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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Very Un-Merry Holiday Season

OK. I'm sick. I've got an AWFUL head cold which was preceded by being thrown up on by my youngest bundle of joy and a 24 hour vigil while he spiked a high fever which made him so warm it was difficult to even hold him without sweating myself. I wanted to disclose such information because maybe I'm just cranky and sensitive right now - but it seems like there are an overwhelming number of blog posts by friends about how stressed they are, how much is going wrong in their lives, how they aren't looking forward to Christmas (for a laundry list of reasons) or how people are inconsiderate and play the guilt game . . . It just seems like the Internet is filled with all the reasons why the holidays suck and it's not even December 1st yet!!!

And it makes me sad.

It makes me sad because I remember how happy I always was the day after Thanksgiving because it meant that Christmas was on its way. It also meant that my birthday was coming too and birthdays were always very special when I was growing up. (Just ask my husband who has already heard at least a half-dozen times how many days until my birthday or the other night when I asked for a glass of water and said, with puppy dog eyes, "Well, it is almost time to celebrate my birthday month.")

A couple of local radio stations have started playing 24-hour Christmas music - and yes, I'm one of those people who love it! I can't listen to it 24/7 but I like having the option to listen to it when I get in my car everyday. (Although even better was this morning at 6 a.m. when my older son climbed into my bed and started quietly singing Jingle Bells to himself to, in his words, "try and put myself back to sleep. But I can't because I'm too excited about Christmas!")

Yes, the holidays are supposed to be about peace and love and hope and light and all things good - after all, isn't their an unwritten law about cease fires in times of war on Christmas Day? But instead we are bombarded with images of war, shopping, credit cards being maxed out, stressing out because we can't think of what to buy great aunt Edna who we only see on Christmas, but the commercials on TV tell us that there's something (expensive) for everyone and all we have to do is find the "right" gift and our holidays will be bliss.

And yet you're all miserable!!!

Why do we do this to ourselves every year? Why do we buy gifts we can't afford and then paying for them over the next 11 months? Why do we complain about the commercialization of Christmas and yet continue to support said commercialization with our wallets? Why do we buy a gift for great aunt Edna anyway? Does anyone actually give to charity in a recipient's name for that hard to buy for loved one? That would make too much sense, wouldn't it? Give money and services to people who actually need it instead of stressing out about great aunt Edna?

It just angers me to no end that the Christmas season I knew as a child no longer exists for most of us in the adult world. I know it's still there for the kids - my son reinforced that this morning at 6 a.m. - but where did it go for us grown-ups?

In search of an answer, and lower blood pressure, I've made a pact with myself this year. I'm buying a few toys for the boys, only useful gifts for my immediate family (nothing expensive either) and for those that don't need anything - I'm donating the money I would have spent to a local charity. I'm not going to stress. I'm not going to get all wound up about finding the "right" gift. If I don't get all my shopping done - so be it. The world will not come to an end. (At least not because of me)

What's important is family and spending time with them. What's important is seeing joy and peace and wonder in those around you and in your own circumstances. Many of us may be broke - but we've got computers to blog on, roofs over our heads and food on our tables. There are millions of people out there that can't say that - they sleep on cold, wet sidewalks or give their children the last piece of bread they have and go without or they watch their loved one die from hunger or AIDS or neglect - while we watch a news story about a man who was shot in the chest while standing in line to buy a Playstation 3, which many of his fellow line-mates were going to buy and then sell on EBay so they could make more money.

It's time to get our priorities straight, people. No one's going to do it for us. We're on our own. It's time to simplify. It's time to take a step back. It's time to remember that Christmas marks the birth of a baby and the joy that such a miracle brings to the world.

You can't buy that anywhere, at any price, but if you look into the eyes of your own children or your nieces and nephews, grandchildren and godchildren - you'll find it and it's absolutely (stress) free.

And now, I'm off to read poetry with my son.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

This Time It's Saturday with Shel

My son can't get enough of "Where the Sidewalk Ends," by Shel Silverstein. We read from it daily and one poem is never enough. I happened upon this one tonight and I feel compelled to share it. It is so complex in its simplicity; it has so many facets to it in so few words; It could mean one thing to you and another to me - and we'd both be right. That's what's so great about poetry and literature. The interpretation is up to you.

And while I watch news footage of "Black Friday" where people run (over one another) to buy televisions and video game systems, grabbing and pushing their fellow human beings as if being chased by a horrible monster (maybe they are? That one called consumerism?) that will tear them from limb from limb if they don't get out of it's path - It just makes me sad.

It makes me long for the days of childhood when I didn't know what was going on; when I knew Santa's elves were making a few toys for me so that Santa could place them under my Christmas tree; when I thought that everyone looked forward to Christmas because it meant time off from school and candy canes and sugar cookies with green and red sprinkles and ribbons and bows and brightly decorated paper - and not stress and lines longer than those found at Disney World and anger upon seeing someone else grab the last "must have" commodity of the season.

