A Great Way to Celebrate Earth Day

What can we do? Quite a bit, actually.

Greetings, fellow earthlings! It’s time for our annual reminder that the Earth is our home and we need to take care of it. The fact that we had to designate this one day out of a whole year to do so says quite a bit about our lack of caring for this big blue marble of ours. If we don’t start prioritizing Earth on a daily basis, the day when it stops sustaining us altogether will rapidly approach. And before that, things will get rather horrific, because global climate change may be caused by us, but it impacts every single thing, and as we all compete for the ever-dwindling resources, such as drinking water, things are going to get ugly. The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees never asked for any of this. Humans suck.

Are you sick of being lectured about this when you feel utterly helpless to turn things around? I’m right there with you. I’ve long since given up on the idea that the politicians that we have elected actually have any intentions of acting upon our collective desires. And it seems that the moment you become part of the one percent you check your integrity, your decency, your humanity, and your conscience at the door. I can’t imagine myself or any of my friends willfully and aggressively doing things to destroy the planet, all in the name of personal short-term gain, but those obscenely rich f*****s seem to live for it.

This rant will do absolutely no good whatsoever, unless it educates a person or two. I’m not holding my breath. It’s better to enjoy air while we still have it. (There may come a day when we wax nostalgic about breathing relatively clean air. What a concept.)

I know that many of us get irritated when people don’t recycle, but according to this article, 91% of all the plastics on earth do not get recycled, even if we do place them in recycle bins and berate those who don’t. That’s disheartening.

But it’s time to set aside our personal guilt and start focusing on forcing corporations to straighten up, because, according to this article, 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all global emissions. The bulk of them are in the fossil fuel industry. No big surprise there. If we could get them under control, much of our environmental problems would be solved. The 7.9 billion people on earth should be able to crush 100 companies. It’s just that we’re too busy infighting to get focused. We should be able to fix that, with a little education, no?

If we could just pick one problem at a time, and bend our collective will toward it, we could move mountains. It’s just hard to figure out where to begin. The more we discover about our planetary abuses, the more discouraged we become.

Here’s one problem I’d love to focus on. I just read an article that taught me quite a bit that I never could have otherwise imagined. Chile’s Atacama Desert: Where Fast Fashion Goes to Die is a story that’s so tightly packed with scary information that I’ll give you just some of the most salient points here:

Each year, 59,000 tons of clothes that can’t be sold in the US, Europe, and Asia wind up in Chile, supposedly for resale throughout Latin America. 39,000 of those tons actually wind up abandoned in huge piles in the Atacama Desert. These clothing dunes could take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Most landfills won’t accept them, because they contain chemical products.

I hopped over to google maps to see if these mounds could be seen from outer space. Not quite. But I did zoom in on this one dump, which is more than a mile long, and it looks like a scar on the desert. Its remote location means that most of us don’t have to think about it.

For some more horrific imagery of these clothing dunes, check out this YouTube video.

To create this fast fashion that goes out of style almost instantly, a huge amount of water is wasted. It takes 7,500 liters of water to make one pair of jeans. That’s the amount one person drinks in 7 years. The fashion industry is believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to the fossil fuel industry. A half million tons of microfibers from fast fashion wind up in our oceans each year, via our washing machines. The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the carbon emissions on our planet, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. This industry is also notorious for dumping chemicals into waterways.

What can we do?

Quite a bit, actually. We have been conditioned into this habit of consumerism by the  fashion industry. There is absolutely no reason why clothing styles need to change every season, other than the fact that this industry wants your money. They have taught us that we need to be on trend. It’s the only way to be accepted. Because of this, annual clothing production has doubled between 2004 and 2019. I am willing to bet it has taken off even more during this pandemic. I know I’ve bought a lot of crap clothing online that I wouldn’t have normally, simply out of sheer boredom.

Back in 2012, when I was in my late 40’s, I went back to college. Many of the students in class were in their late teens. One girl would come in wearing a different outfit every single day. When I asked her how many shirts she had, she said around 400. This nauseated me. What a waste. So much stuff that in 10 years she won’t fit into or even want. All of that used to be water and money. She and the planet could be so much further ahead in life than they are. It broke my heart.

It’s official. I’m going to get back into the habit of buying used clothing at thrift stores rather than going retail. I’m not going to buy trendy clothes (not that I’ve ever been a fashion plate). And I’ll only buy things when I have worn out the things I already own. I’ll buy basic things that remain in style, take care of them, mend them as needed, and wear them for decades. I will avoid synthetic material so I don’t have to contribute to the microfiber problem. It’s the very least I can do.

