Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Interrupt Your Fun to Bring You This Environmental Message (Please Don't Yawn)

If you’re like me, you have eschewed bottle water of late and are doing your green Girl Scout best to refill your own bottles. I used to think that as long as my plastic bottles were being recycled, there was no harm in it. Now I know better. Our to-be-recycled bottles end up on slow boats to China, where who knows what happens. Maybe they’re actually recycled, but in the end, we’re still making our waste someone else’s problem.

Besides, lots and lots and LOTS of bottles still end up in landfills:

The above photo is by Chris Jordan, a Seattle photographer. It "Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes." Perhaps you’ve seen his other pieces, each focusing on visually arresting images of ubiquitous items we often waste, like paper cups, cell phones, and paper bags, that show at a glance how quickly our junk adds up. In this collection of his work, called Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait, mundane objects are presented in ways that set my jaw to dropping—and my mind to thinking.

I think of Mr. Jordan’s work each time I walk down the water aisle at my beloved Trader Joe's. (Only 89 cents for 1-liter Spring Water, such a deal!) I had been buying them occasionally and then refilling them for weeks, but each one eventually ended up in the recycle bin. So I stopped myself and returned to refilling my Nalgene-esque water bottles. Now I hear they leach harmful chemicals into our bodies, so we’re not supposed to be using them, either. Aluminum is the latest craze for refillables, but I’m not about to fork over $18 bucks for a water bottle when I have so many already, purchased when Nalgenes were okay and I had more money a job.

So there I am, cheerfully humming and dutifully refilling my green, red, and blue cancer-delivery systems bottles with nice, filtered water from my Brita pitcher when I receive an email alert that pretty much ruins my morning. Said that my plastic Brita filter was not recyclable. Guess I knew that. In our house, D. is the one who always changes the filters (he’s a prince), so I was not really conscious about (ok, ignoring) where they went. But of course it’s not the recycle bin. In the garbage they go, where they’re gathered up and dumped in the landfill. And what about all that chlorine and lead and whatever else they’re filtering out? Leaches into the ground. Perfect.

In the UK, Brita has a take-them-back recycling program for their filters. Not so here in the US of A. So if you use Brita filters—and you’d like to recycle instead of tossing them, consider signing this online petition and see if Clorox (yes, CLOROX) will do the right thing—and help us do the same.

That’s all. Carry on.

Brita filter photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Eight Things I Want to do Before I Die (the semi-achievable version)

The lovely Krissa of HalfAsstic.com visited with a meme challenge. How appropriate that she picked my birthday week. My forty-effin'-sixth birthday week. (Can you hear the screaming?) As always, this time of year brings me pause. . . sets me to thinking about. . . myself, of course. I’m a Leo. And it’s my birthday month. Sheesh. Only thing is, the questions I ask myself: they are a-changin’. Now it’s not so much the what am I going to do with my life? question, but the how much of it is left? question. And the how have I done so far? question. And the how will I look in twenty years when I'm sixty-six holy mother of god? question.

Looking ahead is difficult for a non-planner like me. I am a dyed-in-the-wool, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (and clichéd out the wazoo) kind of gal.

Looking back is even scarier. Maybe things would have been better, had I actually made a plan or two along the way. I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter anyway. But I wonder—does it not matter because I choose not to feel regret over the past? Or am I choosing not to feel regret about the past because I don’t want to admit that I could have done it better, accomplished something really significant, or caused myself less pain?

I don’t think it’s the latter. Going through my life without every one of its hardships would have made it different, certainly. But better? What if I had actually thought through the consequences before making some of my bigger (and dumber) decisions? Or, here’s a novel idea: how would this little life have turned out if I had always, always put myself first? I know that doing any of it differently would have yielded a different me. Everything, in its time, occurred because I made it happen that way. And even with all my shortcomings, and all I’ve been through, I’m pretty happy living in this skin.

Which leads us to the meme, (thank god she's stopped philosophizing, you're saying) and some of the things I’ll do from here on out. This is the “actually possible” list. Next post will be the “when monkeys fly out of my butt*” list.

Eight Things I Want To Do Before I Die
  1. Write novels—many of them, whether they are published or not.
  2. Learn to speak Spanish.
  3. Start an animal sanctuary like she did.
  4. Take art classes: drawing, painting, pottery—any or all.
  5. Get together with my parents and all ten siblings at least once more while we’re all still here. And when we do, I'll be scared that it's the last time. Until the next time.
  6. Do a bicycle tour of Ireland.
  7. Get over my fear of needles (but not through repeated exposure).
  8. Read as many of these books as I can. Only 970 to go!
Thanks for getting me to think about this, Krissa! I saw the movie but haven't thought about the things I haven't done yet. Now I have. I'm not going to formally tag any of you, my friends, but I would LOVE to hear what's on your bucket list!

*Wayne’s World, 1992. “It might happen. Cha! And monkeys might fly out of my butt!"

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Fresh Air Interview with Claire B.

Ok, so we’re just pretending here. Terry Gross doesn't know I’m alive. But if she did. . .