This poem makes me think of that, and so many other things that are wrong with the world right now. And yet, the last stanza gives me hope, too. The hope that is the central theme of this time of year; the hope that does not scream in your ear or beat you over the head until you get it. It's a quiet whisper in your heart that blesses you with the belief in possibility - that maybe 2007 will be different; that maybe you, and the people around you, can make a positive contribution that will change the lives of others; that maybe you can stop talking and start making a fundamental change in your own life - that maybe the world's priorities will begin to shift and people will matter more than money or power.

Then again, you may read something completely different :)


There is a place where the sidewalks ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Random Thoughts More Random on Friday

Since yesterday was Thanksgiving and I had a post planned , I thought I would post my Thursday randomness on Friday instead. Hopefully my Friday thoughts aren't too random since I'm writing them after a VERY tasty turkey dinner - Thank you, Steven! - and an early evening tryptophan-induced nap.

  • You may have noticed that I've taken down my NaNo countdown. Yes, I've decided to throw in the towel on that one. It was just getting to be too much. Instead of being a challenge I just got more and more frustrated everyday as I continued to fall further and further behind on my word count. I realized that I didn't know my main characters well enough, so all I was writing was meandering crap. Which isn't totally worthless, but I didn't really want to write 50,000 words of it. So instead, I'm going to put the novel aside and do some free writing solely about my characters. And since the holidays are coming up, it will probably be slow going there, too. But I'm going to try and get as much as I can done and get a restart in January for, as my writing friend has suggested, JaNo.

  • Tomorrow is the official start of the holiday shopping season - known around these parts as "Black Friday." While I'm not brave enough to run with the overwhelming crowds, I have put two new links on my sidebar I wish you would take note of. I have become part of the Amazon Associates program and if you plan on making any purchases on this holiday season, please use these links to shop through. By clicking through my site to Amazon, I will receive a percentage of your final purchase in the form of gift certificates. (I LOVE and couldn't pass up the opportunity to make free money for future purchases.) The links will be up year round, so you can use them anytime. Thank you in advance for your participation.

  • My husband and I are now house hunting. It's so exciting! We currently live in an apartment and can't wait to have a space we can call our own and a back yard and a dishwasher and a new queen size bed and . . . you can see why we're excited. I've been scouring the net at all the online listings (another distraction that affected NaNo) and we're going to look at our first house this weekend! While I'm nervous about all the financial stuff, I know that it will all work out. It always does. And like someone has recently reminded me, if everyone else has a house, why can't we? So keep positive thoughts in your minds for me :)

  • And last but not least, I feel it necessary to announce that I went out on Thanksgiving Eve - a great tradition in my pre-kid days. Usually when I go out I'm the cautious one; the one who has a few beers and stops; the one responsible for getting my (drunk) husband home. Well, last night I went WILD! I was drunk. I admit it. And I had a great time! We went out to eat, saw a great band and I enjoyed several beers with great friends and I'm so glad I did. In fact, I outlasted my husband. He went home a full hour and a half before I did (the bar was down the street and therefore we could walk home) and I heard "Drink it up! It's time to go!" for the first time in I don't know how long. I mean, I have NO idea when the last time I closed a bar was. It's definitely been years. And to top it off, I woke up this morning with NO HANGOVER! I don't know how, but I did. I did need a little extra sleep (and I had no voice for quite some time), but my husband politely obliged while he slaved away in the kitchen early this morning. Isn't he the greatest?!

So Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Today When You Sit at Your Thanksgiving Table

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., the folks over at Oxfam are requesting that those of us who have a feast to sit down to today take a minute to think about those who do not.

Oxfam has a campaign called "The Hunger Banquet" which is a program often run by colleges or high schools in their cafeterias, but can be used today in your own home to illustrate the expanse of world hunger. Here's what you do: (this scenario is based on a meal for 20 - Hopefully you can do the math and adjust to how many people you will have at your table today.)

"If 20 people sit down at your table, representing the world's population, three would get a gourmet meal, five would get rice and beans, and 12 would receive a small portion of rice . . . as you eat your meal, unlike the real world, you see what's on everyone else's plate."

My suggestion would be to put the appropriate amount of food on each person's plate and then explain what you are representing. And if you don't want to do a physical representation, at least bring attention to this scenario which will not only make people more aware, but make us all more thankful for all that we have this holiday.

I wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving with family and friends. And while it's easy to get caught up in all the fanfare, take a moment to acknowledge the millions of people who will eat very little food today and especially those who will go to sleep tonight without having any. Think about how you might make next year different for them.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hysteria Wins Out Again

Image from the New York Times website - November 22, 2006

I heard this story first on the radio, then again on the evening news last night and went to the New York Times this morning to try and get some more information - but no matter how many sources I heard the story from it was all the same - Racial profiling and public hysteria have won out again. Or has it? Were the actions taken by US Airways justified?

