inspiration

5 (More) Easy Ways to Save the World

A few months ago for Earth Day, I posted this blog that listed 5 ways we could all lend a hand in the rescue of our damsel in distress planet. Today, I come to you with 5 more! Let’s dive right in!

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1) Say no to straws

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Straws are one of the most wasteful plastics out there. If you think about it, you use a straw for about 10-15 minutes (or 5 minutes, if you’re like me and have a binge-sipping problem) and then you throw it away, never to be used again. According to Ecocycle.org about 500 million straws are used EVERY DAY which is enough to fill 127 school buses EVERY DAY. Those straws then end up in a landfill and eventually the ocean where they break down into particles marine life mistake as food. Good news is, we are—as were generations upon generations before us—completely and totally capable of enjoying our beverages sans straw. OR if you prefer to live the straw life, there are tons of reusable straws out there calling your name (like these ones!)

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2) Use a cloth makeup remover

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One of my favorite parts of the day is getting home from work and wiping my makeup off—and taking my pants off, but that’s beside the point—and for a long time I used both big name and knock-off brands of makeup wipes to accomplish this afternoon feat. However, I recently started using a reusable cloth makeup remover (which I got for super cheap on Amazon) and it has worked better than anything else I’ve ever bought before. PLUS, as an added bonus, it creates no trash, it only uses water so it can never dry out, and it can be washed with a load of towels to start anew every couple weeks! I think this is what you call a win win win.

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3) Recycle

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I know, this one seems obvious. How long have we been told to recycle? And yet, how long have we not been recycling to our fullest potential?! Recently I came to the end of a bottle of face wash and out of habit, I chucked it in the trash, then opened the new bottle I bought at the store. I’d just got back from my trip to Hawaii where I learned a lot about new and easy lifestyle changes that benefit the environment, so after a few minutes, I reached down and pulled the bottle out of the trash, turned it over and found the familiar black-universal-recycling-symbol_267b symbol. An immediate pit formed in my stomach. I’d been throwing away these bottles for years! This got me thinking, how many other things have I not been recycling correctly? So, next time you’re getting ready to throw something away, double check the label. If you find this guy: black-universal-recycling-symbol_267b, throw it in with the recycling.

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4) Shop & Upcycle

Another thing I was shocked to recently find out is that the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful in the world. An article published on Ecowatch.com stated that in 2015 it was the second dirtiest industry in the world, outmatched only by big oil. Can you imagine?! But while suppliers in the fashion industry are taking a variety of steps to reduce their carbon footprint, we can help right now, by both shopping at our local donation houses such as Goodwill or Salvation Army and/or upcycling old clothes into something new.

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One of my goals for 2017 is to make this DIY rug with old jeans, which is just one of thousands of other projects floating around Pinterest and the like. So even though it is an amazing thing to donate clothes and I am in no way saying to stop, it is also the sad truth that thousands of pounds of old clothes are ending up in landfills. All I’m saying is it can’t hurt to do some research, or to spend a few hours perusing Pinterest, or to stop by your local donation house as a customer once in a while. There are always some great finds to be found.

 

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5) Pick up trash

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One of my favorite things about my cousin a.k.a the female Indiana Jones a.k.a the leader of our weeklong adventure in Hawaii, Alison, is that she practices what she preaches. Being an environmentalist who has literally swam through trash to showcase the malpractice of human waste, you’d think that she must take extra care in, well, taking care of the earth in her own day to day life, and I’m happy to report she does! In the week I spent with her in Hawaii I saw her collect trash off the beach and put it in her backpack and I sat buckled in the back seat as she pulled the car over to collect cans rolling down the side of the road. At first I was a little shocked, thinking, woah, she’s really putting in some extra work here. But then I started to realize that while yes, it might have taken a couple extra seconds out of her day, it wasn’t actually hard. And if we all lent a few extra seconds each day to get some trash to a trashcan or recycling bin, our world could be a much prettier and cleaner place.

2017 Goals Check In (#2)

The fact that we are already one week into July has me feeling a little bit like this:

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This always seems to happen. One minute you’re ringing in the New Year, the next you’re…ringing in the New Year. Everything—except lines at the DMV, clocks in an office building, and lethargic pedestrians—moves so fast! This year especially seems to be moving quick because I have so many goals I’m trying to keep track of.

