mommyonthegreen

Converting back to a green life, one week (and nap time) at a time


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The End is Not the End

April 2016

I know I said I wouldn’t do this, but here is one more blog post.

I was sitting here wasting time on Facebook (it’s amazing how much time I can lose just clicking on the garbage that comes up on my newsfeed) when I could be doing something more productive. Like writing. Or like not using electricity at all. Like reading.

While I’ve been on mat leave I’ve been reading a lot. I recently read the Mitch Albom book “The First Phone call from Heaven”. In the story, one of the characters mentions the phrase “The End is not the End” in reference to heaven, and is also apparently a House of Heros song.

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I’ve also been trying to wean LM. I’ve decided I’m just done. He’s almost 9 months. It’s ok. I did my best. He’s going to be ok either way. Just when I think we’re done, we’re not. He asks for me (he does a little bobbing bird on my chest when he wants the boob. It’s kind of sweet. 🙂  When he’s really hungry he doesn’t care where the food comes from as long as it comes fast!). And I can’t believe I only have three months of mat leave left  😦

It’s time I put this blog to bed and move on. The amount of electricity I’ve used researching and writing this blog is not lost on me. My family needs me. I need me. And as much as I love blogging, it’s taking up more time than I can put into it to make it the way I want it. I’m too hard on myself for not posting or tweeting regularly, or making timely posts related to current events. I often feel rushed when doing a post and I make mistakes.

My plan was to go back to each post, add tags, edit grammar and spelling, add links for interesting things I’ve found out since I wrote the original post, update my progress, etc.  But lets be realistic – as they say “ain’t no one got time for that”!

And I’ve realized, just like I’m not perfect, just like we don’t parent perfectly or the way we might like too, this blog isn’t going to be perfect. So what if it’s not written like a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Just like parenthood, it’s raw and its real. So why change it now?

I started this blog for New Year’s 2014. Today, my 35th birthday, seems like a good day to finish it off.

So as a final post, here are some things I wanted to write about. I’ve been trying to clean out my e-mail accounts, where I e-mail my blog ideas to myself, and I just seem to have so many green ideas I want to write about while incorporating them into events in my life.  I didn’t want to be one of those websites that just lists a bunch of tips without actually trying them myself. But I want to share them for my readers anyway. Who knows, maybe some day I will try them. I guess I can always go back to this list. And some of them just made me laugh.

For each of you who reads this blog, try out a green challenge from the list below. In this way, the blog has no end.

Here they are, by category/topic/tag:

Waste Reduction

How did a sea turtle get a straw up its nose?

Worms could help reduce waste

101 uses for Mason Jars! (well actually just 18, but who’s counting;-) )

The Destiny of Restaurant Crayons

The Unintended Consequences of Banning Bottled Water

Waste Reduction on Campus

Upcycling

Repurposing an Old Toothbrush

 

Food Security/Waste

Tax Break for businesses that donate food

Just Eat it Restaurant Waste Video

Use it don’t lose it!

denHaan Greenhouses – local source for tomatoes and cucumbers

Fair Trade Recipes

French Law Bans Food Waste

Ugly Food!

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I was going to participate in the National Geographic Hashtag challenge, but as with a great many things I ran out of time. So here’s the photo

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#UglyFoodIsBeautiful

 

Sustainable Seafood – Loblaws

 

Infant Feeding

Breastfeeding Dairy Free

Lactose Overload

Breastfeeding & Alcohol Consumption

Formula FYI

Pump & Dump

 

Sustainable Diapering

The Diaper Divide

7th Generation Training Pants

 

Environmentally Friendly Sanitary Pads

Now that Aunt Flo is back in my life I’ve been thinking about this a little more.

The Honest Company

Goodbye Diva Cup

 

Environmentally Friendly Funerals/Burials/Estate Planning (not that I plan on trying these any time soon – for all the right reasons!)

Refound!