And if you can, support the work of EcoFibra Chile. This company makes insulation panels out of the clothing dunes. These panels create jobs, clean up landfills, and can reduce the need for electricity for heat and cooling by as much as 35 percent.

Now, if we could only figure out a way to make building blocks out of these clothes, it would help with the worldwide sand shortage which makes it harder and harder to find concrete (which is a story for another day). It would also help with the affordable housing crisis. And I bet the blocks would be colorful. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

I’m glad there are people out there who are willing to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It can be done. Let’s see more of this.

Happy Earth Day.

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How Gender is Pushed Upon Us

Many years ago, I agreed to meet with someone regarding a mentorship program. I was a Maintenance Management Systems Engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation at the time. The mentee in question walked in and did a double take.

“Oh, I was expecting you to be a man,” he said.

That left me wondering why it made a difference to him. Was he now having to lower his expectations? Was he looking forward to some deep conversations while sharing a urinal? Did he think the extra appendage could be used to an advantage on the job, and now he would be left without someone to demonstrate how? It boggles the mind.

But let’s face it: we all have gender shoved in our faces every single day.

Which restroom do I get to use? I better go into the ladies room, because lord only knows what might happen if I enter the forbidden zone. Mind you, I’ve never once in my life actually watched one of my bathroom mates in the actual act of doing anything more than washing hands, so this whole separation thing seems comical to me. What do you guys do in there? Is there a secret handshake?

It still amuses me when a form asks me to indicate whether I’m Mr. Mrs. Ms. or Miss. Why is it important to reveal my marital status? Am I potential wife material to the receptionist who takes the form? Why don’t men have to reveal their status? And what if you are nonbinary?

And why do we still bother with gender pronouns? I’ve written about this before. Why does it matter the genitalia of the person you are calling intelligent? I wish we’d dump he and she already. It matters not.

Why can’t everyone comfortably buy all the shirts in a particular clothing store? Why is it necessary to designate the gender of a shirt? I even know a few men who refuse to wear pink. Come on, now.

And people often ask the gender of my dog. I always think, “Why? What are your intentions?”

I’m finally getting old enough that people don’t ask me whether I had brothers or sisters. As if knowing the answer to that will give some magical insight into what makes me tick. I just don’t get it.

We even specify the ends of water hoses and the like as “male” or “female”. And don’t get me started about those people who insist on calling boats and cars and any other inanimate object that is forced to do one’s bidding without question a “she”. I’ve blogged about that before, too.

And why does each person in a marriage have to be designated a husband or a wife? Are their roles really that different anymore? Of course they can be. Each person has different strengths and weaknesses. But why is it so important to specify? Why do some people still surrender their last names?

Even if you are attracted to a certain gender, as many of us are, specifying it shouldn’t matter. This is my spouse. This is the person I love. This is my partner. This is my soulmate. Why isn’t that good enough? The only time gender needs to be specified is when and if you are looking for someone with which to naturally breed. Full stop.

The more I think about it, the more I look for signs of it, the more absurd it all becomes to me.

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I firmly believe in self-expression. I think every adult human should have a right to dress however he or she pleases. I just wish more people would put some thought into exactly how they express themselves.

I’m not referring to that annoying habit that some men have of wearing sandals with knee socks. (I think that looks absurd, but your fashion rights should extend to bad taste as well.) I don’t mean wearing colors that obviously clash or make you look like bozo the clown. (Again, your option.)

I’m talking about when your clothes send an ugly message about what you think about yourself and the wider world.

For example, in this day and age, you can order a t-shirt that says absolutely anything. There are customized print on demand companies that can take your self-expression to the next level. But just because you can wear something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

For example, the t-shirts above definitely send a strong message, but it might not be the one the wearer intends.

  • I don’t care about other people’s feelings.

  • I’m an idiot.

  • I enjoy upsetting people.

  • I have a really warped worldview.

I don’t see how wearing a shirt like this benefits anyone, including the wearer. It makes no sense.

And then there are these jeans, which apparently are quite popular at the moment.


Here’s the thing. Most women like to put their best foot forward. At least that has been my experience. So if you want to wear jeans like these, I assume that you think your most redeeming quality is your body. And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your body. I vaguely remember what that’s like. But these jeans (or the lack thereof) say to the wider world that your sexuality is your primary selling point. It would be much classier, in my opinion, to walk down the street naked.

Hyper-sexual clothing makes me very sad. I know a lot of amazing women, and what makes them amazing is not their physical form. It’s who they are. It’s their intelligence. It’s their kindness. It’s their abilities. I bet the model above is a very nice person, but I’m quite sure most people who look at that photo aren’t having that thought.

