Here’s the thing, when you stop driving and you start walking, the world slows down. You begin to notice those little details that you missed when you were hurtling by at 40 mph. The beautiful architecture of an old building, little yellow flowers growing from a crack in the sidewalk, that magnificent cloud formation as a storm front draws near. You also notice something else. Something not beautiful, wondrous or magnificent. Something that you paid no attention to before because it was in your field of vision for just a moment. You notice trash.
It’s 1.6 miles from my apartment building to the nearest shopping center. As I make my way to the store, I notice garbage blown up against the fence. Trash blocking a storm drain. Restaurant fast food containers littering the street. I pass a garbage can at the bus stop. It is nearly empty. Most shocking of all, as I walk behind a row of stores, I see a shopping cart filled with containers of used motor oil. It sits directly in front of the storm drain.
Folks walking back from the shopping center, anxious to open their new purchase, carelessly toss the packaging on the ground. People whizzing by in cars can’t wait to get home and throw out. Come on now, who wants that trash in their car? Let’s just throw it out the window. And who wants to go through the hassle of taking the used oil to a recycling center? It’s much easier to dump it behind a shopping center. After all, the city will clean it up.
It’s true that the city does a remarkable job of keeping the streets clean… DOWNTOWN! Downtown San Antonio is one of the most well-kept cities I’ve ever been to. Men and women sporting yellow polo shirts do a great job of maintaining the streets of downtown San Antonio. It’s truly a wonderful place to be.
But seriously, how realistic is it to expect that same level of attention in other areas? I live in a largely commercial district near the airport. Can the city afford to pay throngs of workers to pick up after careless, irresponsible passerbys? Instead, each individual must take personal responsiblity to dispose of their waste properly.
Let’s go a step further and make a commitment to cut down on our plastic consumption by taking these steps:
1. BYOB – bring your own bag. Not only are reusable bags more eco-friendly, they are much more sturdy. No more will you have that broken jar of mayonaisse lying in your driveway after the thin, single use bag breaks open.
2. Ask your butcher to wrap your meat in paper. Plastic wrap and polystyrene trays are unnecessary and toxic.
3. Buy from the bulk bins at your supermarket. If they don’t offer paper bags, bring your own. I use good, old-fashioned, brown paper lunch bags for my bulk purchases. (too bad these bags come wrapped in plastic). After use, they fold flat and can be used again and again.
4. NO MORE BOTTLED WATER! For crying out loud, bring a cup and refill it from the tap. Your municipal water source is just as good, if not better, than the municipal water sources used for many bottled waters. Plus, you’ll save money!
5. For that matter, no more plastic bottled anything. If it can be bought in a box, glass jar, paper bag or can, then forego the plastic. Of course, there’s going to be the inevitable plastic strip on frozen juice containers, or the plastic cap on the milk carton (why IS that there? Was opening the old style cartons really that difficult?).
6. Educate yourself. There’s a ton of information at your fingertips. Check out these websites: www.healthebay.org; www.environmentcalifornia.org; www.ethicalfoods.com/anti-straw-movement and www.myplasticfreelife.com. You might also want to check out these documentaries: Surviving Progress and Bag It!
When I walk down the street now, I pick up one of those single use bags blowing by. I start filling it up with litter. By the time I reach the bus stop, I dispose of a full bag a trash in the receptacle. It’s just a small step that I can take as I travel down this walk of shame.
As my co-worker and I exited the building we were met with a torrential downpour. Oh no, I thought as I rummaged through my bag for my umbrella and then realized I had left it in another bag. My friend popped opened her umbrella and I prepared to get very, very wet. Then I spied them, several clear, plastic garbage bags hanging out of the side of the can near the elevator. I tore one off and quickly tore it down the side. I held it over my head and we set off.
It’s about a 1/4 of a mile from our office to the bus stop, and it requires a short-cut through the woods in order to avoid missing the last bus. As we hurried through, I could feel my shoes fill with mud. We briefly stopped, as my friend retreived her shoe which had come off in the muck. As we approached the man-made lake, we noticed that the pedestrian bridge was flooded. We sloshed across, with water up past our ankles. We reached the bus shelter and both of us breathed a sigh of relief.
I sat down on the wet bench, and fashioned my garbage bag into a cape and head scarf. As I tied the scarf over my hair, the bus pulled up. I said I felt like a true bag lady. My co-worker laughed when a man dressed in a brown garbage man got on at the next stop. She quipped that she felt out of place with just an umbrella. At each stop more and more people got on wearing garbage bag gear. A girl got on wearing one of those scented garbage bags in pastel pink. A man, who obviously was an employee of an upscale hotel downtown, got on wearing a clear garbage bag printed with the name of the hotel. Ah, a “Gucci” garbage bag, I thought to myself. I was impressed at how each person had their own garbage bag style.
