Thank You

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I wanted to take the time to pay tribute to my father. My father’s name was Phillips Brooks Marsden, but he was Brooks to his family and friends. He was the type of man that could seem intimidating at first, but was a teddy bear comedian to all who knew him. 

Ten years ago, on July 11, 2007, he passed away suddenly. This time of year can be especially emotional for me as Father’s Day is a little bit of a double whammy. Not only is it a day where my father is no longer here to celebrate with, but Father’s Day 2007 would turn out to be the last time I saw him before he died.


All this week he has been on my mind. And the number ten has stood out in my mind. Ten years is a significant amount of time to have missed in a person’s life. When he passed away, I was still trying to become an adult, let alone the person I am today. While I try to remain thankful for all the time that I did have with him, it’s hard sometimes to not feel sad when thinking about all the time I should have had with him. I have so many amazing memories of my father that I treasure, but unfortunately he missed so many significant moments in my life: my graduation from grad school, when I met my now husband, our engagement, our wedding day, when we bought our first house, and the birth of his grandson.



One of the most significant things to me about losing my father so suddenly and while I was so young, is that I feel that I wasn’t given the opportunity to thank him for all that he did for me. All those things that a parent does for their children, that in many ways, you can only be truly thankful for when you see how hard it is to do those same things for your own children. So in honor of Father’s Day and of him, here are the things I wish that I could say to him.

  1. You set a strong and solid example. You showed me what it was to work hard for your family while also carving out time to be a family. Whether it was a simple meal together at the end of what was probably a long day or taking us on trips, you made it happen. Thank you for giving me my first example of what love truly was.
  2. Thank you for teaching me to be grateful and showing me love and kindness towards others. I remember you and mom always being active in the community whether it was through volunteering or time spent helping in church or helping a neighbor, you never made it about yourself. You always took the time to help someone else. You set me on the path of acceptance of others; a lesson I am proud to be passing on to Gavin.
  3. You set the stage for long lasting friendships. I always remember you and mom making time for your friends. Whether it was hosting dinners or throwing parties, you showed me how important friendships are. Because of this example, I am lucky to have many amazing people in my life who have seen me through ups and downs and have become my chosen few, my soulmates, and my ride or die. It was those long and important friendships that led me to my husband and the life that I have now.
  4. Even though I had no idea at the time, you taught me the beginnings of what it was to be environmentally aware. I can remember recycling at a very early age when we lived in New York. It was just what we did. You and mom didn’t make a big deal out of it, it was just something that was a part of our every day life. And while we could recycle at the curb in New York, when we moved to Georgia curbside recycling wasn’t a thing. (Still isn’t in some counties unfortunately.) But you and mom didn’t just throw in the towel. Instead, you found a local recycling center and made weekly trips to make sure we were continuing to do our part in whatever way we could.
  5. Thank you for giving me my first lesson on how to love and care for animals. Growing up, we had horses and no matter what, the horses (and all our other animals), always came first. They ate before we did-period. It didn’t matter if there was three feet of snow on the ground. We got up and went down to the barn before anything else.
  6. Thank you for showing me how to laugh at myself. Thank you for being silly and showing me that you can be an adult and still have fun and let loose. And thank you for showing me that that silliness sometimes required costumes. This is a tradition Jordan and I love to be carrying on! 
  7. Above all, thank you for encouraging me to grow into my own person. You allowed me to take risks, make mistakes, and follow my heart even when you probably wanted to intervene. I laugh writing this because I wonder if my conservative father (who use to hint at the fact that I might just turn into a republican after buying my first house) sometimes wonders where this hippie daughter of his came from, but I know that you would have been proud that I am an individual. So thank you for setting me on this path. I hope along the way I have made you proud.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you so much.

