Archive for May, 2011

Our Daughter Demonstrates Against Drilling

Monday, May 30th, 2011

It was business as ususal for Steve and me last week but Valerie who is home from college for the summer did something out of the ordinary when she participated in a protest against oil drilling in sea turtle habitats. Initially I thought she was just going to keep her friend company but her willingness to get up at 4:00 a.m. so they could be at the Chevron headquarters in San Ramon by 6:00 a.m., proved to me that her commitment to the cause was genuine.

So this week I have a guest blogger as Valerie tells about why she took on the man. Please read on…

Ever since I was young, I was always been concerned about sustainability and the effect of industrial activities on the environment. I think it started in first grade, during “Recycling Week,” when I watched an animated video of an anthropomorphic planet Earth singing, “You’re really makin’ me sick…one day you’ll be sorry…” Say what you will about scare tactics, but they work. Whatever environmental concern I fostered after that point, however, only manifested into a deep-seated worry in the back of my mind, where images of landfills and oil-covered penguins were nestled among various other worries.

Recently, I took Environmental Science 101 to fulfill my science GE at Chapman University.  My professor was not a wheatgrass-drinking hippie extremist, but a regular, nice guy who frequently incorporated photos of his kids into his powerpoint lectures. What I learned both alieviated and increased the unspoken worries I had about the environment and pollution. Even though I learned more grim statistics, I had solid facts to adhere my worries to, which actually helped. In a spur of eco-consciousness I became a vegetarian (the second law of thermodynamics states that energy transfers are inefficient, so eating lower on the food chain saves water, land and energy that would have gone in to raising meat-producing livestock) and in the past six months I have only eaten meat a few times, albeit accidentally. (You’d be surprised how much food bacon hides in). 

Several days ago, my friend Kayla, an intern at the Sea Turtle Restoration Project invited me to join her in a protest against oil drilling in sea turtle habitats. The Seat Turtle Restoration Project is an international environmental organization that works to protect endangered sea turtles and address the causes of their decline; the protest was held in front of Chevron’s corporate headquarters in San Ramon, representing the Kimberley region of Australia, where numerous species of endangered sea turtles would be threatened by Chevron’s likely drilling.

Early in the morning of Wednesday the 25th  Kayla, my fellow protesters and I drove to San Ramon. We met up with the head of the STRP who provided us with picket signs and cardboard turtle costumes; we joined up with dozens of other protesters in front of the Chevron headquarters. Along with sea turtle conservation, protesters were rallying for justice in the lawsuit filed by Ecuadorian citizens after the Amazon jungle of Northeast Ecuador was contaminated by the effects of drilling, leading to cancer and contamination. 

For three hours, the other protesters and I waved our signs as drivers of passing cars either honked in enthusiastic agreement or angrily flipped us off. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the dramatic display of activism only served to further alienate the anti/pro drilling populations, but the protester’s passion was undeniable. At the cost of preserving the stereotype of the hippie environmental activist, the protest gave voice to endangered species and communities affected by drilling. 

I personally feel a sense of accomplishment at whatever affect, either small or great, I had by participating in the protest. When I see the enthusiasm the activists demonstrated I feel hopeful that he future legislature will not just be less dependent on fossil fuels but that the oil companies can be encouraged to be more responsible in the acquisition of oil; industry is still heavily dependent on oil, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. But, if we can learn to lessen the effect we have on other communities, whether they be undeveloped villages or populations of sea turtles, we can begin the process of transitioning to a more sustainable future.,8599,2053075,00.html

Celebrating Graduation

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

No movement on selling the house yet but we have other reasons to celebrate; our son, Ethan, graduated from San Francisco State yesterday.

As the proud parents that we are, we certainly think that his college graduation is an event worthy of parades, flyovers and fireworks, but given the budget cuts in public education, my expectations for the way that SFSU would honor its graduates were pretty low.

I imagined the commencement planning meeting at SFSU in which they discussed that since there wasn’t any money left in this year’s budget for a proper ceremony, a few SFSU staffers would be assigned to go to Safeway on Saturday morning and buy a couple of potted plants to set on the stage as decoration. And chairs? Forget it. This year’s commencement would be festival-style seating on the grass at Cox Stadium.

So when we arrived early at the stadium and saw thousands of white folding chairs precisely lined up on the grass, a beautifully decorated stage lined with hundreds of chrysanthemums, and a jumbo screen so that everyone in the stadium could watch close-ups of the graduates and perhaps catch a glimpse of their loved one getting his or her diploma on the big screen, it was awesome.

