Who Killed Woodsy the Owl? (aka Happy Earth Day!)

Celebrate Earth Day

“Happy Earth Day, guys!” I greeted my kids as I picked them up after school today.

Blank looks. Confusion. “It’s Earth Day?”

Woodsy the Owl I was appalled. Not one of my children’s teachers happened to mention Earth Day, one of the few holidays I actually kind of like to celebrate? I planted a garden today! I baked fresh fruit tarts for an after-school treat! I went jogging in the fresh air, feeling grateful for the blue, smog-free skies and trees full of shiny green leaves. But my kids? Stuck indoors, as usual, taking exams and solving math equations. Ugh. Suddenly I felt a wave of nostalgia for my childhood in the Bay Area, which happens to be full of earth-loving, crunchy-granola, rich ex-hippies who make sure that every child learns the importance of keeping the Bay clean and bluish (which is better than brownish, trust me). I especially miss Woodsy the Owl. Does anyone else remember Woodsy the Owl? Good old Woodsy used to teach us kids how we should “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute.” I’m sure that by now, someone has run him over with their gas-guzzling SUV. Poor Woodsy. He only wanted to save the Earth, just like me.

“That’s okay,” I told my kids. “Anyway, every day is Earth Day.”

Hoot Hoot!

Ways to Celebrate the Earth Every Day

1. Park the Car – Walk! Ride Bikes! Unless you have a disability or serious illness that prevents you from exercising, there is nothing stopping you from driving less and walking or biking more. My kids and I often ride bicycles to the store, to the library, and to the park. We carry our cargo in backpacks, or strapped to bicycle baskets. When my younger two kids were small, I happily carted them around town in a bicycle trailer attached to the back of my bike. Not only is bicycling better for the earth, it is also better for our bodies.

2. Reduce Your Use of Chemicals – Many cleaning detergents can be made using inexpensive, all-natural ingredients. Or, if you don’t want the bother, look around the cleaning aisle. There are many terrific brands of pre-fabricated natural or non-chemical cleaners.

3. Wash and Dry Less – In our house, I have a rule about laundry – unless they are actually dirty, jeans, pajamas, and towels get used twice before going into the laundry. (Do not enforce this rule for shirts and socks – phew!) I also have a retractable clothesline outside for occasional line-drying, which saves on energy. Well, electric energy, not physical energy.

4. Grow a Garden – Two years ago, our family built a raised bed in the backyard. Now, each spring, the kids and I prepare the garden bed and choose the seeds. Then each summer, we enjoy a lovely crop of fresh, organic vegetables. It’s the best! Before building the raised bed, we usually grew tomatoes and herbs in pots, which works well if you are low on space, or, like us, low on sunny areas for planting. Keep it organic – better for the earth, and better for your body (are you starting to see a theme?).

5. Spend Time in Nature – Go hiking. Stroll through your local parks. Try birdwatching, or hunting for local flowers or wildlife to photograph. Eat dinner outdoors. Go camping in your state and national parks. I highly recommend becoming familiar with the principle of Leave No Trace, so that future generations will be able to enjoy the same beautiful, unspoiled views and wildlife available to us today.

Happy Opposite Day! (My New Year’s Fail List)

new year resolution failsLooking for a tried-and-true recipe for failure? It’s simple — just make a New Year’s resolution. You are pretty much guaranteed to fail every time. The typical American pigs out on sweets during the holidays, then creates a guilt-induced list of promises that looks something like this:

I Hereby Resolve to:

1. Go on a diet and lose 15-20 lbs.
2. Exercise every day
3. Stop eating sugar and white flour

And of course, there is a great camaraderie throughout the month of January, as an army of well-intentioned men and women march in step together toward the gym, fill their pantries with brown rice and whole wheat bread, and guzzle water in place of soda.

“This year,” we swear, “things will be different.”

But then, just as the warm holiday glow begins to fade and cold, dreary February comes creeping in, the couch begins to look much friendlier than the treadmill, and we lose our resistance when faced with Valentine’s chocolates and heart-shaped cookies.

“Oh well,” we sigh as we return to old habits. “Maybe next year.”

spongebob-opposite-day

It’s Opposite Day!

Somehow, I think that we are going about things backwards. Maybe we should think of New Year’s Day as Opposite Day. The trick to success is to set ourselves up to fail. Okay, here is my attempt:

In 2013, I Hereby Resolve to:

1. Sit around on the couch streaming movies and TV shows instead of cleaning, or doing handicrafts, or something productive.