Advertisements

People’s Climate Change March D.C. 2017

I was lucky enough to participate in the People’s Climate Change March in Washington D.C. this past weekend. For me, climate change is probably the issue I feel most strongly about. Listening to the science and predictions of what is to come if nothing is done, I knew that this would be the march I couldn’t miss. I am still a somewhat shy activist, but just booking the ticket to D.C. left me feeling empowered. Ultimately, I can’t sit by and do nothing. If the predictions for our planet do in fact come true (which to be clear, I fear they will), I want to be able to tell Gavin that I tried, that I did all I could to help save our home. I truly believe that regardless of your political views, saving the planet and the resources we have left should be a top priority. Let’s face it, what are jobs, the economy, and healthcare going to matter when we have no breathable air or clean water? 


So off we went to Washington. Ironically or perfectly enough, the weather decided to provide the perfect example of our planet’s warming, hitting 93 degrees in late April.  (Just for comparison, the average temperature in D.C. at the end of April tends to be in the low 80s. ) So we readied our signs and mentally prepped for the extreme heat. 
 Lucky for us, the march was extremely well organized. There were bathrooms and water stations at the beginning and at the end of the march. There was a text message system that provided participants with updates throughout the day and also gave you the option to send your zip code in to get help continuing the work of the march in your home state.

 There were many different groups represented in the march including indigenous tribes, parents, teachers, scientists, activists, and groups like the Sierra Club. Leonardo Dicaprio and Jacque Cousteau’s son Jean- Michel were even in attendance. Being from the south, it’s not always easy to find like minded voters, so it was amazing to be surrounded by 199,999 other people who were just as concerned about the environment as I am. 

The march started near the Capital building and wound its way to the front of the White House. Once the March had surrounded the White House, march participants staged a brief sit in, clapping out 100 heartbeats collectively. 

 


Some of my personal highlights from the march:

While there were many chants started throughout the march, none to me was as powerful as the entire march chanting “Shame, Shame, Shame,” as we marched by Trump Tower. ​


Seeing the creativity of the marchers signs was also a highlight. Here are a few of my favorites:


The march ended with a rally at the Washington monument. After being in the heat, we were happy to find some shade, fill up our water bottles, and get off our feet. 

My top take away from my first march experience is to stay educated and take action. If an issue matters to you, call your representatives! Make your voice heard. I know I will continue to fight and resist in what ever small and large ways I can for my future and for my son’s future. 

Earth Day 2017

Happy Earth Day! With all the changes we have been making this year, this Earth Day was one I was very excited about. I was excited to be together as a family and take the day as an extra opportunity to continue to teach Gavin the importance of being an earth friendly consumer. We started the morning at the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market. We went armed with our reusable bags, a few glass jars, and our reusable produce bags. We spent a lot of time chatting with a few of the vendors learning about their products. Our newest take away was bee pollen from David’s Garden. Bee pollen has many health benefits including increased energy, better sleep, decreasing allergies, and boosting the immune system.  It also contains protein, free amino acids, and vitamins such as B-complex and folic acid. Jordan and I will be adding a teaspoon of it to our regimen in the morning- we’ll keep you posted on how we feel. bee pollen

Our next stop was an unexpected one. While on our way to the City of Milton’s Earth Day celebration, we stumbled upon a garage sale. Jordan had gotten it in his head that we needed individual pots to add to our garden and we scored four large terracotta pots for $20. The real find was that the woman having the garage sale raises chickens and goats. So instead of a quick stop, we ended up staying for almost an hour learning about raising chickens and playing with the 5 week old goats named Flip flop and Pebbles. One of the chickens even laid an egg while we there. Jordan and I are now dreaming of raising chickens and fresh eggs.

goats2goatkisschicken

After letting Gavin enjoy time with the goats, we made our way to the Earth Day Celebration. Gavin got to build his very own bird feeder (and everyone made it out with all their fingers.)  As for Jordan and I, we got to speak with reps from the National Wildlife Federation about how to attract more pollinators to our garden and how to certify our garden as a sustainable habitat. More on that to come!

birdhouse

I hope you all are having a wonderful Earth Day!

im with her

 

 

4-Ingredient Shaving Cream

Follow along with Stephanie for this simple how-to on creating a cheap, healthy and wonderful shaving cream.  Not only will it leave your skin feeling smooth and moisturized, the minty essence (yeah, I just said essence!) will invigorate you as you attack the day.  Oh yeah, it doesn’t have chemicals so your face is happy.  Like they say, “Happy face, own the place!”  Enjoy!