We got our programs, found our seats and I did what I’m sure every other parent does: quickly scan the list of graduates to make sure that their son or daughter’s name is really there. Whew, I found it ““ that makes it official, he really is a college graduate.

We had lots of time before the ceremony and it was a spectacularly beautiful day in San Francisco so we strolled the campus that was swarming with graduates fluttering to-and-fro in their purple caps and gowns. It was so much fun to watch the them having photo opps with their families or laughing with their buddies. Talk about pride and joy on everyone’s faces.

When the graduates filed in and I looked out on the sea of more than 4,000 purple robes, I couldn’t help but wonder what was next for all of them. But before I let myself get too far down the path of worry for my own graduate sitting among them”¦will he be able to find a job, pay off his student loans and have more than $2.35 in his checking account by the end of the month”¦I stopped myself and put my fears aside. It was a day to be celebrated and savored.

On the Market: Week Two

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Now that our house has been on the market for 10 days, I’m no longer surprised when I drive up the street and see the “For Sale” sign in front. I’ve gotten used to it and now, if the post and sign were to be taken out, the front yard would look empty, kind of the way that the living room looks after the Christmas tree is taken down.

But I can’t say that I’ve really gotten used to having strangers in our bedroom. Of course, I want a steady stream of real estate agents showing our house but even when we have close friends over for Thanksgiving I can be pretty sure that no one is expecting a tour of the master bath before being served the pumpkin pie.

Heaven forbid I should leave my underwear drawer partially open and someone I don’t know, but who might know me, sees it. Whether it has long-johns or thongs in it, I don’t want a potential buyer making any judgments about our lifestyle which in turn leads to judgments about the quality of our house. “Oh, this house must have a really good foundation because look at how neatly the bras are lined up in the drawer.”

Which leads me to wonder, how paranoid do I need to be about people opening drawers and cupboards when they are looking at our house? I can certainly understand looking in closets; if I were seriously considering buying a house I would want to know how much storage space it had and if closet systems had been installed. But looking in kitchen and bathroom drawers? I’m not so sure.

In old detective movies, they would put a hair in front of a door and if it was still there it meant that no one had come in. I fantasize about doing the same thing but in our case it will be a hunk of cat hair in front of the medicine cabinet to see if anyone coming through the house is curious if we take anything stronger than Advil and Pepto.

Opening drawers and cabinets is probably acceptable and I should embrace at the process because it does have its benefits. Every day for the past year I’ve opened my yucky make-up drawer in the bathroom and thought, “I should really clean out the lotion that has spilled and now has hair and eye shadow stuck to it. It’s really gross.”Â 

Imagining someone I don’t know pulling the drawer open and having the same thought was a great motivator for cleaning it out ““ an even better one that picturing my mother looking over my shoulder. This morning it was such a pleasant surprise to open the drawer and be able to see the pattern in the vinyl drawer liner all shiny and clean.

The last time we went through this process was 17 years ago when we sold our house in San Rafael and moved to Petaluma. At that time, it was tough to keep the house looking and smelling its best with two small kids, a ton of toys and a diaper pail. Now, we have two teenage girls, a lot of clothes and litter boxes. Like before, I’ll keep a shovel and the Lysol handy.

More Kate and Less Kendra

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

I was one of the more than 2.5 billion people who watched, or at least set their DVR to record the royal wedding. As we watched the highlights of the event, what came to mind was that the wedding was a reality show but one of a very different kind.

I have become so conditioned to expect something offensive or crude from most reality TV that it was almost startling to watch the Royal Wedding and not see girls behaving badly. Where are the girls falling out of their tube tops and stumbling down the street drunk? What, no screaming fights filled with profanity? Nobody in a hot tub doing shots? Amazing.

It’s a shame that the raunchy and attention-getting behavior of women on Jersey Shore, Girls Next Door, Bad Girls Club, Rock of Love, and Bridezillas ““ just to name a few ““ has become the norm.

And not just the norm, but these days it seems like young woman actually aspire to achieve the same level of crudeness that is celebrated on reality TV. You can see it outside any bar late on a Friday night. There always seems to be a few impersonating Snooki.

My hope is that a few of the zillions of girls who watched the wedding might see a different kind of role model in Kate. Someone who is poised, gracious and confident. When it comes down to it, she didn’t do anything remarkable in the four or so hours that the cameras were on her for the wedding. She just behaved like any well-mannered woman would. For some of the younger generation who have never seen it on TV before, it’s called being a lady.

Wouldn’t it be great if her popularity signaled a return to a more civilized way of life? I would welcome seeing more of the Duchess of Cambridge on the air and less Kim Kardashian.