Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's Not Easy Being Green, Right Kermie?

I remember when I was a teenager and the biggest environmental issue was our use of aerosol cans. It was imperative that we stop using them because we had pretty much made a doily out of the ozone layer. Perhaps it was just the media's way of getting us to stop teasing and spraying our bangs up 12 inches. But either way, they convinced us to put down our gallon cans of Aquanet.

Now it's all about our carbon footprint, hybrid vehicles, recycling, bringing your own bags to the grocery store...just when you think you are at your greenest, they come out with some new green product that's a must-have. Cleaning products, using landfills to generate green energy, energy efficient light bulbs. They say that green is the new black.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about being green. I'm a vegan, recycling, tree-hugging hippie myself (I draw the line at Berkinstocks though). And I often wonder how long being green is going to stick with us. Is it just a trend? The newest scheme to get us to redirect our money from gas-guzzlers to fuel-efficient models?

Never have the words of our green friend, Kermit the Frog, been so true: "It's not easy being green." You're right Kermie, it's pretty darn exhausting.

If you're thinking, it's all so overwhelming and expensive, you're right. But I recently came up with a plan that I think might work for me. Each time I do a big grocery shopping--about once a month--I'll trade one of my products for a more earth-friendly one. That way, I won't feel the financial impact all at once.

Let's take, for example, something basic like toilet paper. I'd usually just buy whatever is on sale, but this month, I'd switch it out for recycled. Or produce. If I usually buy whatever fruit is in season, perhaps I can opt for the organic instead. In a year, at just one product a month, that will be twelve earth-friendly products that are now in my home.

One of my students recently asked me if I thought I was making any difference at all. What difference does it make if I switch from the store-brand coffee is to fair trade organic? I don't know, I told him honestly. But I do know that some of my daily habits are hurting my planet, my home. And the only actions I can control are my own, so I will try. Perhaps through my example, one of my students or friends will learn, and they too will try to be greener. They might talk to their friends--and just like any great fad--it may spread.

Either way, negative or positive, what we do has ripple effects around the world. One only needs to remember the ozone layer crisis to know that the decisions we make together really can impact this planet. When's the last time you heard about holes in the ozone layer? And when's the last time you thought using Aquanet was a good idea? Probably around the last time you thought a perm was a good idea, right?

I'm so glad that some fads die (um, 80's hair...) Being green though, I hope this is trendy for a long, long time.

***picture taken from alternativeoutfitters.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Cup of Joe

I’ve received many things from students over the years that I have held onto. Like the cards on my desk for example, to remind me on a bad day that I used to have students that liked me. Or red pens. They were great, perhaps a commentary on the amount of red ink I had used on his essays. Bookmarks, magnets, earrings…

There are three, however, that remind me that my past students will always remember me for something that my current students won’t remember me for. The first, a pound of Colombian coffee. It was gone in a second. The second, a travel mug singed by my whole class. I am holding it in so many pictures in the following months that one could have though it an appendage rather than a gift. The third—and perhaps most illustrative of my relationship to my liquid gold—is a pin which depicts people bowing to a giant coffee cup. “Coffee is god” it declares.

That’s how I felt too. I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I’d do is put on a pot of coffee. Once I got to school, I’d have another, another with lunch, iced if it was hot out, and sometimes yet another in the afternoon (without which, the students in my afternoon classes were to be pitied).

And my students knew to look for the Starbucks cup. If I walked in without it, they’d ask why. If I hadn’t already had some, they’d offer to go get it for me. So afraid were they of the decaffeinated version of me. I should have been too. I was a real beast without it. We all have our vices, right?

Because of my great love of java, I happen to be quite particular about the way I take it—cream, no sugar. And so recently, after giving up dairy, I went in search of a soy substitute. Let me say here—for all you soy consumers—that I am a big fan of soy. Beans, milk, sauce. Healthy, animal friendly, what’s not to like? So I thought, soy creamer—awesome. With high hopes, I put on a fresh pot of Joe, poured in the milk-like substance and…

It tasted like a sock.

