Entries from: February 2009

How to Drive 1000 Miles in One Day, Revisited

I wrote an article here on Randomn3ss on how to drive 1,000 miles in one day a while back. Since that writing, I’ve made the 2,000 mile round trip to the Midwest about fifteen times. I’ve driven through every kind of weather, every season, and maybe every emotional state possible, along with five actual (U.S.A.) states, of course.

I figured it was the right time to look over the list and see what needs updating, since I’ve decided to fly and rent a car for the next trip coming up in a couple weeks. Yes, hard to believe, but fifteen trips is enough – remember that’s thirty 1,000 mile days. (Yikes. One month of 17 hour driving days. I need a nap… for a month.) It’s safe to say I’ve experienced just about every possible driving scenario. I don’t think there is any way I can make it more efficient, can take less time, or make it much different or better at this point.

All the points in my first article still hold up, though I admit I don’t play the Alphabet Game. I’m more interested in looking for odd signs and billboards – I write them down and send them on post cards to a friend of mine. One of my favorites: Set back in a large field, a huge billboard with only an 800 number and “OUR DRIVERS ARE PEOPLE” on it. As opposed to… frogs, rocks, what? Another: A bait and tackle shop named “Bite Me!” And the “Kum & Go” convenience store is always good for a chuckle.

One important time saver I would add: Only get gas/make stops on the side of the highway you’re driving on (i.e. you will make a right turn at the end of the exit ramp). You lose a lot of time having to go over/under the highway/freeway to get to a gas station. It can be a challenge. Sometimes you can’t see far enough ahead to know which side they’re on unless you see the name of the place really high up on a pole on your side. I have my stops down at this point, but I recommend writing them down as you go, for both sides – as you’re heading in one direction, also write down what you see on the other side of the road for the return trip.

Another possibly important item to invest in: A lumbar support pad/pillow. I had to get one out of necessity after my accident (mentioned in the previous article), and even though I don’t need it as much for short little trips at home, it’s a back-saver on the long hauls. It helps you not get fatigued too soon in the trip, saves you from having a sore back at the end of the day, and helps you stay alert because it forces you to have good posture.

It is critical to take really good care of your vehicle, and have emergency roadside coverage. When I stop for gas, I always circle my car and check it all out. And I never miss my scheduled maintenance.

Stay in the right lane (of a divided highway) when you are several miles away from your next exit. Nothing is more maddening than being in the left lane only to have a semi or two come up on the right and block the informational signs, and the exit. (Especially if you have a full bladder.)

Be prepared for the time zone changes messing with your head. For me, I ‘lose’ an hour coming back east, and for some reason, it always makes the day seem so much longer, even though it’s the same 1,000 miles. It’s best to change your car’s clock to the time zone of your destination right when you begin your drive, then you won’t have to sit there to figure out what time it ‘really’ is and how much further you have to go.

Use the trip counters: If you have a car that has two trip counters, use them both. I pick one for the whole day’s miles, and the other for the current driving leg’s miles. For example, on the leg miles, when I’m at about 120-130 miles, I start planning the next stop. Then after filling up, I clear that counter back to zero. The day’s miles helps me know that I’m staying on track time-wise. It’s always great to know I’m a quarter there, then half way, then two-thirds, etc. It gives me something to do, and when I’m down to that last 50 miles and I’m on time, I start smiling as I know it’s almost over.

Pack smart: Pack so that only the essentials you must have that night and first thing in the morning are in one or two bags if you are too tired to haul everything out of the car when you arrive (and you don’t have anyone waiting to help you). This is really beneficial when there’s bad weather, too. (It’s frustrating to carry luggage in the rain, sleet or in sub-zero weather.) Some things, like food, you might not be able to leave in the car overnight depending on what it is and the time of year (think -10 degrees or 95 degrees, both of which I’ve experienced) – fruit, for example, won’t last. Of course, keep valuables in the trunk and don’t have anything visible from the windows that would invite a break-in if, both while you’re driving and if you’re parking in a lot or on the street.

I have only done two back-to-back 1,000 mile days, a long time ago, driving from Boulder, CO, to southern NH/Boston, MA area. It was brutal, and I don’t recommend it in general. My feet and ankles were swollen for a couple days, and it took me a week to fully recover. This misadventure was back before I created this 1,000 mile day system, so maybe it wouldn’t be quite as hard now. But 2,000 miles is 2,000 miles and is pretty unforgiving if you’re not prepared, car and body.