Burial Pods

 

Pets

Our kitty has recently had some health problems, which got me thinking about this even more

Ethically Sourced Pet Food

Crystal Cat Litter

Silica Cat Litter

Ecofriendly Cat Litter

Homemade Cat Litter

Homemade Cat food

More Homemade Cat Litter

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Natural Pest/Weed Control

Ants

 

Water Conservation/Pollution

Drugs in Drinking Water

The Surfrider Foundation

Gold in Sewage

Water used to grow favourite foods

Microbeads Banned

 

Eco-friendly Shopping

The True Cost of Clothing

Germs in Cloth Bags

The Green Mom Review

Toxic Items at Dollar Stores

Chemicals in Dollar Store Products

Dollar Store Product Contaminants

 

Parenthood

Advice to Fathers

The Most Expensive 2-hour Nap

A Day at Home with a Newborn

10 things kids should see their parents doing

Journey from Anti-Vaxx to Science

Please don’t visit my Newborn

10 ways to really help someone with a new baby

 

As I’ve said before, through this blog, I’ve learned that as with every thing in life, we have to make decisions. Just like we can’t always be that perfect parent, we can’t be the perfect environmentalist. But we try. We try and we hope it’s enough.

And then there’s this guy. Am I him? I don’t think I want to be him. If you can’t follow my blog, follow the frog.

http://www.upworthy.com/never-before-have-i-laughed-so-hard-at-one-guys-non-attempt-to-save-the-planet?g=2&c=ufb1

 

THE END

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Born Hungry: Part III

Are you still there? Thanks to my readers for sticking with me. 🙂 In my first post, Born Hungry Part I, I summarized my experience breastfeeding my daughter (MD). I discussed the multiple problems we encountered, things we tried, what worked and what didn’t, and the outcome. And the guilt and frustration of it all.

In Born Hungry Part II, I summarized how with my son (LM) I unwillingly relived aspects of my first breastfeeding experience. I discussed what went wrong this time, what went right, how I made peace with it all and how things are going now.

In this final post on this topic, I’m going to dig through some family history, and make the environmental connection to breastfeeding difficulties, bringing this blog full circle, in a way.

If you read both of my previous posts on these topics, I salute you. There was a lot there. That was after I had condensed some timelines and removed some sections to improve the flow.

There was a lot I didn’t get to talk about. Like how at about three months MD and I had a breastfeeding breakthrough (she was nursing, looked up at me, unlatched and cooed and smiled at me) which is what made me want to pick it up again.

I didn’t talk about how I bought an SNS, but ultimately ended up not using it because every time I looked at it the thought of cleaning it 8 times a day made me want to throw up. (I salute any woman who has tried this contraption).

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I didn’t talk about how my iron should likely have been tested as well as my thyroid. I’ve always struggled keeping my iron up and it was probably lower than it should have been after giving birth due to the extra blood loss. Some of the symptoms I experienced (cold all the time, extreme fatigue) were certainly consistent with anemia, which could have impacted milk production.

I didn’t talk about how nursing sessions with both my children would regularly last for an hour or more. I didn’t learn until later that this can be normal See Frequent Nursing. It just felt like my milk was made of water.

I didn’t rant about jaundice, how we’re not provided with enough information about it; how our parents’ generation were taught to fear it; how PHNs tell us not to worry about it; and how if it’s only tested once in the hospital how the heck do we even know what the levels are in our baby.

I didn’t talk about how I think there should be more research done on breastfeeding science. I didn’t get a chance to review much of the primary litterature, though from what I have read it seems most studies are decades old. And my experiences breastfeeding seem to lead to more questions than answers.

And I didn’t go into much detail on how I felt we were brainwashed to breastfeed. Mind control is defined on Wikipedia as the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. In our case, persons in a position of authority continually and consistently bombarded us with information on breastfeeding, that breastfeeding was the only choice and that there were no other acceptable options, at a point in time when we were most susceptible to being coerced.

I did blast nurses and the health care system. I didn’t mean to. I know they work hard, skipping lunch and pee breaks, not to mention exposing themselves to contagious diseases when no one else will.

I just needed to vent my frustration somewhere. But getting it down on paper as it were also helped me see why, with such limited resources, they spend time helping the women who are having “minor” difficulties breastfeed better, rather than getting to the bottom of why another woman is having supply issues when it seems all avenues have been exhausted. But I still think we, as a health care system and as a society, could do better.

