Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Obama funny with a great message

Make the time to make history, grab a friend (or two) and go out and vote on Nov. 4th! I don't know about you, but I always take my boys along with me when I vote. It's a great time to explain the process, explain your views and remind them how lucky we are to live in such a great country. I know I want my sons invested in the idea of our right to vote and their future ability to make a difference in our world. Besides? There's just nothing cuter than a gaggle of little boys (OK, so now some are big boys) proudly wearing "I Voted!" stickers!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween UNedibles!

And here after I said my plate was too full to blog... However, this is too important not to pass along and yes, it true, you can confirm it on Snopes here.

As if we didn't already know the food system in our country was broken and it was a bad, bad, bad idea to eat food coming from China, here's a warning about Halloween chocolates that may contain melamine. The warning comes from Canada regarding Pirate's Gold Milk Chocolate Coins sold in Costco stores. Please read the article and make sure to check your children's Halloween baskets for these candies and warn them against eating anything before the arrive home.

From Snopes:

"On October 8, 2008, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a consumer advisory warning the public not eat, distribute or sell Sherwood brand Pirate's Gold milk chocolate imported from China. The candy is being recalled for testing positive for the industrial chemical melamine, a substance at the center of the tainted milk controversy in China. The coins were being sold across Canada by Costco and may have also been vended in bulk packaged or as individual pieces at dollar and bulk stores."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beaten by the Economy

I am tired, I am frustrated and most of all I am sad. I have been beaten by the economy. No time to post here on the blog regularly, barely ten minutes for my kids these days, not to mention my husband.

The forecast is pretty bleak here in Michigan. Chrysler plans to cut one out of every four jobs by the end of the year, Ford and GM are pretty much in the same boat. Plants are closing, local businesses are shuttered, people are moving and prospects are pretty grim.

To make up for our decrease in income, I have been back to working full time, including travel, stress and 50-60 hour weeks. My husband is working pretty much all hours of the waking day and we are trying not to become one of the statistics. We keep telling ourselves that we're just thankful to be employed, we're thankful to have our home and we're most thankful for our healthy children.

Our neighborhood, once easily recognized as "the" place to live by simply mentioning a zip code is now a wasteland of dreams. Many homes have been foreclosed upon and auctioned, some just up and abandoned. One of those was looted and used by teenagers as a party place, so today I look from my kitchen window upon a boarded up home complete with sagging siding and waist-high weeds. This certainly can't be where I live, this is not where I want to be today.

I've tried to find the good, fighting to stay green around the edges as the green in our wallet dwindled. We've volunteered our time instead of donating our money, we helped neighbors in their time of crisis, we've looked for the silver lining.

It just wasn't there.

If you would, please excuse the lack of posts. Pardon the partisan political statements. I apologize for the lack of fun and humor. I've just lost my ability to find my way at the moment. The way back to the way it was before. Before my friends were losing their jobs left and right. Before foreclosure was so common my kids now know about their friends losing their homes. Before banks got a bailout while parents work 50 hour weeks just to save their homes and dreams.

I'll be dropping in and out here, when I can, and reading your blogs for a pick-me-up. Goodness knows, I certainly will need them! See you soon,

~ Eco 'burban mom

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Green Mom on the road...

I've been gone for four days. Traveling for work, attending some trade markets and in general miserably sleeping in hotel rooms, eating chain restaurant food with co-workers and missing my children and husband. However, this isn't a misery, gripe and cry blog. It's a green blog. So, here's how I try, really try, to make business travel a little greener.

1. Carry a Sigg, Kleen Kanteen or other reusable water bottle as well as morning coffee mug. Remember - please don't attempt to carry a Sigg full of water or tea through security. They really don't look to happy when you want to dump water into one of the gray bins. Bonus? While in meetings your co-workers will sneak curious glances at your dented, birdie and flower printed Sigg and wonder... "What in the heck do you think she's got in there??"

2. Why walk when you can ride? I'm from Detroit and we lack any reliable source of public transportation of any kind, so when in Rome.... At trade shows, large cities or markets I ride the shuttle buses, opt for ride share taxis or vans to and from the airports, I take the train or subways. Occasionally, I have a co-worker or two who thinks this is a hassle, but for the most part they are game and I save the company some cash which they love.

3. Hotel living is certainly not like home, but you should act like it. Turn out the lights when you leave the room, ask the front desk not to leave a newspaper at your door (unless you read it, then in which case recycle it), reuse your towels, turn of the tap and in general, behave just as you would at home. Except for the whole "yank off the yucky comforter and throw it in the corner" thing...

