A life well-lived

February 7, 2008

Tonight I cooked myself an egg for the first time since my cat Millie passed away at the end of January. She was nearly 20 years old, and had developed many quirks in her old age, one of them being that she grew to love cooked eggs more than any other food. My family had gotten into the habit of scooping a bit of the yolk onto a little plate for her anytime we had them.

Among her other quirks were walking into walls (being nearly blind), going outside in subfreezing temperatures to eat grass (to help her digestion), howling at odd times of day (being nearly deaf), and occasionally not quite reaching where she was trying to jump to (being arthritic). But for all her old-lady-cat troubles, she was really quite strong and happy even up to her last days. Her poor sight and hearing seemed to only motivate her more to explore – I found her in parts of the house she hadn’t dared go to in years. And she seemed to appreciate even more the senses she still had, becoming more cuddly by the day. She was incredibly resilient – even when she walked into something, it never slowed her down, it only made her more determined to find the path she had meant to take. She never let her arthritis keep her from going up and down the stairs, and she’d always make that extra push to get up onto the bed or the couch. And that sixth sense – that mom-just-took-an-egg-out-of-the-fridge sense – was still pretty keen.

Her last full day was the first sick day I’d taken on this job. She kept me company the entire day, from couch to kitchen to couch etc, the perfect nurse. Even after her first seizure took hold, she was incredibly calm and managed to pick herself back up and find her dinner like nothing had happened. Even at the vet the next morning, she was calm and strong.

Everyone tells me, and I know it’s true, that she must have known. That this was my sick day and that I’d be moving out in a week, and it was her time. It is therapeutic to write about it now, just as it was therapeutic to scatter her ashes around the rose bushes last weekend, and just as it was therapeutic to make myself an egg tonight. I will always remember the endless lessons she taught me, about patience, strength, endurance, unconditional love, and living life to the absolute fullest. Millie, thank you, for everything.




Ah, feels like home.

July 1, 2007

Whew, okay, I’ve been slacking, time to get back into it. I’m now dealing with the fact that I am actually in DC right now, in the summer, for the first time in a good thirteen years. And still working full time, in the summer. And while I do miss it, terribly, and my internal clock has all these blinking “error” lights, it’s not too bad an adjustment.

It’s interesting, what happens to the city. Yes it gets sticky and disgusting, and trying to be a pedestrian often feels like running the gauntlet, between the smog, pollution, cigarette smoke mixed with perfume, and however you want to characterize the smell coming from the steam vents. But there is also this crazy influx of new people – tourists, interns, recent grads. And music. So much music. I’m determined to make the most of it.

News since my last post: I’ve been accepted into the part-time MBA program at GW, and I’ll soon be transitioning into a new position within my organization, where I’ll be full-time in the financial department. Who knew?

Picasso is cool too.

May 20, 2007

A lesson in confidence, or perhaps the secret to genius.

I turned on the TV the other day and caught a documentary called “The Mystery of Picasso,” which is largely filmed from the other side of a transparent canvas, behind which the man is painting. You watch the process from a blank canvas to a finished work, as the image is transformed again and again. Accompanying the action is music that is composed to follow the progress of the picture, timed with every brush stroke. Between pieces, you might hear Picasso and the filmmaker chatting briefly.

After one piece is going not as well as he had hoped, Picasso abruptly stops and announces that he is just going to leave it as is. The filmmaker asks innocently if that might be “awkward” for the public. Picasso replies (in translation), “I have never thought about the public. I’m too old to start now. Besides, all I ever wanted to show was the unexpectedness of naked truth.”

We are all dreamers, and creators, but I think it is the freaks of this world, the ones who aren’t afraid to put that truth out there regardless of who’s looking, or listening, that make the world turn. Or at least make it interesting.

Cool new resource for campus sustainability, or Why my family rocks

May 6, 2007

So not too long ago I was browsing my daily inundation of green-themed e-newsletters when I came across this title, “Creating a Campus Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund: A Guide for Students.” I clicked on it, noted it in my brain to look at later, and was about to click away when I noticed that one of the co-authors of the report was my own second cousin, Asa, who is a sophomore at Macalester College.

The guide is written by students for students, drawing from their experience with step-by-step instructions and tips, examples from funds established on other campuses, and appendices detailing the text of their own fund and providing examples of the kinds of projects to be funded. It’s pretty cool stuff, and quite well-written. And no I’m not just saying that because it’s my family. But yes that does make it even cooler.

Highlights from the National Sustainable Design Expo

May 1, 2007

Last week I had the great privilege of exhibiting for my organization at the National Sustainable Design Expo, a two-day event put on by the EPA and featuring their P3 student design competition for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Aside from a number of other exhibitors like me from a number of nonprofit groups, EPA offices, etc, there were forty teams from universities competing for these grant awards in an incredible display of innovative positive solutions to local and global problems. Being the sole person at my display table, I did not have much of a chance to explore, but I did get a chance to talk to some really inspiring young people and hear about the work of their design teams.