The Truth About Trash

Did you know that the average American produces 4.3 pounds of trash a day? A DAY?!? That daily average turns into 220 million tons of trash produced per year in the United States. Where does it all end up?

If your like me, you probably haven’t  really given much thought to what happens to your trash once it leaves your curb. I honestly thought that since we recycled, we were doing our part. But here’s some truth about trash:

All of our trash ends up in one of the 3,500 landfills in the country.

Landfills are pits in the ground. The ground that it sits on is protected by a plastic liner that is designed to keep the land underneath from becoming polluted.

As the trash in landfills begins to break down, it produces a nasty liquid called leachate. Leachate is a highly toxic combination of liquefied food, rain, and household chemicals. Even though landfills do use systems that are designed to keep this liquid from seeping into the ground, unfortunately, over time these systems break down and the liners covering the ground begin to leak. These leaks allow leachate to seep into the ground, polluting both soil and water.

Now if soil and ground water pollution isn’t bad enough, there is also the issue of methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. This gas is one of the biggest contributor to global warming and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the country.

So what can one person or one family do to make an impact on our countries trash addiction?  For our family, we have decided to strive for a zero-waste lifestyle. We will be chronicling our journey here on the blog. Much more to come!

 

Unless

One of my favorite things to do with Gavin is reading. I am determined to expose him to many different stories and help him develop a love of reading that hopefully lasts his lifetime. (So far so good.)

On a recent trip to Goodwill, I found a copy of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. I knew the story was environmental in nature, but I honestly hadn’t read it in a long time. I quickly snatched it up and brought it home to Gavin. It has become one of his new favorite books. If you have never read  it or haven’t read it lately, I urge you to do so.

Here’s a little about the book: it was published in 1971 and follows the story of how a beautiful land is transformed and polluted by  the Once-ler and his corporate greed. The Lorax tries to stand up to the Once-ler by speaking for the trees and the animals that live in the land. Unfortunately, his efforts are for not and the Once-ler destroys the land.

It’s amazing to me how relevant this book is to what is happening under the current administration. And I can’t help but think of how the Once-ler so perfectly reflects the attitude and actions of President Trump. I mean, he even says the word biggering. (Bigly anyone?)

I love that reading it with Gavin gives me the opportunity to talk to him about environmental issues (on his level of course). It’s a great way to get him involved and hopefully help him understand the importance of taking action to protect our planet. During a recent reading, I was pointing out how the pollution created by the Once-ler’s factory turned a lake brown and dirty. Gavin innocently looked up at me and said “Mommy, all we need is some soap.” I only wish cleaning up the planet was that easy. But I couldn’t help but the love the fact that he was already thinking of a clean up solution. I can only hope that these early conversations help him continue to think of possible solutions. After all, as the book says “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, it’s never going to get better. It’s not.”

The Year with No New Clothes

Clothing. Believe it or not, the clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world. It’s second only to the oil industry. Most clothing we buy today is not only not produced in a sustainable way, it is made to be trendy and cheap (Read: this means it is only going to last the wearer the length of the trend before it falls apart or becomes just another piece of clothing you never wear.) And where do these back of the closet items end up? Either at a place like Goodwill or in the trash.

When I got pregnant and started preparing for our son’s arrival, I stumbled into the world of consignment shopping. These massive sales that typically happen twice a year are where 95% of my son’s wardrobe come from. I love the thrill of the hunt and getting great bargains on clothing Gavin will soon grow out of (or destroy). Consignment sales are wonderful for not only scoring great deals on gently used clothing, but also for books, toys, and all childhood necessities.