As the bus pulled up to the last stop, I took a deep breath and prepared to make my 1.6 mile walk home in the pouring rain. Tomorrow I’ll remember my umbrella. But, maybe I should put a couple of garbage bags in my bag just in case.
I’m reminded of a video game from the 1990′s called “No One Can Stop Mr. Domino”. Sometimes I feel like a domino. Just when the dominoes of my life are all lined up and things are going well, someone gives one a push and they all just start tumbling over. One after another they fall. Job loss. Sick child. Break up. Then I manage to set them up again. New job. New apartment. Child doing better. But, before I know it they start to fall again. Car breaks down. Child has relapse. Air conditioning goes out.
Yet I’m not going to complain. As I sit across from San Fernando cathedral waiting for my bus, I realize how fortunate I am. I have a job. My child is alive. And I live in this beautiful city, San Antonio. The cathedral bells begin to chime as flock of pigeons alight on the plaza in anticipation of a few crumbs left by the tourists that are beginning to arrive. My best friend calls to say good morning. The smell of frijoles and tortillas fills the air and a band begins to play. As my bus pulls up I realize I am truly blessed. After all, no one can stop Ms. Domino.
“Mom, can you believe I’m going to be 18 in just 4 weeks? ” my daughter asked not too long ago. No sweetie, I replied. You’ll always be my little Nic-koala bear. “Hmmm…” my mother mused thoughtfully, “I thought she was your little Bi-polar bear.” My daughter and I looked at each other and we burst out laughing.
My Bi-polar Bear is beautiful. She is fine boned and delicate.
My Bi-polar Bear is smart. She is well-read and quick witted.
My Bi-polar Bear is sweet. She is loving and kind.
My Bi-polar Bear lacks self esteem. She sees herself as ugly and fat.
My Bi-polar Bear is self-deprecating. She thinks she is stupid and slow.
My Bi-polar Bear can be moody and irritable.
The woman down the street won’t let her children hang out with my daughter. She says she’s a bad influence. She says she’s a drop-out. She doesn’t know my daughter. My Bi-polar Bear is a good girl. She is dependable and trustworthy. Unlike other teens, my daughter is overt in her actions. She doesn’t sneak out of the house in the middle of the night while her parents sleep. She’ll tell you where she’s going and what she’s going to do. She has no fear of the repurcussions. I always know where she is. She doesn’t like it when I worry. My Bi-polar bear has a circadian rhythm that interferes with her going to public school. She is a complete and utter night owl. She has been that way since she was a little girl. She also suffers from severe social anxiety. My daughter is home-schooled, not a drop-out.
Bi-polar bears need to run free. They can’t be caged. They are expressive and unique. Mama and Papa Bears, when you catch your Bi-polar cub drawing on the wall in his/her room, don’t get angry. Buy a box of washable crayons or dedicate a wall for posterity. Let your cub’s creativity flow. And if your 5 year old decides to give herself and the cat matching haircuts, using the safety scissors you just bought for the first day of kindergarten, don’t get upset. Applaude her unique sense of style.
If you see a child throwing a tantrum in Walmart, don’t shake your heads in dismay and mutter, “I would never let MY child behave that way”, remind yourself that he just may be a bi-polar cub. Time outs and threats don’t always work on these wonderfully spontaneous beings. Don’t be judgmental. Be understanding. Bi-polar children are not weird. They are not “crazy”. They are just like you or I. They are perfectly normal. Well, they are normal times ten. The emotions we all have are simply exaggerated in a Bi-polar bear.
My daughter cycles between depression, mania and “normal” at an alarming rate. She can be happy as a clam one moment and in tears the next. Sometimes she behaves very irrationally in response to a relatively mild stressor. Bi-polars have a 40% suicide rate. My Bi-polar Bear has attempted suicide three times.
Currently, my girl is in a psychiatric hospital following her most recent suicide attempt. I hate it that she is there and I want her to come home. She doesn’t belong in a cage, she needs to run free. When she’s hospitalized for an extended period of time, she is psycho-therapied into someone she’s not. She becomes bland and conformist. She gets “Stepford”-wived. She says “the man” is keeping her down. I told her we should run away and become hippies. She said groovy. All we need now is a micro-bus.
I have an itch. Some days the itch is stronger. At other times, it’s barely noticeable. Today, I’m itching from head to toe. No, I don’t have dermatitis, and no, I haven’t been playing in poison oak. I have a travel itch. I want to get up and go. I want to go out and do. It’s driving me nuts. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the realization that lack of money truly is a hindrance to my wanderlust. It’s just a hindrance mind you, I’m not going to let poverty prevent me from fulfilling my dreams.
