misscongreeniality

Watch with glittering eyes around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in the magic will never find it! – Roald Dahl

You’re one in a million…or actually, one in 7 Billion

National Geographic’s special series: 7 Billion

Have you ever been in public and noticed a group of people talking & smiling & happy to see one another? I was on a business trip recently and I saw a happy scene on the patio of a lovely restaurant in Oklahoma City (not as podunk as I thought it would be, actually…though I could do without the sporadic oil drill sightings) and I thought  “That could be me. Those people obviously love each other, have fun together and are an integral part of one another’s lives.” You could tell by the intimacy of the entire group’s interactions that they were close and they were having a wonderful time. And it’s like that, ya know, all over the place. Well, except in places where it isn’t…you know, where there isn’t a lovely outdoor patio at a nice restaurant, or indoor plumbing, or electricity or whatever…you know, the finer things in life…the things most of the people in my life might take for granted.

But, have you ever stopped to think “What if we run out? Then what? How do we know if there’s enough…stuff?”

When the lady in the bathroom at work carelessly runs the hot water at full blast while she dutifully brushes her teeth, I imagine young children in Africa walking miles with heavy jugs to get the water their family needs…every. single. day.

When we throw away leftovers that went uneaten or food past its expiration date, I cringe for the mothers who beg – or worse – just so they can feed their children.

When I walk into my own mom’s house (“Mom!! Don’t you know your daughter is an environmentalist, for pete’s sake!?) and see that she’s left 6 lamps on in the house while she was gone so that she didn’t have to come home to a dark house after a long night of work, I think about what life in the slums of India might be like.

And I shiver. And sometimes I’m ashamed. Sometimes I feel so sad for those who just can’t ever seem to get ahead; to catch a break. Or, sometimes I feel hope. I mean, the more we are aware, the more choices we can make, or change, right??

So, think about this…the more people there are, the more stuff they need just to survive, much less enjoy a comfortable life. The more stuff they need, the more resources it takes to make them, ship them, store them, sell them, and keep them.

There’s a lot of people out there…over 7 billion now…what are we gonna do when we run out? Because we will run out…if we don’t do something…Do something better every day 🙂

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The cost of cheap energy: Mountain top removal (a.k.a. surface mining)

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m working on my graduate degree in Sustainability. There are so many things I’ve learned along the way, many of them make me wonder “What are we DOING?!” and “Why does anyone think this is okay?!”

One of my professors had us watch a movie called “Coal Country” and I was mortified. Horrified. Sickened. Depressed. Ashamed. Disgusted.

In the name of cheap energy – which we largely waste in abundant amounts – it seems that we have sold our souls to the devil, so to speak. What are we truly willing to give up, sacrifice, or destroy in the name of “progress”??

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grow a little garden

I’ve always marketed myself as having a “black thumb” as opposed to a green one, which sort of seems like a contradiction in terms since most of my friends & family would most likely tell you that I probably bleed green. I’ve cut myself recently (papercut…aka occupational hazard in corporte America…first world problems, I know!) and I can assure you that my blood runs as red as anybody else’s, but my ears do perk up when I hear about recycling, conservation, reuse, clean technology, green products…well, you get the point, right? Just say yes & we can keep moving right along.

So anyway, I have killed more than my fair share of plants, despite my best(ish) efforts to do just the opposite. But, I’m determined, dammit! I love the idea of picking chemical-free food that I grew myself and then eating it. No processing, no nothin’ but grown with love & sunshine. How hippie of me, right? Well, I’ve been called worse. Like a republican. Kidding!! Nobody’s ever called me that.

Renting is not without it’s benefits. For instance, when something is broken or leaking, my idea of maintenance is calling my landlord and it’s magically fixed by the time I get home from work the next day. While that is great, the big drawback is that I don’t own anything, so I can’t always just do whatever I please. Granted, sometimes whatever I please isn’t much to write home about, but still. Last year I put up a compost bin. Yes, it was plastic – yuck – but I wanted to make sure none of my neighbors had cause to complain, and none of the local beasties had a way in. And so I composted. And composted. And composted. Until one day my fiance went to take the compost out back & came back with the most perplexed look on his face.

“Uh…the compost is gone.”

Me: “Wait, what?! No way!” …running out into the back yard. And he was right. WHO DOES THAT?! Who steals a compost bin AND its entire contents?! I was fuming, shaking & about 1,000 degrees inside which showed very clearly on my red cheeks. Assuming my landlord had decided that it was an eyesore, I frantically checked my lease to make sure it wasn’t a violation of something before I called them & freaked out. To which they naturally responded “What’s a compost bin?” Seriously? They swore they didn’t take it. I’m still pissed about it to this day. Which, by the way, is not stopping me from doing it again. In fact, we put our own home-grown composty stuff on our brand new garden.

