2017 “A Mindful Year”

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For me it started with “The Lorax”. My mom loves Dr. Seuss, so when my brother and I were very little she bought what seemed to be an enormous book with several of Dr. Seuss’ stories. I do not recall the first time that she read it to us, but I do fondly remember her turning from those first dark and depressing illustrations to the bright and cheery rainbow display when the Onceler first arrives. My heart would flutter and eyes would widen, with what seemed to be the most beautiful place ever dreamed up. When I read it to my daughter today, I slowly emphasize each word as the super ax hacker cuts down the last truffle tree of them all. I feel my 5 year old heart break every time I read it. The mossy man who tries to do the right thing, the poor defenseless animals caught in the middle, and the greedy Onceler who cares for nothing and no one except his pocket book rang in themes throughout my life and still follow me to this day. Its amazing that this children’s book can draw such parallels to our current situation, Dr. Seuss was really on to something with this one.

Following the Lorax, there were the old school animated commercials about conserving water with the faucet linked to the pond, watching that fish’s home quickly shrink gave me unusual anxiety for a 6 year old, anxiety I still find when I hear a faucet running continuously (this is one I remember but not the exact one). The most important and certainly the most shocking contribution to my inner “environmentalist” was in second grade. Growing up in Santa Cruz amongst beaches that meet the forest it was nearly impossible to not appreciate some natural beauty; the Monterey Bay Sanctuary is literally the backdrop of everyday life. However this particular day for this second grader brought the impact of man full front. The Monterey Bay Aquarium sent a young blond freckle faced volunteer to our classroom. Though I hardly remember her presentation, I will never forget the images she showed us. NEVER. Wild life caught in trash, Sea Turtles eating balloons, dismembered seals from fishing line, boats and cruelty and the most gut wrenching of them all for me was the Sea Gull trapped in the plastic rings they put around soda cans. I will never forget that image, it makes my stomach hurt even now decades later.

I like to think that I am a conscious person and that I was raised to be one. Despite being a family connected to large agribusiness, I grew up appreciating good food, growing our own, wandering through farmers markets, and cherishing rare varieties of fruits, veggies, and flowers. Multi-generational experimentation in the garden and the kitchen was a big part of my childhood. We may have had a box or two of frozen beef taquitos in the freezer, but steamed green beans from the garden were always on our plates. My mom believed in real butter, real cheese, there was no “low fat no fat” in our house even though that is what all of my friends were having. She shopped flea markets, thrift stores, and antique shops. Some considered her hippyish though she really couldn’t be farther from it. Now I think of her as frugal and progressive. I had what seemed to be young, wild ideas of raising sheep, and spinning their wool to make yarn which I would then turn into my own clothes. I announced this in our kitchen on several occasions. My siblings (there are seven of us patched together) would tease me that I was going run off and join the amish. I was into to exploring new religions, I believe I was a buddhist, catholic, and atheist in a month, (I was a curious and spirited girl), but I never made it to Amish Country.

In my adult life I struggled like most young people to find my place in the world. I loved the fashion and interior design worlds with such vigor but always felt guilt that my societal contributions in these fields would be “fluff”. Instead I studied teaching, a much more noble profession, but ended up hating it. Ironically I found the bureaucracy too much for me to handle. I have a strong moral obligation to do the right thing and that did not always line up with “no child left behind” at the time. As I drifted from job to job I finally found myself in interior design and have been here ever since. I love what I do, but I struggle with what I am doing in the grander scheme of things. I am good at it, it makes me happy, so someday I hope to be able to bridge both halves but I haven’t figured that out quite yet. That being said I try to make up for it in other aspects of my life. I recycle, compost, use “green” beauty and cleaning products, never use chemicals on our garden, I even planted a pollinator garden, but in the grand scheme of things I know its not enough.

Its easy to get overwhelmed when one looks at the state of our environment. Flip on “years of living dangerously” (which you absolutely should) and its sometimes can be enough to make you want to cry yourself to sleep. It almost seems like there is no hope. Our food, our energy, everything we consume is in the hands of some “onceler” who cares about nothing but his pocket book. And these so called representatives are also in the hands of these “oncelers”. What can a little family like mine do to fight big mean ugly money mongrels? It would seem like not much. The Lorax lifted himself and went away, thats not an option. There has be hope otherwise we’ll be surrounded by grickle grass soon.

And then it happened. A little spot in the clouds opened. Missy had this brilliant idea one day over her kitchen sink, “a mindful year”. Reduce our fossil fuels, closed systems, no plastic, and keep track of it. After a shocking election, more and more political displays denying climate change, and a hard to swallow reality check I invited myself to join her. Then we solicited Sarah to join in. Our better halves reluctantly agreed and here I am today, writing down my personal environmentalist history late at night in anticipation of our blog going live. The overall plan is to reduce our fossil fuel consumption, to teach our children to live with a lighter footprint, and secure a healthy planet for their future. We may not be able to tackle big oil, big agribusiness, or greedy politicians, but we can get rid of our garbage cans, vote with our dollars and forks, and manage our consumption.

So where does one start you ask? With goals. As we came to consider our new years goals as a family, I felt I had to be drastic. The reality is this is not my first go round. When I was pregnant with Marilyn I read “The Complete Organic Pregnancy” and to say the least with the hormones I was experiencing I was quite certain that I needed to buy a remote island and live off the land. I was adamant on a zero waste baby shower despite the hostess’ lifestyles, only organic food could touch my lips, and it sent me on a tail spin, for goodness sake I nested in the garden – no joke. “But this has to be weeded before the baby comes.” I religiously poured over Bea Johnson’s “Zero Waste” hauled my jars to the grocery store, scoured the bay area for bulk laundry soap, and made nearly everything in my kitchen from scratch. I was pregnant, working part-time, and the hormones were racing. Then we had a baby. We kept with our organic local food, but soon I was so desperate to make it through the grocery store without a blow out diaper or emergency nurse session that eventually the jars were left at home. We used reusable diapers until we couldn’t escape the stench and the poop got more than real. Eventually bit by bit my green persona was chipped away until I renewed my Costco membership and bought a Roomba to clean the floors. There are worst rock bottoms I know. I used mother-hood as an excuse to slowly and painfully kill the environment. Aren’t we as mothers supposed to love and provide for our children? Does that mean I was aiming to provide my daughter grickle grass and “a wind that smells sour when it blows”?

Enough get to the goals you say!! Our goals are unique and suit our family, your goals might be different but here is what we feel we can attain. I’m keeping a spreadsheet – love me a good spreadsheet(!) to keep notes on how I can expand on these goals long term. I’ll share all of that in another post.

  1. REFUSE plastic – yes NO plastic of ANY kind, especially disposables!
  2. Incorporate One Unplugged Night into our Lives – No power, raw food, start with once a month but aim for once a week
  3. Manage Food Consumption – No Beef, Eat Local, REDUCE WASTE!
  4. Drive Less/and or Reduce Gas Consumption
  5. Reduce Energy Loss – Shape Up Home Efficiency
  6. Put Our Money Where Our Mouth Is- What are we really invested in?
  7. Lessen our Pet Footprint – We have three furry mongrels
  8. Take a Political Stand – Voting is not Enough!
  9. Wear What You Are – What? How? When?
  10. Get Educated and Help Educate Others

*Get Rid of our Garbage Can*

Cheers to 2017!

Lily

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