Living a Greener Life

 

I’ve been trying to do my part in combating climate change. Individually, my greener-friendlier changes may not seem to make much of a difference, but collectively, they do. The more people adapt to a greener lifestyle, the bigger the overall effect, and mother Earth really needs our help.

By now most of us have probably seen images on social media showing dead whales washing ashore with tons of plastic in their bellies. There is so much plastic and waste in the oceans that marine mammals are mistaking them for food, and are dying because of it. These images are heartbreaking. Whether it’s whales dying of plastic consumption, or dolphins dying in fish netting, or sea turtles getting their heads caught in plastic pop can holders or choking on plastic straws, it is beyond time that everyone starts to do their part.

A goal of mine has been to eliminate as much waste as I can, and I thought I was doing a good job until a neighbor of mine was going on vacation a day before trash was to be put out and asked if he could put his trash in my bin. I told him he could, but in my head wondered if a family of three’s trash would fit into my bin, along with my own trash of a household of two.

I was stunned when he came over with one bag of trash…for the week…for three people! For a household of two, in one week, we usually put out four, sometimes five bags of trash. Everything that can be recycled, gets recycled, and yet it seems we still have too much garbage. When my neighbor gets back, I’m going to have to ask him his family’s secret.

Composting is something I’ve been considering. That should help reduce the amount of trash I accumulate, and maybe even make my grass greener. I’m rereading a book I bought about nine years ago, when my interest in green living began. It’s called green chicsaving the Earth in style by Christie Matheson. Even though there is nothing very “chic” about me, I was interested in the green aspect of the book and how very simple some of the changes were.

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So much energy can be saved by simply changing the lightbulbs we use to CFL’s, compact fluorescent lightbulbs. According to the book, switching to a CFL “in just one lamp that’s on for four hours a day will reduce your annual carbon emissions by around 150 pounds. “[E]lectricity…accounts for 39 percent of all carbon emissions.”

On top of changing the lightbulbs we use, I’ve also become a stickler for turning out the lights when no one is in the room. This is probably the easiest way to be green. Another easy way to be green is to cut your plastic water bottle use. I bought filters for my faucets and I refill a glass bottle from the tap. When on the go, I use a stainless steel reusable bottle that keeps the water nice and cold, even for hours in the sun.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been turning off the faucet when I brush my teeth. It was in my fifth-grade science class. We were reading from out text book and there was a section on water conservation with an insert of a picture of a child brushing his teeth. It said to turn off the water while we brushed, and so I did and the habit has stuck with me for almost three decades. According to Matheson, “[t]he average faucet runs through three gallons of water per minute.” That’s a whole lot of water being wasted. Here is another easy way to be green – turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth or wash your hands. Individually it may not seem like much, but as a whole if everyone did this, the amount of water saved would be phenomenal. (Taking shorter showers would add even more water savings).

So here is a brief list from the book of some more easy green changes everyone can make in their daily life.

  1. Unplug chargers and appliances not being used. Plugged in charges still draw energy even when not being used.
  2. Wash your clothes in cold water. Hot water uses way too much energy and it’s not very green.
  3. Keep your thermostat one degree cooler in the winter and one degree warmer in the summer. These simple changes can hundreds of pounds of CO2 a year.
  4. Buy eco-friendly household products like detergent, hand soap, and dish soap.
  5. Eat less or no meat. It takes over 13,000 pounds of gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

 

These are just some of the simple way a person can live a greener life. What are some of your favorite ways to live green?

 

 

 

 

Keep Writing

I’m working on a story based in the 1950’s about a teenage girl living with an abusive alcoholic father. While struggling to endure the dysfunction that is her home life, the girl yearns to defy the conformity that is expected of her life. She resents her mother’s docile and submissive role in their home. The girl, Annabel, wants to be more than wife and mother, she wants the freedom to be anything she wants.

I wrote this story in college some twenty years ago. The words sat in a binder collecting dust for some time until I decided to give it new life. Many changes have been made and so far that “short” story has been revised to a three-hundred page novel, but the journey has not come without frustrating days when I had no idea where the story was heading and was tempted to dump it.

Don’t do that, writers. Keep writing. Don’t dump your stories no matter how lost you may be in navigating its direction. Keep writing. A new day brings a new, clearer mind.

Although I’m not yet finished with the story, and don’t know exactly how the story will end, I’m confident I’m heading in the right direction. Each day brings me one scene closer to the writing that final sentence.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Buying Cruelty-Free

Since I’ve become conscientious of my diet and have implemented a more plant-based way of eating, I decided to change some of the daily products I use so that they also fit a cruelty-free way of living. Now I check labels before I buy anything from lip balm to detergent and deodorant. It wasn’t difficult nor was the difference in costs substantial.

