Tsundoku

I learned a new word today, thanks to this article. Tsundoku (not the be confused with the number puzzle sudoku) is the Japanese word for the acquiring of reading materials, followed by letting them pile up and subsequently never reading them.

Now, who among us isn’t either guilty of that ourselves, or at least knows someone who is? It’s a tragedy. When I think of all the trees that have been converted into expensive paperweights in this manner, it makes me want to weep.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of reading. I absolutely love books. What I really hate is stuff. Accumulation. It’s just too much. That’s why I adore libraries. I can always lay my hands on any book I want. I just don’t have to store it myself. I can’t think of a more amazing service to provide the public.

Somewhere in Missouri are about 50 boxes of books, moldering away in a storage shed. They are my inheritance from my late sister. The one thing we had in common was a love of reading. But I don’t know what she was thinking. I couldn’t afford to ship them all from there to here if my life depended on it. And where would I put them? One of these days I’m going to have to fly out there and donate them to a library or sell them to a used book store or something. Meanwhile they just sit there, occupying space and entertaining no one. What a hassle. What a shame.

I guess you might say I suffer from Tsundoku by proxy.

pile-of-books

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An Environmental Plea to Dentists Everywhere

I visit my dentist several times a year, and each time, some member of his staff insists that I leave with a plastic bag which contains a plastic toothbrush in its plastic packaging, along with a plastic container of floss and a toothpaste sample. They simply will not take no for an answer.

Here’s the thing. I use a Sonicare toothbrush, and my dentist knows this, so I have no need for these toothbrushes. And I now have enough toothpaste samples in my linen closet to last the rest of my natural life. Okay, yeah, the floss I can use. But the rest? A heaping helping of plastic that the planet could do without.

I try to mitigate this. Recently my husband and I donated a gigantic pile of toothbrushes to a shelter, and will also probably do the same thing with 90 percent of the toothpaste samples eventually. But the product manufacturers could just as easily do this themselves and produce the same amount of good will.

Given the number of dentists in the world who give out samples, I have no doubt that somewhere, floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is an island of dental samples the size of the state of Vermont. And it’s all so unnecessary! Seriously, I’ve lost sleep over this. So here’s my plea to dentists everywhere:

  • Don’t have your hygienists force samples upon your patients that they don’t want or need.

  • If you insist on giving out said samples, do so in a paper bag, at the very least.

  • Even better: have your samples on display in the waiting room, and urge your patients to help themselves to what they need.

  • Prevail upon your dental product manufacturers to reduce their plastic packaging.

Please spread the word about this. It’s not a difficult change to make, but it would make such a difference.

Dental samples

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The Ultimate Zero Sum Equation

It’s rather interesting, when you think about it, how much time we waste worrying about how much time we’re wasting. I mean, what a waste! That time would be much better spent being wasted in some other way.

Time marches on. Life is the ultimate zero sum equation. You can expend all the energy you want in trying to be efficient, trying not to waste time, working, planning, plotting, organizing, or watching cat videos on Youtube, but in the end, time is going to pass regardless. It can’t be stopped. We’re all going to get older and eventually die.

Am I suggesting that we should just give up and give in to those cat videos? On the contrary, I think the way we spend our time is important. If we focus on giving joy to others, and trying to make the world a better place, and doing the things that we love the most, then it will have been time well spent.

But stop beating yourself up over it all. Just be in the moment. Just live.

Because you can’t control time. You can’t “spend it” or “save it”. You can only experience it. So make it the best experience that you possibly can, and stop stressing out over it all.

time marches on

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Time’s A-Wastin’

His Facebook page is full of lighthearted posts. Funny things he felt like passing along. Videos of cats. Smiling selfies. Humorous observations. The next post is bound to pop up any minute.

I barely knew him. He was a friend of a friend. We had pleasant exchanges in the comment section. I knew I’d like him. We’d yet to meet face to face. Vague plans had been made, and had yet to be carried out.

And now he’s dead, in his 50’s. Natural causes, they say. But there’s nothing natural about dying in one’s 50’s.