We could do better preparing expectant parents, giving them the information they need to make an informed decision, providing more logistical support when the baby arrives, and preparing their support systems with the most up to date information. We could do at least this much.

Breastfeeding is not only an infant health issue, a public health issue, a preventative health care issue, and a women’s rights issue. It is also a mental health issue (women who experience difficulties breastfeeding are at greater risk for postpartum depression – and it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario as to which is cause and which is effect), and an environmental issue.

I didn’t talk about how I spoke with female relatives about their experiences breastfeeding. (They had no supply issues; one had issues with the latch with their first child and no problems with the second).

Both of my grandmothers had passed away many years ago, and I knew that both my mom and dad had been formula fed. My mom said her mom (my maternal grandmother) tried to breastfeed, but she “didn’t have any milk”. It was the 1940s, when formula was being promoted and breastfeeding knowledge was going out the window, so who knows what was really going on.

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My mom breastfed me for five months. I was exclusively breastfed until four months (except once at 6 weeks), but between my two and four month check ups I had lost weight, so she had to supplement with both formula and Pablum to get my weight back up.

She was plagued by guilt for years, which led to her continually feeding me. I became overweight (50 lbs at age 3, 90 lbs in grade 3) and have struggled with my weight all my life. She wasn’t provided with any counselling to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault that her supply went down. In the 80s, she was taught to feed on a 3-4-hour schedule rather than on demand (she had no support from her mom either, since as I mentioned above she hadn’t breastfed). Also, I was crawling at four months of age, so my energy demands, and therefore her milk production, needed to be even higher. She also wasn’t provided with any information on how feeding on demand could boost her supply.

When I was researching the symptoms of IGT, I also read about the suspected contributing factors to this type of abnormal breast anatomy. Ironically, obesity is one of them.

Another suspected contributing factor – endocrine disrupting chemicals. As I discussed way back in Week 1, endocrine disruptors mimic the bodies natural hormones, such as reproductive hormones. This is a simplified explanation, but when these chemicals “bind” with the body’s tissues in the place of the hormones that should be there, the tissues don’t develop and/or don’t function properly. It is thought that exposure to these chemicals during fetal development or during puberty inhibit proper breast development, leading to IGT (see La Leche League and Environmental Exposures and Mammary Gland Development).

Endocrine disruptors such as BPAs are found in many plastics, such as plastic baby bottles and bottle liners (BPAs have since been removed, but would have been present in the 80’s). BPAs were also used to line food packaging, such as formula containers (see Health Canada and ABCNews).

Ironically, it seems that my mom’s difficulty breastfeeding may have led to my own difficulties. Between overfeeding me due to a “starvation complex”, the bottles used to supplement, and the formula itself, I would have been exposed to endocrine disruptors during infancy. Whether that was enough to impact later breast development is hard to say. (Do the formula companies know this? Was this their plan all along? Is it all a conspiracy?)

Or maybe it was something she was exposed to while she was pregnant. Or maybe it was something I was exposed to during puberty.  It would be interesting to survey some of my childhood friends born and raised in my community around the same time to see if they’ve since had any difficulties breastfeeding.

Makes me glad, for my daughter’s sake as well, that I’m trying to eliminate endocrine disruptors from our life by using glass dishes instead of plastic, natural cleaners, etc. as I’ve discussed elsewhere in this Blog.

I tell you, if I ever find out that we were exposed to a chemical growing up that caused this, I am going to go all Erin Brockovich on their asses.

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Which actually got me thinking . . . another group of common endocrine disruptors is the halogens, such as bromine and chlorine. Both of these chemicals are commonly used in swimming pools. We had a pool growing up, and I practically lived in it every summer from age five until I moved to university. Having said that, bromines are in the same group as iodine and therefore bind to thyroid tissue, not reproductive tissue. But still . . .

 

Hopefully I’ve been able to break the cycle somewhat, and my daughter, if she so chooses, will have an easier time breastfeeding.

Whatever she chooses,  ultimately #FedisBest.