Let me tell ya, if you ever want to live a year in fast forward, set a list of specific goals for yourself and watch the time fly by. Sure, it’s a little bit frightening, but it’s also exciting, because alongside all that time travel is a growing list of accomplishments.

Full disclosure: since my last goal update post I did make a spreadsheet to better aid me in my quest of tracking my progress. In other words, over the last three months I’ve leveled up in nerd. #noshame

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1) See Star Wars

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 37.50%

That’s right, I’m down to the .5%, people! You thought I was kidding about the whole spreadsheet thing, didn’t you? You should know me better than that by now. Anyways, yes, I have watched the first three Star Wars movies—and by first three I mean Episodes 4, 5 & 6, because I was told to watch them in order of release date, not episode number—and you can read all about that experience here, here, and here. Did I like them, you ask? Well, let’s just say there’s a C3P0 keychain in my Amazon cart and a Death Star waffle maker on my wish list.

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2) See 5 WLRA’s

1st Quarter Progress: 3/5 (60%)

Current Progress: 3/5 (60%)

I was pleasantly surprised by how well I attacked this quest at the beginning of the year. My sister and I actually worked two WRLA’s into our previously planned road trip earlier this year which ended up being 100% worth it. As of now, I have a few oversized sites in mind to top off this year and am currently in the process of making that happen.

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3) Try this jean rug DIY

1st Quarter Progress: 20%

Current Progress: 20%

This has been kind of a daunting task all its own because, seeing as it’s a project that involves sewing, I have to, you know, learn to sew. And while sewing has been on my to-do list for quite some time—my family was even so generous as to buy me a sewing machine for my birthday last year—I’m still rather terrified I’ll end up sewing my lip to something. HOWEVER, this shall not deter me.

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4) Run 1,000 miles

1st Quarter Progress: 233.84 miles (23%)

Current Progress: 474.1 miles (47.42%)

After taking an entire week off during my vacation in March, I arrived home to find myself terrifyingly far behind schedule. To make matters worse, in that short amount of time, I somehow managed to fall slightly out of shape, so my first run back was frustratingly hard. As a result, I spent many a late night thinking about quitting. A part of me wondered if maybe I should just call it a wash and try again another year. But the other part of me—the competitive, can’t stop, won’t stop part of me—said “hell no.” So, after gaining very little ground in April, I welcomed May with open and determined arms. I was going to catch up and I was going to start immediately. That month, I ran 22 out 31 days, totaling just under 100 miles. It was by far the hardest month so far, but at the same time, the most beneficial. I’m more motivated than ever to accomplish this crazy goal I’ve set and have found myself more courageous and daring in my running than ever before. Plus, with the 500-mile mark right around the corner, I can already taste that Heisman.

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5) Complete The Ultimate Fit Bit Week

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Yeah, nope. Still haven’t gotten around to this one.

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6) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 40%

With the arrival of summer, and the beginning of a new outreach at my church, I was able to find a couple great opportunities to volunteer over the past couple months and already have a few more penciled in for the next couple months, which makes my heart happy. I always forget how rewarding volunteering is until I get back in the groove of it, then I want to volunteer everywhere all at once! In case you’re interested, the organizations I’ve worked with so far are Children’s Hunger Fund and Food Forward. I believe Food Forward only has locations in California, but Children’s Hunger Fund has a few branches across the country, so if you can find one near you, I highly recommend looking up opportunities to volunteer. Also, if you have any places you love to volunteer, I’d love to hear about them!

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7) Go to a sporting event of “every” kind (i.e. baseball, football, hockey, basketball, & soccer)

1st Quarter Progress: 1/5 (20%)

Current Progress: 1/5 (20%)

As I stated in the first progress post, I haven’t really had the opportunity to make progress on this one because most of the sports are out of season. However, I do have a soccer game on the calendar for July and football, hockey, and basketball will all be back in the fall.

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8) Try every class at the gym

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Good news! My gym has finally resumed its workout classes. Thus, I can finally start making some progress on this goal a.k.a probably writing posts about how hard/painful the workout classes are. Stay tuned for whiny rants about how my fingers feel like they’re made of glass and how my legs have forgotten how to be legs.

