Tag Archives: environment

Eco-friendly is the new sexy

I have this bloggy friend who is completely obsessed with her Bakfiets.  The uninitiated among you will be unfamiliar with the thing of beauty that is a Bakfiets, but allow me to assure you that it is the Cadillac of bicycles.  Well, actually, it is the Honda Odyssey of bicycles.  While other bikes carry one, maybe two people, this little beauty has the capacity to tote around three kids, not to mention groceries and – as my blog buddy discovered – a Christmas tree.  Unlike bike trailers in the back, it is designed for regular commuting because it is very stable and the kids are up front where the grown-up can see them.

When we decided to move to this town, I declared to my husband my secret passion for this particular mode of transportation.  I had known about the Bakfiets for years, as a it is more common in Europe, but reading about Sara’s adventures in bicycling has created a deep desire to try out one of these puppies.  Unfortunately, it’s not like test-driving a Saab Saturn Subaru– there aren’t dealerships on every corner.  In fact, when I contacted Sara to learn more about her Wonder Bike, she told me she had heard rumors of someone with one about an hour away in New Jersey.  Or I could come to her house, a few hours away, and test-drive it.

Fantastic.  The whole point of getting this puppy would be to cut down on my driving, and here I was, contemplating long carbon-spewing road trips to try out a bike.

A cargo bike, you must understand, is perfectly suited to this town.  The distances are just far enough that one cannot always walk, but they are easily bikable.  Even the grocery, just outside of town, is close enough to bike to.  But, with three kids and Lots of Stuff, I can’t exactly hop on the old Schwinn.  So, I find myself strapping children into carseats for the two-mile trip to the grocery.

Which is where I was headed – in my gas-guzzling Honda Odyssey – on Wednesday.  I was just about to turn into the parking lot when, what to my wond’ring eyes did appear, a man turned out of the parking lot.  Riding on a Bakfiets.

I was seized by anxiety.  How could I get to him, make him stop, before he and his Wonder Bike vanished from my life completely?  I switched off my blinker, inched forward to where he was headed, and honked at him, gesticulating rather insanely – I am afraid – for him to pull over.  Then I moved ahead, as cars behind and in front of me wondered what the fuck was wrong with me, and turned into a parking lot about 100 feet ahead of where this bike was headed.  I jammed the car into park, and – heedless of the toddler in the backseat – jumped out, completely blocking the entrance to the parking lot.  I ran up the sidewalk towards him, shouting something incredibly eloquent like, “Can I see your bike?”

Fortunately, the man decided I wasn’t completely batty.  He let me fondle his bike and even pulled into the parking lot for me when a rather impatient Toyota insisted I move the van that was blocking the bank parking lot.  I kept panting, “I’ve never seen one in real life.”  It’s probably a good thing I had that toddler sitting in the back, or he might have thought that this was the Weirdest Come-on Ever.

It turns out he is friends with the mother of one of Zach’s classmates.  He carts his 20 month old triplets around in that Bakfiets.  He offered to let me ride it, but there wasn’t much room in the lot, so I took his name and number.  He lives just one town over, and he said I can come over and ride his bike.

He is going to let me ride his bike.  He is going to let me ride his bike!  Once upon a time, it took the prospect of fancy vacations or gourmet meals to make me quiver with excitement, but clearly I have returned to a simpler time.

All it takes to get me all hot and bothered these days is some boy who offers to let me ride his bike.

A letter to the peeps in Copenhagen

Dear World Leaders,

So, I hear you people have all gotten together in Copenhagen for a little retreat to talk over a couple of things having to do with luxuries like air and water.  Since you are all, like, People and you are all leaders of more People, I was under the mistaken impression that your primary concern is, you know, People.

If that were the case, however, you would realize that, if we don’t take some serious fucking action, People will be extinct soon.  It may seem that I am exaggerating, except it turns out that all species depend upon their environment for the basic materials of life.  Shit like food and water, not to mention oxygen.  And, bizarre little species that we are, People seem to be doing our very best to make sure that the very materials we rely upon are completely destroyed in short order.

