Monday, May 19, 2014

Plastic Paradise: A Call for Change

I think it goes without saying that those of us who live on boats, or spend any significant time on the water, are involved in a unique relationship with the ocean.  She inspires us, enlightens us, refreshes us, bathes us, terrifies us, buoys us and (for those who are better fisher-folk than Scott and I) sustains us.  In addition to these things, she also reminds us, unfortunately, of the ever-growing impact we have on her.  A simple walk to the windward side of any island will show a glimpse of the mark we have made, and continue to make.  Scott and I have seen everything from giant spare tires to full-sized refrigerators washed up ashore, not to mention all the old standbys: flip flops, shoe soles, lighters, plastic bottles and bags, fishing nets, and nylon line to name a few.  Though the size, shape and former use of all this junk is different; there is one thing that it has in common:  it is made out of plastic.

Did you know that:

EVERY single piece of plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century is still SOMEWHERE on our planet. 

So if it never goes away, where does it go? - Plastic Paradise

How's that for a sobering thought?

Scott and I were invited to a special screening of "Plastic Paradise", a documentary that sheds light on our overuse and irresponsible disposal of plastic and the effects of this on our oceans.   SPOILER ALERT:  It is not insignificant.

I knew the film's focus was on the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" but upon researching the documentary before viewing it I embarrassingly realized I had no idea exactly what that was.  I'd heard the "patch" was actually a giant island of trash that collected in the middle of the ocean due to currents and wind patterns.  I'd also heard it was a conglomeration of microscopic plastic molecules broken down by the sun's rays that was floating around like a giant blob.  It was the size of Texas.  Or maybe the size of Europe?  The rumors of what, exactly, it was ran the gamut.

The Great Pacific Garbage patch is not actually a blob of broken down plastic molecules and it is much more complicated than an "island of garbage".   The exact size, unfortunately, is unknown, though experts agree that it is massive.  According to this great article, "it's like a galaxy of garbage, populated by billions of smaller trash islands that may be hidden underwater or spread out over many miles...there's not consistency in our idea of its size.  It's these 'hot spots', not one big mass. Maybe if you added them all up it's the size of Texas, but we still don't know. It could be bigger than Texas."  One thing that is certain?  Just about all of the "garbage" that populates this illusive patch is made from plastic.

But wait, there's more.  The film's synopsis says this:
"Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, syphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon. Along the way she meets scientists, researchers, influencers, and volunteers who shed light on the effects of our rabid plastic consumption and learns the problem is more insidious than we could have ever imagined" - Plastic Paradise.
While investigating the Garbage Patch, Angela learns that plastic and associated chemicals are not only leeching into our environment, but our bodies as well.  Through water bottles, food containers, thermal receipt paper and even in fish we consume, chemicals from plastic (Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, is the big one) are finding their way into our systems.  No matter how healthy we "think" we are; harmful, toxic chemicals are in our bodies and having unknown effects on our health. As one researcher so eloquently points out, "It's like we're all in the midst of a giant, uncontrolled experiment" which begs the question: "Without your permission, you are being polluted.  Is that okay with you?"

Don't get me wrong, I love plastic. I use it all the time. Hundreds of times a day even.  Plastic, itself, is not the enemy - and the film says as much. It's the amount we use and how we dispose of it that is real the crux of this problem.  Our lives are so inundated by plastic that to tell people to stop using it would be impossible for most. But there are little things that, when done en masse, can help. We have the choice and (more importantly) the power to become conscious consumers.  I have a long way to go myself, but I've made a commitment to improve.

So what can we do?  Here are some very simple tips that can have an impact:
  • LIMIT YOUR USE OF SINGLE USE PLASTIC ITEMS.  Stop using things like plastic cups, plastic silverware, and plastic water bottles.  Bring your own bottle to refill and skip the take-out silverware.
  • STOP USING PLASTIC BAGS.  BYOB: Bring your own bag.  It's simple and can make a big difference.  If you go to the convenient store and buy a soda and a granola bar, think twice about that bag - do you really need it?  
  • BUY IN BULK.  This will reduce unnecessary packaging from buying things multiple times.  Also focus on products that are re-usable and offer "refill" pouches.
  • CHOSE WISELY.  If you can, select products that are packaged in recycled materials.
  • USE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PRODUCTS.  I know this is easier said than done, as often the "green" cleaner is more expensive - but go green when you can.  And don't be afraid to make your own cleaners, I started using essential oils for cleaning a while back and while I've been slacking on them recently, they were great.
  • REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE.  For real.  An oldie, but goodie.
  • STAY INFORMED.  Knowledge is power, and if are aware of the negative impact our choices have, we might think twice before we make them.  A few Facebook Groups that will keep your consumer conscience in check:  The Algalita Marine Research Institute, Clean Our Oceans Rescue Coalition (COORC), and of course, Plastic Paradise.
In July, under the leadership of Captain Charles Moore, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation will be sending a research vessel to the largest and most polluted of the five gyres for a month long study beginning this July.  If you are interested in supporting this effort, please do.  I did:

Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Trailer from Angela Sun on Vimeo.

What steps have you taken to help our environment?  What other tips can you share that will have positive effects on our oceans? Share in the comments so we all can benefit!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Letters from the Twin Trenches: Two Months In

Back story to our "Letters from the Twin Trenches" series...When we were in the BVI's we met up with some blog followers.  They were young, fun and we enjoyed hanging out with them (and the left over provisions they gave us from their charter when they flew home the next day).  Fast forward to months later when I announced our twin pregnancy on the blog...  Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Kimberly telling me that she, too, was pregnant with twins and only a week ahead of me.  "Must have been something in those painkillers!" she wrote... And so began a pretty incredible and prolific E-pal friendship chronicling our respective pregnancies and birth stories that continues to this day.  Her beautiful fraternal twin girls were born (full term) two weeks before ours and I have to tell you, sharing our (eerily similar) journeys via email has been very cathartic for me.  Solidarity.  If there is one thing you need as a parent of twins it's community.  We need to know we are not alone when it seems our sanity is teetering on the brink, which it will do from time to time when there are two newborns in the house.  Particularly if those newborns are screaming in unison.  These are some letters to her...they tell it like it is.  The good, the bad, the ugly...

May 4, 2014

So happy you have such a sweet work gig to go back to and that is FANTASTIC that your mom will provide care for the girls. I think it's so great for them to have close relationships with grandparents. Isla and my mom are so ridiculously close...a less secure momma might get jealous of their relationship, but I know it is nothing but good for the both of them. That will be fantastic for you. There is nothing like family in close proximity during these early months.  Hip hip, hooray for you. And to work from home some days as well? You will get the best of both worlds right there! My best friend has the same sort of gig (loves her job, works from home part-time) and really enjoys the work/life balance (aka: having a few days during the week where she can actually speak "adult"). It's why I love writing; during those few hours I actually get to use my brain and feel productive (though it's hardly lucrative...wah, wah).

Congrats on the stroller as well! Mine has saved my life. I get out at least once a day with all the girls and it's AWESOME. I put those cozy car seat cover thingies in the seats so the babies are completely reclined, all cozied up and usually fall fast asleep - and, well, Isla loves sitting on her "throne" and saying "hi!" to everyone we pass. It's so nice to get out. Enjoy it. I recommend using it daily for your sanity and health (weather permitting of course).

So your babies are actually legit labeled COLICKY!?!? Oh my. I have nothing to say but sorry. That sucks. Haven is enough for me - though she is a thousand times better than she fact, she is turning into quite the sweet heart. She is still pretty "intense" compared to Mira's "mellow" - and her screams are still impressive in their severity - but I can put her down now and she doesn't pitch a fit. Hoping we continue on this trajectory.  I had horrible visions of toddler tantrums that would make me "that" mom who cannot control her kid - which, lets face it - we will all be at one time or another. Hopefully not regularly though (wince). Time will tell. I already bribe Isla with food and "special treats" (what else can I do when I literally do not have a hand free and I am desperate for her not to jump off the table, eat an ant, walk outside, drink my coffee...etc?). But man, to hear her adorable little voice ask, "Special treat mommy?" after it has been promised (her memory is GOOD!) and then to have her lay her sweet puppy dog eyes on me?  Well, it's kind of hard to say "no".  File that under the hashtag #thingsIsworeIwouldnotdo.  The list will continue to grow, I am sure.  Anyway....

