Monday, March 30, 2009

What is Age Really?

Last week at the groovy health food store in town, the check out clerk asked me, “So… do you get a senior discount?” I stared at her, quizzically. She stared back. I continued to stare. “It’s 55,” she said, this time, with a little bit of doubt in her voice. I continued to look at her then said, “Well, I’m 40… Maybe I’m not getting enough sleep.” I didn’t say this meanly, just kind of astonished. All my life, I’ve had what they call a baby’s face and people always guessed me as being younger. Over the years, and wrinkles, people have come closer to guessing my age. I do love it though when people exclaim, “wait, you’re 40, but your skin….” It’s for the most part, minus 2 deep creases on the forehead, wrinkle free and very, very rosey.

I wasn’t wearing makeup, my dark lines more pronounced. After hearing I was 40 the clerk said, “Well, you look young… it’s the gray hair. Some people go gray early.” I bit back saying, “How could you know, when so many people dye their hair?” But there were others in line and not the time, I felt, to delve into the topic. I joked that maybe I should take the discount. “Don’t be offended,” the clerk pleaded. I assured her I wasn’t. Then in the car, I checked myself out in the car mirror. “I do look awful,” I thought. With my hair pulled back, the gray streaked stood out prominently. And the brown sweater did nothing for me either.

The question was, why do I, and I’m not alone, equate looking old as looking, well, crappy?!

As I drove home I briefly thought, maybe I should go back to dying my hair. I had to catch myself. Purposefully, a year and a half ago, still living in L.A., I bravely said, “I’m going to stop dying my hair and get ok with my gray.” Gray hair began speckling my hair since age 24 and I’ve been paranoid about it ever since. And working in the youth-driven Entertainment Industry, stoked this paranoia. I never wanted to go to an interview with my gray roots showing, especially in my mid-thirties. “I can’t wait to have gray hair,” said a twenty-something co-worker once. “I wonder if you’d say that if like me you went gray at your age,” I snorted. “Well, I can’t wait, I think it’s beautiful.” Beautiful? Hrumph. Now I know what Krista was talking about. Now that I see as something pretty and sparkly. But the clerk’s comments did catch me a little. Do I really look 55?

What does 55 or even 40 really look like these days? We see actresses touting 40 who look so – young… Meaning, smooth foreheads, no gray, and toned bodies. I often look at those smooth foreheads wondering, what’s their secret? Do they not stress like I do or is that Botox…

I told a pal about the clerk’s comment. “What? Why would she say that?!,” he responded as if he were defending my honor. “Well, I tried to remember all the times I stuck my foot in my mouth,” I responded, having reasoned that out already in the car. We discussed how you can’t tell age these days and he shared how he went through a hair dying phase. “What, really?,” I said astounded. He’s one of the most self-assured, grounded people I know. Like me, paranoid about his gray and working with younger men, he fell for the trap. Then one day he realized that he was at the age when gray meant mature. Just the other day, though, he checked out the gray hair of the other men in the office wondering, if they are at the same age, where’s their gray. He realized they must be hiding it under dye. Wow.

What is it that we are all hiding from? Can we change to a society where it’s ok to be gray and not just for the senior discount? Not feel worn out and useless? That we aren’t too old to stay in the game?

I still moisturize my skin ritualistically, trying to abate the wrinkles. They’re coming though. I hope when they come, I’ll be mature enough to handle them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Priorities Change in the New Economy

I don’t consider myself an extravagant person but there a few areas I do splurge in life, one being hair products; specifically, Aveda hair products. I love how they smell, and more importantly, how they work. On the hair care spectrum, the price isn’t outrageous but it isn’t cheap either. One consolation I have in what I spend is that I’m part of the Aveda rewards program (called Pure Privilege). So when I spend 13 bucks for conditioner, I get points, adding up to one day, a great big gift. And every birthday, I got a free perfume of my choice. Weee!!

The program offers several “tiers”. If you have so many points you get to select from that tier. I believe I’m at least a level 3, if not more. I’d been waiting for the granddaddy level, the one where you get the full spa package. I mean a full pampering spa package! Who wouldn’t wait for that?!

Times have changed. I couldn’t contain my excitement today opening my Aveda rewards gift – a full line of cleaning products from Seventh Generation. Did I say cleaning products? Yes I did. One of the tier 2 gifts is Seventh Generation clothes detergent, dishwashing soap and all-purpose spray. Back in the day when I first signed up for the program, I thought, who would waste points on cleaning products? My eye was on the big prize. Back then, my cash flow was more than a trickle. But lately, looking at soaring prices of cleaning products I rethought my rewards. I needed those products now and I had the opportunity to cash in points to get them without spending anything.

It’s funny to me that in our new economy we're stuck cleaning up old problems. No wonder cleaning products are topping my priority list. Plus they smell good and work well too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Go Smug Yourself! - I’m green with smugness and I’m freakin’ proud of it

That's right, go smug yourself and be happy.