I know that you world leader folks think all the stuff you are arguing over is so very important.  I have read high-flown terms like “matter of principles.”  You know what?  I don’t give a rat’s ass in a bikini about principles at this point.  I want air to breathe.

So, get over yourselves.  Stop the pissing contest that uses the earth as a target.  You are world leaders.  Your ONE responsibility is to lead the world in saving itself.  Anything else you do will not matter one damned bit because there will be no people left to enjoy whatever you have managed to accomplish.

If it helps at all, I am sure that you all have very large penises, even the women.  Now that we have established that, can we move on to, you know, stopping Armageddon?

Thanks dudes.

Emily Rosenbaum

Food matters

It is not coincidental that, as my family has developed increasingly complicated food issues, I have taken more responsibility for preparing our food.  There must be some sort of intricate equation I could use to figure out how to balance Lilah’s possible honey allergy with Benjamin’s difficulty with refined sugar, my distrust of manufactured sugar substitutes, J’s embrace of fad diets, and Zachary’s refusal to eat any vegetable not disguised as a carbohydrate.  I am pretty sure the equation would include agave and walking backwards in a circle three times around a bubbling cauldron.

No, I will not make a separate portion for Lilah without nuts, eggs, garlic, onions, olive oil, or honey.  No, I will not prepare a different meal for Zachary.  No, I will not bake muffins Benjamin cannot eat.  I am not a short-order cook.  We need to be able to eat as a family.  So, I make a spinach soup short on flavor because I leave out the really good stuff – all of which Lilah is allergic to.  And I plop a loaf of bread on the table in hopes Zachary will eat that, despite the concern that the little bit of honey in it might pose a problem for little girl.

Food.  Oh, my God, food.  Food matters so fucking much.  That’s why my stepmother was so effective.  She knew how much food matters and she used it to control us.  It wasn’t the beatings or the belittling.  It was the rotten food and the starvation and the vomit-eating that destroyed us.  She denied us the very basic nurturing that food provides because she knew that food matters.

Food matters because a huge portion of our ecological footprint comes from the way we get, prepare, and consume our food.  Think about what you have eaten today.  How many pesticides went into the soil and waterways to grow it?  How many artificial chemicals and odors were manufactured?  How far did it travel to get to you?  And how much packaging did it require?

Food matters because it can build strong bodies and minds or it can rot people from the inside out.  Why are there so many more cancers and attention deficit disorders and spectrum disorders?  I don’t know, but I’ll bet a lot of it can be traced to food.  Why does my Benjamin sport skin the texture of newly whipped butter?  Because that kid puts a whole lot of good stuff into his body.  He is walking testimony of the benefits of antioxidants.

Food matters because we are nurturing our children with it.  Real food, grown from real plants matters.  Meats from animals who themselves ate good things.  I will not just throw something together because food matters.  It is not a waste of time to spend hours each day thinking about food and preparing food.  It is the business of life.

Do I wish I had a family without allergies or pickiness?  Sure.  But think about most traditional cultures.  If there are not food-shortage problems, several different foods are usually incorporated into every meal.  Because not everyone likes every kind of food, and if there are choices in the meal, people can pick and choose.  Baking my own bread has certainly eased my relationship with Zachary.  If the only thing he chooses from the family meal is the bread, at least it is freshly baked and packed with nutrition.  And if Benjamin is in the mood only for the cheese the night we make bean burritos, so be it.

There is a meal on the table.   Because food matters.

No more hall passes

Today is my birthday.  I am thirty-six years old.

My mother died before she turned thirty-five.  She left behind two small girls.

Last year, I dreaded my birthday because I was afraid I would die just before it.  Instead, I was in the hospital with a two-day-old baby, celebrating life every which way.

