Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Birthday Priorites

With tomorrow being the last day of March I realize that I’m now only 6weeks from officially knocking on 30’s door.  My birthday has never really meant anything to me in the way it does to others; it’s never been a wild party, and has absolutely never been about presents.  I'm a simple woman.  I don’t like having a lot of things because to me ‘things’ don’t mean anything--family does.  In my family, birthdays means that you picked out the dinner & cake you want and the whole family comes over, hangs out, gives a few gifts, maybe watches a movie and just enjoys celebrating that life is better since the day you arrived in the world.  

Since 2008 my birthday has meant something else: that I have 3 months and 4 days to figure out what I’m doing for my son’s! And while I know its fashionable to throw giant themed parties for kids I just can’t bring myself to do it for several reasons: 
1.)    He’s too young to remember it. It sounds terrible, but really, if I’m gonna spend all that money and go to all that trouble I want him talking about it for a while. 
      As it stands now he barely remembers what happened 3 minutes ago.
2.)    He’s the youngest by several years. I have three siblings--only one of which has children, whom are 16 & 7… pleasing a range that wide is difficult and three isn’t much of a party.
3.)    All his little friends are at ‘school’ and they have a party for him there,         AND
4.)    He’s really easy to please at this age, a new Go Diego Go dvd or some more animal toys and he’ll forget about all of the guests and pretty much everything else save for the cake!

Now, does this mean it’s just another day? Of course not!  I intend to keep with the family practice as far as celebrating birthdays with one upgrade: on top of picking out the meal and the cake and such, I intend to let him choose an outing.  Lucky it’s in the middle of August, with great weather and tons of things to do (especially outside).

Like I mentioned before, I’m very simple and extraordinarily easy to please, and nothing would thrill me more than if my son turned out the same. So of course I’m going to try to stack the deck in my favor! Teaching him that things aren’t as important as relationships and experiences is going to be key to the ‘operation’s success.’ Hence the excursion upgrade to the birthday tradition. 

Taking him to new places to do new things not only marks his birthday in a way that’s fun, or celebrates his growth & development but forms ties to places and experiences rather than objects.  His birthday memories won’t be “I had a party, this year I got this, last year I got that, the year before I got the other thing,” it’ll be “This year I went to a water park and rode the big slide all by myself, and last year we went to the zoo and I rode a camel, the year before we went camping and I saw an eagle and mom fell in a huge mud puddle!”  Not just an inventory and guest list, but REAL memories...  And that’s before you add the annual trip to the emergency room and his latest assassination attempt on me!  The year he was born I couldn’t feel my legs for 2 days, his first birthday he shattered a mirror over us and I got glass in my eye (he didn’t have so much as a scratch) and last year whilst saving him from an inadvertent suicide jump from a jungle gym I destroyed my right foot and ankle.
All that is SO much better than a bunch of toys he'll grow out of by the next birthday!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Really GE?

I'm going to get right to the point to try to avoid ranting.  We all know who/what GE is, but up until just recently we did not know that they have made over 26 billion dollars in profit all while paying $0 in federal taxes--and not just NOT paying, but claiming a 4 billion dollar tax benefit from the IRS!!!  SO whilst we are laying off teachers, cutting government services, and taking away health care benefits for children GE is paying almost a thousand employees to find ways around paying their taxes AND lobbying Congress for more exemptions. 

Remember that this is not GE's first time playing these games, so someone please explain how no one caught onto this scheme sooner?  In an economy this bad, how has no one been checking to make sure the big guys that are making all the money are paying their taxes?  Why should my son be in danger of losing health insurance, and my sister-in-law be worrying if she'll still be teaching next year when GE is banking 26 billion dollars of untaxed revenue?!

Click the link below and tell GE to stop sticking us with the bill and pay their taxes--like everyone else!!
Tell GE to pay their taxes!!

Curitiba, Brazil

Let me just say that Curitiba thrills me. Is it the perfect city? No… but its close in my book, and should be what all governments (at every level) aspire to be: Green and in the business of making its citizens’ lives better. 

I have never heard of a place where social programs were so far-reaching, supported/well received and successful than in this ‘third world’ city--or where environmental practices were so readily and eagerly adopted.  The amount of change that was done is so little time is staggering.  Contrary to American believe & practice things can be done quickly, cheaply and simply—as Mayor Jamie Lerner has been proving for almost twenty years!

Several great points are brought up in this chapter, one of them being how our sense of community has all but vanished.  We focus so much on our own lives that we all but completely remove ourselves from the places we live.  Most barely know about the going-ons in their city, much less are proud of it.  And how many of us know our neighbors anymore?  I’ll be honest; I know 2--my best friend across the street and the evangelists next door.   So how do we expect to make the right decisions for our communities/towns etc., when we don’t know anything about the people living there?  Communities aren’t just a network of people, it’s intimately tied to their location.  If you do not have some kind of personal connection to where you live its damn-near impossible to really care about it and make responsible, educated decisions regarding it.  Lerner, by focusing on the people of Curitiba, made that connection; he made the city work for the people and in doing so gave them pride and the desire to work for and better it in return.

