We’re into week two of the new regional waste management plan and I still think it’s pretty nifty :) The first week’s collection didn’t exactly go off without a hitch, but those things rarely do. I remember the prof in my waste management course in my final year of engineering school telling us that after designing your landfill and your recycling programme and your composting programme and educating the public and getting them behind the plan and ready to participate… the hardest part is working out the curbside collection. The variables are endless: the number of houses, how far apart they are, how much of each type of garbage each house will have, traffic patterns, road construction etc etc etc…. and then all this has to be put together in such a way as to minimize the distance travelled, the distance travelled with an empty truck, the number of left turns etc etc etc. I remember praying that we wouldn’t be expected to design a collection route.

According to the local paper, the pick up during the first week was complicated by participation in the new programme that was much higher than expected – unprecedented, they say. Yay! So, there was some delay and the blue boxes and green carts sat at the curb for 1-4 days. Also according to the paper, some people were infuriated and called the paper to complain.


I mean…. REALLY? People get “infuriated” over stuff like that? That seems pretty ummm.. small. And if you are going to have unrealistic expectations (ie: perfection right off the bat in a new and complex venture), then you must spend a lot of your time being infuriated, I guess. And I feel sorry for you.

Also… why would you call the newspaper? How about the waste management offices instead – you know, to be helpful and informative rather than just whining at somebody who might quote you in print? Or… why not take a crazy leap of faith and leave your stuff at the curb and not worry about it because you know that somewhere, someone is working on it and a whole bunch of people are doing their best to make this work in the best way possible. You could even take pictures of your stuff at the curb and post it on your website.. err.. nevermind ;)

So.. up there… those are some of the blue boxes and green carts on my street last Sunday. They were supposed to be picked up Thursday, but soon after I took that photo, someone came in a really big truck and picked up the recycling, and later, someone in another kind of really big truck came and picked up the compostables. Note that those someones were working on a Sunday, after days of overtime, trying to work out the kinks in the new collection scheme all while being thrown by over the top participation. That’s a win in my book and not something I’d ever be infuriated about. I feel really good about it, actually :)

Yesterday it was finally warm enough and enough snow had melted for us to walk on the back road again. It was the first time this year and it was awfully nice to be back. Late last year the city did some work back there, so it looks like we’ll be able to make better use of it now. It was an old road, closed to traffic, with an old-fashioned black top surface that oozed tar in warm weather making it impossible to walk there. But now, it has a new asphalt surface and some shoring up of the cliff edge, hopefully reducing erosion. The down side to this is that while we used to walk back there and maybe see one other person, the back road has become a busy pedestrian pathway, making it harder to pretend that we have left subdivision hell behind and are in actual wilderness. But still, there are huge oaks and old apple trees and the sound of the creek… I’ll take it anyway :)

There is still snow in patches in the dark cold corners of yards and the mountains of snow in commercial parking lots will take some time to go, but mostly, the snow is gone. But looking down into the creek ravine where the sun barely reaches, there is still a blanket of snow uninterrupted except by the creek itself. But the robins are back and the red winged black birds and the morning doves have been cooing and soon, soon, the ravine will be green and the tree toads will sing and whirr Spring back to life and then everything will smell different and warm and earthy and I’ll sit on the porch in my rocking chair and knit and sip tea and it will be Good. It will be Very Good :)

Earth Hour
We did it and we didn’t die. We turned off all ‘non-essential’ appliances for one hour Saturday night as part of Earth Hour. It turns out that a) for only an hour NONE of it is essential and going for the jugular main breaker was not a hardship at all and b) it was, in fact, rather enjoyable.
Dinner was ready just as it was time, so we hit the breaker, lit some candles and sat around the kitchen table. We spent the whole hour there, eating and talking and telling stories. We were all surprised to see that at 8PM, the sky was still light.The glowing the sky and the streetlights meant that it didn’t actually get really dark in the house until 830 or so. We didn’t notice that is was especially quiet in the house, but we did notice how much of the ‘outside’ we could hear – people out walking, dogs in the distance.
Toward the end of the hour, I got to thinking (uh-oh!). We do different kinds of detoxes all the time – food, electronics, news – where we black out some of the non-essentials that assault our senses and our bodies and send us into overload and toxicity. That one hour, with the house darkened and quiet was really nice. I’m thinking we should add it to our regular rotation of black-outs even if only for our own sanity. Mark doesn’t think this is a very good idea at all as there are way too many clocks to reset ;)

