Friday, November 26, 2010


Yesterday before Thanksgiving dinner, we all wrote down a few things we were thankful for on small tags then hung them from a "tree."  The first thing my seven-year-old wrote was "Earth."  I was thankful for that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oh Poop! Plastic Bags Everywhere

We have a new baby!  She's an eight-week old golden retriever, Bella Blue. 
Our Bella Blue

She’s named after the beautiful blue planet that I love so dearly. Since I’m a mother and my job is to care for what I love, I try my best to keep “disposable plastic” bags from choking and killing the beautiful blue ocean/sky/planet (the dog too!)
  a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. disposable plastic bags)
 “Disposable plastic” epitomizes the term oxymoron. (I’m not even going to make a “moron” joke here. Too easy.)  Disposable plastic bags can’t actually be disposed of.  They can't be recycled except in a few, rare plants because they jam up most equipment. Since they’re made of plastic they will never entirely decompose, only break down into smaller, more lethal particles. Remember that aside from the minute percentage that has been incinerated (creating even more toxic fumes), EVERY ounce of plastic ever created still exists today.
So, over the past few years I’ve accumulated quite a collection of reusable shopping bags.  They’ve come a long way since the hideous canvas totes that my teacher friends and I used to haul homework around during the 90s.  I think I have one of every design ever issued by Whole Foods. To be honest, I’ve been a little smug about the idea that I haven’t taken a plastic bag from a store in months.  
When I forget my reusable bags, I just put all the groceries back into the cart and transfer them into the bags that are always waiting in the trunk or at home. I tell myself that the hassle will help me remember the next time, although it’s amazing how often I forget.  But I don’t take the plastic bags that the clerks so desperately want to give me. Ever.
Until… Recently, I forgot to take the beloved bags into Target, and I (gasp!) took a few plastic bags from the clerk, saying sheepishly, “Well, I have a new puppy at home, so I do need some poop bags.” I thought of conversations I’ve had with friends about how they only take plastic grocery bags because they have a dog. 
I haven’t regretted NOT saying “no” this much since college. ;-) My smug-streak came to a screeching halt.
So, I decided right then, never to do it again.  But, I want to be a good dog owner and can’t leave Bella’s little piles of pleasure all over the park.  I’m not sure I can commit to carrying a pooper-scooper with me everywhere we go. What’s a girl to do?
I’ll tell you what: I opened my eyes and realized how much I’d been kidding myself about my plastic bag consumption.  I may not take plastic bags from the grocery clerk, but I most certainly take them from the grocery shelves.  You know what comes in plastic bags? Everything.  Bread, buns, produce, deli meat, tortillas, cereal, marshmallows, frozen veggies, frozen fruit, Halloween candy… 
And the grocery store is only the beginning. Since I started collecting poop bags, I’ve notice that the strangest things come in plastic bags: instructions to our new microwave, flyers on the door handle, projects coming home from school, and of course, the neighbor’s newspaper.
My puppy is young. Just like a human baby, she poops about every three hours.  That’s a lot of bags, but I haven’t run out yet.  The good news is that I am now, once again, convinced that there is no excuse to take a “disposable” plastic shopping bag from the store. The bad news is that even when you cut shopping bags out of your life, there is still so much plastic sneaking in. 
So, as a people that care about the environment, our children, the future, and the example we set, what can we do? Following are a few ideas from easy to awesome:
  • ·      Give your plastic bags to a neighbor with a dog so they won’t resort to “disposable” shopping bags.
  • If you have a dog, try biodegradable poop bags from Petco. (Just stole idea this off the comment below). Please post your ideas too!
  • ·      Pay attention to the (over) packaging of what you buy and use your dollars accordingly, especially if you don’t need any extra plastic bags.
  • ·      Invest is a few reusable bags ($0.99 at Whole Foods) and swear off plastic grocery bags forever. It’s far more fun to be smug than sheepish. 
  • ·      Write to your local elected officials and ask them to support a ban of or fee on “disposable” plastic shopping bags.
  • ·      Above all, mother your Bella Blue.
your bella blue

Monday, October 18, 2010

Inventions that BLOW!