 

For more information about endocrine disruptors and pools see:

Clarity for Spas

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers

Poison hiding in your environment

Fed-is-best-meme-Fb-chat

 

 


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Week # 46 – Poppies and Parades

As I “came down” from the excitement of Hal-Con, and receiving a tweet from Garrett Wang (which I later realized he was doing just to be polite – since I tweet using this alias he wouldn’t know who I was), it was time to turn my attention to a more somber occasion – Remembrance day.

When I was in grade 11 I had the opportunity to attend a leadership summer camp organized and operated by the Royal Canadian Legion. For 10 days they tested our physical, emotional and intellectual limits, making us stronger in all ways by the end. I have fond memories of that camp and will always have a special place in my heart for the legion for giving me this opportunity.

Even when I was much younger, I always felt it very important to acknowledge and remember the sacrifices these men and women made so that we could be free to live our life to its fullest. I wear my poppy proudly immediately after Halloween, and I have attended the Remembrance Day parade and service every year (I can count only four occasions I missed – once when I was a child and had the flu, when I had my wisdom teeth out, when I was pregnant, and when my daughter was an infant). I am also outspoken against decorating for Christmas prior to Remembrance day.

But something that has always bothered me about Remembrance Day is its very symbol – the poppy. Every year, while I am among the first to purchase one, I find myself repeatedly in search of little tables staffed by veterans in grocery stores and shopping malls to continually replace the poppy (poppies) that are inevitably lost.

You’d think in the 100-odd years that the poppy campaign has been around the Legion would have come up with a better design. I know the Legion doesn’t have a lot of funding or resources to put into this kind of thing, but I’m sure some co-op students somewhere could come up with something better. The little pin does nothing to hold the poppies on, and if you twist it you risk multiple stabbings by the needle-sharp tip.

And while the custom is to leave ones poppy on the cenotaph after the service, what happens to all of them? Are they left to blow in the wind, off into the ocean to find their new home in a gyre of plastic on the ocean waves? Or do they lay in wait for some unsuspecting animal, hungry for its lunch, only to have its innards blocked or worse by the plastic bits.

It just seems awfully wasteful to me. Why not sell biodegradable paper poppies, with actual poppy seeds embedded in the paper? It seems to me I read about just such a thing last year, but I can’t find the article now (if anyone sees it please let me know!)  And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – a fellow blogger has a much more detailed post on the same topic.

So this year I’ve decided to change my poppy purchasing habits. I will continue to support the Legion by making a monetary donation each year, but I will reuse my poppy, using a Canada flag pin or a safety pin to hold it on. I also have a poppy pin which I got from work that I can wear. Now, I’ve heard varying reports about whether it is proper to use any kind of pin to hold it on, but I guess I could stop wearing one altogether if they’d rather.

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Don’t get me wrong, I mean no disrespect here, I just think, since they fought so hard to protect our freedom, the least we could do is protect the planet for them so that their legacy can in fact carry on.

(On the notion of reusing, my daughter and I have also spent some time reusing our Halloween glow sticks to make into butterflies, and took some leftover paint gathering dust in our basement off to the local paint recycler.)

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If I can say one thing about the Remembrance Day service, my daughter thoroughly enjoyed the parade; as I learned Canada Day, she loves marching bands. Last Saturday evening was the Halifax Parade of Lights. I turn into a little giddy kid when it comes to Christmas. Not because of the presents (though I do love finding unique gifts for others) but the baking, the decorating, the lights. And I love the parade. But I feel guilty. Though the vehicles are only going at about 2 kph, there must still be some emissions (unless they are all hybrid-electric cars. Pretty sure they’re not, but that would be great, right?).

In the words of my husband, everything I do doesn’t have to be through the lens of the environment. But doesn’t it?Isnt that the point? Isn’t that how we should behave? Doesn’t it make me a hypocrite if I don’t? I suppose devoutly religious individuals battle the same questions.

In any case, I tried to put it out of my mind and enjoy the parade with my family. And now on to other adventures . . .

_________________________________________________________________

Update November 2015

This year I purchased an official poppy pin from the Legion, which you can see in the photo above. I’m told by the poppy-selling staff that it is acceptable to wear the pin through a poppy. Hopefully that will prevent me from losing it!