If you are wanting to draw people to you with your self-expression, you might want to ask yourself what kind of people you will draw to you if you’re wearing these jeans or those t-shirts. First of all, you’re going to intimidate a lot of really amazing individuals. You’ll disgust and repel others. And the ones you attract with those jeans, especially, will not be interested in who you are inside. None of these garments say, “Take me seriously.”

I’m not suggesting that women should cover themselves from head to toe, revealing only their eyes. (Unless, of course, they wish to do so, in which case more power to them.) I’m not saying that no one should voice their opinions. And I’m definitely not telling you to be ashamed of your own body.

I’m merely saying that showing the world that you have dignity and respect, especially self-respect, and inviting them to learn more about you through civil conversation will be, in the long run, a great deal more appealing to those who will be most likely to treat you decently.

And when all is said and done in this insane world of ours, decency is what we all deserve.


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That Moment When You Realize You Have Horrible Taste

Hi, my name is Barb, and my curtains don’t match. My pillowcases don’t match my sheets, either. And some of the pants I wear to work are patched because I refuse to spend money on something that’s just going to get greasy. I’ve had pretty much the same hairdo since high school, and no one else seems to dress the way I do. I can’t be bothered to be trendy. I’d rather spend my money on travel.

I don’t wear makeup, I’ve never had a manicure, and I watch a lot of reality TV and true crime crap off of Youtube. I collect rocks. I also collect misfits.

I really ought to vacuum my car, but since I don’t even bother to wash it, what are the odds of that? And I’m sure my neighbors would say that my yard is in desperate need of attention.

The reason I appreciate my friends and loved ones so much is that they are willing to look beyond that surface stuff and see who I am. Underneath all that tacky sloppy stuff is a warm heart, a loyal friend, an intelligent woman with a killer sense of humor. I’m kind and compassionate and creative. And my dog loves me.

I admit I probably don’t make the best first impression. But I’ve always appreciated those people who are willing to delve deeper. Thank you all for that.

bad taste

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What Were You Wearing?

There’s a thought-provoking art installation that has been to universities in Arkansas, Iowa and Kansas. Entitled, “What Were You Wearing? Survivor Art Installation”, it’s a display of the clothing various people were wearing at the time they were sexually assaulted.

Even just a photograph of this installation is sobering. Displays of sweat pants and a t-shirt, children’s sun dresses, cargo pants and a jersey… All kinds of different clothes. Clothes you or I might wear.

And that’s the point.

I, for one, am sick and tired of the implication that victims bring rape upon themselves. I hate the myth that if women just covered up more, and weren’t so provocative, then these poor rapists would be able to control themselves. Bullshit.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

I don’t care if a woman chooses to dance naked in the middle of a sex offender’s convention. No means no. Yes means yes. Any grey areas in between mean… NO!

I hope this art installation goes to other campuses, and even art galleries, especially at a time when Betsy DeVos, our Secretary of Education, seems to be siding with perpetrators. People need to be shown that this is not about being a tramp or “asking for it.” It’s about violent criminals. That’s who we need to focus on.

I was wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt.

Photo by Sara Shepherd

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Okay. Just three words. Rompers for men.


Who in God’s name thinks that this is a good idea? I mean… come on. Some things are just  really, really ill-conceived. For example, I know darned well my miniskirt days are over. But I’m okay with that.

I’m sure several of my regular readers are going to argue that people should have a right to wear what they darned well please. I agree. And heaven knows I’m not exactly an arbiter of good taste. But sometimes you have to accept that what you wear sends a message.

As an adult male, I would not want to send the message that I’m really three years old and there ought to be a flap in the back of this get up so I have an easier time going number two. And anyone who has the slightest beer gut is going to walk around looking like one of those tomato pin cushions your mom had in her sewing kit.

All forms of infantilization drive me up a wall. I’ve discussed baby talkers before. I also think grown women in pig tails or with ribbons in their hair, or senior citizens who dress like pre-teens, are rather silly.

Even 75-year-old rock stars who haven’t figured out when to call it quits would not be caught dead in rompers. That’s just a guess, of course. But I think it’s a fairly safe one.


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Seattle’s Fremont Sunday Market and Mobile Food Rodeo

I don’t know how I managed to overlook this Seattle tradition for so long (probably has something to do with the fact that I work every Sunday), but in the quirky Fremont neighborhood here in Seattle there is a street market every Sunday from 10 to 4. It’s only about two short blocks from the Fremont Drawbridge, and it’s a lot of fun. The first time I went was with friends Deborah and Dan.

