Today’s the Day: Take Back Christmas, Fighting Commercialization of the Holidays and Celebrating Advent

November 28th, 2010

Sunday, November 27th is more than just the final day of the “Black” shopping weekend following Thanksgiving.  It’s the first Sunday in Advent. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind injecting a bit of religion into your Christmas celebration,  it’s a great day to start doing so, and to forge a Christmas tradition set apart from the mass commercialization that marks the American Christmas season.

Just what does it mean to celebrate Advent?

Advent is the period of four Sundays preceding Christmas Day. Celebrated by the Catholic church, and many branches of Protestantism, although not all, it is traditionally a quiet time of waiting.  Obviously, with Christmas carols playing before Thanksgiving, marking the traditional Advent quiet time is a challenge for most families who choose to mark the occasion.

That’s precisely why I like it so much. (I’m always up for a good challenge!)

In my church, we have a saying: Slow Down. Relax. Quiet. It’s Advent.

Are you going to observe Advent this year?

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Remembering Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2010

“Are the trees part of Thanksgiving?,” my four-year-old asked from the backseat as we drove past a stand selling Christmas trees.

It was the day before Thanksgiving.

“No,” I started to answer, before the radio’s Christmas carols interrupted.

When did Christmas become a part of Thanksgiving?


Admittedly, Advent comes early this year – it starts tomorrow – but that’s clearly not the answer, since what I call “the commercial Christmas” bears no relation to the Christian practice of Advent, the period of waiting for Christ’s birth.

When I was a kid back in New Jersey, Thanksgiving traditions were a blur of football, parades, long walks through the fallen leaves, and of course, the feast we all still relish.  In my memory, there was a long break between Christmas and Thanksgiving…..they didn’t seamlessly merge together as they do today.


But perhaps that depends where you live. I was relieved to find the site New Jersey football, which shows high school games still being played on Thanksgiving Day.  Unfortunately, here in Bethesda and the surrounding DC area, the high school football season wraps up in early November.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday for three reasons:

1)    simplicity

2)    unity and

3)    meaning.


I love the fact that Thanksgiving doesn’t require fancy gifts and over the top decorations. It’s a simple holiday – one anyone can celebrate just by making a lovely meal and giving thanks. It unifies us: all Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. No need to worry about one’s religious affiliation or fear offending anyone. And doesn’t it make sense for all of us to give thanks?

But now, Thanksgiving seems like a few hour weigh station on the eve of Black Friday.

How are you keeping your Thanksgiving traditions alive?  Can we really counter the early onslaught of the overly commercialized holiday season?

— Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Green Moms Take on Cement? Green or (Ack, Cough, Gasp) Not If You’re Living Near the Plant

November 16th, 2010

One of the things I most love about the Green Moms Carnival is getting to know such a diverse group of women from all over the country. Lisa of Retro Housewife Goes Green is someone I never would have met were it not for the Internet. She’s an environmental activist in, of all places, Oklahoma. Now I’ve met plenty of activists from progressive places like California, Oregon, and DC, but…Oklahoma…? It takes a very determined person to agitate for change there.

Lisa has a very personal battle going on with the cement plant in her home town. Check out her post and those from other @GreenMoms at  Retro Housewife Goes Green.

— Lynn

What’s green enough for a LEED rating but not green enough to breathe?

November 15th, 2010

The first time I heard that concrete was considered a green building material, I was surprised. Hadn’t I heard lots of buzz about forgoing concrete walkways in favor of  stone and other pervious building materials, which are much better for storm drainage?

But the glossy brochures from the cement makers assured me that concrete was a material of choice for LEED building projects –the material of choice for green schools.  And in fact, there were now pervious varieties of concrete, so you can still use concrete on the walkways after all.

Chastened by my lack of knowledge about concrete, I dutifully added it to my ever expanding list of “eco friendly” materials. Then my bloggy friend Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green told the @GreenMoms about her battles with the cement plant in her hometown in Oklahoma. It seems that production of this green building material – destined for high class kitchen counters, big city buildings, and new green schools – emits some pretty noxious fumes.