Apparently six Muslim Imams were removed from a US Airways flight Monday night in Minneapolis because of "suspicious behavior" observed by both US Airways staff and passengers. The men were handcuffed and led off the plane by police, then were detained for five hours of questioning before being released. As you can see by the note passed to a US Airways flight attendant by a passenger on the plane these men were acting "very suspicious."

First of all, what's with them not all sitting together? They are all after all Muslims, or "suspicious arabic men," as the not above states. Why wouldn't they want to sit together? They must all be close personal friends and we all know how easy it is to get six seats together on an airplane is, right?

Then of course there is the whole praying issue. I mean, who do you know that prays before or during a flight? (I know a few people, but I wouldn't categorize them as "suspicious" or, come to think of it, maybe they are . . .) It was reported by witnesses that the six men, who had attended a conference of the North American Imams Federation in Minneapolis and were on their way home when the incident occurred, were chanting "Allah ... Allah ... Allah," in the waiting area before boarding the plane and were also heard uttering "Anti-American" sentiments regarding U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein.

And are you ready for this? Some of the men actually requested seat belt extensions as well, although one flight attendant did not believe they really needed them.

Of course, the gentlemen had explanations for their "suspicious" behavior - the prayers in the waiting area were nightly evening prayers and the three who were praying "had not meant to be disruptive and indeed had taken pains not to disturb other passengers." The seatbelt extensions? Dr. Omar Ahmad Shahin, one of the suspicious men, said they had been requested because of their "big bodies." Sounds plausible, right?

But at the same time the flight attendants and passengers could have prevented a terrorist plot from coming to fruition, right? Probably not.

What kills me about this whole thing is that we are ALL more likely to be killed in our automobiles everyday than we are to be killed in a terrorist attack in the United States. It it nothing but hysterics and ignorance to assume that a few men, who have dark skin and appear to be of Middle Eastern descent, traveling together might be terrorists. I mean, where was all this hysteria when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two white, American citizens killed 168 people with a Ryder truck full of explosives that blew a gaping hole out of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City? Does that mean when we see a young, white man driving a Ryder truck in a downtown area that we should assume there's potential there for terrorist activity?

Absolutely not. It's ludicrous. And it doesn't happen because McVeigh and Nichols aren't seen as "bad" by nature, but two sick, evil abnormalities among a generally peaceful population. Well, there are an estimated 1.3 billion Muslims, the second largest religious group in the world behind Christians at an estimated 2.1 billion people. So I guess it makes sense to assume that the actions of a handful of terrorist groups who also claim to be Muslims are a telling representation of 1.3 billion people.


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Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Sunday with Shel

I recently purchased Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and tonight my four-year-old and we enjoyed a couple dozen or so poems - and more than twice that many laughs. I bought the book knowing that I loved it as a kid, but I had forgotten so many of the reasons why and it was pure joy remembering.

There was good old Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out; The Yipiyuk who latched onto my toe and would not let go; The super sensational, utterly fabulous talented Dancing Pants; A recipe for a hippopotamus sandwich; And who can forget little Peggy Ann McKay who was so sick she couldn't go to school that day - until she was told it was Saturday :)

Since I enjoyed my trip down memory lane so very much tonight I thought I would share three of my (short) favorites which I didn't necessarily remember from my youth, but instead touched my heart as an adult. Thank you, Mr. Silverstein.

Listen to the MUSTN'TS child
Listen to the DONT'S
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Oh, I am a chickie who lives in an egg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplanes roar,
So I'm staying in here where it's safe and it's warm,

She drank from a bottle called DRINK ME
And up she grew so tall,
She ate from a plate called TASTE ME
And down she shrank so small.
And so she changed, while other folks
Never tried nothin' at all.

Have a great week . . .

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

VICTORY!!! - And a Metal Staple to the Head

So it's official - Ohio State 42, Michigan 39

Now all I want for Christmas is a National Championship!!!

It was certainly an amazing game (which I missed the end of due to a visit to Urgent Care with my eldest son - no worries, he's all right) and I believed the Buckeyes would be victorious even though Michigan refused to go away until the final second had ticked off the clock. It was fun to watch - Could there be a rematch in January?

I chatted with Gretchen for quite some time today. We learned how to post videos together from You Tube and she may have introduced me to a new career - tech support. Yes, it was I who walked her through each and every step to a successful (and hilarious) video post. (Granted it wasn't rocket science, but I feel like I made a positive contribution today just the same.)

Then there was the not so good part of the day - the emergency doctor's visit. My two sons were rough housing, after being told several times not to do so, when tragedy struck. (I may have written this before, but I like to call them my lion cubs because they often act like animals which was why this last week of rain was so brutal for our household. Not going outside for our daily romp is like caging, well, two lion cubs!)