 


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Week #45 – CONtaining my Passion

I wake up in the wee hours and count – 1, 2,3. Good, they’re still there. The multi-coloured paper bracelets that have adorned my right wrist like gold for the past three days. Hours later, as the sun’s first rays of day poked out from the low hanging clouds, typical of November in Halifax, I waited for the bus, my shuttle if you will, to whisk me off to the third day of Hal-Con 2014.

I love this convention. I’ve been faithfully attending each year since its inception- that first intimate gathering at The Lord Nelson hotel in 2010. Since then, it has expanded, experienced its share of growing pains, and come back to life.

Why do I love it here? Because I am surrounded by characters and ideas that have charged my interest since I was a pre-teen. My creativity is inspired by my surroundings (I am writing this while waiting in line). Science fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars, fantasy, revisionist history, steam punk, comics, cartoons – you name it, it’s here. For a weekend, I can be myself. We are all equal and share a common interest. There are no expectations or deadlines to meet. No one cares who I am or what I think or what I do for my day job or what I look like; where I can blend in by being different. (It’s unfortunate not everyone has had this experience, and the convention has struggled with bullying and harassment. But that’s a post for another day #cosplayisnotconsent).

My first encounter with Star Trek was the original series (TOS). I tried, and failed, to see the entertainment value at first, despite my friends insisting that I would like it and being stumped when I didn’t. I don’t know if it was the cheesy 60’s graphics, the over-zealous music track, the adult themes, or the time slot (competing with the NKOTB and other Saturday morning cartoons), but I just couldn’t get into it.

A year or so later (I think I was in Grade 5 or 6), I’m watching reruns of my favourite childhood show, Reading Rainbow, waiting for Bill Nye or something like it to come on PBS. [Reading Rainbow and David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things had first sparked my interest in science. One particular episode showed LeVar Burton on a boat looking at mud samples with a marine biologist – which is when I decided that was what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I eventually did.] This particular episode featured LeVar Burton doing a tour of the set of his other “day job” – Star Trek :The Next Generation (TNG). I have an “ah-ha” moment – “OH MY GOD you mean there’s another one?!?!?” I ran into the living room to grab the TV Guide (no internet back then to check what was on) to see when TNG was due to air next. Successfully located, I spend the hours after supper learning about Picard, Data and the rest. Since then, I was irrevocably hooked.

Back to the present, and Hal-Con. This weekend I had the opportunity to meet Garrett Wang, who played Ensign Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager, a spin-off from TNG and DS9. There were a couple of things that he said during his Q&A Session that really resonated with me.

The first was that STV, with its female captain, was empowering for young women watching the show to see a woman both in a leadership role and with a strongly scientific and technical background. If Reading Rainbow got me interested in science, Janeway kept me interested. I had always kind of looked up to this character. It was so validating for me to hear Wang speak those words, to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. So it seems Garrett Wang and I agree – if you want more women in science, let them watch Star Trek! (Ok, I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea).

The other thing that Wang discussed during his Q&A was his love for travel, and how travelling to non-first world countries puts things in perspective and makes him more aware and grateful for his lot in life (again, I am paraphrasing). This reminded me of the experience I had when I visited India several years ago. My husband was on an assignment there for work, and I went to visit for a week. The people were wonderful, as was the food. However there was more than one occasion I questioned my presence there. I questioned how I could be in a decent, comfortable hotel room, while just across the street I saw children in metal and cardboard shacks, solemnly staring at me.

I had to drink bottled water the entire time I was there to avoid getting sick, and it broke my heart. Not just because of the waste it produced (the government did a pretty good job promoting recycling, and there were huge fines for littering), but also because so many people there don’t have the choice.

This is why, within a year of returning from our trip we sponsored a child through World Vision. The money we give helps provide clean water (through proper wells and plumbing, not bottled), solar lights (no polluting electricity needed), and education to our child’s community, which indirectly benefits the environment as well.

This brings me to why attending events like Hal-Con always make me cringe to some extent. The WTCC does a great job of sorting trash into the correct waste streams by providing colour-coded receptacles throughout the building. But what about the CO2 emissions from all the flights and driving for the guests and participants? And the electricity for the AV requirements. The paper that goes into programs and tickets and whatnot. And the bottled water.