And so, that's how I gave up coffee. I tortured everyone around me for two full weeks as my body withdrew from 15 years of 3 cups a day coffee consumption. And I switched to tea. Sellout.

Don’t congratulate me though. The minute they make a soy creamer that doesn’t make my coffee taste like it was brewed in a gym bag, I’ll be the first one to buy it in stock. However, maybe by then I won’t even like coffee anymore.

Who am I kidding?

Monday, May 11, 2009

why i'm not a romantic

most women spend a large portion of their teens, twenties, perhaps even early thirties looking for love. even if we say we aren't. we lie. to avoid looking desperate, we form anti-men girls' clubs in which, on good days, we get dressed up and paint the town red together, and on less good days, invite eachother over for a dose of Bridget Jones and Ben and Jerry's.

for the average girl, we learn along the way the kind of guy we like, and the kind of guy we should avoid. through tears we think how easy it would be if the ones we liked weren't, so often, the ones to avoid. yet we comfort ourselves by saying that it's ok, the right one is bound to come along. consequently, we have trained ourselves to look ahead to the time we will find mr right, fall in love, perhaps get married, maybe some kids etc, etc. and so, it is through this quest for love (or denial of it), that we inevitably become romantics, living in a world where we can hope that our great love exists somewhere in the future.

i have nothing against romantics; i'm simply not one. in order to be a romantic, i would have had to follow that same path, thinking that along the way that there will be something better for me, hoping that just around the bend, the one I am meant to be with is waiting for me. and because i haven't found him, i would have to believe that the love of my life is still waiting

i was 16 when i met him. the problem with that is you're not supposed to meet the one when you're still in high school, at least not if you're me. i still had a lot of growing up to do. alone, i had to figure out who i was and where i was going and so i let him walk away.

i am not a romantic, becuase if i were i'd say that there is someone else out there for me--but the truth is, i involuntarily compare them to this guy i fell in love with when i was still in high school. and though they may compare in some ways, they will always be at an unfair disadvantage. they aren't him.

i wish i were a romantic becuase if i were, it would mean that i wouldn't have met him then and spent my entire life searching in reverse--starting with true love and wishing something bigger existed. Instead, I'd meet him today. he might even make me a mix tape.

so, no, i am not a romantic but i am holding out hope for someone to convince me otherwise.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

reindeer pants

Half hoping for a round of applause because I’ve finally remembered to apply my deodorant before putting on my shirt, I'm about to celebrate successfully painting on my liquid liner when I stop. I’m tired of doing my makeup, yet I always do it before I leave the house. Every day. Sometimes even when I stay in. What am I doing?

We put on makeup, do our hair and make sure that our pants don’t make us look like we’ve just scotch taped that donut (OK, two donuts) we had yesterday to our butts. We pluck, pencil, suck in and spray until we don’t even know why we do it.

This morning I had to stop and ask myself who it is for. Who am I so intent on impressing that I wake up a full two hours before work in order to get ready? For my neighbor who is I sometimes say hello to if he is walking his pug when I leave my apartment in the morning? The Starbucks barista who I unabashedly flirt with over my eight dollar grande, no whip, non-fat vanilla latte? Do I seriously think that a piece of hair out of place is going to make a difference? Yeah, I’m sure he thinks, she wore THOSE earrings with THAT shirt? Now I can never ask her out.

Recently, I was unexpectedly visited by this guy. I answer the door, zero makeup save the remnants of mascara smudged into shadows ‘neath my eyes, hair in what was once a ponytail, now a half-hearted attempt to keep in out of my face, wearing none other than my most comfortable reindeer pajama pants. Reindeer for goodness sake—white ones splayed across a background of crimson.

Holy crap, I think, I’m a mess. All my carefully chosen outfits lay just outside my reach in the other room. My makeup taunts me from its hiding place. However, as I—unadorned—sit there, it becomes increasingly obvious that he is not put off by my disastrous state at all. He takes no notice. Well, almost none. Nice pants he smirks. Smart alec.