Anyway, there they were "playing" when my older son fell backwards and onto a, gulp, radiator. I scooped him up right away and started trying to console him without even looking at his injuries - until I pulled my hand away from his head and it had blood on it. Not a LOT of blood, but enough to get the adrenalin going. Sure enough he had a nice gash (which while crying he was able to tell me he didn't like that word and to not use it anymore) on the back of his head.

Phone call to the doctor, which he also didn't like, so he proceeded to tell my husband to get off the phone, to stop talking to the doctor, that he didn't want to go to the doctor and would he hang up on the doctor already!!! But of course, we had to go to the doctor.

He's fine now - one metal staple later. It took three of us to hold him down (I took the legs because I couldn't imagine watching them put a staple into my son's head!) and a doctor to administer the staple, but he's home, he says it doesn't really hurt anymore and he went to sleep watching "Cars."

So here's hoping for sweet dreams for all of us tonight - and little to no excitement tomorrow.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

OSU Fan Goes to Great Lengths ... Err, LEGOS

OK, this is totally random and so perfect for Random Thought Thursday! (Although there wasn't much thinking involved. Not for me anyway.)

My uncle, an Ohio native, sent me some great pictures tonight. Apparently there is a man from Michigan, yes Michigan, who decided back in 2002 to embark on an amazing journey - to build a LEGO replica, to scale, of the Ohio State Buckeyes football stadium. It took him two years, approximately 2000 hours and countless numbers of LEGOS to finish the model of "The Horseshoe" as the stadium is so loving referred to as.

The replica is 36 1/2'" x 46 1/2" and stands 10" tall. It weighs approximately 38 pounds and is built to a 1:275 scale. There was no name in the email regarding who the devoted fan was and I searched the internet to no avail. But with the Big Game coming up on Saturday I had to post the photos because this is just, well, f*cking great! (LEGOS were one of my favorite toys as a kid and I wish I had thought of doing something cool like this - although I wouldn't have had the patience to spend two years on it - instead of building Papa Smurf's laboratory 100 times over.)

Enjoy the photos and GO BUCKS!!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Afghanistan: The Forgotten Country

I was reading The Nation last night before bed, I'm surprised it didn't induce fitful sleep and unpleasant dreams, and the cover story for the October 30th issue was titled "Taliban Rising." (Yes, I'm a little behind on my reading.) The story was about the new resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan bolstered by the war in Iraq, as well as insurgents and financial support coming in from Pakistani terrorist groups.

The "Taliban are back, coming out at night to burn schools, assassinate liberal imams, launch rocket attacks on government buildings and plant mines to kill NATO soldiers," according to Christian Parenti who wrote the article. These incidents used to be isolated to the southernmost territories of the country, but have now moved as far north as the capital, Kabul, which has suffered several suicide bombings this fall and U.S. military officials in Afghanistan now say that there are terrorist cells based in Kabul itself.

And yet many Americans have no idea what is going on - good or bad. It's been five years since the U.S. launched the offensive against Afghanistan in hopes of capturing Osama Bin Laden just weeks after the September 11th attacks and there are still a substanial number of U.S. troops trying to secure Afghanistan. You wouldn't know it from watching the news or reading the papers.

Headlines are dominated by the war in Iraq - after all things there are much more dramatic, much "sexier" with the daily suicide bombings and the kidnappings of several dozen people just yesterday. It was reported two days ago that more than 100 people - ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE - were killed just that day in various terrorist strikes across the country. There's no doubt that what's going on in Iraq is important, that we need to end that occupation as soon as possible, but we cannot forget the civilians and the troops still in Afghanistan.

And it's not just the rise in terrorist violence. The Afghani government is Corrupt (and, yes, the capital "C" was intentional) - government officials extort money from civilians looking for assistance and steal public funds to try and fatten up their $30-$100 per month salaries. Plain and simple the Afghani economy is almost non-existent with 92% of the country's income coming from international aid.

The people in Kabul will receive just three hours of electricity today, they do not have sanitary drinking water, there is no organized healthcare system, many schools do not have teachers, there are no public words programs and there is very little action to invest in the few state-owned businesses (coal and gas extraction, a national airline, a chain of small hotels) Kabul has - and this is all happening TODAY, five years after the overthrow of the Taliban.

So is it any wonder that some have become sympathetic to the Taliban, that some have even said they would welcome the Taliban regime back? The citizens of Afghanistan don't have enough to support themselves and what little they have is being stolen from them by a government they are supposed to believe is trying to help them.

According to Parenti, "To pay taxes in Kabul one must first bribe the tax collector! No bribe and your taxes (which will be stolen) won't be registered as paid. Without proof of payment a homeowner or shopkeeper could be reported to the police, arrested and repeatedly extorted at every step of the legal process."