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9) Do The Princess Diaries painting

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Yeah, so, another goal full of goose eggs for me here. However, while I’ve made no progress on the actual painting, I have garnered some interest from friends who want to participate. So, if you happen to see a group of people throwing darts at easels, don’t worry, it’s just me and my friends achieving.

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10) Find and try the “Best of” restaurants in LA

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Honestly, I have no explanation for why I’ve made no progress on this one. I mean, it’s a goal that involves FOOD. *shakes head in shame*

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11) Watch every film that has ever won Best Picture

1st Quarter Progress: 6/89 (6%)

Current Progress: 11/89 (12.36%)

Fun fact: Netflix DVD (who is not sponsoring me, but totally should) has pretty much every movie ever, so to make progress on this goal, I recently upgraded my subscription and it’s been great. My mailbox has been pleasantly surprised to receive little red envelopes containing musicals and romantic drama-dies from the 40s and I look forward to working my way up to present day Oscar winners.

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12) Learn to Longboard

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

The to-do list on this one remains firm:

1) Buy a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads

2) Wear aforementioned safety apparel with pride

3) Lose all inhibitions.

When I’ve managed to do all three, I’ll have some progress (and probably bruises) to update you on.

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13) Learn to do a headband braid

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 40%

I’ve watched this tutorial on YouTube a few times and have been working to improve my skills gradually. I expect it will still take me a solid while to get it, but at least I understand the concept now. I used to think it was 100% impossible unless you had three arms.

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14) Reach the 100,000-mile mark on my car

1st Quarter Progress: 99,720 miles (99%)

Current Progress: 100%

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THAT’S RIGHT! For those of you keeping track at home, you can officially check off #14. I wrote a whole post about my car, Jeffrey’s, big day which you can read here.

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15) Do a bar/pub crawl

1st Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

There appears to be an inkling of a plan for this one to happen around my birthday. Stay tuned.

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16) Sing Karaoke

Current Progress: Complete!

Much to the surprise of my pre-2017 self, I’ve actually done karaoke 3 separate times now, all of which have been about 100 times more fun than I ever thought karaoke could be. That being said, while I’d never pressure anyone into doing something they don’t want to do, I highly recommend you give karaoke a shot. There are few things more freeing than belting out a Backstreet Boys song, knowing you’re hitting exactly zero notes, and yet not caring one bit.

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17) Complete Project Lightbulb

Current Progress: Same as Quarter One.

Due to scheduling/financial conflicts, it appears as though the trip that coincides with this project will not be able to take place until next year, thus preventing the goal in its original form from being accomplished. However, I’m planning on shifting it a bit, so as not to punish myself over unforeseen circumstances.  I figure, if we get the whole trip planned to the tee, with everything set and ready to book, if not booked for 2018, I’d call that a success in its own right.

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Adding all of that together, it comes out to about 29% complete. Which is kind of disappointing to look at, especially since it’s only 10% more than the first quarter. HOWEVER, I’ve done more planning and organizing in this second quarter than I did in the first, which has put me on a much better looking path for the second half of this year. So stay tuned folks! These next few months are going to be crazy. See you in September!

A Quick, Cheesy Metaphor About Fireworks

With yesterday being the 4th of July, I, as well as many others, found myself sitting in a lawn chair, looking up at the evening sky as it filled with fireworks. I was surrounded by my family, as well as hundreds of strangers, and we all “oohed” and “ahhed” in unison, shrieking and geeking over the mix of colors and sounds, even though we’ve all seen them many times before.

Oftentimes, in these moments of undeniable awe, my mind will wander. Searching for inspiration, wisdom or—more often than not—super cheesy metaphors. Last night, I got a heavy dose of cheese.

It was about halfway through the show, when the fireworks really started to pick up. Everywhere I looked they were booming and falling to the beat of a patriotic song. I watched as the small orange sparks snaked their way into the dark sky and then burst into magnificent displays of color and sound. Some were easy to follow from the ground up, others seemed to sneak by me, lighting up the sky in a radiant surprise.