On several occasions I noticed a number of the volunteers (who were excellent by the way) carrying small pallets of bottled water, and all of the guests and conference organizers appeared to be drinking bottled as well. This year when I attended the convention I made a point of bringing my own refillable metal bottle, and packed a lunch as well to cut down on packaging from take-out containers.

This week’s challenge is to continue bringing a refillable bottle wherever I go. I’m usually pretty good at it. The problem I encounter is when I travel, if I’m going somewhere where I don’t trust the tap water, or if I’m travelling by air and only bringing carry on (which is usually the case). Due to the 100ml rule when flying I can’t pack a water bottle, even if it’s empty.

I think I will also suggest to the Hal-Con organizers that next year they provide refillable water bottles with the Hal-Con logo to guests and VIPs, and available for purchase for everyone else, instead of using bottled. I don’t know how feasible this would be for them, but I could help them research the costs. In addition, here are a few other ways the convention could reduce its environmental impact:

  • Offer programs and schedules as a dowloadable pdf, only posting a few paper copies through the building;
  • Use only electronic tickets;
  • I noticed a lot of brochures in the “swag bags” – I understand vendors wanting to advertise their goods and services, but maybe they could do so in the form of something more useful, like a coupon (a few vendors did so this year). Any printing that is done should be done on non-glossy recycled paper using biodegradable ink.
  • The convention organizers might also try offsetting the CO2 impacts through a volunteer tree plant (reminiscent of the DS9 episode The Children of Time, where Worf and Dax’s Klingon descendants help the colonists plant their field before sunset. Can you imagine a group of Klingon cosplayers tree planting with Evergreen! Community service and free advertising!).
  • Travel & accommodations: Delta hotels, the hotel chain right next to the WTCC, are already part of the Green Key program which is great. Perhaps the conference organizers could also suggest to guests to fly direct, economy and bring only carry on. But that might be pushing it. Participants might be willing to go the distance though.

Maybe I should volunteer to be the event’s sustainability coordinator! Combining my two life-long passions – science fiction and the environment- it would be a dream opportunity!

All of this led to my thinking about celebrities and charities. You’ll often hear different celebs speaking about mental health, animal welfare, or children’s diseases. For example, one of my favourite actors, Sam Heugan, supports Leukemia and Lymphoma research.

But you rarely see actors speaking out against environmental degradation. I expect this is because it is often seen as more political, and as I heard in one of the Hal-Con panels, saying something unpopular or offensive can really damage your career. The one exception I can think of is Leonardo Dicaprio, who routinely speaks out against oil and gas developments and diamond mining. Having said that, he probably has enough money banked that he can do and say whatever he wants.

I did recently see a video of Batman star Ben Affleck talking about bats, which are threatened by a fungal disease known as white nose syndrome. So I will leave you with that thought and video today.


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It’s More Than Haggis

September 18, 2014

I keep day dreaming about taking my daughter to a casting agency, to have her cast in the part of a young Brianna Randall for season 2 of Outlander. I know, I’m crazy and should lose my parenting license 😉 But a girl can dream, can’t she? It’s highly unlikely to happen anyway, considering a) her hair isn’t red (but it could be dyed), b) she doesn’t have a Bostonian accent (but she’s a kid), c) the second season will likely be filmed in the US (but it could be filmed in NS!), and d) do I really want to turn her into a mini- female Justin Bieber? Maybe it’s time I took a break from watching/reading for a while?

Not that I’m really getting my fill or anything. I am getting uber-frustrated with the network showing Outlander here in Canada. They keep changing up the airtime – how is a girl supposed to plan! I know, first world problems.

I have been following Diana Gabaldon’s facebook page daily, and today I read an interesting fan post that Diana shared on her page, and felt compelled to share it here too:

” Please – those who do not live in Scotland or truly understand the history, romanticize what is happening with a TV show or a 18th century sectarian rebellion. Modern Scotland is part of a free country already…we are not subjugated or oppressed.

This decision will be freely made about our future, not a mythologized past. Many people are seriously considering to vote yes or no. Their decision with have nothing to do with Outlander or other National entities seeking to project their political agenda on our vote.