There are so many other aspects to this situation - the opium trade (Afghanistan provides 92% of the world's heroin), prostitution, warlords, etc. - but I am ashamed. I am ashamed that my government has thrown two countries, TWO countries into turmoil and still doesn't seem to have a plan on how to get them out.

I don't want to "cut and run" either; I want these people to receive the assistance they so greatly need, but what I do know is that what the U.S. is doing right now ISN'T working. And while Rumsfeld's replacement was a welcome change, we must put pressure on our elected officials to make sure that this will not be a change in personnel only. Afghanistan and Iraq are in desperate need of a fundamental change in strategy if they are to come out of these wars in better condition than before they were pulled in.

So that's my political tirade for the day. This article by Christian Parenti is eye opening and I highly recommend you take the time to read it in its entirety. I learned so much and I think it's time that Americans open their eyes even wider to include Afghanistan in their scope when asking government officials for answers and real change in military issues.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's Time for the BIG Game

Photo Courtesy of the AP/The Plain Dealer, Marvin Fong

For those of you who don't know, I am a HUGE fan of Ohio State Buckeyes football. My love comes mostly from my DNA - I was born in the Buckeye State and it's just one of those things you're born with down there in the great state of Ohio. I still have plenty of family living there as well and am always kept up to date with the latest happenings at OSU.

Well, the Buckeyes have been sitting atop the Top 25 polls all season and have ridden the wave to a perfect 11-0 record. While such an accomplismnet is amazing, even better is that they did it with Michigan chasing them all season. The Wolverines have also managed to pull off an undefeated season - that is until now.

The two powerhouses, who are also two of the biggest rivals in college football, will faceoff this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Columbus to see who comes out on top for a slot in the National Championship game on January 8th. I'm putting my money on OSU.

Now it is possible that regardless of the victor, both teams will get a championship berth if they stay ranked #1 and #2 one week from now. Can you imagine the buildup to that game?! I mean, I don't think much of anything is going to get done in the state of Ohio this week, but if there was a rematch for the National Championship?! The entire month of December through January 8, 2007 would have to be written off as a state holiday.

But I'm getting ahead of myself - right now it's time to focus on kicking the Wolverines back to Ann Arbor with their tails between their legs. Go Bucks!!
P.S. If you don't believe me about how BIG this game is in Ohio, check out the comment Christina left on this post.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

With Gifts, Too, Less Can Be More

I had a wonderful night out last night with one of my very best friends and while family, kids, husbands, politics, etc. were all great topics of conversation, it was our discussion about NaNo - writing a novel in general - that was most inspiring. We talked about plot, we talked about motivation and frustration, we talked about just getting the words down on paper (the part that I've been having the most trouble with during these early days of November). So instead of writing some long, time consuming blog entry, I have decided to share a brilliant column that landed in my inbox today, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, and use the time I would have spent blogging instead working on my novel. Thank you, Shannon :)

From This Green Life, November 2006:
By Sheryl Eisenberg

I can still remember virtually every gift I received in childhood, not because the gifts were so special, but because they were so few. Though I was a comfortable child of the post-war boom, the times were thrifty compared to today. I never had more than a few dolls, stuffed animals, board games, crayons, records, books, a bike and a sled. And that was enough, more than enough, yet not so much more that I didn't appreciate each and every item -- and enjoy it to the end of its useful life, or my childhood, whichever came first.

What middle class American child can say the same today? Our kids are so inundated with playthings, they need bins and chests and extra closets to store them all. And we adults are equally awash in our grown-up toys.

Nevertheless, this holiday season, we will rush to the stores, actual and virtual, to buy more for our kids and each other. What gives?

That the shopping frenzy is inconsistent with the spiritual and communal essence of the holidays is an old subject. I recently came across a reference to it in Howard's End, a wonderful story from 1910 that takes place in England, from which I gathered that not only isn't commercialization of the holidays new, it's not even uniquely American. The only point worth noting in 2006 is that the situation is worse than ever, and not just because we are increasingly out of touch with the meaning of the holidays (of all faiths). Our heedless extravagance has environmental costs that are steep and growing.

The world's population is currently using 25 percent more resources each year than the earth can generate in that time, according to the latest Living Planet Report by the World Wildlife Fund. And that figure is projected to rise to 200 percent in the next 50 years if we don't change course.

Do you wonder how it's possible to consume more than the earth produces? We manage it by living off our capital -- the resources that it's taken tens or hundreds or, in the case of fossil fuels, millions of years to accumulate. And you know what happens when you live off your capital.

Though by no means the only offenders, Americans are among the worst (#2 on the list, after the United Arab Emirates). Our average per capita "ecological footprint" is over four times bigger than the earth can afford. While our seasonal lavishness isn't the only reason, it does contribute largely to the problem.