Cue snappy music. . . bah de dum de dum!

Terry Gross: From WHYY in Philadelphia. . . This is Fresh Air. I’m Terry Gross. My guest today is Claire B., a sometimes-blogger from the Seattle area, who has surprised —and perhaps relieved—the blogging community by dropping out of the scene for the past five weeks. Welcome to Fresh Air. Thanks for being here.

Me: You’re welcome, Terry. And may I just say that I’ve noticed none of your guests seem to reply with a simple, “you’re welcome,” when you thank them?

TG: Huh. Why no, I haven’t noticed that. (Chuckle) It’s sort of intriguing that you have.

Me: Well, Terry, I can’t help it. I was taught the proper response to “thank you” is, of course, “you’re welcome.” Yet often the reply is, “thank you for having me,” which leads the original thanker in this case, you, to be in the prickly situation of answering “you’re welcome” back to the person you were originally trying to thank—or just sort of letting the second “thank you” hang out there in the air. It’s unsettling. To me. I can’t speak for anyone else.

TG: Interesting. Well, let’s move on to the interview before we run out of time. I’d first like to ask you, why haven’t you blogged in a over a month?

Me: Well, partly because I’ve been quite busy of late. You see, my husband. . .

TG: I believe you refer to him as “D.” on your blog?

Me: That’s right. You see, D. and I used to run a business together. We did that for five years of the six we’ve lived here in Bellingham. And we worked together for four and a half years before that.

TG: So, doing the math here, you’ve worked together for almost ten years, then? And you’ve only been married, for . . . what, eleven?

Me: Yes, correct. Oh what joy we have known. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in each other’s company. Our very dissimilar communication and management styles only added that extra spice to our marriage that so many couples crave. One day we were “discussing” work and our relationship and the strain it sometimes, well to be honest, often brings to our lives—I believe D. was dodging the plates I was hurling toward his head at the time—and in between ducks he suggested that we maybe ought to think about not working together any more. We decided it would be beneficial to seek another lifestyle—one that fits our personal passions, our yearning to have more control over our time, and our desire to stay married.

TG: So rather than just get a divorce, you, what? Sold your business?

Me: Yes. In hindsight, the divorce might have been simpler. . . and of course, both processes involve lawyers and CPAs and financial planners and mediators. But in the end, we made the right decision after all. We’re very happy that we decided to sell the business.

TG: So you’re glad that’s over with. And now you can start something new. What’s on the horizon?

Me: Well, Terry, I’m going to be a freelance copywriter and also get back to work on my two novels.

TG: Ahhh, yes. The writer in you is coming out. How does that feel?

Me: It is thrilling beyond description.

TG: (Chuckle) Well, if you’re going to be a writer, you might want to work on coming up with one.

Me: Hmph, well, yes I suppose you’re right. Truth is, I used to be so envious of D. because he’s a very gifted and talented musician who has always known beyond a doubt that music is his passion. I have envied countless people who write and talk about their passions, wondering all along what the hell mine was and when it would present itself to me. Then I began writing classes and was soon writing all the time. Writing fiction, writing my blog, writing professionally for advertising. And do you know what, Terry?

TG: Um, no, what?

Me: Just thinking about being a writer full-time—just thinking about it—makes me feel funny inside like riding a roller coaster or falling in love or speaking in front of a large group. Without the nausea. That’s the thrill. And that’s my passion.

TG: Well, that’s great, then. Fabulous. One more thing: I noticed you have no photo on your blog.

Me: Yes, that’s true. You know, when I started blogging I was very naïve. I felt exposed to the whole world. I didn’t want anyone to know my innermost feelings and thoughts. I was embarrassed that I thought anyone could possibly be interested in what I had to say. This was before I decided I didn’t give a rat’s ass what anybody thought. And realized that only about four people on the planet look at my blog. And that they are among the finest human beings out there. They even say nice things about my writing. It took all that silly fear away.

TG: Yes. I see. What does that have to do with the photo? Or the lack thereof?

Me: Well the rest of it is, I was mostly afraid I would be recognized by my staff or a customer. I live in a very small town and being a very public business owner as well made me feel way too naked.

TG: So you felt naked? Can you descibe that?

Me: I was uncomfortable. I was worried someone would find my blog and see what I was saying about my personal life. Or them. Or D. No way did I want any proof that I was connected to that Claire B. person.

TG: Well you are Claire B., right? Or is that a nom de plume?

Me: I love it when you speak French, Terry.

TG: So, what is it?

Me: It’s a pen name, is what it is.

TG: You know, I didn’t think you looked like a Claire. Where did that name come from?

Me: Claire is what my parents almost named me. The B. is for Brennan, my great-grandmother’s maiden name.

TG: I’ll look for that name on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Me: Oh, you do go on! Seriously, though, you should keep your eyes peeled for that.

TG: Well I want to thank you very much for being here.

Me: You’re welcome.

TG: No “thank you for having me?”

Me: Um, no.

TG: So you think we look alike?

Me: Um, again, no.

Terry Gross and Guess Who?