Good maintenance. He spends about $1,000 a year to maintain it. The article recommends reading your owner's manual and following its maintenance instructions to the letter.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm reading the manual as well as books such as AAA's Driving Survival guide, I bought a tire pressure gauge to help me keep the tires inflated, and I'm trying to learn all the maintenance tips I never before worried about because I left auto maintenance to hubby.

This is very much a "green" thing to do. Maintaining a vehicle is a greener choice (in many cases) than replacing it, and it improves gas mileage. So here's to becoming an expert on my car!


* I got pregnant the first time my husband's cardiologist gave us the go-ahead to try sex. We had only planned to fool around. Ah, well...

** Since my husband couldn't work at that time, I had no choice but to keep working, no matter how sick I was or how difficult it was to trudge through snow.

*** As you may have guessed, my daughter's birth was My Delight. My mom said she prayed during my pregnancy, "Let this be a good baby, since they've gone through so much!" Her prayers were answered. My daughter was born healthy, she latched on immediately and never had any problems breastfeeding, she was rarely sick, and she was one of the happiest babies I've ever known. We drove with her as a one-month old to New Jersey to see my sister-in-law right after her kidney transplant. The hospital allowed us to bring the baby in for one minute only. The miracle of being alive and seeing her newborn niece lifted my sister-in-law's spirit to the heavens!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weekly summer staycation adventure!

Mt. Rainier, Washington. Image from publicdomainpictures.net.

Several factors--a lack of funds for vacation travel, my daughter's daycare teacher being short-staffed on Mondays this summer, and the advice of educational experts--led me to plan what I'm calling our "Weekly Summer Staycation Adventure!"

Instead of taking a week or more off from work, I'm going to take every Monday off to do something fun and educational with my daughter. There are tons of low-cost places to visit in the area, many of which we've never been to. And educational experts advise that one of the most effective way to help your children learn during the summer is to reinforce experiences with reading, writing and other learning activities. Having a different experience each week, rather than cramming a bunch of experiences into a short time frame, will give us quality time to do that.

Here are the experiences we have planned (not yet in any set order):

1) The Hands-On Children's Museum in Olympia, WA.

2) A visit to Alaffia's factory in Lacey, WA.

3) Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Tacoma.

4) Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma.

5) The Tacoma Nature Center's Discovery Pond.

6) A trip to Mount Rainier (this may be a weekend event, because I want hubby to join us). Mt. Rainier is the impressive peak that looms over Western Washington, but is only visible when the sun is out. If you're new to Washington State and you arrive when it's overcast as I did three years ago, the first time this huge mountain appears in your vista is indescribable.

7) Stewart Heights Pool and Water Park in Tacoma. (This one is just for fun!)

8) Maybe even blueberry picking at Charlotte's Blueberry Park in Tacoma.

9) Perhaps a visit to a farm in the area.

We may add others as we discover them. For each experience, we will get books from the library to learn more, we will write stories and do art projects, and if I can be creative enough, incorporate math and science. I'll blog more about this throughout the summer.

Each of these locations is relatively low-cost (admission is either free, or less than $10, except for the zoo), I plan to pack our lunches, and for the Tacoma locations, I hope to take the bus.

BTW, all praise to Metro Parks Tacoma, the muncipal corporation that manages every single one of the Tacoma locations above, making available incredible opportunities for recreation, the arts and nature for the people of Greater Tacoma!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I tried the Moon Cup!

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

Since the return of my period when my daughter was 14 months old, I have been a GladRags girl. GladRags are reusable cloth menstrual pads, and in my five years of using them, I have loved them! They are so much more comfortable than disposable menstrual pads, they are obviously cheaper in the long run and better for the environment, and they are multi-purpose--I wear them when I am sick and have stress incontinence while coughing.

But they are messy to clean. So I finally decided to try the other green alternative -- a menstrual cup. I hadn't tried it earlier because I was never much of a tampon wearer, since I found them uncomfortable. But I recently learned the discomfort of tampons has much to do with their absorbancy, which can be drying to one's vagina. Reusable menstrual cups don't have that problem.

I chose the Moon Cup, which I purchased from Amazon using accumulated Swagbucks, so it cost me only about $13 including shipping and handling. (Note: the link shows Size B, but I use Size A, for post-vaginal delivery). What a deal! I knew when I first bought my GladRags that it would take me a few years to equal the cost of buying disposable pads each month. But $13 is what I used to spend in about 3 months on pads, for a product that will last me 10 years!

It took a few tries to get used to inserting it and taking it out comfortably, and my fingers get a little bloody when doing so. According to the instructions, while sitting on the toilet, you fold the cup between your thumb and forefinger to insert, and then release once it's fully inside you so that it opens up. The toughest part is adjusting the Cup once it's in--again, according to instructions, you pull the tab a little bit forward and up so that it's in line with your cervix. I have found that practicing this while wearing a mini-pad helps. Try sitting, standing, lying down and walking. If it feels comfortable in all four positions and you getting little or no leakage, you've done it correctly.

Overall, the Moon Cup is very comfortable and so much easier to clean than reusable pads. And if I have another bout of bronchitis with stress incontinence, I always have my GladRags to fall back on.