And indeed, a google search quickly turned up some stories about how the EPA only recently started tightening restrictions on concrete production, which has toxic, carcenogenic byproducts such as mercury.

What ever happened to cradle-to-cradle? How can concrete be considered green by the architects, yet be a poison to those unfortunate enough to live in the shadow of the cement plants?

I’m eager to read the round-up of posts on this subject over at Retro Housewife Goes Green, and I’m especially curious about whether the architects and interior designers have used their marketplace clout to encourage the cement manufacturers to clean up their acts.

— Lynn

Greening Your Gravesite: Halloween Edition of The Green Moms Carnival

October 28th, 2010

With just a few days to go to Halloween, you might think that the @GreenMoms would be blogging about fair trade chocolate, trick or treat for Unicef, reverse trick or treating, or some other do-gooder topic.

But no. We’ve done all that.

To spice things up a bit this year, Deanna of Crunchy Chicken – the one who puts the “mental” in EnvironMental – suggested we blog about death. Green death, green burials, the green hereafter: whatever.

Heck, we’ve got Green Kids Movements, Green Nurseries, Green Weddings, Green Food, Green Fashion…why not Green Gravesites?

In fact, if you think about it – so much of going green is about going retro – back to the way our grandparents or great grandparents lived their lives.

Or, in this case, the way my grandfather, and his parents, and his parents’ parents, my great-aunts, great-uncles, cousins, and many more relatives ended their days in Bermuda.

Bermudian tradition calls for the deceased to be buried within 24 hours of death. This means there’s no need for embalming fluid, which typically contains toxins like formaldehyde.

traditionalbermudian coffin

Photo courtesy of  Bulley-Graham Funeral Home, Bermuda

Native Bermuda cedar or mahogany (less common) are used to make the coffins, which are then placed in a family grave.

Here’s where things get really interesting, especially for us greenies.

Because the islands of Bermuda are made of limestone and coral, digging a grave is a difficult task – it was described as an “engineering feat” in this article from a 1921 edition of Popular Mechanics.


Why do all that work to dig just one grave?

The Bermudians are very practical people.

Instead, Bermudian families have family tombs into which they place deceased family members, one on top of the other. Well, not right away, anyway! You must wait a year before opening up a grave to bury another family member.

Over time, the cedar caskets decompose, making room for more family members.  Unlike American cemeteries, which take up large plots of land, the Bermudian cemeteries are compact (like the island) and would never run out of land if operated according to tradition.

This arrangement worked well until Bermudians began moving abroad, which really began in earnest after the American Naval base was opened in the 1940s. American GIs left the island with Bermudian wives. Today, Bermudians leave to attend college abroad, and some never return home until their final visit.  Then they return to the island embalmed, in a non-decomposing metal casket, which sometimes are so large it can be hard to fit the deceased into the traditional family plot.

So back to our carnival….thinking about my family traditions and Bermuda gave me this idea: Bermuda is known today as a destination wedding site.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if Bermuda invented a “green destination burial” tradition too?

Of course, there’s probably a law against it.

And flying all those bodies in wouldn’t do much for the environment, either.

Aerial view of Bermuda Islands, courtesy of Wikipedia

Aerial view of Bermuda Islands, courtesy of

But perhaps we could adapt some of these old Bermudian ways to our own burial traditions. I’ve always hated the sight of huge cemeteries – such a  waste of land.

Care to start a family plot?  I used to think of it as my family tradition. Now I think of it as a greener way to say good-bye.

Be sure to head over to Crunchy Chicken to check out the Green Moms Carnival – Greening the Dead – Halloween edition.

— Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Sick Kids: Ya Gotta Have Friends and Good Old Fashioned Neighbors

October 17th, 2010

I realized with horror tonight that I had not updated my blog. It seemed that between Twitter, FaceBook, email and the phone, I had gotten the word out to everyone I knew: my son is home, recuperating from surgery for a ruptured appendix.