Green BinAnd in other news; It’s Here! It’s Here!!
Halton Region is finally implementing a green bin programme. I don’t know why it has taken so long (and I’m sure there are very good and valid reasons for it), but it has been so frustrating to see other communities get their composting programmes and not us. The bin, along with a smaller kitchen bin, was delivered Saturday. Inside were all the destructions and free samples of approved biodegradable liner bags. The bags smell vaguely like food. Like wet popcorn or something. Of course, a quick look at tells me that compostable bags are often made of starch from corn. Well there you go. That explains the popcorn smell. Maybe. We won’t use the little bin in the kitchen as I have a most excellent stainless steel compost bucket that I use. Plastic absorbs the food smells and gets all bleh. The stainless is perfect and pristine after years of use. Beauty.

We have, and use, a large composter that sits in our backyard. While we can, we’ll put our food scraps in there. Being vegetarian, there are no bones or meat scraps, so very little food goes in the garbage when we are using the composter. BUT. It gets full. Especially in the winter when the cold slows or stops the composting process. Typically, it is full before the middle of January and we have to stop using it. Some years, I have simply put food scraps in buckets with lids in the garage through the winter, where the contents freeze and do not smell or rot. But Spring can sneak up on you and suddenly you have buckets and buckets of slop and you are trying to find an afternoon to spend pouring it all into the bin. And a couple of very mild Winters made this plan of action not really feasible. So now we have a back up plan. Besides all those tissues and stuff, our food scrap overflow will now be composted. Yay!

Seriously, this makes me really happy :)

As promised, I’m turning this space over to a Q&A with Woody Winfree, creator of the I Am Beautiful Project and editor of the new book We Are More Than Beautiful 46 Real Teens Speak Out about Beauty, Happiness, Love and Life. I’m doing this because I think that Woody is doing work that matters and is making a difference in the lives of woman and girls. The book is beautiful and touching and empowering – and something every girl should have.

The new book, We Are More Than Beautiful for teen girls is the latest addition to the work of the I Am Beautiful Project, an initiative committed to producing creative and educational works that encourage personal growth and discovery for women and girls of all ages.

Author, Woody Winfree says the project’s mission is simple: to create a world in which every woman and girl can proudly proclaim, “I AM BEAUTIFUL!”

What is the I Am Beautiful Project all about? It is about changing the definition of beauty in our culture – one girl at a time, one woman at a time. Quite dramatically, the mass media has chipped away at our sense of beauty and well-being by presenting a singular, narrow and distorted image of female beauty: super-thin bodies, topped by large, perky breasts, with flawless youthful faces surrounded by shiny bouncy hair –and of course, sparkly white, perfectly straight teeth! This suggestion of beauty is not only wrong, it is a LIE. In truth, only three percent of the U.S. female population has the genetic makeup to look like this ideal. That means 97% of us are spending billions of dollars, untold hours of our lives and huge amounts of happiness in an attempt to pursue this distorted ideal.

In sum, the I Am Beautiful Project is about books and films, and workshops and seminars — and anything else I might think to create along the way – that help guide women and girls to change their perspective about the definition of beauty. Beauty is NOT the size of our waists, or the cascade of our hair. Rather, beauty is the sum of our talents, accomplishments, intellect, contribution to our families and communities, and every other measure of living a life that deeply matters.

Where did the idea of this project come from? With the creation of my first book for women, I Am Beautiful – A Celebration of Women, the hope was to give our daughters – mine and yours and every other American girl — a tangible work that they could hold onto. To expose them to images of women that are as real, interesting, diverse and beautiful as real women are. The success of this first book (that is now available in a gift edition), naturally led to creating a book just for girls: We Are More Than Beautiful.