2. Shrug my shoulders at my messy house instead of attempting to get more organized (because I will not invite anyone over to see it anyway).

3. Eat whatever the hell I’m in the mood for and not count any calories, because life is short, and bacon is good.

4. Let my bicycle continue to collect dust in the garage. Drive everywhere and spend all our money on gas.

5. Keep writing stories and poems and publishing them for free instead of actively seeking to become a legitimately published author.

6. Be totally antisocial. Don’t call or text anyone, continue being shy and hardly speaking to anyone unless asked direct questions. Keep avoiding Facebook and being social on social networks (because loneliness is so much better).

There. Now surely, if I keep to this list, then I am guaranteed to succeed in every endeavor this new year. On the other hand, should I keep to tradition by failing in my resolutions, then score! This just may become a very happy new year indeed.

The Clocks (A Poem of Auld Lang Syne)

NewYearsEveI miss the old clocks

which used to tick, tick, tick

away the moments

then send them away on waves

of forgetting.

I do not want these memories

of warm, golden rooms

filled with children playing and feasts

of laughter,

the clink of bubbling glasses and

midnight cheers

into the new morning.

Now the calendar is done, only

empty pages

thrown away without a send-off

and a clock that only stares back, unblinking

as my heavy heart recalls

our auld lang syne

I Do Not Celebrate Kwanzaa! (And Neither Does Anyone Else)

Kwanzaa Candles “Happy Kwanzaa,” a white cashier greeted me as I was returning unwanted Christmas gifts last year.

I couldn’t help it. I scowled at her. “Um…I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa.” The cashier muttered an embarrassed apology and quickly finished my transaction. I felt bad for ruining her multicultural moment, her chance to display her tolerance and understanding of my culture. But the thing is, Kwanzaa is most certainly not a part of my culture. I do not celebrate Kwanzaa, and neither does anyone else.

Well okay, fine, I’m sure that somewhere in this country, someone actually celebrates Kwanzaa. Though there are no official statistics to indicate how many people actually embrace the holiday, I am reasonably certain that at least a few families out there are lighting the candles of their kinaras, dressing in African clothing, and eating whichever foods symbolize the holiday for them. But here’s the deal – although I am Black, and have numerous Black relatives, I do not know a single person who observes Kwanzaa. Not one.

“That’s a racist holiday,” one of my sisters remarked long ago when I asked her why no one in our family celebrates. It’s true. It doesn’t take much research to figure that out. Kwanzaa was invented in the turbulent, racially-charged 1960s by Maurana Ron Kulanga, a black separatist (who was, at the time, sitting in prison for brutally torturing two women). He created Kwanzaa as an alternative to the “White” holiday, Christmas. “…Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, and oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people . . . ” (pg 14, Kwanzaa: origin, concepts, practice. 1977). Kwanzaa was intended to be a separatist, secular holiday in which Black people can celebrate being black. Is that racist? Well let’s see…if an imprisoned  Neo-nazi leader were to create a holiday just for white people in order to celebrate being white, and to shun the cultural and religious practices of non-whites, would we consider such a holiday to be racist?What the Hell

I say yes.

Two years ago, when my youngest child brought home a Kwanzaa kinara craft from school, I considered making a complaint to his teacher. It bothers me intensely that children are being taught to accept Kwanzaa as the “African American winter holiday,” as though it is a normal, widespread part of Black American history and tradition. Well, it is not. Many of us see no need to celebrate a so-called harvest festival in the middle of winter. Many of us see no need to symbolize our heritage with corn, a Kwanzaa “First Fruits” tradition. (Corn is not even an indigenous crop to Africa, but was brought over from the New World by white people. Ironic, isn’t it?). Many of us see no need to embrace the Swahili language, which most likely was not even spoken by our ancestors, who were ripped away from West Africa and probably spoke Yoruba or Fula or something. And I personally feel insulted that anyone would assume that, because of my ethnic heritage, I would choose to celebrate such a separatist, radical holiday created by a violent criminal.

Okay, enough ranting for now. Just keep this in mind: most Black Americans do NOT observe Kwanzaa. In fact, most of us just wish it would curl up and disappear. Yes, there are a few people who see it as important, just as there are probably a few people who were happily airing their grievances and showing their feats of strength in honor of Festivus. But seriously…unless a black person walks into your store after Christmas wearing kente cloth to purchase a kinara, please do not wish us a Happy Kwanzaa. Not sure what to say? Try “Happy New Year.” It’s pretty-much non-offensive.