It was so comforting to have the many cyber-hugs and words of sympathy from you, some of whom I’ve met “In Real Life” and others who remain mainly a Twitter handle.

But at the end of the day, it was those precious friends and neighbors (yes, who read my blog too!) who saved the day.  My son’s best friend’s parents and neighbors, who brought us a bottle of wine and my son a giant bag filled with books and a long sought after Diji (don’t ask!) to keep him occupied.  They kept my little one so I could go to the hospital.  The neighbors who took in my little guy and had him over for more playdates than usual to keep him occupied. Yet other neighbors who kept the little guy when I, in a trance, mistakenly picked him up early from preschool.

It’s been a long nine days since he first got sick, but tomorrow he gets the container that is attached to him removed. He’ll be a bit less fragile then. And every day he’s stronger and more like his old self.

Thanks again to everyone for your caring words, tweets, emails, and phone calls at a very rough time!


I Should Have Known It Was Bad When He Couldn’t Open the Legos: How Do You Know When A Child Is Seriously Ill?

October 11th, 2010

I started this post earlier today at Suburban Hospital. Blogging to relieve stress…

My eight-year-old son is a Lego fanatic, as I’ve blogged here, here, and here.


When he returned home from a Saturday morning Cub Scout hike, nauseous and exhausted, I figured it was a stomach bug and encouraged him to sleep. He slept most of the day. And when he was too tired to open a much anticipated Lego box that arrived in the mail, I suspected a bad fever.

By 2 a.m. Sunday, when he was up and playing with the Legos, I thought he was on the mend.  By end of day Sunday, none of us, to my great surprise, had caught his bug, and that’s when I began to worry.  After all, aren’t viruses contagious?

When my husband told me he had to carry him upstairs to bed, I replied, “We’re calling the doctor in the morning.” But by morning time, my son couldn’t even get out of bed, so we headed over to Suburban Hospital, where they put him on IVs, took blood samples and a sonogram, and told us they suspected a perforated appendix.

After four hours, he was transferred to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Big Boy went by ambulance with his father, and I by car after dropping off Boo at his best friend’s house.

And here I sit, now, blogging, waiting to find out if he has a burst appendix or not.

I feel:

  • Grateful to live in a place that has such wonderful medical care nearby;
  • Remorseful that I didn’t take him in as soon as I realized he was too sick to open a Lego box.
  • Amazed by how helpful technology has been through all of this. From my iPhone, I was able to quickly update my FaceBook status, read comforting messages from friends; check in on Foursquare and Twitter (my semblance of normality); look up appenditicitis on the Internet, and get directions to Children’s Hospital from Suburban Hospital.

From the Internet I learned that he’d likely need surgery and that if he had an abscess it would not be a good thing. I realized he’d need to stay overnight, and might be laid up as long as a week.

I had just accepted that when all of  a sudden things changed. They didn’t know what it was after all…symptoms inconsistent with appendicitis…could be his intestine? Another four hour wait as he prepped for a CT scan before we’d know whether it would be surgery tonight, surgery in a few days, or some other “medical treatment.”

I know in the scheme of things this is a very minor childhood incident, but it’s never easy to see your child suffer or hooked up to IVs is it? Again, I thought of the kids in other parts of the world who suffer without access to the incredible medical resources we have right at our fingertips.

Thanks to all of you who checked in with me today.

– Lynn

Postscript: Unfortunately he does have a ruptured appendix with abscess. They’re draining it tomorrow, and we’ll know more about surgery. One nurse predicted a five day stay in the hospital, and the Internet sites I’m now cruising say two to three weeks to recover. We’ll see.  My husband is cancelling his business trip to London, and we’re hunkering down.  Fortunately we both have pretty flexible schedules, so we will be trading off on hospital duty and doing a lot of typing in the hospital room too!

The Green Moms Carnival on 10-10-10

October 10th, 2010

What are you doing today? Well, if you’re sitting behind your computer, head on over and check out the Green Moms Carnival on Climate Change, hosted by ClimateMama.