It reminded me a lot of life. (Warning: cheese ahead!) How sometimes it can seem as though we spend forever looking up at a dark sky, waiting for something amazing to happen. Waiting, hoping, praying that any second it will come to life with all the colors we’ve worked so hard to find. And sometimes we’ll find them. Sometimes the sky will awaken in ways we never imagined and we’ll find ourselves drowning in gratitude and wonder. Other times however, the sky will stay dark. We’ll sit out there in our (now figurative) lawn chairs, waiting and waiting, and yet the colors will not come.

I’ve been there. Waiting. Craning my neck up at a dusky sky, expecting nightfall to bring something incredible. I’ve been there when there were fireworks and when there was silence. I’ve left awed and I’ve left disappointed. The important thing is to keep looking. To keep seeking. To keep parking your car over a mile away and hiking up to a spot you heard from a friend of a friend will provide a good view. Because no matter how long the sky stays dark, it will always come to life again. Sometimes in ways we expect. Sometimes in ways we don’t. Sometimes in big grand displays, sometimes in small, beautiful flashes.

Last night, after the show was over, my family and I packed up our things and made our way back down the hill and through the long crowded streets to our car. By the time we saw my mom’s Honda, we were all sweating and tired, ready for bed even though it meant the end of a long weekend. But even though our eyes grew heavy, we smiled, for the trek up and back had been worth it, as always. And as such, we knew we’d make the very same trip next year to do it all over again. In the meantime, we’ll work hard. We’ll be patient and kind and diligent as we seek other sources of color to light up our skies. Sometimes we’ll even find that we can be the long awaited color in the dark sky of another.

If we want to get really cheesy with it—which let’s face it, WE DO—we’ll say it like Katy Perry once (or perhaps 2000 times due to radio overplay) said it: baby, you’re a firework. Come on let your colors burst.

Let them light up your own sky, let them light up the sky of another. Let them remind you of the colors to be seen in the nights that follow those plagued by darkness. Because don’t you know that therrrre’s still a chance for youuuu, ‘cause there’s spark in youuu, you just gotta igniiite the lighhht and letttt it shiiine just owwnnn the niiiiight like the fourth of Julyyy, ‘cause baby you’re a—well you get it.

Why the Internet Can Be Good (RE: Alex Rayfiel)

The other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a link a friend posted that caught my eye. It had a picture of a boy named Alex, who I’d gone to high school with, attached to an article whose title didn’t quite register until after I clicked it.

When the page loaded, my face went white. Alex was sick. Recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His family had created a donation page in the hope of raising money for a radical new treatment in Israel. I read through the story his wife posted, aching for the two of them and their newly born daughter. It all sounded so completely unfair.

Now, I’d never known this guy. We’d gone to high school together for four years, and I’d seen him around from time to time, but never got to know him. In fact, I only met him once in a brief introduction from a mutual friend at our shared college. But as I read the story about the turn his life has suddenly taken, I realized I remembered him, and how, even in our lack of interaction, he’d left a mark on me.

High school is tough for everyone, often in different ways, and while I wouldn’t say I had a terrible experience, I also wouldn’t volunteer to do it all over again. I was a quiet, reserved student who stuck to what she knew and rarely felt comfortable in her own skin. That being said, Alex made me laugh.

He and his friends had participated in the talent show as the “Finger Flippers” which became legendary amongst our senior class. And during our senior luncheon, they created a video that discussed which of our classmates had celebrity lookalikes. I remember sitting at the back table, nervous as always, counting down the days until I graduated. I hadn’t been sat next to any of my friends, and I was internally apologizing to the people around me for not being more interesting. But then the lights went down and the video started, and I laughed through the whole thing. It was a genuine laugh, the kind that makes you feel lighter, and as I looked around the room at my classmates who felt the same, I felt included. Afterwards, when Alex and his friends mentioned they had plans to post the video to YouTube I took note, excited to have something positive to look back on in the future. I’d forgotten about the video over all these years, and only found it when I searched his name. When I watched it again however, it still gave me that good feeling.