Conversing with a friend awhile back, I told her all about the Sonoma Vegan Potluck. Excitedly, I said how all of us brought our own plates and silverware in our canvas grocery bag. “So Northern California”, I said. “That is,” she agreed. And proceeded to tell me about an episode of South Park which I just had to see. So funny. It ragged on the smugness of San Francisco and L.A. and other environmentalists. With quips like, "Look at how awesome we are for driving hybrids".

Wait, what? Why would I find that funny? I drive a hybrid. And yeah, I think others should too.

Over tone deaf IM, she didn’t read my enthusiasm. She didn’t catch on what I tried to convey – my happiness that I found such like-minded people here in my new community.
Oh well. I just let it lie and moved onto another topic.

Then today, writing about how I don’t use saran wrap I thought, wow, I do sound smug. Aren’t I the awesome one because I go around washing out my plastic bags for reuse.

Then I thought, “smug that!” I like being awesome. I like scoring eco-brownie karma points to counteract my other, what I consider unsavory acts. Like when I forewent buying Preserve toothbrushes for a more commercial brand. Preserve brushes are great in that once done, instead of them ending up in the landfill, you can return them to the company to recycle. However, I don’t feel like they clean my teeth very well. (sorry Preserve!) So I went for a more commercial toothbrush – angled, ergonomically correct. And my teeth feel very clean now after brushing. So, I put my teeth above the landfill. I know what you’re saying, “boo hoo.” It’s just a toothbrush… and teeth are important. Well, yes, but environmental guilt has governed my life for a long time.

It’s hard to be eco-awesome all the time! It doesn’t, however, stop me from judging others over there in my smug corner – like when I see friends/family/others using commercial, petroleum-based dishwashing liquid when there are so many better ones on the market…. Who me? I use Seven Generation of course and love it. I know that we'll run out of petroleum one day. Don't you?

Tight Wad Meets Eco-Friendly Citizen

Me, a tightwad?

Recently the AP ran an article about how “tight wad” behavior is catching on. These are the people who cut the shampoo bottles in half so they can get every last drop. That person is me – as an eco-friendly citizen. I cut the bottles in half, get out every last drop so that I can wash them out and put them in the recycling container. I reuse Ziploc bags. I even use the plastic bags with reusable seals that once contained salt, nuts, etc. Same concept. Not very helpful though if you own stock in Ziploc. Oh well! And it takes a lot – A LOT, for me to actually purchase saran wrap. Why? Because I can’t for the life of me figure out if it’s recyclable. Somehow I think it isn’t. Instead, I use a plastic food bag that I secure on top of a container with some type of recycled string. Although it just dawned on me I can use those extra shower caps that I got for a buck… (ala, the wrap with the elastic on top which I think Glad makes) Now, if they started making a saran wrap type product out of bamboo, I might consider using it. Ooh – what a great idea. I wonder if that is actually available… Yeah, this is the kind of stuff that gets me excited.

For me, calling using all that we have as "tight wad" behavior shows me just how off path a society we have become. Every thing is easy to use and easy to throw away. Yet, what's left over is mounds and mounds of trash clogging our landfills. And plastic, for anyone who doesn't know this, doesn't break down in the landfill. It's forever with us, like a badly coded gene.

Now we are in this state of “financial collapse,” using what we have before we buy more has caught on. That also includes making things before buying them. Like laundry soap. Why spend 5 dollars when you can make it at home, and control what goes in it. So I tried to get to the site that the AP article mentioned where you could learn how to make it. No go. I, like others, who read the AP article tried to click on the site where you could learn to make your own laundry soap. The woman who ran it apologized to viewers trying to get on. She had thousands of hits and her site crashed. Wow. Does a phenomenon like that make Johnson & Johnson nervous? (I have nothing against them or Ziploc for that matter… it’s just something to think about).

One helpful motivator helping me pare down has been moving into a smaller space. In particular the bathroom where I have less cabinet space and a shower, only. Bath products are my weakness. I see lotion on sale and think – how can I pass up coco shea butter. It’s such a great deal. And a good product. And look, it’s made environmentally friendly, and, and. And, no. I simply don’t have the room. I don’t have the long cabinet anymore where lost, forgotten products sit in the shadows. I uncovered all of those in the move. And with less space I have to use all, I MEAN ALL (I’m talking to myself now) before I buy more lotion. Sigh. There was some nifty, eco-friendly hand soap on sale at Target… down to 7 bucks rather than its original price of 15. Sadly, I did consider this and had to catch myself… So what if it’s on sale and might smell good. Liquid soap for 7 bucks? I have a recipe somewhere for making your own liquid soap out of soap scraps. And I have the soap scraps saved in a container…. For the day I really need it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Danny Boy - a cow with a few other names

In the spirit of St. Patty’s day, I wanted to share the story of “Danny Boy,” the no kill cow. My neighbors run a kennel next to highway 121. On their field near the kennel, you’ll find the beloved cow Danny Boy, chewing his cud, his great brown eyes staring out. Whether he knows he escaped an early death, it’s hard to tell by his peaceful and content smile.

