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Full Circle

Twice over the holidays, once at my house and once at someone else’s, I pulled soda cans and bottles out of the trash and put them in the recycling bin.  I forget sometimes that everyone doesn’t feel as strongly about recycling as I do.  With a world population of seven billion people living on an eight thousand mile diameter planet Earth, I wonder how anyone can ignore the importance of recycling.

Re-using and not wasting things has long been a part of my family.  Anyone with family members who lived through the Great Depression and the years of rationing of necessary goods during World War II, understands the concept and the importance of recycling.

I first learned about organized recycling in the spring of 1988 when I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  My oldest son was one-year-old so I’d had some time to think about the kind of world in which my child would be living.

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My husband and son and I had been invited to our friends, Ron and Susan’s home for dinner.  They also had a new baby so both couples were in the beginning stages of parenthood.

During the dinner conversation, Ron asked if we had ever recycled.  He told us that he and Susan saved cardboard, plastic, glass, and tin cans from their trash.  Everything had to be washed and the cans had to have the top and bottom removed with a can opener and then had to be flattened.  He saved his recycled items in paper grocery bags or boxes and drove them to the recycling location once a month when it was open for just a few hours.

Ron explained that the world was only so big and there was only so much room for everyone’s trash and he and Susan wanted to do their part to keep that trash to a minimum, especially for their children and future grandchildren.

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Thinking that was a wonderful idea, I began recycling and never stopped.  For a number of years, I drove to the recycling station once a month with the back of my car loaded down with flattened plastic gallon milk jugs, flattened cans, flattened cardboard and any number of glass jars and bottles.  Labels had to be removed from everything in those days and that could take a little time.

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I was delighted when the city announced that every household would be issued a yellow recycling bin for weekly pickup.  There were still rules about washing cans and bottles and jars…and each kind of item had to be separate inside the bin.  So, for a number of years, we had a paper bag of glass, a paper bag of plastic, and a paper bag of metal for the recycling bin.

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Photo by Galyn Barnum, Portage, Michigan

As my second and third children were born, we continued this practice of recycling and it became a normal part of our routine as a family.   Looking back, I’m proud that we began recycling when my family was very young.

We continue the practice to this day because we all have a responsibility to our world and to the generations to come.  It’s free (in most communities) to have a recycling bin dropped off at your house and it takes just seconds to recycle.

Now, 27 years later, (which I just realized is half my life) our recycling container is bigger than our trash container and it’s always full for the weekly pickup.  When I think about how easy it is now to mix all the recycled items in one bin and simply wheel the container to the curb once a week, I wonder why everyone doesn’t recycle?

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Recycling facts from recyclingfacts.org: 

*Each person creates about 4.7 pounds of garbage every day.

*Approximately 8660 curbside recycling programs exist in the United States.

*Disposal of waste to landfills has decreased from 89% in 1980 to 54% in 2007.

*The number of landfills in the U.S. has decreased from 8000 in 1998, to 1754 in 2007.  While the numbers have decreased, the actual size of each landfill has increased.

*Each ton of mixed paper that is recycled can save the energy equivalent to 185 gallons of gasoline.

*Recycling one ton of aluminum cans conserves the equivalent of 1,665 gallons of gasoline.

 

The Sock Basket

When my children were growing up and all three of them were playing sports year round, I did laundry daily.  Our washing machine never collected any dust in those days.

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We had a small, pink laundry basket designated only for socks.  We still have it but my daughter has pressed it into use for other things.  Back in the day, it would regularly be full of clean socks in all sizes and colors.

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Because my boys are only two years apart in age and wore the same size, I bought them different brands and colors of socks so I could tell which socks belonged to each of them.  There would be large, black ankle basketball socks for one son and white ones for the other.  Depending on the time of year, there might be long and colorful baseball and softball socks in the basket.  Always, there would be my daughter’s tiny, ankle socks decorated with Disney princesses and any number of girlie designs.

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My husband contributed serious, dress up business socks in black or navy to the collection, along with his longer white, cotton socks from his gym workouts.  My socks were always an eclectic mix reflecting my previous week.  There might be lots of fuzzy, colorful socks or marled wool ones if I had spent a lot of time at home, and more subdued black and navy dressy socks if I had been doing volunteer work in the schools and in  the community.