So as I read through his story and then through some of the comments, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to donate, not only because it was the right thing to do, but because it felt like a way I could say thank you for giving me those moments of freedom all those years ago. And even more, allow me the opportunity to be a part of offering him the chance to experience a moment of freedom in the future. Be it through minor progress, or radical recovery.

This is the good part about the Internet. For amongst all the drama and fake personas, there also lie small bursts of goodness. There are chances to read stories of hope and resilience, chances to reconnect with old friends and family, and sometimes, chances to lend a hand to a near stranger. And so, Alex Rayfiel, while we may remain essentially strangers, I hope you know I’m praying for you, and that I’m grateful for what you gave me all those years ago, even if you had no idea. I wish you and your family all the best, and I hope the next time I find you in my Facebook feed, it will be to inform me that you’re on the road to recovery.

If you want to help Alex, you can find his donation page here.

5 Easy Ways to Save the World

With Earth Day coming up this Saturday there’s going to be a lot of talk about the environment and, well, the way we as humans are essentially destroying it. These conversations can often be tense because while yes, we do love and care for the environment, not everyone is into reusable everything. But while we’re not all eco super heroes, we all have the potential to be their sidekicks, and today I have some easy ways to help you reach that potential.

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1) Take advantage of Tupperware

When my sister and I first moved into our own place, one of the first gifts we were given was a sh*tload of Tupperware from a few generous family members. And while I used the occasional box for leftovers, I was much more apt to grab a plastic bag for whatever needed storing, including the sandwich and apple slices I put in my lunch every day. Now, call it divine intervention—or laziness—but when I ran out of plastic bags, instead of going to the store, I used a Tupperware to store the sandwich, and one for the apple slices. Call it a change of heart—or recurring laziness—but I’ve yet to go back. I’ve been using Tupperware for about 2 months now in place of plastic bags, and when you run the numbers that equates to over 100 plastic bags I haven’t put in the trash. This may not seem like a lot, but you figure if everyone in my office made the same switch, we would probably save upwards of 300 bags in that same time period, and if that habit spread outward to other offices, well, you get it.

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2) Use Less Paper Towels

I’m a creature of habit, so when I use a public bathroom I will almost always grab three paper towels to dry my hands after washing. I don’t have a reason for landing on this number, I don’t have a compulsive need to maintain this number and I only recently noticed it was a consistency, so I figured it might be an easy thing to change. And while its only a small change (I take 2 now), again it all goes back to the if I do it and then someone else does it and then someone else and then someone else. Little tweaks to normal behavior can make a big difference.

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3) Carry a Reusable Water BottleThis is a two-fer because it eliminates the use of plastic water bottles, and it helps you stay hydrated. Have you ever been at a party holding a water bottle, only to put it down, walk away and try to come back to it, only to realize that 20 other people have open water bottles, so instead of doing a DNA test on each and every one, you just decide to open a new one? Very anti-eco super hero move there, my friend. When you bring your own water bottle, like this giant I haul almost everywhere with me, you never have to worry about orphaning a water bottle again. And while sure, you might get the occasional mocking of your super cool, super giant and bulky hip hydration station, you can always hit them with this awesome come back, “Yeah, this bottle isn’t the most attractive thing around, but you know what is attractive? My unstoppable, indescribable, hardworking kidneys that reap the benefits*.”

*Note: This comment might provoke more mocking than aweing, thus, a third use for your reusable water bottle is a weapon to ward off haters. Just one swift swing to the stomach should get the point across.

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4) Support the Superheroes

Like I said before, we’re not all cutout to be superheroes, but there are a handful that are. And it’s those people that are recycling and up-cycling and bicycling (probably) their hearts out. So when you see products made from recycled goods and it catches your eye, buy it! Help keep those superheroes in business! (Here’s a list of some cool places to check out!)

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5) Carpool

I think we’ve all heard this one time and time again, but I figured I’d throw it on here anyways because I firmly believe it can save the world in more ways than one. First and foremost, carpooling obviously reduces carbon emissions. Second and (still kind of) foremost, carpooling cuts down the physical number of cars on the road, thus reducing traffic, thus reducing the number of people planning to murder other people. So buddy up and carpool, you just might save a life and the environment, and five minutes on the way to work.

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Happy (almost) Earth Day everyone!