Now, I am thirty-six.  In some ways, I have accomplished little in my life.  I recently watched a video of Springsteen from the mid-eighties and thought, “Shit, he was my age and he was already one of the greatest living musicians.”  Yes, Toni Morrison did not publish a book until she was thirty-nine, but Barack Obama entered the State Senate when he was my age.  I don’t have a book deal or any major articles.  I am not a full professor, despite the Ph.D., a degree that is sort of a pointless accomplishment if one uses it to drive carpool and wipe asses.

However, I get out of bed every day.  I am a reasonably good parent.  I am in a stable marriage.  I floss my teeth, am nice to at least 65% of the people I meet every day, and wear clean underpants.  None of these may seem like monumental accomplishments, and perhaps they are not.

But with my childhood, I have every reason to be howling at full moons and ripping the hair off of my head.  To be more or less sane is actually a pretty big deal for me.  Yeah, I have a tendency to thrust my tongue up against my teeth and I have a short fuse.  Yep, I like to be in control of my life because I feel totally vulnerable if things spiral out.  I think I probably have earned the right to these mild neuroses.

Other than that, I am a pretty average member of society.  And average is a sizable accomplishment for me, given how far back I started.

While my childhood gives me a hall pass out of being extraordinary, it does not excuse me from being responsible.  I do not get to sit back and say, “Eh, I’ve suffered plenty.  I’ve paid my dues.”

Because we all have dues.  Yearly dues that we must continue to pay as a price for residency here on this planet.  We are renters here, not owners, and we must treat the property with dignity and respect.  We cannot throw the clothes in the drier on a sunny day because we’re too busy rushing out the door to hang them on the line.  We cannot say, “Fuck it.  It’s been a long week.  I am just too tired to cut up my own fruit, so I’ll buy it wrapped in plastic and already cut.”  We don’t get to use paper towels just because we deem ourselves too busy to cut up stained clothes and make rags.

Every single choice we make must put the environment first.  We don’t get to put our convenience first anymore.  It has gone on too long, and there are no more excuses.  Every thing we do, every moment of our lives, every bite we eat, place we go, decision we make, must take into account the impact it has on our planet.  We will not always be able to buy local or organic or used; sometimes, people affect the world they live in.  But even when we are forced – due to any number of factors – to do something that is more injurious to the planet than we would like, we must be cognizant of that fact and understand it as a problem, not just the way things are.

We must plan ahead so that we don’t take too many trips to the store but also so that we aren’t throwing away wasted food.  We must think in advance about what we will need, voluntarily forgoing convenience because it comes at too high a cost. It is simply too late to do it any other way.

That is, if we want to continue having birthdays for ourselves and our children.

Life is not always convenient or easy.  We need to suck it up and accept that. We must live life with fewer new machines, working with old technology instead of replacing a phone because there is a jazzier model and accepting that the business of our lives is not to have fun but to survive, and that there is work involved in that process.  We need to stop excusing ourselves because we think somehow our lives are harder than everyone else’s, so hey, we can drive three blocks instead of walking.  I don’t get out of it because I had a fucked up childhood, and you don’t get out of it either, no matter what your reasons.

Today, on my birthday, I reaffirm my commitment to make choices based on what will keep my planet and my children safe, even if it means I have to work harder and give up conveniences.  That is the price I pay for getting another year here on earth.

Used

As you may recall, I made a pledge back in December to buy no new clothing for one year, with the exceptions of any necessary undergarments, socks, and shoes.  Some of you were looking forward to hearing all about my adventures in thrift shopping, and so you may wonder why I have gone silent on the topic.  Well, there haven’t really been that many adventures…

Faced with the overwhelming task of sorting through rack after rack of fuchsia paisley polyester blouses and rayon sweaters with the size tag cut out while Lilah fussed in the stroller, I did what any sane woman would do: I stopped buying clothing.  I did not want to buy new stuff with my body changing so regularly, yet I get overwhelmed even in the most coyly organized boutique, so the jumble of a thrift shop when I no longer know my size on a day-to-day basis was just too much to wrap my hormone-fuzzy brain around.