I noticed some common themes in the topics chosen by competitors: Over a quarter of the projects dealt directly with issues of clean water access and wastewater treatment, most of which were teaming up with a community where water was scarce and designing an appropriate solution for that community. Several teams focused on green building solutions, either for whole building design or for an aspect such as a green roof or efficient cooling system. Still many others looked at innovative alternative energy sources: biodiesel from algae, ocean wave energy, solar thermal collectors, etc. My personal favorite? UVA’s Learning Barge: an off-the-grid, floating field station that creates its own energy, filters its own greywater, and educates in estuarine habitat restoration.

Earth Day can stick around for a while.

April 24, 2007

So some folks are sayin’ that Earth Day has served its time and it can go, but I say what kinda Earth-lovin’ is that? I know the whole “Earth Day is every day” business, but hey, I’m special every day and I still like to party on my birthday. I think the Earth deserves a special day too.

In any case, I celebrated Earth Day this time around not by going to a big event or participating in a river cleanup like I thought I might, but by doing a little gardening with my mum. Because what’s more earth-y than growing your own food? We stirred up the compost-y soil that’s been stewing in our raised garden beds, layered it over with some nice top soil, and planted some yummy-looking organic veggies, interspersing some flowers and such as companion plants. We even got a little creative with making a vertical structure for the pole beans, using some old pipe that was in the roof of the garage, literally tying it together with shoelaces, and stringing some vertical lines off of it for the beans to climb on.


All in all, a weekend well-spent.

Update: DC Vote bill passed in the House!

April 19, 2007

Wow – I just got word from DC Vote in my inbox – within hours of my last post the DC Voting Rights Act (HR 1905) has passed in the House!!! Perhaps there will be justice for our city after all. Fingers crossed for the Senate! (Still an uphill climb!)

DC needs a vote – and its gun laws

April 19, 2007

On Thursday, March 22, a House vote on a bill that would have given DC a voting representative in Congress was thwarted when Republicans tacked on language to the bill that would have squashed DC’s existing gun laws. DC, once known as the homicide capital of the US, now has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

On Monday, April 16, thousands of citizens marched on the Capitol in what was the largest demonstration in decades for DC voting rights. This same day marked the largest gun-massacre the country has ever known, in our neighboring state of Virginia.

I could not help but notice the significance of this unplanned convergence of events. It makes the actions of those in Congress who underhandedly tried to strip DC of its gun protections all the more disgusting in hindsight. No citizen should be able to wield such tools of violence with such ease, and quite frankly, this is one area of legislation where our neighbor states and others should follow DC’s lead and crack down on this.

We will not give up the fight for our voice, and we will not allow our gun laws to be undermined. We will push for as long as it takes.

An Inspiring Day of Climate Action

April 16, 2007


I said I’d be there, and I was – Saturday afternoon, I managed to get my mother to come with me, to stand at the rally and to sit in for is long as it took to get that human postcard just right, demanding that Congress cut carbon “80% by 2050.” She and I are in the front frame of the postcard (parked in front of the first “0” in “2050” above, on the right edge of the photo below). I joined a couple friends later that evening at reception where we watched the returns – pictures from actions all over the country streaming in and being projected on the walls of the National Museum of the American Indian, with Bill McKibben and others making remarks and celebrating. It’s tough to get good coverage from say, the Post on such an event because it wasn’t a thousands-on-Washington type of event, it was a large collection of smaller events, but still, the turnouts were incredible, and the message is clear: Congress must act now.

See the Step It Up website for more reports from Saturday, including some amazing pictures from everywhere from coral reefs to glaciers to coal-fired power plants. You can see more specific reports from the DC event here.


Step It Up for Climate Change This Saturday!

April 12, 2007

Okay, I have to plug this. This Saturday is the National Day of Climate Change, and there is a huge nation-wide effort called Step It Up 2007 to put on actions asking Congress to “cut carbon 80% by 2050.” Right now there are over 1300 actions planned for the day and counting, and they let you search actions by your state or zip code.

Some of the more intriguing ones in the DC area:

  • A rally at the Capitol Steps with speakers and a human postcard spelling out “80% x 2050” 1-3pm (I’ll be at this one)
  • A neighborhood arts and music festival in Silver Spring/Takoma Park
  • A lunchtime rally at Farragut Square on Friday (I would go if I didn’t have a meeting…)
  • A river herring transplant in Greenbelt – Okay, so I’m not exactly sure how this fights climate change but it sounds like fun and I would totally go if I weren’t giving my practice mini-tour at the National Building Museum in the morning.

And while we’re talkin’ climate and carbon and such, I want to share a few resources about carbon emissions offsets, since they’ve been popping up in my inbox lately. These things are everywhere, in every shape and form – there’s even a click-a-day for offsets on Care2.com now (though it’s incredibly vague about its methods), and a “Go Zero” option on Travelocity. There’s been lots of controversy as to whether they’re good or bad, and they’ve been called everything from “indulgences” to “smart economics.” Personally, I’m inclined toward the positive, and will put my stamp of approval on NativeEnergy (which my family used for our most recent vacation), but sniff around and decide for yourself:

General information: from Coop America’s Real Money publication, “Carbon Offsets Demystified” (highly recommended, if you read nothing else – breaks down the various options and tips for finding what works for you), ClimateBiz’s Backgrounder on Carbon Offsets

Opinions: from the Brookings Institution, “Al Gore’s Outsourcing Solution,” a positive look at international carbon offsets; from GreenBiz News, “Are Emissions Offsets a Carbon Con?