Driving 1,000 miles in a day is not for everyone. Lots of people ask me how I do it, especially after so many trips. I don’t have a simple answer. Sometimes it’s a breeze and I love it: The road is clear, the weather lovely, the is traffic light and the day flies by. Other times, it honestly is really, really hard. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep leaving the Midwest, there is nothing more grueling than hitting the mountains in western PA at night at hour 12 of driving, knowing there’s 5 more hours – and if there’s snow, multiply that hard factor by 10, and add an hour or so.

Part of my motivation, as mentioned in the previous article, is saving money, and part of it is personal, having to deal with the reason for the trips in the first place – I need to go and be of help, and so it helps me feel good about the sacrifices needed to make the traveling work. I suppose part of it is to prove a point to myself about my ability to be focused, to have the necessary driving skills, and the physical and mental strength to do it over and over. Really, I just do it because I can and because I must.

The bonus is that I still like the solitude, the countryside, the hum of the road, even after all these trips; and, I love to drive, plain and simple. Also, being pretty untouchable for a whole day ranks pretty high. Other than saying “thanks” to some service folks, I have a whole day completely to myself to think and not think, to turn the phone off, to have no distractions or things pulling at me that I “should” do. My job as I see it is to drive (safely and efficiently), and more importantly, listen to and know my own mind and heart. That is worth it for me right there.

Go Fly Yourself: Must-See Video

If you’ve had flying dreams where you just spread your arms and go, you can really do it in waking life. Completely amazing. Absolutely stunning landscape as well. Norway, anyone?


Cooking Brings Peace Tonight

I have not spent a lot of time cooking lately, so today I decided to make soup from a recipe recommended by Mike here at Randomn3ss.

My work day was spent mostly sitting, and mostly designing (graphic design), so it was refreshing to stand for about two hours rinsing, boiling, dicing, chopping, measuring, stirring, smelling and being quiet. Silent, actually. My workplace is a fairly loud place at times, with lots of interruptions, lots of laughter, lots of activity going by my desk all day, and so making my brain concentrate amid all that takes a lot of work. While cooking tonight, I didn’t even turn on any music. I just took in the quiet, enjoying the sound and feeling of the knife cutting the herbs and vegetables, hearing my boyfriend working on a bicycle upstairs, and actually hearing the quiet of my own mind, which I quite honestly have not heard lately.

The concentration cooking required of me tonight was perfect. It stopped my racing mind, put all the true concerns and true nonsense on a shelf somewhere, nowhere to be found, thankfully, due to focusing on the tasks at hand. That kind of peace, the peace of being in the moment, was easy to attain for me tonight, which reminds me that I need to create this for myself daily. Cooking is a natural way to get into the peace zone, though it’s not always possible or doesn’t always happen. Cooking is also a perfect way to talk about the day, be silly, laugh and enjoy the comfort of relationship, which is another type of inner quieting needed (even if it’s not quiet outwardly), a lovely peace inside from connection.

Cooking tonight brought me the reminder that I must have peace like this regularly, and to use cooking as the means more often. My whole self, all my senses are telling me this, and for once, I’m quiet and peaceful enough to hear it and take it in, as I eat the wonderful results of peace-filled cooking.


P.S. Saving Money This Holiday

The day after writing my article on How to Save Money This Holiday Season, in which I basically suggested spending as little as possible, a Pulitzer prize-winning writer for the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, told us that the best thing we can do for our economy is: “Go Shopping.”

Hmm, I guess this means no Pulitzer for me. Oh well. I understand Mr. Friedman’s opinion in general, but personally, I don’t have the money to go shopping, even if I wanted to – and I’m sure I’m not alone in that, for several reasons. Who can just go shopping when they’ve been laid off, as thousands have recently, as reported in the Times and elsewhere, or are fairly certain a lay off is coming? What about those who finally woke up, or were forced to wake up from their credit binge of the past several years and had just come to terms with not spending more than they earn? What about those facing foreclosure? What message does this give them? Of course, retailers rejoiced at Mr. Friedman’s words, as they should. Maybe the malls won’t be as deserted as has been predicted.

I’m sure plenty of other people do have the money or plastic to burn, though, so I will say a big thank you to all those who do help our economy through shopping, and just needed permission such as this to go out and spend away again. Each person can wrestle with what is best for them to do, for self, country or both. It’s a classic paradox, and an honestly tough choice, for some.