Brace yourself.  ‘Tis the season for me to go off!
Ask my family:  What’s Mommy’s biggest pet peeve?
Answer:  Leaf Blowers!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am sometimes too logical for my own good.  But in this case, a little logic is needed.  In my opinion, leaf blowers are almost the most insane invention ever to take hold. They follow closely behind the world’s stupidest ideas: bottled water and “disposable” plastic bags.  See what I mean?  Just the thought of leaf blowers makes me all crazy and nasty. Sorry. I’ll try to stick to the facts:

Average Rake
Average Leaf Blower
Less than 2 pounds
6-12 pounds



$80-$420 plus gas


Swing 1 lb back and forth until all leaves or clippings are in a pile.

Swing 10 lbs back and forth until all leaves or clippings are in a pile.

Noise Pollution

None.  J

70-75 dB (see below for how ridiculous this is.)

Air Pollution

None.  J

Equal to 80 cars! (I think we can all see how ridiculous  this is.)

Is it me, or is it nuts to pay hundreds of dollars for a piece of carbon-pollution-generating equipment that makes a job more difficult and far more annoying? Like so many of the seemingly small or unimportant choices we make every day, this one is simply silly if you just stop to think about it.

Not to mention, leaf raking is good, old fashioned, family fun. Who would want to miss this?

4 Reasons Not to Use a Leaf Blower
1. They pollute the air. 
 A single gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution in a year as 80 cars.
2. They're noisy.
A normal decibel level, considered acceptable in residential areas, is about 60 decibels (60dB). Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder. Leaf-blowers usually generate about 70-75 dB. According to the U.S. EPA this level of noise actually degrades quality of life by interfering with communication and sleep, leads to reduced accuracy of work and increased levels of aggravation, which can linger hours after exposure.
3. They worsen allergies and asthma and irritate the lungs. Because they operate at such high velocities, leaf blowers stir up the mold, allergens, and dust particles that otherwise have been tamped down with rain and decomposition.
4. They waste gas. Rakes and even electric-lawn blowers offer a petroleum-free alternative.
Note to self (and readers):  Add this website to list of favorites. 

Baby Step of the week: Quit the leaf blower habit. 
It’s not quite as foolish as smoking, but it’s pretty darn stupid.

A baby step you don’t even have to take:  If you have people who take care of your yard, you don’t even have to take this baby step, just ask them to make the change.  Tell them that you want to be a good neighbor and don’t want to annoy others with the noise; tell them you want to save their company money in gas and equipment; tell them your kid has asthma and the leaf blowers make it worse; tell them you care about the planet. Really, who can argue with that?  Say whatever makes you comfortable. Just say it.

Ask your gardeners, your spouse and even your neighbors to can the leaf blowers starting today. Or ask yourself: why not? 


Monday, October 4, 2010

This is War!

When cancer declares war on one of our people, our people declare war on cancer.  Cancer declared war on Susan G. Komen.  She lost her battle, but she started a war.

Yesterday, I participated in my first Race for the Cure ®.  I wasn’t ready. I was ready to walk the 5k, no problem. But I wasn’t prepared to walk behind a beautiful girl no older than 13. She walked with a friend. Silently. That alone was shocking.  Yet, without saying a word, the girl told me her story.  On her back was a sign that said:

I race in memory of

My Mom.
I love you and I miss you so much.

No, I wasn’t prepared for that. When I read that sign, the only thing that kept me from collapsing in tears was the river of pink and white t-shirts I saw walking in front of me, next to me, behind me.  50,000 “mothers” (people who act with kindness and affection) showed up to let that kid know we care.

Every woman diagnosed with breast cancer is some mother’s child.  Far too often, a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is some child’s mother. 