I found a lot of cruelty-free products at Trader Joes for very reasonable prices. I bought their hand soap and toothpaste. Once I finish up with the shampoo and conditioner I’m currently using, which I mistakenly thought was cruelty-free, I’m going to give their hair products a try.

 

 

The Trader Joe’s bar soap comes in a two-pack and cost $1.67. Although the product is not tested on animals, it is not vegan because it has honey. I haven’t tried the toothpaste yet, I’m currently using Tom’s. Tom’s is another great cruelty-free brand, as is Seventh-Generation and Ecos. I bought Ecos detergent and dish detergent that are plant-based and contain no animal ingredients and are not tested on animals.

 

Below are some products I found at TJMaxx. These are all vegan products. Even though the lotion and shower gel say honey, they are vegan as there is not real honey in the product.

 

Nutri-C has become my favorite face lotion. Trader Joe’s also has their own cruelty-free lotions, but I have yet to try them. For make-up I use E.L.F cosmetics because their entire line is vegan and is available at a variety of stores.

These are just a few of the animal-safe products I use. I’d love to know some of your cruelty-free favorites.

Feeling a Bit Disturbed

 

 

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Last Friday I saw the band Disturbed play at a venue near me, and I won’t soon forget the experience. The concert was powerful, and it was emotional. I’ve never been to a rock concert where so many people cried, or were trying not to cry.

Disturbed is a heavy metal/nu metal band, and they’ve written songs that center around suicide. One of the videos to these songs depicts a woman who hangs herself. The video is graphic and it comes with a PSA from the lead singer, David Draiman, pleading with people who are thinking about taking their own lives to seek help and to know there is another way. The National Suicide Helpline is displayed in the video, just as it was displayed on the big screen during the concert.

Draiman spoke very eloquently and deeply to the audience. This is a man, and band, who create a deep connection with their fans. They refer to the crowd as their family, their blood.

In the middle of the set, the band moved from the main stage to a smaller stage in the center of the floor to be more intimate with the crowd. Draiman called for the house lights to come up and he asked for anyone who has dealt with substance addiction or depression, or knows someone who has, to raise their hands. With the lights on, I could see clearly throughout the venue, and more people than not had their hands raised.  Draiman then asked for everyone to look around and see that they aren’t alone. 

Powerful moment right there.

This is when the band sang their inspiring songs about defeating one’s thoughts of suicide. The house lights stayed on, making the moment all the more sober. A mother and son sitting beside me embraced while they cried. Tears gushed from the woman’s eyes and down her face. Through cries they battled through the songs. A man beside the woman caressed her shoulders.

A few minutes later, she passed by me. I was sure the moment was too much for her. She needed a break. When she came back, I thought of giving her a quick hug, but I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me, and maybe that would have been unwanted by her.

While the songs played I looked around me. The woman and son weren’t the only ones crying. There were many tearful eyes about me. So many strong-looking men stood with their arms crossed over their chest and stoic expressions on their faces and tears in their eyes. It was all so much I almost cried myself but held it back. The pain being suffered around me was palpable.

Before the show, at the meet and greet, a fan had given the band a letter. The lead singer called this fan to the stage and asked for his permission to read the letter aloud. The shocked young man stepped onto the stage and nodded to Draiman his consent. The letter explain that this man had attempted four times to take his own life and was going to do it again until he heard the song “The Light” by Disturbed. The man stayed on stage as the band played the song marking one of the most powerful and emotional moments I’ve ever witnessed at a concert.

Disturbed, like other rock bands I’ve recently seen play, were very inclusive in their message. Draiman preached tolerance of all people, of all races and religions, and he even included gays and transsexuals, which I appreciated very much. Everyone around me cheered this message. I didn’t hear any jeers or sneers.

The band ended the show with the lead singer telling everyone to take care of themselves and to take care of each other.

I went to bed that night feeling so empowered and appreciating my life.  If you ever get the chance to see this band play live, please do. It’s an experience like no other.

 

Below is a clip of the man Draiman called onto stage.

 

While the band played “A Reason to Fight” the mother and son beside me cried together.

 

A strong message of suicide preceded the song “Watch You Burn.”

 

 

*I don’t own the top picture of Disturbed.

Adopt a Rescue Dog

Two weeks ago I was given news I had spent years asking the universe for. Sevvy, a dog that had lived over two years at the shelter I volunteer at, was finally adopted. We’ve had some teases before of pending adoptions that never went through, but finally it seems that Sevvy has found her home.