I was not without reservation when I decided I really reeeeeeally wanted to start a garden, especially after the compost incident. This time, I covered my bases. I asked my landlord – in writing – if it was okay to start a small container garden and a new compost. After they said yes, I started researching container gardens. (Side note: refering to them as “pot gardens” does not exactly convey the right message. Raised eyebrows and giggles, yes, but an herb & veggie oasis isn’t exactly the mental image people get when you use that terminology. Well, herb, maybe…oh nevermind!) I came across what I thought were two of the coolest ideas! And because I am uber cool(ish), I decided to go for it.

First, we went for the herb garden. Legal herbs. So, I went to Target & bought a canvas over-the-door shoe organizer. Then, I went to the local nursery and picked out herb seedlings and bought organic seeds from Lowe’s for the herbs I couldn’t find at the nursery.

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At home with some organic potting soil, some home-grown compost and some good old fashioned dirt, we started our garden by hanging up the canvas shoe thingy and filling each pouch with some dirt and either seedlings or seeds. We topped it off with a hearty watering, which actually required us to get on a chair for the top row since we are both really short. (read: totally humbling)

Then, like any normal people, we checked on them incessantly for the first couple of days. Especially the green beans we put in the pots on the patio…those were looking a little sad and we were worried they might not make it. I sent my fiance a text and asked him “is it weird that I went to check on the garden this morning & thought hello little plant children to myself?” To which he replied “nope because when I was watering them I kept thinking now we have 15 kids!” That’s why I’m gonna marry him…we are of such a like mind (except when it comes to video games and scary movies).

I’m happy to report that after 2 weeks, our plant children are growing happily & GREENly! I didn’t kill them! In fact, some of the herbs look almost ready to harvest. For that I will require something akin to “Herb gardening for Dummies” or for complete idiots or whatever. Or Google. I google everything. Seriously.

Our next adventure will be using recycled pallets for a raised garden bed. Stay tuned for that one!! And in the meantime, feel free to send all your healthy-plant-growing good ju ju my way. Maybe this summer I’ll get a metaphoric thumb transplant!

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Blue skies, smilin’ at me…nothin’ but blue skies, do i see…

Do you know what I forced myself to do when I was taking a quick walk over my lunch break today? Put my phone away. *gasp!*

That’s right, kids. No texting. No checking my facebook. No Angry Birds or Words With Friends. No nothin’ but me and the birds chirping over the sounds from the highway across the parking lot, the fresh(ish) air – beats the hell out of a cubicle, anyhow – the bright blue skies and the fluffiest white clouds. And me, lost in my thoughts; silently giving thanks for the many wonderful things in my life that make me smile.

It worked so well, that I decided to declare the after work walk to my car – across the vast expanse of asphalt and paint – a phone-free zone as well. And I’m looking at the sky and wondering what the OPI nail polish colors would be for these amazingly clear shades of blue. And I’m so thankful for these gorgeous blue skies & puffy white clouds that remind me of lazy summer afternoons as a little girl, laying in the grass making shapes out of the clouds as they flutter by on the breeze.

Of course, I’m not a little girl anymore – even if I am only 5′ 1″ – and all I could think about was how sad it would be if the sky and clouds alike turned gray and dirty. Oh pollution…aren’t you a curse? A pain in my ass is more like it. Stupid asthma, robbing my son of breath & sleep.

It’s times like these where I have to wonder if I’m the only one whose subconscious feels it necessary to punctuate their inner monologue with clips of songs or movie quotes. Seriously. Who does that?

Anyway, I digress…although I seem to do that more often than I seem to stay on point.

I wonder, too, if I’m the only one haunted by things I learn. Given that burning fossil fuels is the number one emitter of CO2 emissions (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/co2_human.html), I frantically turn lights off behind people from room to room in my house (although I’ve been known to do this at work, too). I feel almost panicked if we pull in the driveway & the car idles before my fiance sees me fidgeting & remembers to turn it off (thanks, honey!), and I absolutely cringe when all the cars in the daycare “drop-off zone” just keep running & running & running as parents drop their kiddos off in the morning. Cringe, I tell you!

I think I realized I had reached a whole new level when a woman at work was brushing her teeth while she left the stream of hot water run full blast. Full blast! While she was just brushing away.