Reindeer pants aside, he has not noticed nor does he care one iota about the fact that my hair could nest a small family of birds, that my usual rosy cheeks haven’t yet been dusted on. For all the time they spend talking about hot girls, they really could care less about your lipstick. He cares about your lips, my friend--and perhaps the flavor of your chapstick.

What a guy does notice is how you feel about yourself. All a girl needs to do is walk into a room to get a guy’s attention. The question is: how are you going to keep it once you’ve gotten it? How is he going to know that he’s an idiot if he walks away without talking to you? Smile at him. Look him in the eye. Don’t stare him down, but let him know you are there. Self-confidence is sexy ladies. Trust me on this one. I don’t have thighs the size of Popsicle sticks or waist length Shakira hair to work with. But I’ve got the confidence to know that he will notice me. And if he asks to buy me a cup of coffee, fantastic. If not, well, I’ve lost absolutely nothing.

So, where does that leave me? Ah, yes, in front of my mirror. Will I continue to spend a full hour in front it every morning? Absolutely. But you can be sure it’s not for him. I do it for me. I will be neat, clean and preferably ironed. I am aware that in my every day interactions, people look at me, and when they look, I want them to see the best version of me possible. I’m not seeking to transform myself daily into America’s Next Top Model, but in order for them to see me at my best, I have to feel my best. Making sure I have mascara on and my hair combed helps. And one day, he will see me with no makeup on and if he’s lucky enough, I won’t even care.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the fool

The Fool
by Lauren Harrington

With colors
in a dingy room
amidst the greys, the gloom—
he jests, juggles, he falls
to pick us up.

Then we laugh (never at ourselves)
and laughter
sounds and resounds
as before us our follies unfold

Before uniformed faces
he performs, flatters, he fools
with quick tricks
he breaks our
then bows.

Paid in applause
to clown,
he smiles to himself—
somewhat up-side down

for he knows—

his mask of idiocy
in a world that takes itself too seriously.

a world that doesn’t yet know,

that only the truly wise
play the fool.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

this i believe

In a recent activity, I asked my students to survey the class. Some of the prompts prodded, “Tell me about a time you lied.” Wow, talk about good stories. “Tell me something you have overcome.” Thought-provoking. One student, strip of paper in hand, quietly stands waiting for someone to approach her. Another, after completing the activity, looks around and appears to be counting students. I raise an eyebrow. “Trying to see if I remember everyone’s stories” she says. How lucky we are to have stories to share, I think.

Happy to silently observe such interactions, I’m somewhat startled by a voice that has broken away from the pack. “Tell me something you believe in”. I look around for the victim of his interrogation only to realize that it’s me. As the only person in the room over the age of thirty, it occurs to me that, at this ripe old age, I should probably have a good answer for him. Then again, he probably didn’t even expect me to really answer him, did he?

It occurs to me that I could give him many answers—most of them good enough—but not really a fan of the half-hearted answer, I pause, then answer:

“In order to tell you what I believe in, I first have to tell you what I don’t believe in.” This is perhaps more than he signed up for, but to his credit, he feigns interest.

“I don’t believe in fate.”

Now it’s his turn to raise an eyebrow, after all, most females believe in some form of the “happily-ever-after, meant-to-be” scenario, don’t we? So I continue. “I don’t believe in destiny—well not conventional destiny. I believe that I create my own destiny.”

Having grown up going to church—and surviving it still believing in God—I realize that this belief may be in direct violation of most conventional Christian theology. Everything happens for a reason we are told. Good things come to those who believe.

What I do believe is that I can’t simply want good things to happen to me if I don’t first expect them to. I believe I can’t expect people to respect me; I must first show them that I respect myself. I can complain only so much about these infuriating men I know without that ping of a light bulb disrupting my gripe session—have I done ANYTHING to meet new ones?

