Saying goodbye to 2010

This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is important, because
I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes,
this day will be gone forever,
leaving in its place something
that I have traded for it.
I want it to be gain, not loss;
good not evil; success not failure;
in order that I shall not regret
the price I paid for it.
–Author Unknown

I wasn’t going to write a “last post” of 2010. I haven’t felt inspired to write for a while and figured I’d just start off 2011 fresh — as fresh as I could anyway. However, as I reread past blog posts and thought about it some more, the more I felt like I should write something if only to have it to look back on later and for posterity. So here I am, writing something/anything with three burned fingertips.

I discovered this evening it’s NOT a good idea to grab a cookie sheet out of a 350 degree oven without an oven mitt. I’m 35 years old. You’d think I’d have learned that lesson by now, but that’s how my life has been lately. My brain is distracted — trying to process other things — and I’ve been making stupid mistakes like burning my fingers or thinking I’m taking a shortcut somewhere only to discover I’m going very much out of my way. It’s been weird and a little alarming.

But that’s my life — weird and a little alarming. Yet it’s also been pretty amazing too.

The past year was quite wonderful until the last quarter when all hell broke lose and life as I knew it was forever altered.

Some of the good things (though many nerve-racking in their own way) included:

  • Doing home improvements on our first home in order that we could…
  • Sell our first home.
  • Packing and moving to our new home.
  • Taking the kids hiking by myself.
  • Going to my second BlogHer conference…
  • which happened to be someplace I’d never been before — New York City!
  • Julian weaning completely on his own (a few months before he turned 4).
  • Starting home schooling with Ava.
  • Canning and preserving a lot of food.

And then tragedy hit when my little sister Carrie was killed in a car accident on Oct. 25. The day of Oct. 26 — from the time I received the news from the coroner (somewhere around 3:30 a.m.) until I went to bed many, many, many hours later that night — was the. worst. day. of. my. life.

The end of October and month of November are mostly a blur for me. I know somehow I helped orchestrate two memorial services — one here in Colorado and one in Michigan. I buried my sister. I somehow managed to get my kids and myself to appointments, classes, school, etc. I traveled to Michigan. I did a little catching up with some old friends, extended family members, and even my brother (whom I’d pretty much been estranged from for 15+ years). I’m not sure how everything came together, but with the help of amazing friends — both mine and Carrie’s — and supportive family members (and my higher power), it did.

My therapist is encouraging me to start moving more toward acceptance with regard to Carrie’s death, but it’s so very hard. I still want to deny that any of this happened. I still want to wake up from the nightmare. Yet I don’t. And I won’t.

And so I’ve started reading books about grief — about surviving the death of an adult sibling, about sudden loss. And I continue to see my therapist regularly and listen to her suggestions about how I can begin to accept this tremendous loss and soothe and support myself.

In the book I’ve been reading about a sudden loss, the author explains that anyone who receives news of the sudden loss of a loved one should treat themselves as if they are in intensive care for two weeks. While that sounds like a really good idea — I would’ve loved to have hid in bed for two weeks — with all of the details and arrangements that need to be made — as well as caring for one’s family — it’s not very realistic. That’s why my therapist wants me to do things that allow me to care for myself and really nurture myself — even though it’s been two months since Carrie died — during this time.

While billions of people around the world are celebrating the end of 2010 and welcoming in the new year and new decade tonight, it’s not something I feel compelled to do this year. Yet Jody, the kids and I still had a little celebration of sorts tonight. (I find that I have to carry on with some things like Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s — even though hiding under a rock sounds more appealing — just because I have kids. And honestly, that’s probably a good thing.) With wine in Jody’s and my glass and blackberry Izze in Ava’s and Julian’s, I gave a toast — to making happy memories in the new year — and we all clinked glasses. And then I proceeded to spill my wine, not once, but twice, and that was only after a few sips. (It’s that brain distracted thing again, I’m telling ya.) I’m happily drinking water now.

After cleaning up the spills and thinking about it a little more, I feel like the memories we create with one another are really the most precious gifts we have. It is through shared memories of my sister that she will not be forgotten. Even though my kids are only 4 and 6, they will hear so many stories over the years of the silly, courageous, funny, absent-minded, amazing, and inspiring things my sister did — not only from me and Jody and family members, but I hope also from her friends, that they will not forget her. Carrie’s spirit and memory will live on. Honestly, I don’t know how it couldn’t. When someone lives as full, amazing, determined and inspiring life as Carrie did, their spirit lives on in everyone who’s life they touched. And knowing Carrie, that’s a whole lot of people.

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.

–Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

While I don’t look forward to starting a new year without my sister physically present in my life, I know she is still around. I also know she would want me to continue to follow my passions and dreams. She was very supportive of my blog and my many causes. There were often times I turned to her for help with wording in a particular post and I’ll miss her fresh perspective (and so, so many other things). But I know she would want me to continue my blog, even though there are days I wonder why I still have it.

