Preserving the Past in a Futuristic World

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Uncle Jim (left) and my dad.

As long as I can remember, I have held a strong affection for old photographs. Finding boxes upon boxes filled with old pictures in my Nanny’s home and, after her death, in my father’s garage, is the one silver lining I can find in her proclivity for hoarding. When my father died nine years ago at 61, I was grateful to my Nanny for having kept his baby book, complete with photos, milestones, and a lock of his hair—so that in the midst of our sadness, my sisters and I could marvel at our dad’s cheeky grin and the twist of curls that once topped his head. So much life had passed between the moment captured in the photograph and the moment that I held it in my hands. It helped us in those days after his death to think of the beginning of our dad’s life as we braced ourselves against the grief of its end.

On New Year’s Day, before we had kids, my husband and I would organize all of the photographs we had taken during the previous year and put them into a photo album. While the process was long and tedious, it was also incredibly rewarding. The finished albums served as a memento of all of the adventures we had had throughout the year. We still bring them out from time to time to show our kids pictures of us when we were young and worldly globetrotters.

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Five Reasons Why Prop 65 Doesn’t Do Enough

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9803Prop65Image_150Last week California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced its intent  to list Bisphenol-A (BPA) on the state’s Prop 65 List, which requires disclosure of substances known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.  While I’m certainly glad that OEHHA has moved to regulate this endocrine-disrupting chemical commonly found in baby bottles, canned foods, and paper receipts—a move that is long overdue, in my opinion— I don’t believe it’s likely to result in additional protection for consumers, at least not in any tangible way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that Prop 65 exists. It’s because of this law and the work of groups like the Center for Environmental Health that we no longer allow the sale of lead-tainted candy in California. It’s why phthalates linked to birth defects in boys are no longer permitted in teething rings and sippy cups. Those are all fantastic outcomes of Prop 65, the only law of its kind in this country. However—and I’m not speaking as a scientist here, but as a mom and a consumer—it doesn’t do nearly enough to protect our families. Here’s why:

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The Way We See It

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Last week my eight-year-old daughter found out that she needs eyeglasses. My husband and I both wear contact lenses and also got our first eyeglasses about her age, so we were concerned how she might take the news. As we picked out a cute pair of frames, she seemed almost giddy with excitement. When I was her age I begrudgingly wore mine, hating every minute of it. I was amazed that she was taking it so well. “I just want to see better” she said.

Don’t we all? Well, not quite all, but a large number of us do. According to statistics, 225 million Americans wear some kind of corrective lens. Of that number, 64% wear glasses; 11% wear contact lenses.

Although I got my glasses at age nine, I didn’t really wear them until I was in high school. And even then only when necessary to see the blackboard, when watching movies, or when driving. I guess, like most teenagers, I was too self-consious to wear them all the time even though I needed them.

I remember one day on the bus on the way to school, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten my glasses at home. My dad (who lived in a different home at the time) was picking me up after school and taking me to the DMV so that I could get my driver’s license. Crap. I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed to take the test without my glasses since my paperwork specified I needed corrective lenses. So what did I do? I turned to my friend, Melissa, who was sitting behind me on the bus and asked to borrow her glasses. That’s right, I got behind the wheel of a car wearing glasses that weren’t mine. Well, needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I failed. Yep, I failed my driver’s test on my first attempt. It could have had something to do with the way I ran over the cones during my three-point turn. Or, maybe I failed because I couldn’t see where the hell I was going.

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Summoning the Muse

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“But I can only write what the muse allows me to write.
I cannot choose, I can only do what I am given, and I feel pleased
when I feel close to concrete poetry – still.”

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006)
Scottish poet, writer, artist and gardener

When I was in high school I was what you might call a prolific writer. Words flowed like water. The muse would often visit while I was lounging in a hot bathtub (I’ll tell you about one such visit later), or just sitting still. Complete poems, song verses, or story plots would come into my mind as if injected there during some kind of creativity-transplant operation. The quote above pretty much sums up my “process” during that time. If I didn’t feel inspired to write, I didn’t. Except for school assignments, I never took pen to paper just to see what would happen. I usually ran in search of a pen to capture some wisp of smoky perfection before it spiraled upward out of my reach, forgotten.

Many years ago I went to see author Anne Lamott speak in San Francisco. I had read several of her books and was a fan of her work. I was eager to hear more about what this quirky, honest, often emotionally raw writer, had to say about how she approached her craft. When asked about her writing process she claimed to always carry around a pen and paper with her wherever she went. Lamott joked that if an idea came to her and she wasn’t able to capture it, well, then God would just give it away to somebody else.  And to prevent that from happening she had to be prepared. At. All. Times.

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Turning Over a New Leaf

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My daily smoothie

Deciding to eat better at the flip of the calendar to a new year is cliche, I know. But it’s become so for a reason. The older I get the more I realize that there is less time left for me to become the person I want to become (a healthy and fit one) and live the life I want to live (running around after my kids and actually keeping up with them). Maybe turning 42 recently has jumpstarted this desire. Or perhaps it’s having just had my third child and finding it three times more difficult to get back to my healthy self than it did with my first two babies. Hmmm, probably both.

These days with our household so busy and my sleep so scattered, I’ve been working in triage mode. Feeling hungry? Grab whatever you can shove down in the five minutes you get to yourself. Need exercise? Push the stroller as you run (in a completely stressed-out manner) the six blocks to school with the other two in tow trying desperately not to be late. While that second one works in a pinch, the stress of the rush in the mornings likely cancels out any benefit of the sprint down the street. Sometimes we’re in such a rush that I leave without even eating anything. And as a breastfeeding mama, that leaves two of us really unhappy.

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