You can shop for vintage clothing and jewelry, yard sale antiques, flowers, and all manner of international clothing, arts and crafts. Just feasting your eyes on the colorful wares is a delight. I also enjoy watching people walk their dogs. (My dog Quagmire would never tolerate crowds of this size.) And it’s a great way to just celebrate being out of doors.

There are some food trucks every Sunday, but once a month, the Mobile Food Rodeo descends on the area as well, and the crowds swell. The rodeo includes food from all over the globe: Greek, Mexican, Italian, Indian, Native American, all manner of Asian cuisine, as well as seafood, burgers, donuts and hot dogs.

When the weather is mild, after you’ve braved the long lines and gotten your food, you can sit along the banks of the ship canal and watch the boats go by, just as I did with my friends Paula and Kevin. It’s just the quintessential Seattle way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

I hope I see you there, but if you are planning to go, I highly recommend you carpool, bike, or take public transportation, or you’ll experience another Seattle tradition: the utter lack of parking.

Fremont Sunday Market

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What is Your Jewelry Worth?

For the first time in my life I can say I feel sorry for Kim Kardashian West. It’s got to be terrifying to have a gun pointed at your head. No doubt it’s traumatic to be robbed and to fear for your life. I hope she’ll get some therapeutic support.

But having said that, the other outrage, that no one seems to be talking about, is the fact that she had 11.2 million dollars’ worth of jewelry to steal in the first place. I can totally understand why you’d want to maintain a million dollar lifestyle. Truly, I can. I wouldn’t turn it down. But anything beyond that, you really ought to be ashamed of yourself. The fact that her jewelry alone surpasses that tells you everything that’s wrong with the one percent in this country.

How do you happily ride in your limousine past homeless people and food banks, through neighborhoods with inadequate drinking water, with 11.2 million dollars in jewelry in your suitcase? How do you sleep at night knowing that women are forced into prostitution just to feed their children and yet spend your bounty on baubles? What makes your need for a necklace supersede the need for adequate clothing for thousands of children? How do you even justify that in your mind?

I just can’t grasp the mindset. Is there something about having a big fat bank account that automatically shuts your mind off from the human condition? Do you think you have more of a right to go to bed on a full stomach than anyone else does? How can someone buy diamonds while other people are starving?

And why aren’t we more outraged?


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Textile Recycling

Here are some interesting statistics: According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually. Textile waste accounts for 5 percent of all landfill waste. Only 15 percent of all post-consumer textile waste gets recycled each year.

I know I haven’t been recycling my clothing, shoes, sheets and blankets. I didn’t know you could. See, I’m cheap. I tend to wear clothes out until they are so raggedy that even a thrift shop couldn’t sell them. And even though I rarely eat catsup, somehow it seems to find its way to the front of every shirt I own, and then stubbornly refuses to leave despite my best cleaning efforts. So I’ve been tossing these things. Silly me.

Turns out you can still donate those unwearable rags to thrift shops and they will reap the benefits, because they can turn around and sell them to textile recyclers. And when those recyclers get these things, they then turn them into rags, insulation, carpet padding, and raw material for the auto industry. That’s brilliant.

The reason I discovered this is that I live in one of the coolest counties in the entire country, and they are promoting what they call “threadcycling”. It’s a program to educate people that this type of recycling can be done. I am all for keeping things out of the landfills, believe you me. So spread the word. We’re all in this together.

Okay, so technically these are “new”. (Kids these days!) But what happens to them when they are worn out? (And how could you tell?)


Dirty Jobs

I must say that I love having an employer that not only allows me to dress like a hobo, but actually expects me to. I come in contact with grease and motor oil entirely too often to wear nice clothes. My shoes are so greasy, in fact, that I leave them here at work. I don’t want to contaminate my house.

I’ve had jobs where you had to dress up in the past, and I always felt like a massive fraud. And a dress code always adds a whole additional level of office politics that I didn’t enjoy at all. There were always factions. Some people were always on the outer. There were constant complaints that one person (usually me) wasn’t dressed quite nicely enough. Or someone had terrible taste, or didn’t iron properly. And there were all these grey areas. How short was too short? Why is a Hawaiian print considered too casual, but a floral print is okay? I used to have a really nicely made silk shirt, but it happened to be tie-dyed. Heaven forfend!

On this job, no one talks about how you dress. No one complains about the state of your shoes as long as they’re close-toed. If you shirt isn’t ever-so-slightly stained, you probably aren’t trying hard enough.

There is one thing that will make you an outsider. If you don’t get your work clothes at the thrift store, people will look at you strangely. And that suits me just fine.

My greasy work shoes.
My greasy work shoes.