As I say goodbye to 2010, I wish you all a new year of happy memories — of cherished moments with those you love. Take the time to mend broken fences (or broken hearts). Take the time to enjoy the little things. Take the time to say I love you. Better yet, make the time.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo via: David Paul Ohmer

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Last Minute Green Holiday Gifts

I have to admit I’m freaking out a little bit that there are only 10 days until Christmas! I felt like I had so much time and suddenly Christmas is right around the corner! I think I’m pretty set on gifts for the kids, but still need to mail a few packages and figure out what I’m getting for my husband.

For those of you who are still wracking your brains, check out the suggestions below. You’re sure to find a green idea or two to help you on your merry way. :)

Last Minute Green Gifts

Now for some Eco-friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Do you have tips for other last minute green gifts or eco-friendly wrapping ideas? Please share them in the comments. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Photo via Perspicacious.org: Paper bag gift wrap

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Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like Lead Poisoning

When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind?

Family? Friends? Christmas trees? Decorations? Presents? Candles? Food? Mistletoe?
How about lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other toxins?

In Danika Carter’s post All I want for Christmas is Lead-free Decorations, she points out that most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC (vinyl) and the many problems associated with PVC.

• It off gasses
• contains phthalates
• breaks down in heat and sun
• contains lead which becomes lead dust and spreads throughout your home
• Doesn’t biodegrade and is difficult to recycle

This is one of the reasons we are opting for a real tree this year (which we are finally going to get tomorrow – can’t wait!). :)

Danika also points out that reports have shown that “the cords on most holiday lights contain lead at higher levels that what is allowable for toys.” A Michigan-based group called The Ecology Center tested 68 light sets and found four out of five of those sets contained detectable levels of lead.

While most people don’t stick electrical cords in their mouths, they do touch them with their hands (and then touch food or their faces?) and all of the twisting and turning the cords while wrapping them around the tree or — in my house, the banister — can lead to lead dust in the air.

Lead is a potent poison that can affect individuals at any age. Children with developing bodies are especially vulnerable because their rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead. Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

To avoid possible lead contamination, it is advised that people either wear gloves when handling holiday lights or wash their hands afterward. I’m not sure what you can do about the possible lead dust in the air other than avoid strands of lights that contain lead in the first place. Or just don’t decorate at all. Yeah, bah humbug and all of that. :P

Actually, Alicia from The Soft Landing had some tips for safer holiday lights. “As we discussed in a recent article, locating PVC-free and lead-free light strings proved impossible, so your best bet is to focused on tracking down RoHS compliant products. We found Environmental Lights to be an invaluable source of well-researched options and SAFbaby also confirmed that Ikea offers safer light strands as well.”

Also, word to the wise… Definitely don’t let your 6-month-old sit on the floor surrounded by lights (which she grabs with her hot little hands) so you can take some cute pictures. Uh, yeah, I totally did that when Ava was a baby. Crappy parent award right here! Holla! Ugh.

There is more information available from HealthyStuff.org about the Lead and Holiday Lights studies.

Are you concerned about lead exposure from your tree and/or lights? What changes might you try to make to avoid it?

I’m rethinking my decision to wrap our banister in lights and garland this year. Sure it looks pretty, but when my kids touch it nearly every time they come down the stairs, that ain’t cool, people. That ain’t cool. Maybe I’ll have them wear gloves in the house? Or not. :P Next year I think we will only have lights on the tree in the house. Any other lighted decorations will be outside only. At least that will minimize our exposure a bit. I’m also trying to have my kids wash their hands whenever they handle any lights and cords this year (which is so much better than throwing them into a pile of lights, don’t you think?). ;) Live and learn and then learn some more.

While we’re on the subject of the holidays and learning, don’t forget that you can give your Facebook friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too! No worries about lead with One Million Acts of Green. Just good clean, green fun. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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Giving kids the gift of experiences, not just stuff

Something I’ve been hearing more and more about over the past few years is that people — specifically parents — are asking friends and relatives to refrain from buying things for their children for the holidays or birthdays, but instead they are asking for experiences. This can mean something like passes to the local zoo, museum, or aquarium; dance, karate or gymnastic classes; piano or art lessons; a family pass to the recreation center; tickets to a play, concert or movie: or pretty much anything else you can dream up. The point is to give the children experiences rather than just stuff.

I like this idea a lot, especially because my children already have a lot of “stuff.” Experiences can be so much more valuable, yet setting aside the money for classes, lessons, etc. is often overlooked in the family budget. Not only are the experiences fun for your kids, but they are usually just as enjoyable for you as parents too. Just look at the expression on the little boy’s face in the picture above! I love watching my kids experiencing something new, magical or just plain fun. The amazement on their faces is priceless. In fact, we are going to see The Nutcracker this weekend and, although Ava has already been a few times, this will be Julian’s first time and I know both of their faces are just going to light up during the show. :)

I’m not saying that “stuff” can’t be memorable too. I’m sure we can all recall a particular toy from our childhood that we wanted more than anything and once we got it, we were the happiest kid on the planet. ;) I’m just saying if you are feeling overwhelmed by the clutter and amount of stuff your kids already have, asking for the gift of an experience might be something to consider and something you won’t likely regret.

While we’re on the subject of clutter-free gifts, you can give your friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green like Planting a Tree (you could even plant your own Christmas tree like Lisa from Condo Blues is going to do!) and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Don’t miss a single CDG post, subscribe to my blog.