It’s all so fleeting. So unexpected. One day you’re taking a selfie, and the next you’re gone.

Life is precious. Don’t waste time. Savor every moment.

Wasting Time

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How We Can Stop Drowning in Plastic

One of the things I love most about this blog is reader feedback. I enjoy reading the comments on the blog itself, and also on my Facebook Group Page. Often I learn quite a bit, and I do my best to respond to everyone.

In my recent post about Ghost Fishing, James suggested I watch a documentary entitled Drowning in Plastic. I was very excited to see that it was available for free on Youtube.

Even so, I have to admit that I was hesitant to watch this documentary. It was fairly obvious to me that it wasn’t going to be upbeat or lighthearted. We have a huge problem with plastic waste on this planet, and this film was going to shine a big old ugly light on it. Did I really want to bear witness to something that I feel so helpless to combat?

But in the end, watch it I did. And yes, it was heartbreaking. And sobering. And scary. But it was also really fascinating to see all the innovative ideas people are coming up with to combat this problem. I can’t possibly do those ideas justice. I suggest you watch the documentary for more details.

But I can share with you some of the many scary facts that I learned while watching.

  • Every minute, around the globe, we buy a million plastic bottles, a million disposable cups, and two million plastic bags. Every minute.

  • Every minute, an entire truckload of plastic ends up in the ocean. Over a year, this adds up to 8 million tons.

  • The vast majority of the plastic that has ever found its way to the ocean is still there.

  • By the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is currently 3 times the size of France, and it’s not the only garbage patch on the planet. It’s just the most infamous one.

  • By 2050, annual production of plastic will have increased by 500 percent.

  • Every time you wash synthetic clothing, more than 700,000 microplastic fibers are released into the environment, and these fibers have been found throughout the food chain, from plankton to walruses in the most remote parts of the arctic. (And if that doesn’t get your attention, this article states that “the average adult consumes 2,000 pieces of microplastic every year from salt alone.”)

But there really are some simple things you can do to reduce your plastic usage:

  • Use a reusable water bottle.

  • Use reusable grocery bags.

  • Use a reusable coffee cup.

  • Stop using straws entirely.

  • Provide your own container and cutlery for takeout food.

  • Pack your own lunch.

  • Choose ice cream cones instead of cups. (No cup waste, no spoon.)

  • Avoid buying synthetic clothing.

  • Don’t buy plastic toys for your pets.

  • Use bar soap and bar shampoo rather than liquid soap and shampoo from plastic containers.

  • Refill printer cartridges.

  • Get a water filter and drink from the tap instead of buying bottled water.

  • Don’t chew gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, which is a plastic.

  • Encourage manufacturers to reduce plastic packaging for their products.

  • Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.

  • Buy detergent and soaps that come in cardboard boxes rather than plastic.

  • Use matches instead of a plastic disposable lighter. Better yet, don’t smoke at all, as cigarette butts contain plastic.

  • Buy food from bulk bins, using reusable bags, to avoid packaging.

  • Participate in river and shoreline cleanup efforts.

  • Recycle.

  • Shop locally to reduce plastic packaging.

  • Talk to your friends and family about our plastic problem.

Together we can make a difference. We can, and we must.

Great-Pacific-Garbage-Patch

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Your Stool is Worth HOW Much?

My doctor was running late. (Aren’t they always?) So I found myself sitting in a waiting room with nothing good to read. Out of pure desperation, I began flipping through a fashion and style magazine. I figured that would be good for a laugh, and I was right.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to spend (read: waste) to be on the cutting edge of fashion. I’m sorry, but there are really only so many ways to make pants and shirts and shoes. It’s all been done before. A famous label added to a time-honored tradition of clothing doesn’t render it superior. You can pay a fortune for clothes, unless, like me, your priorities lie elsewhere.

To a certain extent, I feel sorry for people who think “stuff” is important. I inwardly chuckle at people who say, “He who has the most toys wins.” Actually, no. He who has the most toys has less money to spend on life experiences.

Life experience. That’s what’s really valuable. Making memories with people that you love. Seeing new places. Doing new things. Learning. Helping others. Making the world a better place. These things may not take up space in your closet, but they are priceless.