Like many people in Scotland I will respect the outcome. Thanks for the support….. –Tim Wight”

Just like there is more to Canada than moose and igloos, there is more Scotland than fields of heather and dinners of haggis. The human brain is an interesting thing, how we allow ourselves to fantasize and be swayed by the interpretations of others, rather than finding out for ourselves.

I have had no real opinion on the Scottish referendum, other than I think the outcome will resemble that of the Quebec referendum here in Canada back in ’95. I haven’t been to Scotland, though I would love to go (I missed my chance when I was 16 due to an unfortunate encounter with some fresh cheese. But that’s a post for another day).

Tonight, on the eve of the Scottish referendum, I took a bus downtown to the Bus Stop Theatre to give my opinion on something I’d like to think I know a little more about – the Halifax transit system.

A couple of years ago I participated in public consultations organized by It’s More than Buses and Fusion Halifax (Week # 3) . I hadn’t heard too much about them recently, but this evening they planned to unveil a new transit map.

I arrived at the Bus Stop Theatre a bit out of breath – ironically the only bus that would get me there on time left me with a 15 minute walk and I was afraid I would be late. I entered and made my way through a small crowd to the back of the building, where there was a dim room with stadium seating and a narrow stage at the front. I selected a seat near the back and waited. And waited. And waited. The room began to fill up, and within 10 minutes it was standing room only. The lights dimmed further; the air was warm and humid, with a hint of patchouli.

A few moments later there was an announcement about drinks, and then the MC took to the stage to explain how the evening would unfold. Following this, a young well-dressed man with a child who appeared to be about the same age as my own (and equally energetic) took to the stage for the feature presentation.

During this presentation I learned that there are 23 different bus routes along Barrington Street at any given moment; an average of one bus every three minutes. However each bus only contains an average of nine passengers, because each bus is going in completely different directions, none of which are particularly useful to the 50 000 people that work in a 3.5 km radius.

It’s More than Buses has a message for Halifax Transit – don’t give up. Their proposal is based on Fast, Frequent, Reliable and User-Friendly transit system with the goals of increasing ridership and getting folks from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.

They showed the “old” Halifax Transit map – quite a work of art, but not particularly helpful.

Then the moment we had all been waiting for – the new map was unveiled to a thunderous applause.

The new system is based on a transfer system – feeder buses running on 15-30 minute schedules meet at hubs, where riders switch to a bus with 10 minute frequency to take them to the downtown core.

I applaud the efforts of this group (a group I am proud to say I participated in, however briefly), and I hope for the sake of all riders that Halifax Transit will take them seriously.

The new map is a heck of a lot easier to follow, and I like the idea of increasing “transit priority” traffic areas. I would like to think that it would increase ridership simply because of the ease of use.

But I would be willing to wager that at least 25% of Halifax bus users will use transit regardless of what design it follows, because they have no choice. If you can’t afford a car and/or can’t walk to where you need to go (school, work) then the bus is your only option.

This has me thinking about a future challenge for myself – picking up food at the market for The Loaded Ladle, an organization which serves free, local food to anyone who needs a meal on Dalhousie’s campus. But that is also a post for another day.

In the meantime, I leave you with this video about It’s More than Buses – have a look, decide for yourself, and let them know what you think:

http://globalnews.ca/video/embed/1572338/


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Week # 32 – New Beginnings

September 6, 2014

It is a season for fresh starts. The job offer finally came through, and after several years of trying I can finally say I have a job that relates to both what I studied in school and my on-the-job training. It’s a job that while not directly related to the environment, I do provide administrative support to environmental monitoring programs. So I’d call that a green job . Horray 🙂

The location of this job also allows me to take the bus to work as often as I want! But realistically I am aiming for two days a week until I’m more settled-in. I can also visit the Farmer’s Market on my lunch break, and visit Feeding Others of Dartmouth to drop off containers.

As for my personal life, the only baby news is that there is no baby news. Now feels like the right time to take a hiatus from this particular goal, and rethink whether it’s what we really want. The timing wouldn’t be great, having just started a new job. Speaking of time, I’m more confident we still have lots of time, if in a few months we decide we do want it after all.