We are doing REALLY well (aaaaand BAM!! jinx just happened....). The girls are totally falling into a eat, play, sleep pattern and daytime naps are happening with some regularity (the girls are awake no more than two hours at a time, usually just an hour twenty to be exact - more on this in a sec....). Annnnd the naps are happening (semi) successfully in their Rock n' Play Sleepers which means I am officially up off the couch in the daytime! I am now more able to do things like brush my teeth, change my clothes, go to the bathroom and perform other duties of basic hygiene that most people without newborn twins take for granted (haha!). There are still times I will "wear" one or both in the Moby wrap if they are fussing and I get desperate, and usually one nap a day happens in the stroller (love your term "junk sleep"), but for the most part - we're continuing to find a nice little groove and I have not had a breakdown or shed tears in almost two whole weeks, which - as you know, is an eternity in 'twin time'. I love the sleep schedule. I seriously do not know how people do without it. Speaking of anal-to-the-point-of-OCD organization, I got the most AMAZING baby app!! It's called "Baby Connect" and it has been a lifesaver in tracking the girls feedings, diaper changes and naps. I used to write it all down in a book but that annoyed me and wasn't ideal (not to mention it was hard to write in the dark!) - and this app is great at tracking everything so easily so that you can see patterns emerge with graphs, charts and what not. I love it. It was recommended to me by a fellow twin mom and I am passing it on to you...I think you will love it too.

As for nighttime sleep, it's still happening on me on the nursing pillow but I am embracing it and kind of love it to be honest. I am actually quite comfy now - I learned that if I just leave all the pillows behind me (throw pillows and all) I can just lay back and sink into coziness when they are finished nursing. It's painless and we're all pretty well rested these days. I don't even wake Scott up anymore.  My "bedtime routine" is hilarious.  I  guzzle two glasses of water and then gather all my nighttime gadgets:  my iPhone, glasses, gas drops, pacifiers, a burp cloth, Kindle, another glass of water and two diapers, and lay them around me in the bed so that I don't need to get up for anything.  How's that for an office?  I'll give the crib a go again in a few weeks, but for now - this works and I am telling myself that it's promoting "bonding" rather than "bad sleep habits" ;).  #thingswetellourselvestomakeitokay

Glad to hear you have found some other twin moms in your 'hood, too bad there isn't an exclusive multiple mom group. There are loads around here (or so I am told) and I have been invited to a couple from other MoMs but haven't made the jump yet...some people are shocked to know that I can actually be a little bit shy and a tad bit anti-social. Most would never guess that after meeting me, but it's my dirty little secret and why I love writing.  I think I will go check out a local chapter soon and I'm looking forward to meeting some other MoM's.  If I get as much out of the physical groupls as I do the online groups, well, it will be worth it. How much do you love reading through those multiple forums late night? Or is that just me?

The biggest news: I found my Mary Poppins! She is awesome. I am huge into "signs" and all that jazz and the day she came over to be interviewed, Isla had dug out this picture book on South Africa and brought it in the living room. I never even knew this book existed but there it sat on the coffee table. When Linda came in, we're all "tell us about yourself" (I mean, what else do you ask?) and she's like, "Well, I am from South Africa...." I was like: "STOP THE PRESS!! What?!?!" and showed her the book which was right under her nose.  We were all a flutter over that (she's a sign person too) and we launched into excited talks about Africa, life and all that good stuff.  As if that's not enough, we share the exact same birthday (happy belated by the way!!) and she has a two year old just a few days younger than Isla who she will be bringing once a week for a play date. She is super cool, intelligent, neat, and fun - and when she looked at the twins, they immediately beamed at her. Huge grins. That was all I needed. My little fish have good instincts and I trust them ;).  She'll be coming 3-4 days a week to to help me out while Scott is at work and free up some time for me so I can write, run errands and all spend some quality time with Isla. I am so excited. I think we'll actually end up being friends on top of it, and who doesn't love making new friends?

Okay - gotta run. Isla is up from her nap and full-on chatting to her baby dolls in her bed. She just said something about "put the ice cream back in the cone" (she has never had an ice cream cone, btw) and "go away!" and she just told them "I'm going to St. Maarten on the airplane today, going to pack my bags..." so I'm pretty sure those dolls have come to life and they're fixing to skip town. If only I had a video monitor.

Okay - sending love!!!


ps. She is now singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with gusto but with each verse she is switching what goes round and round "the diaper on the bus...the mommy on the bus....the Mira on the bus....the Haven on the bus"...and so on. Man, I love this kid.
Find more "Letters from the Trenches" and other resources for twin mom's on our "TWINSANITY" page.
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