Maybe it would be easier to blame all the bad stuff on the Big Guy (while I secretly take credit for that promotion I got last week), but I can’t. I can’t believe we were created for His amusement—that we are all marbles in some giant game of Chinese Checkers that He has going on with the angels.

I believe that although I am not controlled to do so, I can still choose to be a good person—to enrich the lives of those around me. I do not believe in destiny, but I do believe I have started to make my own. I only have to look at my students—and the incredible potential they have—to know that my future also holds the things I am courageous enough to reach for. I believe that I have already begun to make my own destiny, and that in some small way, I might also be a part of theirs.

This I believe.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

my theory

If my theory is right, then it will completely change my approach to men. It won't erase the mistakes I've made, but it will certainly make it easier to understand them. However, just like every other theory, there are exceptions. And there is always the reality factor as well. We women know how it is to be resolved to do one thing, then be swept off our feet the very next moment. There is a reason that, in English, we say we "fall" in love. What a fall it is.

So…theory. Girl meets boy. Warning signals. Boy afraid of commitment. Of course he doesn't SAY that. After all, boys aren't afraid of anything. They are the spider-killing, basement-exploring, hold-your-hand-in-the-dark conquistadors of our hearts. So he doesn’t appear to be afraid. He does the, "oh I like you" thing, Then the, "I'm not looking for anything serious" thing. And we are left to wonder what quality we lack that is stopping this guy from falling head over heels.

Even worse, you get into a relationship. The guy has convinced himself that he is ready, that you are worthy. Fantastic. It's good. Really good. You think the "L" word, he thinks, "yeah, not quite working for me. Sorry." But let's also not forget the key phrase, the clincher, what we all love to hear as he's walking away, "it's not you, it's me."

And that girl, armed only with her favorite show on DVD, a warm blanket, a bottle of wine and a pint of Ben and Jerrys will cry because all she heard was "goodbye". Then suddenly, in a fit of rage, the spoon flies out of her hand, across her room, and hits the TV screened face of McDreamy between the eyes. It wasn’t me? Really? To that I say: bite me. Bite me so hard I wake up from this nightmare with enough wits about me to kick you in the head. Not ME? But you are walking away from ME. It can't NOT be me.

But let us assume for one—undeserved—second that they aren’t being self-deprecating here. This theory ventures to say that it, indeed, is not us. It is them. You were not the problem. You didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t hate that you warmed your cold feet on him, that you snort when you laugh too hard. You didn’t, inadvertently push him away because he felt you didn’t need him, or need him so much that you smothered him. There is a slight chance that he is telling the truth.

Theoretically, guys don’t start looking for relationships, they look for women. A woman catches his interest, he wines and dines her, he enjoys the chase. At this point it either fizzles out or it continues. If it fizzles, it’s because the guy quickly realized he was not going to commit. Not because he didn’t enjoy being with her, but because he was not ready. In the case that he does allow it to develop into a relationship, he’s happy for a time, then eventually realizes that he isn’t. In both cases, you were doing everything right, he wasn’t ready.

Nothing we do can get them ready. Nothing. It’s why we see guys dating amazing girls, perfect for them. They break up out of the blue, and 12 months later he’s engaged to a woman even he cowers from. He was ready too late because unfortunately for him, his super model ex-girlfriend has now gotten herself out of bed and moved on.

I don’t sound very romantic, do I? On the contrary--I do believe in love at first sight and that some people are meant to be together. I also believe that love at first sight happens because, alone, the guy has reached the point in his life where he is ready. You feel that you were meant to be together because he was ready to meet you—the key is, he didn’t walk away.

Will my theory make it easier next time I fall? Probably not. All of us want to be the one to change him, the one he will leave his player ways for in order to commit to a life of serving you breakfast-in-bed. So we may fall, but when we do, we should probably remember that although he is a lying prick, one thing we really should give him credit for is his insight into his own immaturity. It’s not you, it’s him.

Now if we could just devise a system in which the ones who actually ARE ready wore blinking “ready and available” signs around their necks!