I actually said out loud “Could you turn that water off? Do you know how much water that wastes?”

She looked at me indignantly and said “I’ll get to it!” Clearly, I had no choice but to reach right over and just turn that lil handle right off with a quick little “Let me just get that for ya. Seriously, that wastes sooo much water.”

I just have such a ferocious appreciation for the finite resources of this planet and the infinite beauty it provides that my heart actually breaks a little when I see easy things not being done to preserve it. But we could. One little thing at a time, we could save it all. Maybe even Tuvalu (it’s drowning…Google it).

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A Starry Starry Sign

I’ve spent years recycling. I’ve spent 3 semesters fretting over everything I learned in my sustainability graduate program about the volatile condition of Mother Earth. Now, I’ve spent months sticking my foot in every door I could find a crack in – or cracking doors open myself – to turn my passion for the environment into a career move.

When I walked into Chris’s office, I knew I was right where I needed

to be. He had a print of Van Gogh’s Starry Night on his wall.

My son – my darling 7 year old son – taught me everything I know about true love, true happiness and the true reason I’ve worked so hard for everything I have accomplished. His first grade art teacher (God bless her!) taught the kids about Vincent Van Gogh. As seven year olds do, he got stuck on this particular subject. Right now, he’s stuck on the Titanic, but last fall, it was Vincent Van Gogh. It seemed that every picture he drew was some rendition of a Van Gogh painting. Every time he got in the car, when I was a captive audience, we would talk about art class, Vincent Van Gogh, and his favorite painting, Starry Starry Night as he calls it. He was so taken by this stuff, that as a surprise, I took him to the St. Louis Art Museum to see all the Van Gogh paintings. He told me the next day that it was one of the coolest surprises he ever had. While he’s only seven, I still took that as an opportunity to buff my knuckles and bask in being the cool mom who loves her kid and exposes him to a little bit of refined culture every now & again.

Needless to say, seeing the “Starry Starry Night” print on the wall of this senior manager (who I shamelessly reminded about a series of training courses I helped give many of his employees a couple years ago…you know, as a way to get some face time with him) was a direct message to me that this conversation was a ray of sunshine in my life and in my career, just as my son is in my heart. The convo got better when he excitedly explained to me the efforts going on across the site to improve energy…BAM! Improve water usage…BAM! Decrease waste…BAM! My eyes lit up and my excitement for work was suddenly renewed. I’m pretty sure the last words I said as I left his office were “Well sir, I’m the girl for that!”

So, when I walked in to the first “environmental project” meeting he invited me to and saw another print of Starry Night on the wall, you could have knocked me over with a recycled feather. (Do they recycle feathers? Anyway….I digress…which I do, a lot…)

All I could think was This is it. This is where it’s at. I’m finally making the right moves, the right connections. This is really gonna happen!

I must have had a childlike “I’m gonna get dessert after dinner” look on my face as the team talked through the background of the project, showed a slideshow of results to date and started doling out action items. I’m pretty sure I was salivating, but since I walked over to the meeting from another building, it probably could have passed as sweat. I’m also pretty sure it isn’t very professional to jump up & down & squeal, so I kept that urge under wraps. Barely.

The tour was almost more than I could take. Now we weren’t just talking about what we might do or could do or would like to do…we were doing something! Plans were made, deadlines were set. Boxes were moved. Agreements were made. I just couldn’t wait to see how I could get my happy little hippie hands on something fun to do! Promising to send one email doesn’t sound like much, but to me, it sets the cogs in motion.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

art from the heart

My son’s rendition of van Gogh’s The Bedroom

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…and so it begins!

Do you ever feel like you have so much to say that you just have to get it all out? Yeah…it’s like that.

Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

When I take things to heart, I reeeeeeeeeally take them to heart. Like, I took over cub scouts took it to heart. But there’s so much backstory to *that* particular part of things that it deserves a whole post of its own. This isn’t it. Needless to say (although I hate when people say that because if I didn’t need to say it, I wouldn’t, right?), there is a LOT of change going on in my life right now.

What this is…is my very first blog post. Oh yeah, baby!  Well, truth be told, this is only my first “official” blog post. I already wrote this thing and showed it to my fiance who said “when are you gonna post it?” (He knows me so well…he knew I’d been thinking about starting a blog).

Anyhow…if you are reading this, HI! Thanks for stopping by & sharing a couple of your precious minutes with me. Maybe you’ll find what I have to say interesting; maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll learn something; maybe you won’t. But in true Mr. Rogers-esque fashion…I’m glad you’re here!

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