The sock basket would fill up with freshly laundered socks every week or so, and I would grab it from the laundry room and sit on the floor with my back against the sofa and sort socks.  I would usually do this in the evening when I needed a break and I would say, “Who wants to help with the sock basket?”

Usually, there would be a chorus of “Not I’s” and then my second son, Ryan…that sweet middle child…would come ambling over to help.  We would chat as we matched the socks and I would enjoy those precious moments spent together with my son.  Sometimes, we made it into a competition where he did the girl socks and I did the boy socks.  He would usually cheat and hide a few of my socks behind him so he could win.

Invariably, the sock thief, sock monster, or gremlins of the dryer would have left us with some single, unmarried socks which would then go back into the basket in hopes that their mates would show up for the next round.

  • Sock Gremlin by PurpleVixen

We would have five piles of matched socks on the floor and call everyone to come and claim their own.  No fancy thing, but it was one of those special, fun times between parent and child where we had a few minutes together while we accomplished something useful.

Over time, it became a ritual of sorts for the two of us to tackle the “sock basket” together.  When Ryan left for college, there were only three of us left at home and the sock basket never seemed full enough to bother carrying it to the family room.  Some tasks are only fun because of the person who does them with you.

Many of you are still in those oh so busy parenting years with children where you continuously go from one thing to the next and at some point, you start over and do it all again…and again and again.  There’s so much to do and it feels like you will never get caught up.  Trust me, you will and, you will miss those days.

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While you have them at home with you, find your own special sock basket moments with your children.  Those moments are there…just waiting to be found.

 

What Did You Eat?

We ate black eyed peas with our dinner on New Year’s Day.  They were eaten for good luck and prosperity in the new year and my husband said we had to eat 365…one pea for each day of 2015.  Does that mean that in a leap year we need to eat an extra pea?  Two of the four people at our table mentioned that they didn’t really like them, but we all partook because, well, who turns down good luck and prosperity?

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Growing up in the Midwest, I had never heard about this particular Southern tradition until my brother married a young woman from Texas.  And, I had never actually eaten black eyed peas until I moved to Texas five years ago.  Now, it has become one of my New Year traditions.

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Black eyed peas are not actually peas.  They are beans.  They are a legume and a subspecies of the cowpea.   A common variation of the black-eyed pea is the purple hull pea which is green in color with a purple spot at one end.   Black-eyed peas contain calcium, vitamin A, potassium, iron and fiber and have less than 200 calories in a one cup serving.  So, they are good for you and might just bring you good luck.  Sounds like a win to me.

These bean/peas are typically cooked with diced onion and salt and pepper (some people add pork to them while cooking) and served with a hot chili sauce or pepper vinegar.  We added a little salsa to ours.

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I was curious about the origin of this pea-eating tradition.  It has been suggested that it dates back to the Civil War when Union troops marching through the South would strip the countryside of all stored food, crops and livestock.  Northerners considered black eyed peas “field peas” and only suitable for animals to eat so they didn’t bother with them.  While other foods were taken, black eyed peas were left behind and remained a staple in Southern diets.

Some people add a shiny coin to their pot just before serving black eyed peas on New Year’s Day.  The person whose bowl contains the coin receives the best luck for the New Year…that is as long as they don’t accidently swallow it.

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Happy New Year!

Author’s note:  Various foods are also eaten in other cultures for good luck in the new year.  People in some Asian cultures eat long noodles on New Year’s Day to bring a long life.  The only catch is to not break the noodle while eating it.  In Germany and Ireland, cabbage which is green and resembles money, is eaten for good luck and fortune.  Lentils, which resemble coins, are eaten in Italy for good fortune.  In Turkey and other Mediterranean countries, pomegranates are eaten because they have long been associated with abundance and fertility.  In a number of countries in North America, Asia and Europe, there is a tradition of eating fish on New Year’s Day.  Because fish swim forward and in schools of many, eating fish is symbolic of moving forward and abundance in the new year.