In 1980: Most people were embarrassed to say the word breast out loud. Insurance companies wouldn’t pay for breast reconstruction. Far too many mothers and daughters were losing their lives to breast cancer.  But one young mother promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything she could to help breast cancer patients.

Lucky for us, that young mother, Nancy Brinker, is a genius. She didn’t reach out to doctors or CEOs or congress.  She gathered a group of women who gathered more women who put a pink ribbon on breast cancer and changed everything.  They –we - our people - the “mothers” of the world - the people who act with kindness and affection – we changed everything.

We made the term breast cancer a household word not an embarrassing secret.  We popularized mammograms and self-exams. We made bald a badge of courage. We raised $1.5 BILLION! We forced insurance companies to pay for reconstruction. Heck, they’ve even come up with a procedure in which belly fat is used to create the new breasts!

I didn’t do that. Nancy Brinker didn’t do that. Our people did that. Together:  one conversation, one pink product purchase, and one self-exam at a time.

There are two kinds of signs that racers wear at Race for the Cure ®.  One is “in memory of” the loved ones that lost their battles. The other is “in celebration of” the survivors who lived to fight another day. My sign said:

I race in CELEBRATION of
My mother.

I thank you, my people, for that.

You have power beyond measure.  Use it wisely.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


If you’re my age, you might have childhood memories that go something like this:

Saturday night is bridge night.  You love bridge night because your parents take you and your sister with them to these parties.  The grownups sit around one or two card tables playing a game that is impossible to understand. While the cards distract the adults, you can walk right by and snag handfuls of “bridge mix” (chocolate-covered who-cares-what) from little crystal dishes found on every corner of the  tables. 
Your parents bring your pajamas because bridge usually goes late and includes several martinis for them and lots of TV and candy for you.  Eventually you fall asleep in front of your friends’ TV wearing the fuzzy pink jammies with feet that will become a bunny costume for Halloween. Once the grownups have washed down the last martini, you head home.
            Your dad carries you to the car and carefully places you on the back dash of the Chevy Impala so that you can stretch out there to sleep. Your sister sleeps across the back seat. It’s practically bunk beds.  Brilliant.
            On the way home, your dad (who always drove) pulls in to Dunkin Donuts for a large Styrofoam cup of coffee to counteract that last martini.  If he finishes it before getting home, he might simply toss the cup out the car window.  The world was huge back then and one little cup didn’t make a difference.  Or did it?

It sounds absurd now, but back in the ‘70s, no one gave any of this a second thought until:  the Indian got sad, the moms got mad and the word got out.

If you recognize the story above, you probably recognize this guy too.  Advertising executives jammed him into our brains on Earth Day, 1971 where he has lived ever since.  The “Crying Indian” came ashore in his canoe, walked up to the edge of the freeway and stared hopelessly at smokestacks and traffic as one passenger threw a bag of fast food garbage at his feet.  He made our moms cry.  He made them think. And then they taught us not to litter.
Car seats existed in 1971, but none of the children whizzing by the dismayed native was in one. Then someone showed mothers that children were dying needlessly every day. Can you imagine tucking your toddler into the back dash of a Honda? Today, carseats are an inconvenient, ugly, expensive but completely accepted fact of life.
Once I could drive myself, I didn’t hesitate to drive home from a party after uncountable beers. It never crossed my mind that I might kill myself, or someone I loved, or someone that someone else loved.  All I can say for myself is that I was not the only one. It was considered acceptable - until it wasn’t.  In 1980, a mom buried a child and started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) the very next day. She has dedicated her life to making us think about the consequences of our actions.

·      We don’t litter.
·      We don’t let our children ride unrestrained.
·      We don’t drive drunk.

It sounds absurd now.  We don’t even think about it.

·      We drink our coffee then throw the cup (and its plastic lid) out the window into a landfill. Every day.
·      We pay more for water than gasoline.
·      We use plastic grocery bags for an average of 12 minutes and leave them on the Earth forever.