How to Save Money This Holiday Season: Top 5

I’m as affected by the state of the economy as anyone, and it’s caused me to really curb my usual spending for the holidays. I have family and friends all over the country, so I have the added financial burden of having the majority of my gifts shipped – which this year means I have to get creative, i.e. cheap, to make it work.

1. Wrapping: I don’t shop at “dollar stores” much as I find the products overall pretty horrible in quality, but the exception is wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbon and so on. Never pay regular retail for stuff that’s going right into the trash for the most part. Of course, because I save stuff like that, I already have a good stash to start with, but inevitably some of it will tear and I won’t have enough, so I do make a trip to the local buck shop once a holiday season. Also look around your house for creative ideas to make your wrap job unique. Newspapers, string, colored wire, yarn, paper clips – use your imagination to have an impact when you hand your gift over. Don’t worry about it looking goofy or not ‘elegant’ or whatever. It will make people smile, and remember it – and you.

2. DIY/Make Your Own Gifts: There are countless DIY ideas on the web and in magazines to draw from, but beware: If you have to go out and buy stuff to make it, you are likely defeating your goal of saving money. Be inspired by the DIY items you see, but if you have none of the items needed to make it, see if you can come up with your own version using what you have at home. I like to take pictures and decided this year to give the gift of my photography. It’s easy to get prints done inexpensively either on the web or at home (but be careful with the latter as ink ain’t cheap). It’s also easy to find inexpensive frames, and perfectly legitimate to reuse frames or get used frames at thrift stores. One of my framed photos cost me less than $5.00 but looks like it cost a lot more than that – framed photography has that way about it. Photography is one of the most accessible hobbies, artistic endeavors or casual activities around that has a really high impact on people, so don’t discount it, even if you don’t think you’re “good” at it. People love to have their stories, memories and special moments captured and displayed in photos, and photos are typically treasured for years, often becoming heirlooms, passed on to new generations. Other gifts I have made in other years are crocheted scarves, woven potholders, jewelry, note cards and post cards… If you’re good with a hammer and saw, you might use some scrap wood to make a small shelf, a storage box, a magazine rack, etc. Handmade things are always appreciated, and again, tend to stay in the family for years to come.

3. Cook or Bake: I make a Czechoslovakian pastry my mother used to make that no one else in my family has really mastered, and I love sending it to my family at the holidays – and they are thrilled to receive it. If there are strong sentimental baked-good favorites in your family, I highly recommend giving them as gifts: We all need some comfort in these hard times, everyone loves a special treat, and it’s likely you enjoy making it, so it’s gift to yourself, too. If shipping, choose something that will hold up well and be sure to pack it very carefully so it doesn’t arrive in crumbs; also, don’t send that door stop, um, fruit cake that weighs 15 pounds as it will be expensive to ship. Again, watch your budget, and the amount of time it will take you, along with the amount of energy needed. If your food of choice requires lots of oven and/or stove time, it’s not really economical.

4. Give Yourself a Low Dollar Limit and Stick to it, No Matter What: Depending on your budget and income, I recommend keeping it really low – $4-8, maybe $10 at the most. Related to that, out of necessity, you may then be able only to give one gift per person, which may be a big challenge, if you’re like me and typically like to give 2-3-4 things to each person. This is a great exercise: It makes you really think about the person, what they need, what they like, and about you, what statement you like to make with a gift, what is important to you, and to the relationship. It can be very revealing, very fun, and very satisfying to realize the best thing you can get your friend is a really great _________ for $7. Really, that’s all you need to give, and they will love it, and the pressure is off to ‘have’ to spend a lot more for whatever reason prior to this moment you had for gift giving.

5. Give the Gift of Your Time: One thing everyone wishes for is more time, so give it to someone in the form of a handmade gift certificate offering your time to help them with something they need, which in essence gives them more time for other things. You can be specific, stating “I will…”: Paint your bathroom; take your recyclables to the recycling center every month in 2009; clean out your garage; give you 5 hours of Photoshop training; etc. Doing something for someone that allows them more time to give to things they wish to spend time on is priceless, as is offering to do chores they hate but you don’t mind at all. Doing things for someone else also helps you to create stronger connections, build the relationship, which is a gift to you both.