Stuff, on the other hand, wears out, gets outgrown, falls out of favor, takes up space, and will become one more thing to add to the Goodwill bag when the people who survive you are left with the unpleasant task of sorting through your mounds of crap.

While skimming that magazine, I was thinking that I pity those people with their priorities skewed toward accumulation. But then I flipped the page and saw an advertisement for a 3 footed stool. Granted, it was a beautiful stool, but it costs $1,900.00.

That’s when I nearly lost it, right there in the waiting room. In what world must you be living that you think a foot stool is worth throwing away 1,900 US dollars to obtain? It’s. A. Stool. A stool! Come on, people!

How can you be that selfish? How can you buy a stool like that when people are sleeping in the streets? How can you say to yourself, “I know that many children only avoid total starvation because they participate in a school lunch program, but hey, I need a stool.”

And when all is said and done, that stool will wind up in the same place your other stool does: in a landfill somewhere. Let’s face it: you can’t take it with you. That’s all stuff is, really: garbage that just hasn’t reached its final destination yet.

Wake up, people. Please. I’m begging you.

stool

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What’s Your Water Mark?

I came across some disturbing statistics on the National Geographic website just now. It takes 37 gallons of water to produce the average cup of coffee. Think of that next time, and every time, you drink one. If we each drank a cup of coffee each morning, it would use up 32 trillion gallons of water a year.

Even scarier, 1 pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water. One cup of wine takes up 63.4 gallons of water. And lest you think that eating healthier gives you a free pass, 1 pound of soybeans takes 216 gallons of water. And (God forgive me) 1 pound of chocolate requires 3,170 gallons of water.

I’m feeling slightly sick to my stomach, thinking of all that water usage as I walk down the aisles of my grocery store. And there are so many stores, and so many of us. Water is not the infinite resource that we first-worlders would like to think that it is.

I feel really helpless when I look at the world’s environmental problems. The only thing I can really do is my part, plus spread the word to encourage others to do theirs.

One really eye-opening web page is the homewaterworks calculator. Go there, answer some basic questions about your water usage, and it comes up with a nifty spreadsheet for you that gives you an estimate of how much water you use per day and per year and in what parts of the house, how much energy you use to heat your water, and how you compare to other households in your geographic area.

I was actually kind of thrilled to discover that I use a little less than the typical water-wise house. But then I realized that that probably has less to do with my overall efficiency than it does with the fact that I live alone.

It also gives you recommendations on how to decrease your water usage. For example, replace old toilets and use more efficient appliances. Sadly I’m a renter, and am kind of stuck with using what they give me, but if and when I ever own a home again, all my appliances will be much more eco-friendly.

It is really important that we all educate ourselves about water usage. It’s even more important that we alter our behaviors. Our window of opportunity to get this right is rapidly closing.

water

You’re Alive!

A few days ago we lost a cultural icon and a great man by the name of Leonard Nimoy, and millions will mourn his passing. At times like this I’m reminded of something I learned the hardest possible way this year. Life is very precious.

I know several people who seem to exist in a constant state of fury and irritation. These people amaze me. I can’t relate to them on any level. I want to say to them, “You’re alive! Don’t you get it? You can do anything. You have choices. What the hell do you have to be angry about?”

I think these people walk through life with blinders on. They certainly don’t realize they are throwing away the most valuable gift in the universe: their very existence. I look at them and think, “What a waste.” There are plenty of people who are no longer with us, who appreciated every exquisite moment of the lives they had, who would gladly take even a day of someone’s unappreciated lifespan if only they could be alive again.

When you’re in a rage, your vision narrows to a tiny little point. You don’t see anything around you. You certainly don’t take the time to stop and smell the roses. You’re too busy pissing all over them. Why would you want to narrow your field of vision like that? There’s so much to see! Life is just so freakin’ beautiful, people. I wish everyone realized that.

So next time you are angry because someone has cut you off in traffic, try this instead: take a deep breath. Look around. Then drive home and tell the people that you love that you love them. Because that’s what matters. Nothing else does.

life_is_beautiful-42788