Monday, January 25, 2010

A New Danger From Facebook

I admit it: I shelter myself from the news. Not the really big news - I read up on politics, what's happening in congress, the war, the earthquake in Haiti. But I shelter myself from the horrifying, meant-to-be-shocking stuff that they fill the evening news with. The cruelties that people inflict on each other, on animals, on the earth. I know my own heart and reading these kinds of things just makes me feel sick inside, torn up like someone ran a rototiller through my heart. I figure I'm better off doing my best to make the world a better place in politics, the environment, etc., but not knowing about all of the people working to make it worse on a personal level.

I believe that some of us are just born with a more sensitive heart than others. Just like some people have more tastebuds and can taste the nuances of food and wine more intensely, others of us just feel more intensely. There are literally things I've read or seen that disturb me for years. There are books, like Sophie's Choice, that I wish I had never ever read. If I allow myself to think of the pivotal scene in that book I almost throw up. It's that visceral. My son cried for weeks after he saw some kids pulling the legs off of a bug at the park. He kept sobbing "the bug couldn't get away". This kind of sensitivity isn't learned, it's burned into the very makeup of our soul.

So it is that I face a quandary when it comes to Facebook. You see, people freely repost news articles there, some of which fall into the horrifying category, the things I really really don't want to ever read. I won't recap them here just in case you're like me, but lately there have been a couple of things posted (one today) that are just tearing at my heart. They will come back to haunt me multiple times through the days and weeks that follow a reading, each time bringing me to my mental knees and stabbing my spirit.

If you're reading this and you're my friend on Facebook, I would ask you to think long and hard about reposting some bit of news flotsam about extreme cruelty for all to see. To some of us, it's cruelty just to have to see that headline, and it reverberates out through the rest of our daily lives. If you feel that you absolutely can't keep from posting it to Facebook, I am asking that you not put the headline as part of the post. Don't attach the link so that it automatically shows up, but instead manually paste the link and give some sort of warning in your post that lets those of us who will be sensitive to this to not open the link.

Maybe you think I'm "overly sensitive" (I've heard that one more than a few times in my life), but like the fact that I can taste the sage, the basil, and the coriander all separately in a sauce, I can't help it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Probably the Coolest Article About Energy Usage Ever

Okay, you've just got to read this article:

How many cyclists does it take to power a hairdryer? The answer's 18, as one family discovered in a unique TV experiment

If everyone could see the impact of their energy usage so clearly, I think peoples' behavior would change so much more easily! Very Very Cool!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

More on Resolve

This time of year the media has a field day with New Year's resolutions. First, articles about resolutions, then articles about how to keep the resolutions you made. It seems that most of these are personal: lose weight, sleep more, be a better spouse/parent/friend. Often, they are ambiguous in nature, and have proven for many to be difficult to keep (as witnessed by the fact that the gym where I work will be busy for, oh, the next 6 - 8 weeks, after which it will return to normal).

I don't really do resolutions, but at various times in various years, I have set a goal to make a change and to make it stick. In an era of increasingly bad news (the war isn't going away, the economy isn't getting any better, the health care plan looks like it's flushing down the toilet in bits and pieces), it can be easy to lose sight of the way that small changes that we take can change the whole pathway that we're walking on, both individually and collectively. While a nebulous resolution may just be an occasion for future guilt, a well-elucidated goal can help you move in the direction you would like to see your life taking.

So, though they're not resolutions, here are some small things that I resolved to do this year that stuck.

I decided to always drive the speed limit. I'll raise my hand here, I'm a lifetime speeder. I think only the fact that I was young and had long blonde hair kept me from about 30 more tickets than I actually got pulled over for in those earlier years. Now that I'm a mom with kids old enough to take notice, and now that I have realized the environmental implications in speeding when we do drive (worse gas mileage for one), I figured it was time to make a change. How I did it: I started putting the car on cruise control for the exact speed limit. Leadfoot Be Gone!

This Christmas I only shopped locally. No orders from Borders,, no trucks pulling in the driveway from UPS or FedEx. Mackenzie's Santa gift came from a local toy store that has been here for 40 years. Asa's gift came from a local sports store, not Dicks or one of the big chains. Mackenzie shopped for Asa in a local bead store, and Asa bought Mackenzie's present at a small gaming store. The Christmas books I always buy for the kids came from a small local bookstore. I did not set foot in Target or Wal-Mart.

Every time I go in the grocery store, I pick up a coupon for a local food bank and scan it at the register.. Our town has a high homeless population, and I feel bad driving past the panhandlers at every intersection. At the same time, I'm not comfortable when kids are in the car to stop or roll down the window (remembering, I guess, a carjacking near where I used to work where a lady did this and the guy opened the door, pulled her out, and drove off with her child in the back). This is one way that I know of to support a place where people can go and get at least some of their needs met, in a way that feels safe for my family.

For me, it works best if what I decide to do is very black and white. The word "Always" works well. It removes that grey area where you're running a little late and well, you could just speed this once. Or a few things ordered online isn't bad (except that's a few more dollars that our struggling local stores don't get, and isn't it sad that our only locally-owned outdoors store is going out of business this year after decades and decades of thriving). To remove that grey area is to remove the opportunity for failure in accomplishing my goal.

Sometimes I forget this when goal-setting. For a few years, I've had a goal to call and write more to my congresspersons, because while it's easy to complain about politics, it really doesn't mean much if you don't let your elected officials know what it is that you support. I keep not accomplishing this, I think because I haven't really made it concrete. So I think this year I will try for one letter or call a month (even if it happens on the 31st at midnight!).

And I definitely have a long-term goal of expanding our family's growing season. Our first year it was just a summer garden. This last year we extended it into spring and fall. Next year I hope for a true winter garden! Oh yeah, and I'll mulch my perennials too for good measure :-)

What do you want to be doing? And how are you going to get there?