It sounds absurd now.  Please, think about it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Do Lunch Do Over

Hmmm. I may have to rethink my suggestions about Bento Buddies and thermos’.  Literally the day after I posted about all those expensive-but-worth-it reusable lunch items, my 9-year-old lost her lunchbox at school.  Since it contained almost a full set of new Bento Buddies ($12) and a new thermos ($8) in an old lunchbox ($10), it was kind of frustrating when she didn’t come home with it. Needless to say, she’ll be getting lots of GladWare in her even older lunchbox the next few months.  Still no excuse for baggies and disposable plastic bottles.  
 Interestingly, the missing lunchbox never showed up in the class lunch wagon or the lost and found.  Is that because the “finder” was so in love with the colorful containers and cool Star Wars Thermos that he couldn’t bare to drop the lunchbox into the lost and found?  Or could it have something to do with said 9-year-old falling in love with the cool new GoGreen bento/lunch box/whiteboard combo she saw on my blog the night before?  Hmmmm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


       You’re moms. So I don’t have to explain why it’s taken me so long to come up with the blog about greening our lunch boxes.  You don’t need to know about how 6 in-laws were visiting while we were preparing to evacuate our house due to the Boulder Canyon wildfire.  You understand.  You’re busy too. 
We’re all busy. That’s why products like Lunchables exist. I like to think that we’ve come a long way since the bologna on Wonder® bread, potato chips in a baggy and warm milk I had in my Snoopy lunch box. I think that Lunchables contain about the same nutritional value as my 1970s version. Unfortunately, Lunchables are packed in plastic that is wrapped in plastic then over-wrapped in plastic coated cardboard, shipped across the country and sold for about ten times the price of their old-school counterpart. But they’re quicker, easier and unfortunately, kids LOVE them.  
So, while I can’t hide my feelings about Lunchables, I can remind you that this blog is not about guilt, it’s about baby steps. It’s about all of us making small changes, and convincing a friend or two to do the same. 

Are you willing to take a baby step this week?
Step 1: Instead of a prepackaged “meal” like Lunchables, pack a lunch or buy hot lunch once more per week.
Hot lunch is actually the greenest way to go. But, unless you live in Boulder or Berkeley, it may not be the healthiest. More on Boulder’s hot lunch program later.
Step 2: Say goodbye to juice boxes and single-use bottles: Invest in a thermos or reusable water bottle. 
Step 3: Replace 1-2 individually wrapped snack items (chips, goldfish, pretzels) with reusable containers (not Baggies!).
Buying food in bigger bags (not necessarily giant bulk packages) saves money. I usually fill up several small containers with crackers and snacks at the beginning of the week so I can throw one in at the last minute.
Step 4: Trust your kids with flatware and cloth napkins instead of plastic forks and spoons.
Step 5 DIVE IN: If you have most of these items already (and you probably do), ask yourself if you can commit to  “waste free” lunches for one week. Once you’ve done it for a week…

Making these changes doesn’t have to be expensive.  Avoid buying new plastic if you can. If you own it and it’s safe, USE IT.  If you don’t, here are some resources for buying new. 
Make sure whatever you use is lead, BPA and phthalate FREE. The tag should tell you. More on the various poisons found in plastic to come. For now, trust me on this one.
ALL of these items and so many more can be found on my new favorite site:

BOTTLES: The initial investment seems expensive, but you will save so much in the long run. Don’t forget to put your kids’ names on them with permanent marker! (photos NOT to scale)

1.    2.  3. 
1.  It’s not really a thermos, but Gracie says her Camelback bottle keeps drinks cold, even when it sits in the hot car.

2. We have 3 Klean Kanteen bottles. One leaks.

3. I’m mad at Sigg because they sold us stainless steel water bottles lined with BPA, but they have since fixed the problem, and they are darn cute. (Plus mine have never leaked.)


