Going Green; Faux, Fun or For Real

Okay. Those of you who know me might know I am pretty nutty about the use of toxic chemicals in the home and about recycling. But there are different types of nutty. First off, I have recycled for years. I have been married to the same dear man for almost 20 years but he still doesn’t know what you can recycle and what you can’t. In every town there are certain things you can recycle. The plastics havae a little number on the bottom. In our last town you could recycle 1-5. Here just 1, 2 and 3. But if it looks like cardboard, my husband throws it in. If it looks like plastic, my husband throws it in. But I digress as usual. The thing that irks me most is when people say “what I do can’t matter, can’t make a difference”. What I say is “if we all picked up our trash, there would be no trash”. Not exactly but you get what I mean. But there are many levels of “going green” these days. There is celebrity going green, there is moderately wealthy or well off going green. These levels of greenness involve major renovations to your home or the building of the perfectly green home, sometimes with expensive eco-friendly materials, etc. Then there is “going green for show”. People who talk big or who make a show of this but don’t really live it. Now I am all for the big gesture, the green home, etc.; but not all of us can do this. But all of us can make some simple changes. But we resist. Use a little less paper towel. Buy micro fiber cleaning cloths and wash them. Use vinegar to clean everything and reduce your bleach footprint. I buy eco-friendly laundry and dish soaps. They are a bit more expensive but I save so much on the other household cleaning items that I still save. Of course now the clorox brand has come out with a line of “green” products. This is great and I’m all for it. But the traditionally eco-friendly brands are actually less expensive (they used to be the expensive ones). Meanwhile, Americans are so addicted to multiple cleaning products that we don’t think something as simple as vinegar will work (and not smell once it dries). If you need bleach, use a bleach pen on the spot, not a cup of bleach. But trust me, you rarely need bleach. Wash your cans and bottles and put them in the recycle bin; and your magazines and your newspapers. Stop using disposable items like paper plates, cups amd napkins. Fill your dishwasher all the way up. Combine laundry so you are running a full load. Clean your AC filters amd your dryer vents. These are normal people things you can do that make a difference. You don’t have to be rich to do them and, despite what my teenager thinks, what one person does can and will make a difference. I am not a celebrity and I do foget my reusable grocery sacks, I am a nut but not obsessive, I can’t retrofit my house but I can retrofit my habits. Change is not only possible, it is necessary.

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The Blogger Blogs about Blogging

I just had to write this. I blog for me. I started this because I can candidly be myself, I can actually just say what I think without worrying about who I have to be at work, or with my kid, or at Temple. Don’t get me wrong, I am always pretty much me. But over the years I have learned, as have we all, to keep something back, depending. My friends don’t agree with me about everything and sometimes its better just to keep it to yourself. There are people I truly like, sometimes love, whose politics are so different from mine that it just isn’t worth talking about. So here, I can say just what I want. How liberating is that? Its almost as good as singing. Of course I can’t talk too much about health because my mom is my #1 fan and I wouldn’t want her to worry. (No mom, I’m not hiding any desperate health secrets). I kind of love that I have found a written voice which is something I share with my mom who is a writer. Of course my talent is much less and quite different. I can’t write a novel, I don’t have the discipline and don’t understand how to structure a plot. And I can’t write a full length book, at least not yet, because I see and think about life in these bits. Blogging is just right (write?) because I can describe it in bits. I can tell just the bit of story that is on my mind at that moment. Anyway, the point of this is that although I do this for myself, I am really very excited. My mom has been not only the #1 fan but my only fan for a long time. Now I actually have 3 fans. I am really very excited There is something very nice about thinking other people like reading your writing. Surprised me. So to my three fans… Thanks.