Now that the weather is cooler, days are shorter, and we’ll be spending less and less time outside, I’ll likely be spending more time blogging. Expect to see more regular posts from me in the coming weeks about tree planting, garbage pick-ups, and more ways I am trying to live a healthier, more environmentally friendly lifestyle – without completely losing my sanity.


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Week # 20 – Losing the Battle, Winning the War

May 24 2014

I learned this week that I was unsuccessful in a job selection process I had participated in. I made it through a grueling interview (see The Hours), and after over a month of not hearing anything I sent an e-mail to HR to see what the status was. And I got the lovely little “thank you for applying but” letter.

Part of me was disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the next step in the process, while part of me is relieved that it’s over . I didn’t have a good feeling coming out of the interview, and to be honest, after the exam, interview, and a year and a half of acting assignments in the position, I don’t think I really want it any way. I wanted the experience of going through the selection process, and that’s what I got. I am looking forward to sitting down with the board to see where I can improve.

I spent part of this week and weekend applying for other jobs like crazy, before my current job sends me over the edge. I feel like I’m losing the job search battle, but as my husband always says, sometimes you need to throw a lot of mud at the wall, and some of it will eventually stick.

Speaking of mud, and battles, for the past few years I’ve been doing battle with a rather large and annoying crop of Japanese Knotweed in our back yard. Previous years I had just cut it back as best I could, but it kept coming back. That is what it does best apparently. The plant is an invasive species which grows readily just about anywhere, from a tiny piece of plant. It quickly overwhelms and crowds out any plants plants in its path. Removing it from the environment promotes the growth of endemic plants, and a more diverse ecosystem.

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So last summer I cut it back to the root and covered the roots with newspaper, garbage bags, bricks, rocks, old tarps, anything I could find that would block the light. All summer I kept cutting it back, covering it over, repeat. Even got a few battle scars along the way to prove it! Eventually most of it died back enough that I could chop the roots out. Several spots I left covered over the winter, and this spring dug the most of the rest of the roots out.

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But it keeps coming back, and spreading further into the lawn. I did some more reading, research, and there is one more thing I hadn’t tried – I finally broke and bought some Round Up. I don’t know what bothers me more, that I bought an herbicide or that it’s made by Montsanto.

As far as pesticides go, this one is not to bad. It’s “broad spectrum”, which basically means it will kill anything green that it comes in contact with. And supposedly it readily breaks down in the environment. It is also about the only thing that will outright kill Japanese Knotweed. I used it as sparingly as I could, directly on the leaves and shoots, and covered them over so it wouldn’t spread when it rained, and so local wildlife, children or pets wouldn’t come into contact with it. (Luckily it’s also in a part of the yard that is secluded and where my daughter doesn’t play).

A Monsanto scientist discovered it back in the 70s, and Monsanto has since become famous for its genetically modified “Round up Ready” plants – corn and alfalfa plants that do not succumb to the effects of Round Up – so Round Up can be used around these plants to kill other plants so that “weeds” don’t inhibit the crops.

Monsanto became a household name when a farmer was sued for having Monsanto patented canola crop in their farm. The farmer hadn’t purchased the particular variety of “Round up ready” plants found growing on their farm, but the farmer claimed that the seeds had blown over from a nearby field. While we’ll never know what really happened, Monsanto won the lawsuit. This raises all kinds of ethical questions, such as whether living organisms should be able to be patented at all, not to mention the biological impacts of pesticide usage.

Direct exposure to pesticides are known to have negative health effects on humans, and if you’re reading this I probably don’t need to go on a tangent about “Silent Spring” (but you can read more below).

I looked into “natural” herbicide options, such as salts, or acetic acid. But every website I checked indicated that these natural alternatives would be useless against the mighty Japanese Knotweed.

When I went to buy the Round Up, it was under lock and key, and when I asked a clerk to help me out, they had to find a manager who had a pesticide license. He then proceeded to ask me what I was going to use it for and provided some advise on how to use it. All of these things sound like great customer service, but they are also required under Nova Scotia’s pesticide laws.

I plan to keep working on it, and while I feel like I’m losing the battle, if I keep at it I will eventually win this Japanese Knotweed war.

 

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