4.   5.  6. 
4. Best news I’ve heard in a long time: GladWare® is BPA and phthalate free and always has been. Yes, it’s plastic (Mother Earth’s biggest pet peeve) but if you already own it, use it.  Don’t throw it into the ocean only to buy more plastic. Available at Target, Wal-Mart, everywhere...
5. Lunchbots:  I don't have any of these since I still have lots of GladWare, but I like the fact that they're not plastic.
6. Bento Buddies by Laptop lunch (Also at Whole Foods)
The rectangular shape makes these easier to pack than round GladWare®. The little dip container makes veggies much more desirable.  My friend Bevin tells me that so many little lids are hard for smaller kids-- which brings us to the next cool item.  Thank you Bevin! Check out Bevin’s Blog, The Food Evangelist,  for ideas about what to put in these lunches: (Note: Our blogs are not normally as similar as they are this week.)
7. Bevin's Find: This little bundle has the whole package - even a little whiteboard for love notes.  I’m trying (really hard!) not to buy things I don’t need. Otherwise, the UPS man would be arriving in 3-5 business days... (This one is not on yet)


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pay Attention

It’s all about sustainability.  If you try to give up your car entirely, you probably won’t succeed.  If you try to live a plastic-free life, you definitely won’t succeed.  It’s like dieting.  When I was young, I was always trying to lose that extra 5 pounds. Okay 20 pounds. Whatever. I tried many extreme measures: hating myself, living on grapefruit or sauerkraut, giving half my paycheck to a gym for access to a class I hated. Ask my college roommate how the sauerkraut diet turned out. Eesh! None of it worked.

When I got pregnant with my first child, everything changed.  I educated myself about what I was eating and what I should be eating. I took the time to create healthy meals and made sure I was getting enough protein, vitamins, fiber and exercise.  I cared. 

I gained 50 pounds when I was pregnant, but I never loved my body more.  This body that I had all along could make a baby! It’s a miracle machine.  How can you not respect a body that can do that? Once I fell in love with my body, even my 50-pounds-bigger-than-usual body, the rest was easy.

I never dieted again. I remembered to take vitamins more often.  I ate more whole grains.  I took the stairs instead of the elevator. I began to mother myself: I looked after my body “kindly and protectively, with care and affection.” Remember, that’s the definition of mothering.  I gained 50 pounds when I was pregnant.  I lost 60 – one small choice at a time.

The point is that starving yourself doesn’t work. Swearing off plastic or driving isn’t sustainable. Baby steps work. Caring works. Mothering works.

Baby step of the week:  pay attention. Notice the cool, crisp fall air.  Think about how lucky we are that ours is the planet with the blue sky.  Smell the grass. Doesn’t the green go so nicely with the blue?  If you’re lucky enough to live near the ocean, get in.  If your lucky enough to live near the mountains, hike up. Look at your child.  Listen to her breathe.

Once you’ve been reminded that this planet of ours is a miracle machine too, pay attention to the choices.  Don’t do the guilt thing. Pay attention to other people’s choices. (Trust me, it’s easier this way.) Stand behind the row of cash registers at Safeway and notice the carts full of single use plastic bags going out the door.  Linger on the front lawn of your kids’ school and notice how many kids are being dropped off in cars or notice the cars on the road with only one person inside. Notice the water delivered in plastic instead of pipes. Notice the coffee in cups that will never be used again.

I know what you’re thinking:  It’s hard not to pay attention to your own choices.  It’s because you’re a mother and you care. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Mother Earth"

My blog is titled Mother Earth, but I’m not a big fan of the term.  It’s a little too granola for me.  I’m more flip-flops than Birkenstocks.  But I am a big fan of Earth. I’m super fond of mothers too.  I am a mother. I have a wonderful mother. Most of my best friends are mothers. Many of my favorite people (men and women) while not technically mothers are mothers in spirit. Whether you are a mother by definition or by nature, this probably defines your daily actions:

mother: verb [ trans. ]
1. to look after kindly and protectively, with care and affection

If that’s what it means to mother, being called a mother is a pretty nice compliment. (Unless someone is yelling at you in traffic. That’s a different kind of mother. Ignore that person.)