Say Goodnight Gracie

Alright. the perfect story of the overcommitted working mom, wife and person with a parent living in their home. Sometime during the day my husband managed to pull out his back (of course he has to do a ridiculous amount of physical work tomorrow, a job for which he only gets paid if he works; no benefits no sick days). This happens occasionally for no particular reason and he is then incapacitated. In this particular case he tried to stop a two thousand pound roller from running over another human. Why he thinks he can stop two thousand pounds is something of a mystery. but he continues to think he is physically invincible and he mostly is. Anyway, I digress. My boss is here from South Florida, the day is passing in a blur of projects, crises, e-mail and phone calls from licensing authorities all over the country. There is a corny event I would like to see at the Temple tonight at 7, I think my dad would like, a little lecture/film thing on Burns and Allen. But I don’t normally get off work before 6 or so. I work about 20 minutes from home. At 4:38 I get a call from the boy wonder who has stayed at school to meet with a teacher and needs a ride home (fifteen minutes in the wrong direction!). As a diabetic struggling to do the right thing I know I have to eat because I can’t wait until 8:30. So I call my dad who has always been a great cook but now he is very very very slow, and sometimes confused. I ask him to slice and marinate the beef I took out for stir fry and maybe slice an onion. I should have given him several hours warning but didn’t. After quite a few phone calls we got it straight what is needed. I blew off my boss at 5:30, raced to the high school (had to call my son on his friend’s phone because of course he forgot to charge his phone), picked up the kids, dropped off the friend and got home about 6:10. I heated up the wok, threw in the beef, at which time my dad starts telling me why my recipe and method is wrong. He gets out a tool and starts flinging food around, complaining that I am boiling his Japanese food (which is not what I was cooking?!) At this point my son, having been ordered to set the table, is asking “salt? pepper? what do you want to drink? knives? bowls?” and my dad is muttering “why are you boiling that? too much liquid. use this tool to take it out. what do you mean you’re not taking it out? who’s recipe is that?” My head is about to explode. We sat down at 6:39. We know my husband isn’t going, he is groaning on the sofa. We know my son isn’t going, he is way too cool. My dad just doesn’t eat that fast. I say, its ok if we don’t go. He says no, I’m done let’s go. So we end up at the Temple, spend an hour with Burns and Allen (I think my dad went for the cookies which he knows they’ll have) and come home. Laughter is good. I am in bed by 9:13. All I can say is Goodnight Gracie.

Teenage Problem Solving: an Oxymoron?

So. When my son and his friends complained about certain teachers, I listened, at first, with half an ear. I figured they were mostly attributing their own lack of motivation, work and committment to the teacher’s flaws. And then I started to actually look at the assignments in a different way. This was primarily as a result of my son experiencing a brief disastrous dip in his grades and schoolwork. A dear friend of mine started talking to him and us about how to be successful, how to address schoolwork, etc. An example of what I began to see in some classes was as follows. Read Oedipus but I won’t give you any background on Greek drama. Tell me what all these words mean (describing aspects of Greek drama) but I won’t gie you historical context or source material or references. Do a presentation on Macbeth but oh, by the way, you don’t have to read Macbeth. Now I won’t underestimate the teenagers lack of motivation, work and committment, but this is not good teaching. It is hard to describe here the deficits in the method of teaching but I am covinced they are there. Next, there we are at the dinner table and the teenagers start in complaining but before you know it, they are asking what to do. Wow. I believe that you instill respect for teachers and others in authority, but they don’t all deserve to be “liked” or esteemed as teachers. My answer way this, you have to find a solution because the teacher isn’t going to change. The teacher isn’t going to acknowledge that they are doing something in a less than helpful way. And the teacher is going to give you a grade. So you need to solve for what is. You learn what the teacher does, how they operate, and you figure out how to succeed despite it. That is your job, along with learning what you can, to succeed in spite of those who may not be the best at supporting your success. You learn to be a problem solver. Because all through life, you will be the most valuable… player, friend, employee, if you are the problem solver and not the complainer. Complaining rarely does any good; success I think really is the best revenge.