Bonus tip: Regift! I frequently regift (i.e. give something that someone has given to me) items I have never used or have barely used, and think it’s a perfectly legitimate and morally appropriate thing to do. A couple key points are in order: “Barely used” means the recipient should not really be able to tell the item was ever used. Don’t give something that shows wear or any kind of obvious use – that is tacky, pure and simple. Keep track: Be 1000% sure you’re not giving a gift back to the person who gave it to you, or plan on some really awkward moments and possible negative ramifications. Keep original packaging if possible, if you get a gift that you know you’ll never use, so you can regift it easily. Don’t feel bad: We all have gotten gifts that just didn’t work for us, no matter that we love the person who gave them to us. It’s okay to part with it, really, and what’s the point of keeping something you will never use. Send it off to someone who truly will appreciate it – and thank the original giver (in your mind only!) for helping you in this new way (saving money by regifting it).

Some people will likely decide not to give gifts this year, and I think that’s a fine idea, too – if one was accused of being a tightwad during these times, that’s a compliment, if anything, and should be an inspiration, actually. Take on the title of Scrooge proudly if it feels right.

In uncertain times such as this economic crisis, the bonds with each other and our common values are what people historically turn to (and what was obviously forgotten in these past many years of spend spend spend), for strength and comfort, for efficiency, and for being wise financially. Use that to everyone’s advantage this gift-giving season, and beyond. It will be the greatest gift you can give – to yourself, too.

Breast Cancer Prevention – The Quick Overview

I’ll save you some time during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: In reading several blogs regarding breast cancer and its prevention, and in reading several nutrition books lately, it boils down to eating less animal foods, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising frequently.

– Research shows there is almost no breast cancer in populations that consume less than 10% of their calories from fat, and that meat and dairy continue to be strongly implicated as a causal factor in breast cancer; it’s not just animal fat, it’s animal protein, too. Eating lots and lots of vegetables, especially green vegetables, and fruit, preferably raw, offers the most protection, even if you do eat animal foods. (You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to prevent cancer, although this is best – just add a lot more plant foods – a whole lot more than the standard American diet, that is.)

– In one study, women 20-54 who exercised regularly had over 60% less risk than sedentary women to get breast cancer, and for those who exercised more than 4 hours per week, their risk was over 70% less. (There are countless studies that support the assertion that regular exercise is crucial to health and disease prevention.) Walking at a good clip (lazy strolls don’t count really) at least 4-5 days a week for 30 minutes or more is the starting point, for example. It’s best to vary your workouts with different types of exercise, including cardio, strength training and stretching, to get the best benefits.

One last note: Don’t confuse mammograms with prevention: Mammograms are for detection; they are important but they can’t prevent cancer. Only reducing your risks (i.e. if you smoke, quit now and permanently), eating raw vegetables (leafy greens give the most protection; skip the starchy ones) and fruits (but eat more veggies than fruits to get the most superior nutrition), and regular exercise will truly lower your chances of getting breast or other types of cancer, as well as other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Footprint Calculator Overload

There are countless carbon footprint calculator web sites on the web now, and like a bad toe fungus, calculators of other types are inevitably springing up and spreading to all areas uncontrollably.

You can calculate your food footprint, your water footprint, your plastic footprint, your lifetime consumption footprint, your house footprint. How about your civic footprint. Noise even has a footprint. Calculations are out there on the carbon hoofprints of cows, too. Energy use and loss footprints. Did you think about your social footprint?

The overload about our soles has arrived, I think.

There are costs to everything we do, carbon often included: Emotional, financial, intellectual, physical, social/community psychological, time… What are some other calculators the world can use, in the effort to reduce all these tolls on the earth and its inhabitants? Here’s some ideas:

– The makeup, lip gloss, hair bleach and tanning bed footprint.

– The alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, omelette and home fries, and ibuprofen footprint.

– The pizza footprint in the U.S. alone must be staggering.

– The time, gas, food, and drinks wasted on bad dates footprint.

– The every movement of female celebrities’ scandals footprint. Good God please save us from that one right now.

– The complaining footprint. Think of all that junk released into the air…

– The lost keys and other important items needed as you walk out the door late for work/school/interview/wedding/driving friend to the airport footprint.

– The out of gas (and yelling and banging head on steering wheel) footprint. (No wait, it’s good to use less gas. Do those two footprint calculators cancel each other out?)

– The swearing footprint. The U.S. is clearly a contender for top footprint there. (Actually a few of my friends who shall remain nameless are leading the pack. You know who you are.)

