June 25, 2010

The Journey Begins with a Single Step

When I write about different issues on my green blog, I feel the need to personally up the ante, so to speak, in my own life. One area that I consistently fail is the driving one. I do combine errands, but I rarely walk anywhere.

I live in a typical suburban town that is designed for cars, not bikes or walkers. While I only am a mile and a half from the nearest shopping center (with grocery, hardware, movie rental,  closeout, ATM and gift store). I never have felt safe navigating the terrain to the store by foot or bike. There are no sidewalks, there are ditches, curves, and vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds. There is not a crosswalk, so instead crossing the road feels like a game of Frogger.  And yet, it's only a mile and a half away. Each time I turned the key to run to the store, I felt guilty.

We make excuses why we don't walk anywhere. We pay money to join gyms or buy exercise equipment, but we hop in the car the minute we run out of something. We bemoan our lack of time, but we spend time driving to and from an exercise class.

I decided to stop making excuses and start walking. My children got free movie rentals from the local video store for  every A on their final report card. I told them we could redeem the movies if we walked to the store. They balked. These are the same offspring that I drive 5 miles each way to cross country practice. (I only drive one way, I've found folks to carpool with). The irony that I drive 10 miles total for them to run 2-3 is not lost on me. Nonetheless, if they can run for sport, they can walk for practical reasons.

The first day, we put the dog's leash on, and started walking. After about a half mile, we realized we didn't have a bag if he went to the bathroom. Yikes. Naturally he did, in the middle of some residential lawn. I walked up and down the road looking for litter that would be an appropriate container for his mess and found a fast food hamburger box. I am sure there wasn't too much difference between the original contents and the final ones.

We were more prepared the second day. We had figured out the safest path, with the lowest weeds in the ditches. I also noticed an inordinate amount of aluminum cans, so with the second bag, I picked them up. Tomorrow I plan to pick up the rest of the litter. I keep my eyes peeled for juice bags and water bottle lids, because I have special causes where they can be recycled.

There is a mindfulness that happens on these 1.5 mile walks there and back. A sense of nature and communing with it. There is a chance to notice how fast the rest of the world seems to move. The way everyone seems to hurry. I wonder what they are racing to. I wonder why they are so short of time. And my thighs ache. I sweat. I trudge on. Like a frog trying to avoid being roadkill, I dodge traffic and insanity.

I like walking to our errands. I want to propose a "car free day" to the world. What if... what if we all gave up a singular day without our cars? What if instead of boycotting one oil company or another, driving 5 miles an hour slower, or combining errands, what if, we gave up our cars for a day? Could you? Would you? How would it affect your life and what would you do to adjust?

June 16, 2010

Beached Vacation

Now that school is finally out, our family is looking forward to a summer of relaxation and fun. Most years, that has included a vacation to the ocean. Going to the beach, however, not necessarily.

How can a family spend a week at the ocean and but not the beach? The key word is that it's a vacation, a time to relax. There were days with babies when there was absolutely nothing relaxing about a day at the beach.

(any similarity between this story and my own family is sheer coincidence, really)

Garmin nĂ¼vi 1690 Sat NavFirst comes the preparation. Sunscreen, hats, long sleeved gear, umbrella, stroller, blanket, buckets, shovels, snacks, cooler, and a partridge in a pear tree. Then the campaign to take take the favorite stuffed teddy bear to the beach. Mom says no and child pouts, but eventually acquiesces with the promise of building a sandcastle.

Parent delusionally sticks something to read in the overflowing beach bag. Husband gets an invitation to go golfing with the guys. Wife says,  "It's your vacation too, go enjoy." This is a code expression for "I'm going shopping when you get back, by myself." The code does not specify that such shopping will involve procuring groceries.

Husband out the door, wife starts to load the double stroller like a pack mule to push to the beach. The beach this family goes to does not have parking, as it's in a private small beach community. Older child whines about having to walk because the back seat of the stroller is filled with stuff. Mom promises ice cream.

Strollers do not roll, but rather sink into the sand, becoming more a strong mom test than ease of transport. Space on the beach is finally claimed, victoriously sticking the umbrella into the sand,  professing temporary ownership of that square.

Unpacking of stroller, beach bag and warnings not to step on the blanket in a futile attempt to have one sand-free zone commences. Reapply sunscreen. Baby wants to nurse. Tell older child to dig in the sand. Wipe sunscreen off chest and flop out a breast as all semblance of modesty is gone. Baby is distracted and possibly exposes mom to indecent exposure charges, but nobody is looking at this mom who once sported a bikini in her tankini with a skirted bottom. She's sweating and the baby is slippery in her arms.