But enough of this grinchiness. No one wants to give up on the holidays or the sense of abundance that the season bestows. The only question is how to be generous without bankrupting the earth. Here are some thoughts.

Give things people need and can use, rather than products plucked from the shelves simply because they look good.

Choose gifts made of sustainable materials -- bamboo rather than wood, hemp, organic cotton and wool, fleece made from recycled soda bottles, post-consumer recycled paper, natural cosmetics and organic, fair-trade chocolates and coffees.

Buy locally made products, as the energy used to transport goods to the stores is one of the huge, hidden environmental costs of the holidays.

Look for used things with a provenance. Old books and maps, retro clothing, antique jewelry and the like are one-of-a-kind gifts that collectors and aficionados will appreciate.

Give things that reduce energy usage, such as commuter bicycles, solar-powered products, battery rechargers and carbon offsets.

Avoid excessively packaged products. The packaging wastes resources without adding value and, if made from plastic, can release toxins after being discarded.

Give tickets for concerts, shows, museums, sporting events, outdoor activities or parks.

Give a party rather than presents -- and tell your guests that the party's gift-free.

Give of yourself. Promise a shift of babysitting or dog-walking or a service that uses your special talents or skills, such as a webpage, a bridge lesson or home improvement help.

Swap contributions. Set up a registry listing your favorite non-profits at and suggest to your friends that they register, too, so you can give to their causes while they give to yours.

Most important, remember that the greatest gift of the season is the holidays themselves. It's the one time of year when society permits you -- indeed, encourages you -- to escape from the daily hurly-burly and experience the meaning and poetry of life. Don't miss the chance.

***Sheryl Eisenberg, a long-time advisor to NRDC, posts a new This Green Life every month. Sheryl makes her home in Tribeca (NYC), where -- along with her children, Sophie and Gabby, and husband, Peter -- she tries to put her environmental principles into practice. No fooling.

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Thursday, November 9, 2006

One More Reason Why I Hate Walmart & Other Random Topics

It's Thursday . . . so here we go!

  • I've never hidden my distaste for all things Walmart. And while surfing the blogosphere yesterday with Blogmad I stumbled upon this interesting fact. (I was so intrigued by the fact that I went straight to Wikipedia and forgot to take note of the blogger who tipped me off and I apologize. Thank you whoever you are!)
    Today's reason for hating Walmart is:
    "In the 2004 US Presidential election 76% of voters who shopped at Wal-Mart once a week voted for George W. Bush while only 23% voted for John Kerry. By contrast 80% of voters who never shopped there voted for Kerry with 18% voting for Bush." -- Wikipedia

  • Ms. Kookaburra, aka Cheryl/Cherlito, posted this link on her blog and it's sweet. Check it out. It's a great victory song for the recent political happenings in the U.S.

  • Which brings me to this little diddy - I watched Dubyah's press conference yesterday and I must say I was surprised by many aspects of it. First of all, I thought that King George looked a little tired, a little worn out, a bit pale even? What I mean to say is he wasn't standing up there behind his podium with his chest all puffed out and his arrogance was almost non-existence for a change. And I found it refreshing. (No worries. I'm not going soft on the guy. I still think he's a criminal. It was just a nice change and I found myself yelling less than usual at the tv and I wasn't even nauseous while listening to his voice.)

    Second, I was ecstatic to hear of Don Rumsfeld's resignation. Rummy, as I so fondly refer to him, is a disgrace and at times I've wondered if he is even human. Having sanctioned the torture of thousands of military detainees, then thrown his soldiers and their superiors to the wolves in order to cover his own ass; having started this illegal, heinous war in Iraq probably because he didn't get the job done the first time with King George's father - The only tears I shed upon hearing about his leaving the Pentagon were tears of joy. (Of course, his replacement, former CIA Director Robert Gates, isn't going to be much better considering he is a close personal friend of Dubyah's daddy and let's not forget about his involvement with the Iran Contra scandal.) But a change is a change and maybe with some new leadership both at the Pentagon and in Congress things will begin to change in Iraq - by that I mean maybe the military can begin to devise a plan for drawing down the troops and bringing them home.

  • Third, and probably my most favorite, just when I thought my day couldn't get any better. Around 9:30 p.m. a crawler came across the bottom of my tv screen to announce that this particular station was ready to declare Democrat Jim Webb the winner of Virginia's Senate race, giving the Dems a clean sweep in their fight to control both the House and the Senate. I checked several other stations upon reading this wonderful news and yes, it was true! I think I'm still beaming!!!

Have a great Thursday everybody!

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

V for Victory!!!

My Unkymood Punkymood (Unkymoods)

I woke up this morning and it's a new day in America . . .