4. BYOS - otherwise known as "Bring Your Own Stuff". A shampoo bar is a girl's best friend. It gets around the TSA's funny "NO LIQUIDS unless in a 3 oz. container in yet another plastic zip-top bag" rule. For a few days a shampoo bar is perfect for washing your hair, scrubbing your bod and even shaving your legs and underarms. Those little freebies at the hotel? Leave them untouched or ask the front desk to remove them so they can be used by someone who needs them.

5. Here's my biggest pitfall. Eating out. When with a large group someone usually says, let's eat at Crapplebees or Thank God It's Not Fridays! UGH. Factory farmed meats, dehydrated veggies and corn syrup laden drinks. Sometimes you just can't avoid going with the group consensus, at which time I usually ask the waiter for vegetarian options, usually getting the eyebrow raise from a co-worker as if to say, Oh, she's one of those. Yeah, well, I'm also your boss so let's keep that in mind. However, when I'm traveling solo, or with an adventurous pal, I usually ask the concierge for a local suggestion or a place specializing in fresh, organic or regional specialty foods. I have had some pretty good opportunities to dine in some great restaurants from coast to coast that might have looked questionable from the outside, but had some great food and people inside. The bellman is usually pretty happy to suggest his wife's favorite restaurant or his brother's little hole in the wall place specializing in killer tamales!

6. Guilt gifts. I hate to say it, but sometimes you just gotta cave and bring the kiddies something so they have that to look forward to when Mom comes home. And? Dad can totally snap a four-year old out of an "I miss Mommy whiiiiine" with the reminder of a special surprise sure to come. A great idea is to stock up on things AHEAD of time. I never have a spare minute while on the road and I hate to buy plastic, airport crap. The next time you are at a craft fair or art store, pick up neat (read lightweight...) coloring books, crafts, books, tattoos, pencils etc. and stash them in a back or hidden pocket of your travel case. Voila! Upon returning home choose and item or two and you have a gift you can live with purchasing and you are a four-year old's very cool Mom.

There you have it, I have tons of little tips and tricks for business travel. But, I am home and have a mountain of laundry to do and lots of little kiddies that want to see what I've brought them....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Signs of Hope - Please Help!

In the wake of the hate, anger and untruths (video) that threaten to separate our nation and it's people, let's join together. I refuse to believe that my children will grow up in a world of separatists, ignorance or hate. These scenes (video) from the rallies in Pennsylvania literally brought tears to my eyes and I pray my children never see this degradation of our culture. Rather than let this break my spirit, I believe we can work together.

So, whomever your candidate, whatever your party, please spread messages of hope. Please spread messages of community. Please tell your children stories about how to work together, to bring peace to our country and to care about one another. Please spread the hope!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What if...

Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin, what if things were switched around?.....think about it.
Would the country's collective point of view be different?

Ponder the following:

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to painkillers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker, and Obama couldn't read correctly from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one with a history of public display, on many occasions, of a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are? This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference. Neither is perfect but color shouldn't be a factor.

Educational Background:

Barack Obama:

Columbia University - B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.

Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude ("With Great Honor")

Joseph Biden:

University of Delaware - B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.

Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)

John McCain:

United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in Journalism

Education may not be everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land as well as our standing in the world. Think about it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Cost of Going Green - The Dining Room

My dining room:

Craigslist antique furniture find - 1910 Mission-style dining set made of quarter-sawn oak - a table, 8 chairs, 4 leaves, custom made cabinet for leaf storage, buffet and mirror for $2300.

Planet savings: Buying used helps to control use of forested trees, toxic chemicals and factory waste and trucking carbon emissions. Buying locally put my $2300 right back into the hands of a family less than 30 minutes from my home.

Wallet savings: A comparable set of the same quality new would have cost around $11,000. Of course we have a few dings and scuffs and the chair seats should be recovered. So, I really only estimate my savings to average around $6000. However, with that savings I can contribute to all four of my boy's college funds for an entire year.

Setting the table:

We've nixed paper plates, disposable utensils and paper cups.

Planet savings: It's proven that an energy star rated dishwasher only run when full saves 25% more energy than the standard dishwasher. You save even more by choosing the no-heat dry cycle. One set of good quality stoneware and utensils will last for years. (Unless you have - ahem - boys with the dropsies!) All of the paper plates, utensils and cups saved from the landfill for a family of six is potentially staggering.