– The bad cable shows and movies we’ve sat through and wondered why we were so stupid to waste our time on that footprint.

– The say mean things about others and feel smug footprint.

– The family gathering/social event we’d rather eat our smelly dirty oldest shoes than go to footprint.

– The I hope my parent/spouse/relatives/significant other/friend/neighbor/coach/the media/the guy sitting next to me on the subway doesn’t find out footprint.

– The not balancing our checkbook footprint.

– The self-delusion/denial/ability to lie to ourselves footprint.

– Similarly but a little bit different, the I’ll believe anything footprint. Could be a good or bad footprint, right?

Smile and laughter footprints anyone? Has to be good.

Let’s hear your footprint ideas.

For Those Without Mothers, Thinking of You on Mother’s Day

As one who was young when her mother died, I send out a greeting and hug to everyone who has lost their mom and who are missing her on Mother’s Day. I send it out because the nicest card I have ever gotten in my life was a Mother’s Day card, though I’m not a mom. It was from a dear friend (the mom of one of my best friends from college) saying how proud of me my mom surely would be, what a credit to her that I turned out like I have, and to offer comfort for not having a mom there that day to hug and thank on Mother’s Day. That was the sweetest thing ever. Mary Judd Scott was a remarkable mom herself, and I feel immense gratitude to this day for that moment of thoughtfulness and the time I shared in her (too short) life.

While I can’t speak for everyone who has lost a mother at whatever age and for whatever reason, I think it’s fairly safe to say that we still miss our moms, probably every day, and the general public doesn’t really acknowledge this loss often. I’ll be so bold to say I want all you with moms to remember and honor that, uncomfortable as it may be. I think I feel the worst for little kids without moms, and for those who are estranged from their living mothers, whether by their own choice or their mothers’ choice, or neither, or both. I especially feel for those mothers with children overseas in the armed forces, the mothers serving in them, and the mothers everywhere who have lost children to war. I give a proverbial hug to us all.

I’ll also be so bold to ask those of you with moms who incessantly complain about their mothers to stop. Figure things out, stop wasting precious time. I don’t say that out of self pity or wanting attention, just realize those of us without moms always feel a pang listening to you to talk about your mom (whether you’re having troubles or sharing a happy story about her) – we’d love to have the opportunity to talk to ours, be with her, and just wish you’d direct your energies toward creating good relations with her. I fully know some mothers have breached trust or behaved in ways that are unforgivable, but I also have come to believe we have to forgive fully, and move on (in all situations) to create harmony. The alternative is having this miserable little feeling inside that never goes away, and eventually seeps into the other corners and parts of our lives.

Some have accused me of being a ‘little mother hen’. I guess I’m okay with that. I decided early on to give that good part of mothering to others because I knew that’s what people yearn for the most, even if they don’t know it or want to acknowledge it; if I couldn’t have it, I would give it then, which meant I sort of got it, too. I think I luckily learned never to go into that not so good part of mothering, smothering, because I learned quickly I hated that; a young girl without her mom rejects those trying to (s)mother just for the fact that no one was or could replace her.

Being a mother is the toughest and most important role in the world, without a doubt. I commend every mom out there, and implore everyone to love your mother, and all mothers. Give them a hand, give them a break, give them a hug, give them respect, give them what you would want most, express your gratitude for her. I read somewhere that our job is to mother ourselves. It’s great and it helps… but sometimes it doesn’t work, and it’s just not the same as having your mom.

With sincere and deep love, to my mother, Evelyn, and to all moms,
Lauren O

Going Greener, Revisited

Being that yesterday was Earth Hour Day 2008, it inspired me to reflect on what I’ve read recently about climate change and going greener, to look at how I’m doing with going greener, and it made me wonder how others are evolving (or not) into a greener lifestyle.