I did buy a beautiful brown dress for $35 in January because we had a wedding to attend.  Of course, I also had to purchase Spanx in order to make my post-partum body presentable in anything other than sweatpants, but I figure that an undergarment that sucks in and firms up is an investment well-made.  Not that it really mattered, since I wore Lilah in the Baby Bjorn through the entire reception.  What can I say; I know how to accessorize to accentuate the positive.

Since then, however, I have bought only a couple pairs of jeans that I thankfully no longer fit and a few t-shirts that are long enough to cover the spare tire I am ever-so-attractively sporting.  And I had to buy them in 7.3 seconds, because Lilah, unlike her eldest brother, takes after Mommy and hates to shop.

Well, this last week, I found myself with that rarest of all jewels – an afternoon to myself.  So, I hightailed it over to a thrift shop benefitting a Jewish charity, ready to get a few cute tops to cover the remaining seven pounds that I don’t have the energy to chase away.  It was a good shop with some nice things, crammed into the racks with absolutely no recognizable system, of course.  I selected several items and turned to go to the dressing room.

Whereupon I realized that there was no dressing room.  This is not uncommon among thrift stores, but it is always shocking to me.  These things have been worn and washed; are there really people who buy them on faith that “eh, it looks about right”?

Not to be deterred, I marched over to the mirror in the center of the room.  I managed to get a tank top on under my t-shirt, then removed the t-shirt to see how it fit.  I kept the tank on to try on all the other tops, but skirts were a bit more complicated.  I suspect there is a large family of Hasidic children that got more of an education than their mother would have liked that day.

At any rate, I left with three tops for twenty-three bucks, all of them with the tags still on.  And I learned a valuable lesson that I will pass along to you today: when shopping in thrift stores, wear spandex shorts and a tight fitting tank top.

You can thank me later – right now you have some eco-friendly shopping to do.

Three is Enough

I have a post up over at L.A. Moms’ Blog.  Go check it out to learn who I plan on suing if I have any more children.

There must be more money

            In D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner,” a little boy hears a recurring whisper in his house: “There must be more money.  There must be more money.”  It’s a great story that you ought to read yourself, but I will be giving nothing away if I tell you that – no matter how much money actually comes into his house – there still is just not enough.

            When I was younger, I read it as a story about materialism, probably because it is.  But, it is also a story about trying to shore up against an insecure world.  The mother, who buys and buys and always needs more, needs lots of Stuff.  And, why does she need all that Stuff?  Because the world is an uncertain place, with hurricanes and recessions and rapists and climate change and two huge fucking flotillas of plastic in the oceans.  Maybe if we have enough Things, we can build a dike to keep the forces of chaos out.

            There are about 98 flaws with this logic, but that doesn’t stop people from trying it nonetheless.  Your husband cheats?  Buy something.  Long day at work?  Try a little retail therapy.  Lose your job?  Max out the credit cards, a particularly foolish thing to do if you don’t have a paycheck.

            Our economy is built on this compulsive need to Get More Crap.  And, when people stop buying crap, there is panic.  What do we do if people stop buying things they don’t need?  We slip into a recession, maybe even a depression.

            But, it doesn’t need to be this way.  We don’t need to judge the economy on new housing starts.  Why is it a good thing to build more houses that we’ll tear down in twenty years?  Why can’t we judge the economy on how much money is spent renovating old houses?  Or on how sturdy the houses are?

            I love the idea of stimulating the economy by fixing our infrastructure because it is about spending on something we actually need.  I do not think a healthy economy and a healthy planet need to be mutually exclusive.  If spending money is good for the economy, why not retool the system so we spend on organic produce, fair wages, and alternative forms of energy?

            There must be more money, there must be more money.  But how will we spend it?