Wallet savings: When we used to buy paper plates I could easily use a $10.50 package of Dixie plates from Costco every two weeks - roughly the same for paper cups. A total monthly cost of $30-40. Factor in a slight increase in dishwasher usage and I approximate a monthly savings of $25. That sounds little today, but when you add it up over a year I am saving $300. One car payment. The January gas bill. Two nights of hotel stay on vacation. That's worth it!

Green changes are great for the planet, but when you add up the savings, it really is great for your wallet.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

OK, so I'm procrastinating. Again.

I planned to start my series on "The Cost of Going Green" tomorrow, but I was called out of town on business. Doesn't it just suck how work keeps interfering with my life? Though, given the economy, I think I'll keep my day job. So, in lieu of a real, thoughtful and cerebral post, I leave you with these political funnies. See you tomorrow!
  • "Naturally the smart thing to do to solve your economic woes is to demonize the Democrats. And of course, Sarah Palin is more than happy to oblige. She's been saying that Obama hangs out with terrorists. And you know, I think the evangelical lady who's in a video getting blessed by a witch doctor, who's married to a secessionist, and can't name a newspaper -- she's right, Obama is scary." --Bill Maher
  • "The question she keeps asking at all of the rallies is, 'Who is Barack Obama?' You know what, genius, maybe if you'd picked up a newspaper in the last year you'd know. He's the guy who's kicking your ass." --Bill Maher
  • "They had the town hall format, and that meant that the candidates could wander around on stage. You know, I like John McCain, but wandering around on stage there, he looked like a retiree who can't find his Buick." --David Letterman
  • "Are you excited about Sarah Palin? Well, yesterday she referred to Afghanistan as our neighboring country. Apparently, she can see bin Laden's cave from her house." --David Letterman
  • "The legislative panel in Alaska investing Troopergate released their report that says Sarah Palin illegally abused her power as governor by firing the state police chief because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband. But they said she didn't actually break the law so she won't go to prison. Which is a pity because it would have been the first time she was ever involved in a complete sentence." --Bill Maher
  • Jon Stewart on whether he's taking sides in the election: "If you, out of nowhere, are going to grab a woman out of the woods and make her your vice presidential candidate, what can I do? [Sarah Palin] is like Jodie Foster in the movie 'Nell.' They just found her, and she was speaking her own special language. Have you noticed how [Palin's] rallies have begun to take on the characteristics of the last days of the Weimar Republic? In Florida, she asked 'Who is Barack Obama?' Hey, lady, we just met YOU five f**ing weeks ago."

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Cost of Going Green - Part 1

I've been a little despondent lately. I mean, who hasn't? Between my regular day-to-day activities that can just plain wear me right out, now we've got to monitor CNN or NPR regularly for imminent stock market crashes or bank catastrophes. To quote a old favorite movie of mine, I've sorta been in "The pit of despair" and a little absent from the blog world.

To share a little, I'm a young mother and I've been through some pretty lean times when my kids were young and I had little money. If the rent was paid and the kids fed, it was a successful week. Though, through education and hard work I've managed to own a nice home, drive a new car, I never worry about food on the table and have even carved out a little savings, an IRA and some college fund cash for later use. Only to see my hard work, sweat and tears being pissed away each time I open a statement from our financial advisor. And, now I'M pissed. Really. I am. I have succeeded because I busted my ass. I worked hard, I put my kids first and I have given back whenever I could and now? I'm being punished for it and so is my bank account.

Friends ask why I just don't give up this "green thing" as they call it. Isn't it more expensive? Oh, all that organic food just costs so much, they say. Wouldn't eating regular food save you some money? What about all the natural beauty products? Wouldn't you just save more by getting all of that from Target? I can't imagine what you pay for handmade soap!

And then, I am just pissed again. Why doesn't anyone see it? I actually, freakin' SAVE money by being conscious of what I buy and who I buy it from. Because of that local businesses benefit from my dollar spent, which means they in turn can buy products from someone else. Hellooooo? Anyone in there? If our dollars are spent in our own community, maybe EVERYONE would benefit. Cripes.

So, rather than keep ranting and choking back curse words, I thought I would write a simple series of posts on "The Cost of Going Green". Do you want to see in my wallet? Do you want to see where my money goes? Do you want to know exactly how much I save each month by going green? Well, then, I'll tell ya. It's actually freakishly frugal.

Starting next week, look for my new series of posts, organized by room of the home, right on down to the furry, four-footed critters sleeping on my feet at this very moment. I swear, it's cheaper. I swear, it's better for the environment. I swear, it's better for the local economy. And, most of all? I swear, it's easy. And, today with all the craziness and stress, couldn't we all use a little easy?