Baby finishes nursing and needs a diaper change. Older child has walked all over the blanket and it's a sandy mess with no place to change the diaper. Does sand cause diaper rash? Too bad. Put sandy diaper on baby and lay baby in stroller with sunshield up.  Ahhh, a cool breeze. Ten seconds of bliss until the breeze kicks up and unstakes the umbrella and sends it sailing into other colonies of umbrellas. Mom yells "Stay put", and takes off chasing the umbrella, apologizing for flailing sand as she runs, realizes her suit wasn't adjusted and one breast becomes exposed during the umbrella chase. Catching up with runaway umbrella and snuggling it over bare breast in an attempt at modesty.

Bring umbrella back to the blanket and jam it into the sand with such vigor it's not going anywhere. Older child wants to go in the water. Baby is crying so mom picks up baby and tries to put hat on baby to protect her scalp. Checks suit for coverage. Walks to water with older child. Cold water hits feet and child wails how cold it is. Mom says, "You just need to get used to it."

Older, just barely potty trained child starts the I-need-to-go-potty squirm. Omniscient mom asks if that is the case. Child says no. Mom knows better. Inquires again. Child says yes. No restrooms on the beach. Mom looks back to the house. It's a long walk. Debates the damage done if child pees in the ocean. Tells child to walk up to her waist in the water and just go through her swimsuit. The child that for nearly 3 years wet herself all day looks quizzically at mom and says, "Gross." After much cajoling, child agrees. Wades out into waist high water, complaining about how cold it is and then... to the mom's horror, begins the grunt face.

"NOOOOO" mom yells, "STOP!"

"But you said..."

"NO, I meant only tinkle, not poopy".

Mom is mortified to realize she is still yelling. Baby's hat flies off. Mom holds baby on hip, chases hat and keeps telling the older child to get out of the water, "Now!"

Older child comes out of the water. Mom examines backside of child and sighs with relief that there is no telltale lump and says, "C'mon let's go back to the house."

They grab shoes, and start walking back to house, realize they left the key at the blanket halfway, get key, and walk back to the beach house.

Later that day, husband returns from golfing.

"Did you have a good day at the beach?" he asks innocently.

Husband then discovers a golf club shaped lump in the back of his shorts as wife runs out the door to go to the store.

(thank you to my friend Kristine for the inspiration to write this tale)

June 4, 2010

Why I Relay

Several years ago, the disease known as cancer crawled into our life and like an unwanted, unwelcome telemarketer, continues to call. I became involved with the Relay for Life the spring after it took a young mother friend of mine.  It seemed a fitting tribute to a woman who was one of my first friends in a new neighborhood, to celebrate her life while raising awareness and funds.

Relay for LifeI HOPED that would be the only time that annoying telemarketer rang our phone. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning. Within the next year, several more diagnosis of cancer came to our circle. I wanted to tell them they had the wrong number, or ignore it through call screening, but the phone rang off the hook. We watched several relatives fight a good fight, but still eventually lose the battle with cancer.

Uncle J. was a singer. In his last months of vitality, he recorded himself singing with beauty and joy, to be played at his funeral. It was a haunting and poignant moment to hear his strong tenor through the funeral parlor, reminding us to live with gusto.

Uncle E., lives on in his beautiful grandson. It seems patently unfair that the man who loved babies more than any adult man I ever met would never know his own grandchildren, but I know he smiles with pride and probably holds them in ways we cannot even fathom.

Uncle H., was hauling moving boxes around always ready to lend a hand to anyone in the family when a hand was needed. But that was one box he couldn't move out of his life.

Aunt K., was one of the most special people who ever touched my life. She had a spirit and verve like nobody I ever met. She fought her battle with a dignity that I envy. I can remember sitting on my patio telling her I wasn't drinking the water in town anymore, and she said, me either, get me a cold beer. Then she joked how she was so grateful she didn't have to shave her legs that summer. She had a smile to light up a room and it lives in her children.

M., was another young mother friend we knew. One evening at a party, she left early saying she just hadn't been feeling well lately, but was heading to the doctor the following week. She was diagnosed with cancer and fought with dignity. I ran into her at the store about a month before she died and she said, "We'll have to all get together soon." I never expected it would be at her funeral.

For the survivors, keep the faith. You have our love and prayers.

J., you have treated our family as your own and your beauty and love carries you daily. Thank you for being our Nana.

D., you're another lady who could teach the world about silent strength. You have handled and survived your cancer with a courage that fills me with admiration. I'm so proud to call you Mom.

B., we pray for your strength daily and are so proud of your fortitude. You've taught us all what strength under fire means. I'm honored to call you Dad.

This is why I relay. My world is filled with stories of fighters and survivors. Our life is peppered with people who showed us how to live with dignity. Having such strength in my world inspires and fills me with HOPE. I want to celebrate that HOPE.

Thank you family and friends for allowing us the opportunity to give back in some small way.

If you want to help sponsor our walk, I've included the link to our local Relay. If you'd like to participate in one, here is a national search for one local to your community. The money raised helps the American Cancer Society continue their valuable research to stop that insidious call in its tracks. Together, we can make a difference.


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