This is the third article I’ve done on going greener, and another thing that inspired me to write again were a few recent magazine articles. In one, a national magazine who shall remain nameless but that regularly has a lot of articles on going greener and living more naturally, showed a photo of their whole staff and listed what each of them did to to live sustainably every day. I don’t think some understood what that meant really, and some seemed 25 years behind the times. “I turn the heat down when I leave the house.” Wah? Wow. Baffling, but then they’re in the business of making a magazine, not living the magazine every minute, I suppose. Another person listed “returning hangers to the dry cleaners”. Wow. Hmmm. Do we want to burst her bubble about the damage dry cleaners do to the environment and their employees’ health? You don’t need dry cleaners to clean most items that says “dry clean only”. Yes, she could have thrown the hangers away, which isn’t good, but the bigger help to the environment clearly is not to go to dry cleaners. All you have to do is smell the air at the dry cleaners to know it’s not good for anyone’s lungs. Thank goodness there is change happening in the industry and there are green dry cleaners springing up. And, thankfully several of the staff did more significant things like switch to a vegetarian diet, consciously choose a tiny apartment over a McMansion, and bike to work every day.

The other couple articles I read were about scientists who challenged my thinking and green way of living by asserting that the only way to really help the environment is to be politically active constantly, to push for change with manufacturers and politicians. That recycling and buying compact fluorescent light bulbs and using cloth napkins and composting and everything else is pretty “useless” compared to changing policies, industries and government nationally and globally.

Gulp. Blink. Blink blink. Crap.

And I immediately agreed, and disagreed. Yes, we need that kind of massive change, now – just look at recent articles about the massive ice shelf in the Antarctic breaking off – without a doubt. And, we need huge systemic change in every facet of life and industry if we’re going to really affect climate change. But to tell people what they’re doing doesn’t help, misses the point and hurts the progress being made all over the world – everyone has to start with what they can touch and do and know in their daily lives. It makes them CARE. Which then will make them want to do more, which then will hopefully make them see the crucial need for political action. If it’s not personal for them, they won’t do it. The more green you go, the inevitable step after doing all the daily living green things is political action.

Lots of people don’t care, or God forbid, can be inconvenienced with going green, I have learned. If I ask them about it, they usually get a glassy-eyed look and offer a non-explanation for why they don’t make the effort to fill in the blank (recycle, conserve, whatever). I get all kinds of people just shaking their heads at my commitment to it and writing me off, figuratively patting me on the head and saying “that’s nice”, mumbling something about a tree hugger, and then moving on quickly to something that doesn’t make them uncomfortable. I am always saddened, maddened, perplexed or a combination of the three by this. I can even say at times it challenges why I’m friends with some people. That is the hardest part about going green.

I don’t care about their opinion of me ultimately, whether it’s about going green, being vegan, not letting them put down my Midwestern home state with their uninformed assumptions about it, or whatever it may be – you can see I have an opinion about them as well (which I’m not exactly thrilled about; I strive to be non-judgmental and compassionate, but it doesn’t work all the time). We are all entitled to our beliefs. And I understand people have their priorities, difficulties, time and/or money constraints, or whatever it may be in their lives… but it’s the Earth, the air, the water, what allows us to live and breathe and have problems and joys and grief and love that we’re talking about here.

It all serves to inspire me to do more. I have joined more environmental groups, contributed more money, written to the president and senators about national green issues and continued to find more ways to go green on a personal level. I think if I counted my green activities, it would easily number a few dozen. Want to hear a few more? (Read other common, not always easy, and creative green choices in my other articles on Randomn3ss.)

1. I keep empty one-gallon water jugs in the kitchen to fill up with the cold water that comes out of the tap while waiting for the hot water to make it upstairs (second floor) from the basement. I use it to water my plants.

2. I make sure at least one and usually two meals a day are eaten without heating them up.

3. In my city the government doesn’t provide garbage service, so we haul our garbage to the places we go anyway to dump it – at the grocery store, gas station, wherever, saving a private truck from coming to our house and idling while the guy parks, takes his time to pick up the bag and throw it in, and head on to his next stop. (See # 8 below.) We have very little garbage, because…

4. We recycle greeting cards, tissue paper, wrapping paper, magazines and shiny paper like ads and junk mail, newspapers, cardboard, #1-7 plastics, aluminum, glass, office paper, tin and other scrap metal, phone books, and I take a bag of clothes, shoes and other household stuff to a charity thrift store every time I buy new things, to have less stuff for me to manage, and less stuff in the garbage. I also choose items with the least amount of packaging, and even don’t buy some things (gasp!) if the package can’t be recycled.

5. I park my car so that I can drive straight out instead of having to back up to get out. Studies say it saves on gas. It’s certainly easier, and saves time. I also get more exercise because often the only way to do that is park farther away from the entrance of where I’m going.

6. I now shop closer to home to save on gas consumption. It has been easier than I thought it would be, and saves me a lot of time and gas money.