Danny Boy’s original owner named him Chuck – pun intended. Raised by a member of the local 4H club, his massive size put him out of the show competitions. The next step would have been to sell him for slaughter. The only problem was he was too sweet to eat. His nature too gentle, too endearing, his owner needed to find him a home. So he came into the care of Mary Beth and Dave – a wonderful couple who run a kennel next to their home. “No killing here”, Mary Beth assured his owner.

Mary Beth changed Chuck’s name to Danny Boy but her kids call him Norbert. He’ll answer to either. If you stand by the fence and call to him, he’ll come running, anxious for a friendly pat. Maybe he thinks he’s part dog, but no matter. He stares out onto the fields near the grapevines, soaking in the beautiful sanctuary of Sonoma. I love that I live near such a cow and such neighbors and I like Danny Boy take refuge in the beautiful Sonoma Valley.

Maybe the lesson we can learn from Danny Boy is that we can change our fate when we act with pure love and guilelessness. With nothing to fear, there's no reason to act in any other way - like Saint Patrick just chased all the snakes out of Ireland... We can act, as Lincoln called it, with our better angels....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Time out :)

After living in Israel where all services and business take an actual full day off, otherwise known as Sabbath Saturday (or for the Muslims - Friday, Christians - Sunday) I wondered what the impact would be if we turned back the clocks, here in the U.S. and took one full day off. Was it that long ago when stores and businesses were completely shut down on Sundays?

Now we go 24/7. No reprieve. No stopping. City office buildings stay lit all weekend, regardless of the amount of people coming and going. Everything stays at the ready, printers, computers, fax machines – in a constant state of alert. How much energy do we consume, without taking a moment to consider what is truly necessary to stay on? How much energy are we wasting, needlessly?

I reveled in glee when I heard the Post Office is considering cutting back on one day of mail delivery. Why? Because with one less day of mail trucks driving, I imagined the energy saved. I would never want to cost anyone their job but with email and other competing mail delivery services, business is down and the need isn’t necessary. Tuesday, the least busy mail day is being considered as the day to discontinue service. Will people protest this because we’ve become so accustomed to having six day mail delivery? I don’t know. When we get used to having something, how hard is it to adjust to when it’s gone? How will other businesses and services adapt to the changing times?

Maybe it’s the little steps that count to get us used to cutting back and rethinking what is necessary. If we can’t spend a day, how about an hour, just one hour cutting back on all that we use? How about we do it around the globe? Sound good? It’s already on the way, thanks to WWF organizing Earth Hour. They’ve asked for participants to take a time out on March 28th, 2009, 8:30 pm. You can check out the action at: I've already been strategizing how I'm going to get behind the fridge to unplug the microwave. I like to plan ahead...

Monday, March 2, 2009


Ugh – the financial news! I keep watching. And becoming more depressed, as it seems everyone is listening to the news. Seeing more stores closing down. Watching things fall before our eyes.

It had been raining all week last week. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice them but at the corner of the small fish pond near the entry of my in-law apartment were three open daffodils. I love daffodils! A little weather beaten, only one turned towards the sky. I ran inside to get the clippers. I clipped the severely bent one first, then another, and decided on the last one. It would rain again soon and they didn’t seem strong enough to last outdoors.

I put them in my antique silver vase and set them on my kitchen table. Clipping the bent stems seemed to have completely revived them. So pretty. So happy. I couldn’t help but feel joyful looking at them. How swiftly my mood changed. How lucky I felt to have moved to a place where daffodils were right outside my door.

Invigorated, I decided to take a walk down the road, despite having to pass by the pollen, riddled trees. Rather than scowling I choose to pass by nicely, even welcoming the yellowing flowers that fueled my allergies. It might have been over a month since I had taken a walk down the road. The grapevines still lay in winter hibernation but between the vines, wild mustard had grown knee tall. You couldn’t miss the bright yellow spots of the mustard that spread all over the valley. But less conspicuous were the daffodils that bloomed in front of the vineyard fences. And I spotted more wildflowers coming up – some yellow, some white and purple.

These flowers probably sprout every year. Nothing in their path to stop them coming. No bad economic news to stall them. Spreading beauty for all who choose to look. Now more daffodils are blooming outside my apartment. When I was a kid in upstate New York, after a long winter, I would look expectantly at the place where the daffodils grew on our property. One day they would finally appear and that meant spring, and the warm weather would be just around the corner. Maybe beyond their happy, trumpet shape, that’s why they bring me such happiness. They remind me of good things to come. Or maybe, more to the point, that good things are already here.