As for me, I’m home with a sicko – I knew it was bad when he was too weak to open a new Lego set that arrived in the mail. Of course, by 2 a.m. he was ready to play Legos again!

I’ve taken two long walks today, and sadly I don’t see any evidence of fewer cars on the road. It’s a gorgeous day, but it seems like just about any other day.

And you?

— Lynn

Sunday is 10/10/10: What Are You Doing?

October 9th, 2010

Apparently environmentalist Bill McKibbon wasn’t the only one to take early note of the significance of October 10, 2010.

The local merchants are full of promotions: Buy 10, Save $10 and Save 10% on 10/10/10 are among the most popular.

It’s a gorgeous weekend here in the Washington, DC region, with festivals, sports events and more going on.

But 10/10/10 is also expected to be the largest global action day in support of solutions to combat climate change. It’s part of a global campaign to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in a year – starting in 2010. As the organizers say, “Any person, family, business, school or other organization can cut 10% – and by working together we can make sure our actions count.”  All over the world, people are registering “work  parties” on sites including and

I had high hopes to make it down to DC, where, as you can imagine, there’s a whole lot going on! But unfortunately my eldest fell ill today, so I won’t be going anywhere. I guess that’s very low carbon after all.

What are you doing?

If you don’t have any plans, check out these great ideas. One of my favorites is a low carbon Sunday brunch.

This is a post for the Green Moms Carnival on climate change, sponsored by our newest member, ClimateMama!  Check out our posts which go up tomorrow over on the blog.

— Lynn

Wednesdays at the CSA: Those Perfect Biodynamic Grapes! They’re Ugly!

October 6th, 2010


Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week, because it’s “CSA Day.”  The day when I pick up our weekly share of biodynamic surprises. We get whatever the farmers were able to harvest, and the abundance and variety is just one of the many special parts of belonging to our CSA.

A special note about the grapes in our share made me realize I was in for a very special treat.

“The special treat this week is GRAPES! They are small, green, Thomson grapes and are the same ones that produce the raisins we have in the CSA.  Members from previous years will remember these grapes from last year at this time. We plan to offer them 3 times all together this year every other week, starting now.


What is special about these grapes? First, they are biodynamic and there is no other biodynamic farm in the country from which to get grapes. (only wineries). These grapes have no growth hormones, no shrinkage, no gibberillic acid which are used even on certified organic grapes and they are picked ripe and fresh to order. They should hold up a week or so refrigerated but
don’t take chances.”

Sure enough, they were out-of-this-world good, like so much of the food at the CSA. I still remember the first time I tried biodynamic produce – I felt like my pores and my bloodstream were literally opening up to receive the food.

I could have eaten them all myself, but being a “good Mother,” I wanted to make sure my boys got their share, so I dutifully gave up some of the grapes and packed them away in their school lunch.

When they returned home, I was disappointed to see that the grapes were largely untouched.

“I can’t eat them,” my 3-year-old told me. “They’re bad. They’re brown!”

It’s true…there were some brown spots.


“Honey,” I explained,  “God made those grapes. They weren’t made by a machine in a factory, so they’re not all going to be the same. Some will have spots, each one will be unique, because each one is a part of nature.”

He wasn’t buying it.

His verbal skills aren’t advanced enough to construct an argument about how the Chilean grapes I purchase at the supermarket are uniformly glossy, round, and perfectly red….while these are…imperfect (at least to the naked eye).


My eight-year-old joined the argument. Forget biodynamics. He was sticking to the “perfect” (albeit less tasty) market grapes.

Have you ever noticed that what appears ugly on the outside can be beautiful on the inside?  Not just a story of nursery rhymes or the human condition, but very much the story of real fruit and farm fresh veggies, straight from the garden – or the CSA.

Today was the last week we’ll be getting these amazing biodynamic grapes from the CSA.  My kids aren’t eating them. But at least I don’t have to share them with anyone other than my husband!

— Lynn