What Insurance Is For

Although I’ve managed to get 5 articles posted in the past 6 weeks, I’m actually not doing all that well, and I finally decided that I owe my readers an explanation.

I was driving, with my whole family in the car, when our car was rear-ended on August 15.  Nobody else was hurt.  I didn’t notice that I was hurt until we were back in the car after exchanging insurance information with the other driver, so it must not have been that bad, right?

Oh, it could be worse.  It could be so much worse.  Riding in cars is very dangerous!  We are lucky and grateful.

But my back still hurts.  This is my 46th day of continuous pain.  Much of the time it’s quite mild, but it wears on me, makes me tired, dulls my appreciation of every good thing in life.  Then there are the times when I try to do some ordinary thing like picking up a half-gallon of milk or my 22-pound toddler, opening a heavy door, or scooting back my desk chair by pushing with my feet–or I’m not even doing anything at all–and my lower-back muscles send out blinding flashes of pain.

I thought it was just the cumulative pain that was making me so tired that I had trouble stumbling through my daily life, so distracted that I found myself wrapping up work days realizing that I’d done only two hours’ worth of work in eight hours, so irritable that I was shrieking at my ten-year-old.  I thought it was because my lower-back muscles were yanking on my upper-back muscles yanking on my neck muscles that I was having more frequent and more severe headaches.  These things are probably true, but there’s more to it than that. Read more…

Pen and Marker Recycling: Starting Year 3!

My son Nicholas is in fifth grade. He and his friends Emma and Sadie have been running a recycling program at their school since third grade. Each year they have to make arrangements with the principal so that their recycling bins will be left alone by custodial staff and they have permission to go around emptying their bins–for which they give up their recess time twice a week.  I’m so proud of these kids for being diligent about their program, week after week, year after year!

You might think pens and markers aren’t recyclable or it isn’t important to go to the trouble of recycling them.  It’s true that most curbside recycling programs don’t accept pens and markers because the process of separating the recyclable case from the inky part, and sorting the cases according to what type of plastic they are, is complicated.  However, TerraCycle collects writing instruments and recycles them into plastic storage tubs.  When Nicholas learned that our friend Suella had launched a Writing Instruments Brigade, he wanted to help!

2015/09/img_2536.jpgAfter two years of seeing just how many ballpoint pens, dry-erase markers, highlighters, permanent markers, and regular felt-tip markers are discarded by a school of over 800 students, I’ll never again think that it would be no big deal to let all that plastic go to a landfill or get incinerated into our air!!  The kids haven’t been counting their collections (although I’d love to see them do that, to get some numbers to wow the student body and also to satisfy my curiosity) but Nicholas brings home approximately a half-full grocery bag most weeks.  We usually bring the markers to Suella at church, but when there’s an especially big haul we’ll drop them off at her house while running errands by car.  It’s easy for us, and she says her role is easy, too: Just collect markers until the box is full and send it off to TerraCycle!

The first year, Nicholas and friends collected markers in bags that they taped to the walls next to the school’s staircase entrances.  It worked, but it wasn’t as convenient for students or teachers as having collection bins in the classrooms, so they weren’t recycling as many markers as they thought they could get.  (Also, the bags were flimsy and didn’t always stay in place.)

Last year, I made an announcement in church asking people to bring in empty, clean containers that were the right size to hold about a dozen markers.  We got a great haul of plastic containers from yogurt, cleaning wipes, coconut oil, dish detergent, etc.  Nicholas and friends decorated them and put one in each classroom.  Sure enough, they got more markers that way!

Nicholas brought home all the bins at the end of the school year and planned to use them again.  Unfortunately, some kind of parental malfunction occurred: Daniel and I remember that the bins were stacked in the corner of the dining room near the basement stairs for quite some time and that we both felt they should get put away somewhere…and then they weren’t there anymore, so one of us must have put them in a better place…but where?!?  We looked everywhere that seemed plausible, but we couldn’t find them!

Thus, the bins you see at left were created last weekend.  Because we were in a hurry to relaunch the recycling program, we sprung for new plastic containers–these have the advantage of a standardized appearance that will help students and teachers spot them in the different classrooms.  They are deli food containers from Gordon Food Service (which has stores where anyone can shop), sold in a pack of 25 for $5, without lids; since we didn’t need lids, it was nice not to have to pay for them or figure out what to do with them!  The containers are made of polypropylene (#5 plastic) so when they are worn out, they can go into curbside recycling.

Nicholas and his friend Ashlyn covered the bins with paper from his craft supplies, clearly labeled with marker and attached with tape.  It took them less than two hours to prepare 50 bins. Read more of this post

National Drive Electric Week: Events Around the Country!

This is a guest post by Maria Ramos.  Maria is a freelance writer currently living in Chicago.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a minor in Communication.  She blogs about environmentally friendly tips, technological advancements, and healthy active lifestyles.

National Drive Electric Week is an annual event designed to educate the public about electric vehicles and the benefits of driving them. The event, taking place September 12 – 20,  2015, highlights the increasing availability of electric cars and the accompanying infrastructure. While electric vehicles, including motorcycles and trucks, face their own battery-related challenges, they are significantly better for the environment and can ultimately be less expensive, compared to their gasoline-dependent counterparts.

The concept of National Drive Electric Week originated in 2011. It was initially called National Plug-In Day, but the idea remains the same: to hold simultaneous events all over the United States to promote the use of electric vehicles. The first National Plug-In Day took place in a humble 26 cities, but come 2013, the event proved to be a monumental success.: The day’s events attracted 36,000 attendees to examine 3,000 electric vehicles in 98 cities. Inspired by the event’s success, its organizers decided to expand it, and the first National Drive Electric Week was held in 2014.

So far, over 160 events have been announced for 2015. Read more of this post

Book Reviews: Guys and Womanhood, Grown-ups and The Child’s Child, and Tripods!

Different kinds of people and their different ways of living are among my main interests, and I’ve been reading about a variety of demographics in the past two months.

The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor

I remember really enjoying this book of short stories the first time I read it, several years ago.  This time around, I didn’t like it as much–too many of the stories spin off into excessive absurdity in a way that kind of stops being funny to me.  Still, it has some really great lines, some vivid, some silly, and some philosophical:

It was one of those ugly and treacherous springs in the Midwest, when winter refuses to quit, like a big surly drunk who heads for home and then staggers back for another round and a few more songs that everyone has heard before.

“Try dessert substitutes, such as erasers. A plate of erasers served on a slice of sponge contains less than two calories.”

After all, he cared for her, she was his wife, and when your wife has an affair, don’t you want it to be a good one, a great experience for her?

And the overall premise, that guys (males) sometimes struggle with their identity and that it isn’t the same struggle for all of them, is a fine one.  I enjoyed hearing from some of these guys again.

The Long Shadow by Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson

This book summarizes a longitudinal study of almost 800 people who started first grade in Baltimore public schools in 1982 and were interviewed for the last time at age 28. Read more of this post