Yes, it wasn't just a dream - the Democrats have taken control of the House and control of the Senate is still up in the air. And while I would have loved to wake up to a complete changeover in the balance of power, even if the Repugs (yes, that's Repugs because they are repugnant) maintain dominance in the Senate it will only be a slight advantage which could make things very interesting. As we all know, politics is about staying in power and if a Senator thinks that siding with the Dems on an issue or two will help him get re-elected - he'll side with the Dems.

So what does this mean? It means there's no more blank check writing by Dubyah and his boys. It means that with control of the House, the Democrats can block the hell out legislation that hurts the middle class and start working towards putting money back into the social and health services programs that have been gutted by the Bush Administration - it means that there is once again a balance of power in D.C.

The citizens of this nation made a statement yesterday and it was a resounding "No more business as usual!" Can you say impeachment? Dare I dream? Yes, I am ecstatic this morning. Yes I would have considered packing up the Jeep and driving north to Canada had the Repugs continued their bullying of the people who pay their salaries. Instead my confidence has been restored - we were not scared into voting for the Republicans; we stood up and told the powers that be that the Iraq War needs to end and end now; we showed Dubyah that we don't like the way he's running things and we're taking the first step to end his royal reign as king.

(**An interesting note: According to an exit poll conducted by MSN - yes I'm watching it right now for any more exciting developments - 40% of voters said that they voted Democrat as a statement in defiance of the Bush Administration. Hooray!)

I know I am giddy. I know I sound a little crazy right now. And I'm not naive enough to think that things will change tomorrow and the corruption and illegal activity in D.C. will immediately end. But I mean how can I not be happy when White House representatives, speaking about Dubyah's reaction to the election results, are forced to utter the words, "They have not gone the way he would have liked."

I have hope now and I haven't had that for the past six years. So yes - I'm excited!!!

P.S. Leave it to Britney to divert the spotlight from the post-election day celebration. had five lead stories featured on its homepage this morning - four of them regarding the election results and the fifth? Britney and K-Fed's divorce. God Bless America!

P.P.S. I was just reading that six races for governor went from Republican to Democrat with two still to close to call. That means that for the first time in 12 years the Democrats outnumber the Repugs 28-20 in state corner offices. How many more hints do Dubyah and his boys need? We'll see what he has to say at 1 p.m. today.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Today's the BIG Day!!!

At approximately 7:13 a.m. this morning I voted. And it was empowering. It felt good. It made me feel like I was fulfilling a responsibility - a BIG responsibility. And when I walked out of the polling station, on the way to my car I could be heard saying, "Take that bitches!" (Yes, you can infer I was speaking of Republicans. I voted Democrat all the way and I'm proud to say it.)

This is a chance for change my fellow registered voters. There are no good excuses for not voting today. This is too important. And I call upon Democrats, Independents and those who are undecided especially. Republicans are notorious for their ability to motivate their constituents to hit the polls, so if you don't want to see this election decided by Republicans simply because they managed to get more bodies to vote - GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GO VOTE!!!

And if you're still not convinced that it matters who is sitting in those seats in Congress. If you don't think it's a big deal that a Republican controlled Congress and a Republican President are a formula for disaster, check out this interesting list put together by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) - and you know I wouldn't praise anyone from Michigan (being a Ohio State fan and all) if it wasn't good - I got this in my email box yesterday:

"A President Hand-picked by Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court

Misleading a Nation into War. Outing an undercover CIA operative.

Smearing a Vietnam Veteran Senator who lost his limbs in combat.

No bid contracts.


Another Presidential Election Decided by Unanswered irregularities.

Terri Schiavo.

New Orleans.

Jack Abramoff.


Releasing nuclear secrets on the web.
Abuse of Power.

Nancy, what is the Bush Administration going to do next? The only way to restore checks and balances is by electing a Democratic Congress. Here is what you can do to help:

First, Vote.

Second, make sure everyone in your family and your friends vote. Call them now."

I can't stress it enough. This is important. In fact, the stakes went up today when I was alerted to this little proposal put forth by the Dept. of Homeland Security. (Thank you to MySpace's Impeach Dubya for posting it.)

Here is an excerpt:

"We're All Prisoners, Now: US Citizens to be Required ''Clearance'' to Leave USA

October 26, 2006 Forget no-fly lists. If Uncle Sam gets its way, beginning on Jan. 14,2007, we'll all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us permission to leave-or re-enter-the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSA) has proposed that all airlines, cruise lines-even fishing boats-be required to obtain clearance for each passenger they propose taking into or out of the United States.

It doesn't matter if you have a U.S. Passport - a "travel document"that now, absent a court order to the contrary, gives you a virtually unqualified right to enter or leave the United States, any time you want. When the DHS system comes into effect next January, if the agency says "no" to a clearance request, or doesn't answer the request at all, you won't be permitted to enter-or leave-the United States.