One of my favorite quotes in the book is much like one I’ve heard my entire life.  “It takes the same energy to say why something can’t be done as to figure out how to do it.”  My mother used to tell us kids this same thing; later, when we got older and started completing her sentences/ lectures for her she’d just say “Well it has to get done so figure it out!”  Think of the changes that could be made if we said that to our elected leaders! No more accepting that things are too complicated, expensive or difficult to do—just do it! Figure it out! Just imagine for a second if Americans adopted Lerner’s way of thinking instead of what we do now.  Consider how far mankind has progressed by thinking outside the box—why can’t we continue that tradition in a way that doesn’t make ‘progress’ a bad word? 

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?   I think Jamie Lerner took that Robert Kennedy quote to heart and used it as his mantra, and in mixing it with creativity transformed his ‘third world town’ into one of the most environmentally friendly & responsible cities in the world.  And now, with the story of this city fresh in my mind, I find myself looking at my country and asking the same question. Why not?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mr. McKibben, we meet again...

I’ll be honest, I was not a McKibben fan when I read his first book 'End of Nature'—which, admittedly, was well over a decade ago.  I was in high school, with that youthful optimism, hope, and ambitious goals… and that book crashed into all that like a wrecking ball.  It was so doom-and-gloom, scary and depressing I immediately donated it to the library upon finishing it.  Was that book the reason I went into the armed forces instead of going straight to college for my environmental studies degree? No.  But I mention this to illustrate just how delighted I was to find out that we’d be reading two of his books for my Nature & Society class.
‘Hooray, let me fire up the pit and get the hot poker ready for my eyes.’

So needless to say I was pleasantly surprised with the second chapter of Hope, Human & Wild.  Now I don’t know if McKibben went on antidepressants or just realized that scaring the hell out of people might not be the best way to go about motivating them into change, but there was a noticeable change in my mood while reading this book vs. the first one—primarily in that homicide was no where on my mind, and my optimism, hope and ambition were still intact.  My thoughts on this chapter will be posted by itself, but I am curious to see if these feelings last throughout out this entire book, let alone the second one... or if the harbinger of the Apocalypse will return.

The Point

Alright, so let's put it out there.
Why did I start to start this blog, with this subject, now?
Besides being a requirement for a class that is.    :)   
When I had first found out I was going to be a mother I decided I wanted to be the greenest mom my situation would allow. So I went looking for guides and ideas--and I found a lot, but only after hours of looking. And as any parent knows, you don't have that kind of time to surf the web when you have a newborn... or a toddler.  So to spare others that frustration, I offer my two-cents.

However this blog isn't exclusively for parents.
The point of this was to give quick, easy, & hopefully painless tips that can be incorporated seamlessly into your life without much effort or disruption.  On top of that, I hope to give a slightly different perspective on the things I come across and the articles I read.  Becoming a parent means a fundamental shift in thinking, it's no longer "How does this effect me?"  But rather one finds themself asking how things will relate to and impact not only their family's lives, but that of their children and their children's generation as a whole.  And THAT is the kind of thinking that drives big change.  When we stop thinking solely of ourselves and our generation, and instead focus on how our decisions effect ALL generations, then we start seeing the big picture and making smart, responsible choices that improve the lives of everyone.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sacrificing the Serengeti

Proposed Road to Cut Through the Serengeti

Periodically I'll post links to articles and sites pertaining to issues around the globe that don't particularly effect 'us' in any relative & immediate sense--which does not mean that they should be ignored or overlooked.  Even if such issues are seemingly far-off they do have far reaching consequences. But more importantly it has to do with environmental integrity.  I was taught that integrity was "doing what's right even when no one is looking," and that you knew it was the right thing to do because "what's right is never what's easiest." 
I intend to teach my son the very same thing.

But what can 'we' do? How can we make sure the 'right thing' is done?  How do Americans (or anyone other than Africans) have any say in whether this ludicrous and atrocious proposal is enacted or not?  Well, consider who will most likely fund such an endeavor. America imports goods from Africa (minerals in particular, to feed our electronic addiction) and a road through the Serengeti would cut down on transportation costs.  So it would be worthwhile for us to offer funding despite the ecological costs.  To keep this travesty from becoming a reality citizens can contact their elected government officials, NGOs, media and anyone else with influence to bring attention to the issue and urge people speak out and stand up for one of that last great stretches of wild lands.  Keep in mind that once a ecological sin of this magnitude is committed it cannot be erased or forgiven.