Note to consignment sale newbies:

Make no mistake, consignment sale shoppers are serious. (They can even make seasoned Black Friday shoppers shake.) My first sale, I didn’t know to bring my own shopping bag (or laundry basket) or that there were designated areas for certain items. I was immediately overwhelmed. But after getting a whole infant wardrobe for under $50, I was hooked.

Unfortunately, these large scale sales only exist for children’s items. Luckily, consignment stores for adults have been popping up all over our city. Most even sell high end, designer clothing. When shopping for myself, these stores are now my go to.

So as 2016 came to a close, I made one crazy resolution: No new clothing for a year. I vowed to keep my overall shopping to a minimum and when I do need to buy clothing, I will only be buying second hand.

Here is a picture of my recent haul at a spring consignment sale for Gavin. I got all of this plus four books not pictured for $42! The backpack and lunch box WITH his name already on them where a ton bonus (and only $8), but a great example of the amazing things you can find at these sales. The Clemson hat is in brand new condition and was only $1.25. The hat may or may not be for me.

gavincosignment

Raised Bed Gardens

2016 was a year of firsts for Stephanie and myself in the yard.  We have only been able to kill plants and grow marginal tomatoes up until then.  But the summer of 2016 was one in which we dedicated ourselves to the garden.  We grew tons of peppers, tomatoes and spinach.  We turned the tomatoes into pasta sauce (Jordan does not like raw tomatoes…I know, weird, right?!?).  We made jalapeno poppers and our own hot sauces (another blog will follow to show how to do this).  And yes, we had so much spinach that the amount of salad that was consumed that summer was borderline psychotic.  Now that we understand we are more than plant killers, 2017 will be a pivotal year for us as we need to get more roots in the ground to be more sustainable!  So we drew up some schematics and figured out our favorite veggies while scaling at a rate that would be sustainable during soccer season (yes, it is all consuming).img_4807  We tripled our square footage for 2017 and increased our output to also include broccoli, sweet potatoes, potatoes and green peppers.  It also was great pricing the 3 components out to ensure we could keep it under budget.  Gavin, our son, went to Home Depot with me to get the 2″x 12″ necessary to build the raised beds.  We also added some rugged plastic containers to grow our potatoes and sweets in.  We began prepping the soil with the compost we had collected from the past year.  The picture at the top is at about 70% completion.  Everything is where it will be located but we need more soil and amendments and then the seeds in late February/early March.  I look forward to updating this blog and sharing the success of these beds and the lessons learned from becoming more sustainable and independent.img_4872  From this vertical view you can see that we have added 3 beds in hopes of depending on the grocery store less and ourselves more.  You can even see the newly built pallet compost pile where much of our nutrients come from.  The construction of these raised beds was made much easier since I had the great help of Gavin and Steph during construction. Below you can find a video update on how our raised beds are coming along.img_4810

Our Beginning

Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down…………..(Any 90’s fan out there?)

But seriously, this is the story of the day that changed my life. Now in fairness, I have had a few days that have been life changing for me……the day I met my husband, the day my father passed away, the day I got married, and most recently, the day my son was born.

This day that changed my life propelled me into my current role of shy activist in training. Can you guess the day? If you guessed January 20th, 2017, you would be right!

I will spare you a long political post, but suffice it to say, the day of Trump’s inauguration, I fought my inner chicken little (remember- the sky is falling, the sky is falling.) I was scared. Scared for my friends, scared for my family, and scared for my son’s future.

Waking up in day 1 under the new administration, I knew I could no longer sit by and continue to do my personal version of the status quo.

So I decided to focus on what I find the most important. For me, that is the environment. I want to do everything in my power to ensure a clean and safe planet for my son. I decided to start in the place where I have the most control-our home.

Sure we already recycle, use reusable water bottles and bags, and turn the lights off when we leave a room. We even adopted the old hippie water conservation mantra of “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” But I knew we could do more.

So here we are…….at the beginning. The beginning of doing more and using less.

Thank you for joining us on our journey. We hope to share tips, tricks, and inspiration for you and your family along the way.

Welcome to Sustainable Suburbanites.