The seed for this work, however, was planted some years before book ideas ever came into my head. When my now 23-year-old daughter was five someone asked me if she could model for a photo-shoot for a leather goods product ad. I thought this would be a fun experience, so off we went. At the time we were living in rural Connecticut. My daughter was a frog-chasing, tree-climbing nature girl almost completely free from the mass media – billboards, magazines, TV, etc. But the second the photographer bent down to take a few test shots, my little nature-girl struck a provocative pose of hip out, lips pouting and a come-hither stance, while her dumb-struck mother looked on! Where could she possibly have learned to do this? Why did she think that this is the natural relationship that a woman has with the camera? I came to believe that her weekly journey through the gauntlet of fashion magazines on the grocery check-out aisle is where she learned this “un-truth.”

Tell me about the new teen book. Who is in it? Where are they from? What stories do they tell – and how is this important to other girls who read the book? The girls in the book are ages 12 to 19, from all walks of American life, facing and exploring all types of issues with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Each girl responded to my query – “Tell me why you are beautiful.” At once, every story is unique to the individual girl’s experience, but universal to the experience of American girls everywhere. Each girl is presented with her picture in an artistically graphic and colorful layout over two pages. This presentation is, not only contemporary and exciting to girls raised in the most visually stimulating culture ever but, affords the reader to enter fully into each girls’ “world” and experience her journey of claiming her beauty.

Bottom line, experiencing other girls’ stories is important because it supports, helps and guides the reader to learn how to ask and answer that question for herself. The book creates a classical “peer” environment for sharing information, even trading secrets in a safe, supportive way. It also teaches girls to learn that they have a “right” to their sense of beauty and how to formulate conversations with their own friends on the subject.

Can the book be used by mothers with their daughters? Absolutely! My hope is that mothers and daughters will read it together and use its stories as a springboard for ongoing conversations. Conversations about:

  1. The true definition of beauty
  2. How the culture distorts that definition – and why
  3. Why a narrow, distorted definition is harmful
  4. Who are the women and girls in our lives that we find most beautiful – and do they embody the cultural ideal of beauty – or a deeper, more meaningful definition?
  5. How we can enjoy the fun and frivolity, even the consumerism, of American life without buying into notion that we must alter our natural features in order to feel beautiful, make friends, get good grades, get ahead and on and on.

I encourage mothers and daughters to write their own essays together, to deeply contemplate what makes them beautiful, then write it down. Share it with one another. Put their written answer in a place where they see it every day – maybe next to their toothbrush, or on their nightstand. Read it again and again. Slowly, over time it is my promise that this simple act can have powerful results.

Proof positive of this is seen in my own two daughters. Because I have been working on projects related to this subject for more than 10 years, my daughters have been raised on a nutritious and bountiful “diet” of ways to define their beauty. Like any belief or idea that one is exposed to, affirmative ideas of who they are have shaped how they see themselves. Further, 1,000 “teaching moments” over dinner conversation or watching TV or looking at magazines, have raised their awareness of how and why the media diminishes women. And, knowledge is power. Oh sure, they have “bad hair” days and times when they are knocked off their stride – just like we all do. But at their core, they have a deeper sense of self and an expansive measure of their worth to draw on. This is the gift I work to share – one girl at a time, one woman at a time.

Why do you believe that naming our beauty is so essential? When we give “voice” to anything, ascribe literal words to a thought or idea, a major shift begins to take place. It might be ever so subtle in the beginning, but in time the act evolves into a concrete declaration of fact. I also believe that we deserve to know and feel our beauty. I believe it is our right, our spiritual right. Can we reach our full potential in this one precious life we have been honored with if we are chasing an artificial ideal of our self-worth? This is the ultimate question that we must ask ourselves – and guide our young daughters looking up to us to do the same.

What else are you up to with the I Am Beautiful Project? I speak frequently to various audiences of women and girls on this subject. From colleges and universities around the country to high schools, at companies and more. These seminars and workshops are designed to dig deeper into the issues we have explored in this interview. These events are listed on my website:

My website also recommends other books and web links on this subject, as well as tips on building better self-esteem. Please visit! Please write with any questions.

IMG: Sausages for thea Heart and Stroke Foundation?!!

When I saw this sign, I stopped, smiling, because surely it was a joke. But I guess I see things a little differently than most people, because there was a long line of folks waiting to get their “food” for a good cause and none of them seemed aware or bothered by the idea of buying sausages and hamburgers to benefit the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Maybe next year, they’ll sell cigarettes to raise money for the Cancer Society ;)

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