Oh, I see you rolling your eyes out there. You don't believe me, do you? Put down the Cascadian Farms granola bar and back away from the Horizon yogurt in plastic tubes, you'll be glad you did. Your wallet will thank you. The planet might even hug you. See you on Monday!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Even a Novice Can Build Community

Many bloggers write about building community. Green Bean has great tips and pointers on how to reach out to schools, townships and cities. One Element in Time has an entire series on ways you can help build your community to sustain yourself and the planet. I have always been a bit envious of their courage, their strength.

These bloggers have wonderful ideas, however I hadn't really ventured out of my own shell to try these ideas on for size until Friday night. See, I do attempt to build community, though I tend to stay in my own comfort zone. We started a recycling program for our little league which was a challenge, yet directly related to my boys, so I tackled it. I wrote our school district leaders and had a conference call with the food service department to address the reauthorization of The Child Nutrition Act that affects the school lunch program. Again, I reached out into my community, but again, it directly affected my family and their schools. I write letters to congress, address ecological issues to our Lake Association and even host the blog for our local Michigan for Obama campaign office.

Selfishly, many of these efforts are directly related to things I personally feel passionate about or want changed in our community. This Friday I broke out of my comfort zone and attended a "Power of Community" meeting planned by the brilliant woman who organizes our food club.

She brought together farmers, bee keepers, students, energy conservation specialists, teachers, bloggers and activists. The first half of the evening was a screening of the movie "The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" For those who haven't seen this movie, it's an hour well spent. I'm sure your local library might have it or it cold be found online. Yes, you could watch this movie by yourself, but as the woman who sponsored our event said, "Isn't the point of community, getting together as a community to watch the movie?" I plan to review the movie in a later post, for those interested.

The second half of the evening featured introductions of all the "Community Leaders" she invited that were present in the audience followed by a meet and greet in the lobby where products and information were available. And, wouldn't you know it, she asked two bloggers in the audience to stand up - I was surprised to find out my name was being called. How could I be a community leader? I simply sit behind my desk, with the anonymously of my computer screen to protect me and I blog. I write letters. I pass along valuable information. I get frustrated, I rant, I write funnies about my kids and sometimes I just vent. I rarely think that this little contribution builds community.

As the leader of our food club pointed out, alone she wouldn't have the time to research the information I write about on the food club blog. Alone, she wouldn't be able to reach across the country, from east coast to west, gathering information about food, politics, policy and greener living. She doesn't have the time. She is busy sourcing local foods, meeting with farmers, organizing her product for the Farmer's Market and most importantly, raising her twin boys. That's her part in building community. And mine? The information I provide to her and the members of our club is my little part in building community. See? Even a novice can do it! So, each time you sit at your computer to blog and you don't think it really matters or that no one is reading. They are. You are building community with every keystroke!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten

In other words... Lessons learned from my four-year old:

While in Trader Joe's for groceries, my youngest happily pointed out to the clerk manning the register that he found the stuffed monkey hidden in the coffee and he would like his "prize". After joyously accepting his organic lollipop the clerk asks if he would like a balloon. Oh, yes, goodie, goodie yes he would certainly like a balloon! Green, please.

The clerk reaches up and takes the entire group of green balloons and proceeds to offer one small four-year old the ENTIRE batch balloons. My son looks up at him quizzically and says, "No fwanks, I onaly need one bawoon." The clerk is surprised and looks at me as if to say, what are you kidding me? I was going to give him seven balloons and he only wants one?

I reach down, tie the single green balloon to my son's wrist and head to the parking lot. Hey, Bubba, I ask, why did you only want one balloon? His wise little face, dripping with sticky lollipop residue looks up at me and grins. "Momma, I need to leave bawoons at the store for other kids. Someone else might want a green one too!"

Yes, everything we needed to know we learned in Kindergarten. Imagine if we all only took what we needed and made sure everyone got what they needed too. Thanks for the lesson, little one, you certainly are wise!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Need a House? Here's a Nice One...

I don't know about you, but my kids could really go for this air conditioned playhouse and I'm pretty sure the eco 'burban dad could throw a good party with the Budweiser on tap at the three full bars around the inground pool. Me? Well, I certainly could use 14.5 bathrooms. Shoot, I could clean one a day for two whole weeks! Oh? You said you wanted it? OK, fine. I'll let you have it...

Update: Apparently this video has mysteriously disappeared from CNN. Don't you find that just a little suspicious? I do! So, if you still want to see the video, you can still get it on YouTube!