So, I’ve come up with a plan. Maybe it’s not such a good plan, but it’s a plan nevertheless. Here it is:
1. Collect change. Okay, I’m not going to stand in the intersection with a sign asking for spare change (although that does sound tempting). I’m talking that change that’s lying around in parking lots. Pennies from pockets with holes.
2. Channel my inner used car salesman. Well, I’m not a used car salesman, but I did take that bank job. I’ll make a tidy little bonus if I sell, sell, sell. Checking account anyone?
3. Overtime. Eight hours a day just won’t cut it. I’m going to volunteer for overtime anytime and everytime it’s offered.
4. Forget the fast food. I’m brown bagging it from now on.
5. Move into town. This 3-1/2 hour daily commute is killing my bank account. Granted, gas is relatively inexpensive in Texas, but at $3.15 a gallon I’m still spending at least $10.00 a day.
6. Curb appeal. I’ve done this before and it’s proved quite lucrative. You know that stuff that people put out on the curb in front of their house with a sign that says “FREE”? I will gladly take it off thier hands and sell it at the local flea market. You’d be surprised at what people are willling to pay for someone elses junk.
That’s all I have for now. I’m going to Antigua, Guatemala next fall if I have to walk there. But I think my plan to save is so crazy that it just might work. What do you think? If anyone out there in blogdom has any ideas please let me know. I’d really appreciate your input. Ciao’!
I’ve been distracted. When given a puzzle I will work on it until I complete it, or can no longer find the clues to complete it. For the past few weeks I’ve been working on such a puzzle – my family history. My mother had asked, in an offhand way, if there was a way to trace her Cherokee ancestry. Presented with the challenge, I hit the net.
Now determining that my great-grandmother was indeed Cherokee was not very difficult. She was born in North Carolina and moved to Arkansas. Her name is listed on the Dawes report. Yep, Cherokee. Problem solved. But solving that one problem led me to inquire about my heritage. I started a search on my maternal great grandfather, Isaac Bond. Who was this guy? Apparently he was a farmer, born in Missouri. But who were his parents? I searched census and birth records. I was stumped. Then I reviewed the census records again. Listed under my great-grandfather’s name was another Bond, Clara. I searched for Clara Bond and found a record showing she had a son, William. My great-grandfather was named Isaac William. Hmmm, can I find more? Again I met a roadblock.
My mother commented that I sure was being persistent. She brought out a book that she had in a Zip-Loc bag. It was titled “A Bond Family Genealogy”. Are you kidding me? I’ve been going over records and misspellings and driving myself crazy and you’ve had a record of our family’s history this whole time? Oh, she said. I didn’t think it was important. Arggh! I said as I pulled out the rest of my hair and dove into the book.
The book traced Bond lineage back to their arrival in the New World in 1722 from Wiltshire, England. Could there be more? Oh yes, indeed. The English seemed to be excellent record keepers. Birth records, census records and marriage records abound. I traced them back to the France, (oh those Normans!), to Germany and then to Turkey. I traced them all the way back to the 6th century. Wow, who knew?
Then I turned towards my father’s family. Now I’m stumped again. Apparently two brothers immigrated to the Americas in the mid 1700′s from Middlesex, England. They had immigrated to England a few years earlier from Holland (census records list their birthplace as Holland). My surname is an English spelling of a Dutch name. I’ve tried to locate their immigration records under a variety of spellings. But what about their first names? They are also English spellings. I’ve tried the Dutch variations and zip, zilch, nada. Is it possible they changed their given names completely because they didn’t easily translate to English? I’m hoping those magnificent British records will unlock this mystery. But for now, the voices of relatives long dead are beckoning and I must continue the search.
I am terrible at making decisions. I tend to make decisions based on emotion rather than critical thinking. Unfortunately, my spontaneous, spur of the moment decisions have resulted, in large part, to my current financial crisis. Now I’m faced with a new decision to make. Do I stay at my current, low paying, yet satisfying job in the hotel industry; or do I return to my previous, and much more lucrative, career in banking?
On one hand, my job with a major hotel chain is virtually stress free. On the other hand it has left me unable to afford to maintain my own apartment and dependent on the generosity of my family and friends. Returning to my old life will put me in a more financially stable position and I can start digging myself out of this hole. It will also be more stressful and may impact the quality of my life.
Do I go with my heart, or with my head? This choice is not one to be made lightly and I have only until Monday to decide. My stomach is in knots and I have some serious thinking to do. This decision will not be made lightly, because at this stage of my life I can not afford to make the wrong decision.. again.