Role Model Lunch

Great news story on NPR the other day. It was about school systems that were trying to ban bad, fatty, unhealthy snacks from school cafeterias and vending machines. Now if you are one of my three (ok I am exaggerating) loyal fans you know that obese children is one of my pet peeves (see earlier blogs). So I was listening with great interest to this great thing the teachers and school boards were trying to accomplish. Just think, you put in your .5o and get a little pack of carrots? Or an apple? An orange juice? The cool ideas are pretty much endless. It reminds me of the Automat in New York when I was a kid. I loved the Automat. It was a huge cafeteria style place (seemed huge to me at the time) and all along the walls were what seemed like hundreds of little glass doors. Each door had some wonderful food item behind it. You lifted up the door and took out your selection. The difference between this and modern vending is that you paid the cashier at the end of the line. The cashier would add up your choices and you paid. But the prices, if I remember correctly, were on each item behind the door. Anyway, I loved it. An endless variety of tempting food choices! Anyway, back to Public Radio. So I’m listening to this great health effort and they get specific to one school. The focus of the story, it now appears, is that at this particular school while the teachers are all about healthy vending for the children, they are outraged that the same crappy, fatty disgusting snacks are to be removed from the vending in the teacher’s lounge. Way to go role models.

The Funny Part of the Seder

Okay. So I am usually immaculately well organized around these important events. I know well in advance precisely who is coming; I have the silver polished; I have the linens ironed. Generally the soup is made and froze at least a month in advance. The shopping is done in advance and whatever else can be done, is done. Boy this year…not even close. I mucked up inviting people, although it worked out in the end since clearly I needed to have less than my usual 20 or so. This year we were just a comfortable, intimate 1o. The soup I managed to do before the fact. But the day before, which I did take off from work, I intended to bake the flourless chocolate cake. I called tech support for my printer and 5 hours on the telephone later, I had the promise of a new printer but nothing else and definitely no chocolate cake. I did manage, before calling tech support in India, to start the onions sauteing for the chopped liver. My dad has always made it, and more. Now, it is all he can do and it takes a long time and makes a big mess. So I try to make the parts ahead and he “chops” on the day of; first thing so it is out of the way. Meanwhile I managed to obsess about the ritual items so much on the day of that I forgot to put silverware on the table! I put wine instead of water in Miriam’s cup, etc. All through the day I thought, oh, I’m doing fine. Then I would realize some crucial item I had forgotten. Like Charoset. Good grief, forgot all about it! Whipped up my two versions. I didn’t feel like using the haggadot we had that were very long so I picked up a bunch of the old Maxwell House ones to use (some of you will remember those, never should have been reprinted!). It is unbelievably old fashioned. Full of “he” and “thee” and “thine” and actual whole sentences and paragraphs that nobody could read aloud because they made no actual sense. I couldn’t stop laughing. And the Cantor took to using the sonorous voice you imagine of a deity, speaking in God’s voice. And even the teenagers were laughing. Until Cantor began to lose his voice because he is allergic to cats, a fact we forget about all the time. We only had one young child so she got to find the afikomen. Jacob pretended to search too and declared that he should get money too because he “came in second”. All in all we had a pretty nice time, with people we love, and a pretty funny time. I will always think of this seder as the coming in second seder because I was so not together and of course I have very high expectations. But laughter is a better second place prize than anything.

Chag Sameach!

It is passover! I know, I know, it is Easter too. For some reason these two are inextricably linked in the minds of many, but they have nothing really to do with each other so far as I know. Every religion has a spring ritual of some kind, just as they all have a winter ritual of some kind; all going back to the pagan, pantheistic days. Of course more “modern” explanations, I don’t know 1,000 years or so, grow up around these rituals. And they continue to evolve, holding their core meanings, into what we have today. If you haven’t done it, or don’t do it. It is hard to explain why you cook for two days and then sit down to a three hour ritual. But there is pleasure in it, especially now for me as I don’t know how much longer my son will be here for it. He pretends not to like it, but he looks forward to my dad’s chopped liver, the matzoh ball soup, the hard boiled eggs. He’s too cool to admit this now. But I caught him snagging that extra matzoh ball! For me, I set the table with real love, with my grandma’s things, with silver and china and flowers. Really the only time of the year I do it all. And I feel so connected to the people who have gone before. I still miss my grandma after a bunch of years. Our family is very small but we have people we love and that makes every holiday special. We have always had a varied group of people at our holidays and my son, I hope, has learned that you build a family in many ways. You build yourself a firm network of love and support and you live in it. This year we had his best friend who is from Gudrat [sp?], in India. It was very different for him, I’m sure. My son goes to lots of their ethnic celebrations. A little cross-pollination can’t hurt in this world. I hope he can do it for himself when he has his own home. Or maybe, he’ll just keep coming home?