7. I was given over 100 votive candles, so I’m using less electricity for lights.

8. I turn my car off if I’m going to idle for more than 10 seconds after reading that it takes less gas to restart the car, contrary to most people’s belief.

9. I keep glass jars to use for food storage rather than buying those disposable (or not) plastic food containers. Glass can be used for years, and won’t stain and get stinky and sticky like the plastics do – they break down, which means chemicals being released into the food.

10. I never buy note pads. I cut up paper to reuse for a variety of purposes.

11. This year I’m planning to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which is a great way to support local farmers, have great produce, and save money and time: From Local Harvest, “CSA is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become “members” (or “shareholders,” or “subscribers”) of the CSA. Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up-front, but some farmers will accept weekly or monthly payments… The number of CSAs in the United States was estimated at 50 in 1990, and has since grown to over 1000.”

12. I have a system for washing and rinsing dishes that uses very little water, including, obviously, not letting the water run unnecessarily. We use a natural dish soap, too.

13. We keep a big bucket in the bathroom and when we turn on the shower, we let the bucket fill up with the cold water while waiting for the hot water (see #1 above), and when the bucket is full, use that water to flush the toilet.

I’m going to stop listing things now. When I wrote “want to hear a few more?” above, I didn’t know it would go to thirteen. But I’m not actually surprised: In going through my activities, it’s clear to me it is a real lifestyle. I look for the green opportunity and choice in everything I do, at work, home, traveling and play. When I add the thirteen to those listed in other things I’ve written, it makes me smile, and feel like and know I’m making a difference, even if others continue to believe otherwise. I disagree: It makes a difference to me and to everything I touch.

There is no way to be perfectly 100% green 100% of the time. It’s not possible, though I’ve read about some people in Japan and other places where they have to go to crazy lengths to conserve in ways people in the U.S could never even fathom. But going greener is a great process, and even though you’re never done, you never get to the end, it’s a great journey worth deciding to take for life. I have learned a lot (and, some day I’ll learn to write down my sources every time and add them to the bottom of the articles), about the world, and myself – a double green gift.

I now have to return to compassion and take back my put-down of the person whose green glory is ‘only’ turning down her thermostat when they leave the house. They are on a green journey, too, thankfully. Good luck on yours – don’t stop at Earth Hour, or Earth Day (April 22nd). Commit to “Earth Life”, for the good of the planet, and for your personal world.

Top Five Things to Do on A Day Off from Work

I don’t take days off from work very often, but when I do, here’s my list of favorite things to do, although I don’t usually do them all in the same day off. (If I tried, then it would feel like work, and then I would be mad, and the day would be ruined. Okay, not ruined. I’m not at work, right?)

5. Have no schedule. It’s great just to do what you want, go where you want, on a whim for once. For me, weekends are typically spent doing stuff I don’t have time to do during the week like cleaning, grocery shopping, paying bills, catching up on correspondence, doing laundry, getting gas in the car, checking my post office box, going to the bank… the list goes on for life maintenance. While I might think about things I’d like to do as the day off approaches, I refrain from actually making a schedule for it, and consciously vow just to go with the moment, the feeling, the inspiration that comes that day.

4. Go somewhere or do something I’ve been wanting to but have been putting off. For me, that might be going to a gallery, going to the ocean, trying a new restaurant for lunch (less expensive than dinner, so if I don’t like it, I’m not out that much money), spending time exploring something on the web uninterrupted (nothing is more wonderful than getting to concentrate on one thing for a nice stretch of time; nice to get away from the ADD of the workplace), taking a drive or day trip to a place I’ve never been before.

3. Be totally lazy. It’s so nice just to stay in pajamas, slug around in slippers, not do my hair, not put on make up, not do the dishes, not straighten up, not work on projects I should. In all honesty, I get bored with this after a while, but for a few slovenly hours, I really like it.

2. Take a nap. Or a few. Nothing is more decadent than doing a little reading, taking a nap, eating a little, taking a nap, stretching and wandering aimlessly around the house, and taking a nap.

1. Sleep late. Okay, actually, sleeping late is the most luxurious thing for me. I’m a light sleeper (which means I don’t always sleep great), so to get a couple extra hours is the best vacation, even if it’s just for one day.

Honorable mention: Bubble bath. (Just don’t nap in the bathtub.)

What are your favorite day-off activities?