Consider what might happen if you're a U.S. passport holder on assignment in a country like Saudi Arabia. Your visa is about to expire, so you board your flight back to the United States. But wait!You can't get on, because you don't have permission from the HSA. Saudi immigration officials are on hand to escort you to a squalid detention center, where you and others who are now effectively"stateless persons" are detained, potentially indefinitely, until their immigration status is sorted out."

The Full Story Here

So I'll say it one more time and then I'll shut up. Today is the day - GO VOTE!!!

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

One Planet No Longer Enough

I doubled my word count yesterday for NaNo (but I'm still well behind pace since I haven't done any writing today) and my brain is fried, so I decided to do some blogging to break things up a bit. During my "light" reading break, I ran across this article and felt compelled to share it.

According to a report put together by the environmental group WWF, "the Earth's natural resources are being used 25 per cent faster than the planet can renew them." And at that rate, and the anticipated rate of human population growth, the report predicts that "large-scale ecosystem collapse" is likely by the middle of this century.

The two biggest contributing factors to ecological destruction by human beings has been our propensity to consume natural resources faster than Mother Nature can replenish them and in consuming so much so fast, carbon-dioxide emissions are at their highest and account for 48 percent of the damage humans have had on the environment since 2003.

The WWF also noted a decline in biodiversity across the board and around the world with animal species suffering an overall 27 percent decline. Tropical land species suffered the biggest hit with a 55 percent decrease in population among the 695 species monitored.

So let me spell it out for you - Human beings suck when it comes to taking care of the environment that surrounds us. If we drive too many plant and animal species to extinction, if we continue to release unprecedented amounts of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere, if we continue to ignore that our gluttony is killing the Earth - we won't have an Earth to abuse anymore.

When you think about it, it isn't about politics, or money, or jobs - it's about survival; and human beings MUST change if they wish to stick around.

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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Here's a Thought . . .


How else do you explain that it tastes soooooooo good, but makes me feel so guilty? (Same thing with sex, right? At least that's what my parents tried to teach me :)

Let me explain. It's just after two in the afternoon on Thursday and I've been a bad girl. Sunday night my husband made brownies. I proceeded to eat several bite size, chocolaty morsels on Monday by reminding myself that I had aerobics class that night and would simply work it all off then. Right.

So I went to aerobics, had a great workout and the guilt was over. Until Tuesday . . .

Tuesday I basically finished off the brownies, thereby completely nullifying my aerobic workout from the evening before. Still no harm, no foul - right?

Then came Halloween . . .

My boys brought home what amounted to a GINORMOUS bowl of candy - and I haven't been able to control myself. Reese's cups are my biggest weakness and I know of at least three, all right four, that I have consumed since yesterday. I don't want to go into detail about the other chocolate products I have ingested today, it will make you sick, but suffice it to say that I could work out every night for the rest of the week and I might, - might - have worked off all those extra calories by Monday's aerobic class.

And when I think of the poundage / inches I may have just added to my figure (sitting here blogging right now certainly isn't helping in my battle against the bulge) - you'd think I would ban all chocolate consumption and stop pilfering my kids' Halloween candy. You'd think so, wouldn't you . . .


Cheryl, please make a call to that Intervention show you watch . . . It may be my only hope.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Ladies, It's Time to Stand Up & Be Counted

Yes, today is November 1st. And yes, I should be adding to my word count (which currently sits at 0 as you can see by the meter to the right) for NaNo. And yes, my blog will probably suffer this month because I won't be able to keep up with both (plus the website I'm working on, the novel writing class I'm taking, oh and my kids and husband, housework, etc.), but this issue is just to important to ignore.

I subscribe to the Moms Rising email list and I was sent an email yesterday regarding the upcoming midterm elections on Tuesday. Are you ready for this?

"Women are the largest group of non-voters in America. Nearly 20 million women didn't vote in 2004, and they are therefore "The Deciders" in election outcomes. They could not only alter the political playing field, but could make an entire new field all together."

Go ahead. Read it again. That's right. Twenty million women DIDN'T vote in 2004.

Of course there are a thousand reasons why they didn't ranging from "I didn't have time that day," to "I forgot," to "One vote doesn't matter anyway." But as you can see, one vote times millions of other women who thought the same thing ABSOLUTELY made a difference in 2004.

So I am asking all you female registered voters out there - and I mean ALL OF YOU - to make a point of going out and voting on November 7th. And while you're at it, encourage the women in your life to vote as well. We can complain all we want about lack of availability of quality child care, we can complain about the gender wage gap, we can complain until we're blue in the face that the wealthy (mostly male) representatives in Congress don't give a damn about you and me - but the only way any of that will change is with your vote. It's one of only two languages (the other being $$$$$) politicians understand.

So get out and vote, ladies!! This is important. This is worth putting on the calendar. This is worth making time for. If we don't help ourselves, certainly no one else will volunteer.

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