When I started to think of mother as a verb rather than a noun, the term mother earth took on a whole new meaning for me. I realized it’s not necessarily a name. It’s a request, a command, a call to action. What if we look after the earth kindly and protectively, with care and affection? We can do that.  We’re mothers.  It’s what we do best.

I’ve heard the term Eco-Nazi. I am sooooooo NOT that.  Like I said, more flip-flops than Birkenstocks.  But I believe that mothers are quite possibly the solution to the environmental problems of the planet.  We have enormous power.  I think we can make a HUGE impact - one water bottle, one reusable shopping bag, one dollar, one decision at a time.  I promise: I’m not going to ask you to change your life.  I’m going to ask you to change the world.  Start by asking yourself this simple question:

What if we mother Earth?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Are My People

          Fill in the blank:  I am a ________.  Did you say mother? Or was it woman or Jew or tax accountant?  For a lot of us, I think the first word that comes to mind is mother.  I am a woman.  It’s what I am.  I am a writer. That’s what I do.  But a mother is what I am and what I do.  It’s not the only thing, but it’s everything.

          I am also a white, sort of Protestant, middle-aged, American woman.  Unfortunately, that often leaves me feeling like I am nothing - not without value but without people.  I’ve always been attracted to Catholicism and Judaism because I like the traditions and rules. It seems like everyone at the service knows exactly what to do no matter how complicated the ritual or prayer.  They belong. I think my husband’s Jewish heritage was one of the first things that attracted me, but we are not Jewish.  We light candles every night of Hanukah, but my kids think kosher is a flavor of pickle.

          I find myself jealous of black women in that I’d like to consider my girlfriends sisters. If I called my best friend “Sister,” she’d think I’ve lost it.  Still, I try.  I give friends nicknames.  It’s my way of saying: You belong with me.  You are part of my club. I know you.  

          In Hawaii where we spend much of our summer, the local kids call their adult friends Auntie and Uncle no matter if they are related or not.  I like it.  We tried it when our kids were little.  My girls still refer to a few of our old friends as Uncle Dan and Uncle Dave. When Uncle Dave started dating and eventually married Sharon, she didn’t appreciate being called “Uncle Sharon” so that kind of went out the window. What?! I didn’t make it up.  My kids were little. They thought: Uncle goes with Uncle.  Plus, it was funny. I still think Uncle Sharon is a term of endearment.

          The truth is that I’ve always wanted people: a group that is special, that a person is part of simply based on who or what she is.  None of my groups (white, American, middle-aged) really gave me that feeling of connection – until I became a mom. 

          When you are a mom, you are part of a society. You can say things like, “It’s a mom thing,” or “You’re a mom. You understand.” You have each other’s back.  You get it. 

          I read in a parenting magazine that we should teach our children to go to a mom with kids when they are lost in an airport or shopping mall. It’s like saying, “These are our people.  They are safe. They will always help you.”  And it’s true. 

         I reviewed that lesson right as we arrived at Sea World a few years ago.  Less than an hour later, we noticed that my then 6-year-old daughter Emma was missing.  And I mean really missing, not just 10 feet away out of sight.  My husband ran back to the sea lion exhibit and found her while I searched the line at the dolphin show literally dialing 9-1-1.  By the time Brad got to Emma, a mom with kids had found her crying and clearly lost. The mom gave her a tray of sardines to feed the sea lions and stayed with Emma until we got there.  When I arrived, I hugged that woman until we were both sobbing.  It doesn’t matter if she was black, or Jewish, or a tax accountant. She was a stranger. She was my sister.  She was a mother. She is one of my people.  And so are you.