Sevvy is a five-year old pit-bull mix who had been adopted from the shelter as a puppy, but brought back, adopted out again, and then returned again when she became possessive of her toys with the children in the house.

Finally, after two long years, Sevvy has found a home, and I hope she never steps foot in the shelter again. As much I love and miss her, I hope to never see her face again, except through a chance meeting at a park somewhere. It would be wonderful to run into Sevvy and see her enjoying life on the “outside.”

There are so many loving animals in shelters all over the country like Sevvy who are great dogs, but have been let down by humans. I don’t know if the couple who rescued Sevvy really understand the importance of what they did. Sevvy was taking anti-anxiety medication because life in a shelter is chaotic and loud and unsettling. Sevvy was showing signs of distress that only medication could help. Hopefully Sevvy doesn’t have to take anti-anxiety medications anymore.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local animal shelter or animal control facilities. There may be an anxiety-ridden dog there like Sevvy who desperately wants to get off her meds.

 

 

So You Want to be a Writer

I was at a bar one night and ran into a woman I used to date over fifteen years ago. In our exchange of pleasantries, my being a writer came up and immediately my ex grabbed my arm and exclaimed to me with vigor how she is planning on writing her autobiography because she’s led a very interesting life, and all of her friends tell her she just has to write a book.

I told her I was sure she had many great stories to tell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could fill a book, but I asked if she’d had any training in writing. The uncertain look on her face answered my question. She hadn’t studied writing in any way past a classroom in high school, but figured since she had a story to tell (most people who are alive have a story to tell. It’s called life.) and knew how to write in complete sentences, she could write a book.

I didn’t roll my eyes in front of her. I’m not that rude. But I did suggest to her that if she was serious about writing her book, she should enroll in a writing course at her local college. Three months before I contracted my first book, Her Name, I had taken a writing course at my local college and it helped me more than I imagined one class would. I was lucky to have had some terrific writers in my class who gave me incredible notes on my story, which I still possess over five years later.

After I published my second book, Loving Again, I enrolled in another writing course at the same college. It was during that course that my third book, A Penny on the Tracks, was contracted. I value all of the critiques of my work by my peers and instructors because they have helped me become a better writer.

But as a writer, I have to put in the work, and it bothers me to no end when people think they can just pick up a pen and start writing the masterpiece that is their life without studying the craft.

I’m writing my current book in a point-of-view I’ve never attempted — subjective omniscient.  My former books were written in first-person and third-person limited. This is completely new to me. I feel like I’m starting all over again as a writer, and that isn’t such a bad feeling. I may enroll in another writing course. I need the guidance my fellow writers have given me on my previous works for the story I am writing now.

The writing community is tremendously supportive.

I thank all the writers who share their time and their knowledge to inspire and encourage those aspiring to write.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Penny on the Tracks

Last November, I published my book, A Penny on the Tracks. It is a YA book based loosely on my childhood friendship with my best friend. I wrote this story in college. At the time, it was written as a short story and was titled The Hideout. The finished product hardly resembles anything of the original.

In fact, the college version of A Penny on the Tracks was so bad that when I reread it nearly fifteen years ago, my first instinct was to throw it away, but the writer in me remembered the agonizing hours I put into the piece, so I stuffed it in an overfilled drawer of mostly unfinished old works and left it there.

About three years ago, for whatever reason, I searched that overfilled drawer for that story and this time when I reread the piece I didn’t want to toss it into a fire. This time I saw potential. Although I ended up rewriting almost the entire thing, the core of the story has stayed the same — two friends sharing their childhood together while dealing with personal tragedy.

The importance of friendship is prevalent in this story, and I’m proud of the way A Penny on the Tracks has turned out. I’m proud that I not only finished the story, but a publisher liked it enough to contract it. I’m hoping the same thing will happen with the story I am currently writing tentatively called Annabel. 

This is another awfully-written college short story and was titled The Attic. This piece was also stuffed in that same overfilled drawer and for some reason I also fished this story out and decided to salvage it with a rewrite. I’m over two hundred pages in and am still unsure about an ending, but I have some ideas. With A Penny I always knew how the story was going to end, and of course knowing the direction you’re writing to makes writing a story so much easier, but I do have a knack of making life harder for myself. Why should writing be any different?

The story of A Penny on the Tracks deals with friendship, coming out, and tragedy.  A girl names Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

Here is an excerpt from A Penny on the Tracks:

I JERKED FROM my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.

The second ring was abruptly broken up, and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open, and my mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.

“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.

“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.

My mother made her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but her movement was stiff and hesitant. 

She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale and she let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

My mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”

I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.

My best friend was dead.

 

 

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A Penny on the Tracks