Friday, April 20, 2018

I Caved.

After my last adventure with feral cats ended in heartbreak, I swore up and down that I would NEVER do it again. I had myself convinced that they'd be better off on their own than risking the dreaded feline leukemia test, and the inevitable euthanasia that would follow if it didn't go well.

And I stuck to my guns... for a few years anyhow.

Then this happened.


It's been hanging around for a few months, and I was hoping against hope that it belonged to somebody. It sorta matched the description of one of my neighbor's cats, so I kept telling myself "it has a home, it has a home, it has a home."

But it just kept coming around sniffing in the bowls of squirrel food, looking longingly at the sparrows in the neighbor's bush, and acting hungry. So I finally called my neighbor to see if it was, in fact hers, and no.

So seeing it looking skinnier and skinnier, I finally gave up and put some food out. Oh my gosh... it gobbled that food like it hadn't eaten in months - and it may not have. And you know, once you feed it, you pretty much own it.

Oy.



I'm batting about 500 with stray and feral cats, so I'm preparing myself to have my little heart ripped out and stomped on again.

I don't know if it's male or female, but the tipped ear would seem to indicate that someone's had it fixed, and presumably that means it's also been vaccinated at least once - which is a good thing since there's been an outbreak of rabid skunks in the neighborhood.

And the fact that it's not an unaltered male means there's less chance of it having FIV or FeLV. But at this point I doubt I could catch it anyhow, so I'm not sure it's worth worrying about. Once they've been trapped, they tend to become quite wary of those things, so taking it to the vet probably isn't even a possibility unless and until I can get it to trust me enough to get it in a carrier.

So far I've just been feeding it once a day and then it goes along its merry way. But yesterday I realized it's "merry way" wasn't taking it very far, because it was hanging out in a little sheltered area next to the front porch. And late last night when CatMan left, it bolted out of one of the compost bins in the driveway, so I now know where it's been sleeping. Sigh.

Anyhow, a big storm is moving in and it's supposed to pour rain for the next day or two. So I crafted a little house for it out of an old covered litter box that I could never get anybody to use, and put it in the area next to the porch where it's been hanging out.


I also fortified its little nest in the compost bin with a make shift rain cover...


...and put some extra straw in there for warmth.


So at least my little kitty friend has some options for getting out of the rain.

I have no idea where this will lead, but I'll keep you posted. I was so hoping that I wouldn't have to fret over any more outdoor kitties. Oh well... best laid plans of mice and cat ladies.

So that's the news from the funny farm...

Hope you're all happy & well.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alphabetically Speaking

So April is the month that many brave bloggers are doing the A-Z challenge, which involves writing a post every day, one for each letter of the alphabet (with Sundays off.)



I tried it once, but honestly, it sorta wore me out. Nevertheless, I do like the idea, and I'm having great fun reading Live & Learn's posts.

Anyhow, her post on poetry got me to thinking about words... there are some words that I just like. Some I like for the meaning, some for the things they conjure up in my brain, and others are just fun to say.

So... for no particular reason, here are some words that came to mind when contemplating the alphabet.

A is for alabaster
B is for beckon
C is for calamity
D is for dromedary
E is for epiphany
F is for fanciful
G is for grace
H is for hullabaloo
I is for idiosyncratic
J is for judicious
K is for kleptomania
L is for lapidary
M is for mystic
N is for nefarious
O is for opulent
P is for persimmon
Q is for quintessential
R is for rhapsody
S is for sumptuous
T is for tapioca
U is for utopia
V is for voluptuous
W is for whippoorwill
X is for xenophobic
Y is for yearning
Z is for zealous

I'm sure on a different day I'd choose different words, but those are the ones that struck my fancy today.

What words are you liking today?





Sunday, April 1, 2018

Processing...

A week or so ago, I started a post entitled "The Mysteries of Motivation." I wrote about 3 sentences and then... well... I got distracted and somehow lost my motivation to finish it.


I know it's been forever since I've written, and I'm not exactly sure why. I keep forming posts in my head, but I just don't seem to be able to put into words the things I've been feeling lately.

For some reason, the Parkland shooting and its aftermath really hit me hard. I spent several days sobbing my eyes out. In a funny and sad way, it's wasn't so much the horror of what happened, because it's almost become commonplace these days to turn on the news and hear that some crazy person with a semi-automatic rifle has murdered a pack of innocent people. No... it was more the reaction of the kids that got to me.

Much has been made and written about the eloquence and articulateness of the kids who have been spearheading the #neveragain movement. And listening to them speak does fill me with hope. But the images that really got to me were the videos taken the morning after the shooting, of kids in the streets holding signs and screaming.

There was just something about the raw emotion they were expressing that really tore me up. I mean, on some level, the protests are wonderful... and I'm so very heartened to see these kids channeling their grief into action... but the very fact that they should have to do it in the first place... it's all just so very, very wrong.



And then there was the very distressing news coming out of the Arctic. Not sure if this made it into the consciousness of people who aren't as obsessed with the topic as I am, but back in February, some very strange and unsettling things happened up north. Basically, a surge of warm air burst through into the upper layers of the atmosphere (called a "sudden stratospheric warming event") and split the polar vortex into several pieces. This caused freakishly cold weather to descend into Europe and the eastern half of the US, but it also caused freakishly warm air to surge into the arctic.

There was a general freakout in the scientific community as places that should have been frozen solid and still gaining ice for the season were instead melting in the dead of winter.
I realize this is just one weather event, and one can't necessarily draw deep conclusions from one event, but it certainly felt ominous, and I just don't think it portends well for the future.


You know, waaaaay back in my early 20's I had an experience that sort of altered the course of my life. I was still living with my Ex. It was the weekend, so we had his young daughter staying with us, and for some reason it was just me and her home together. She was about 3 years old at the time, and some event (which I can no longer remember) caused her to melt down into a complete and total temper tantrum.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, I heard my mother's voice come out of my mouth.


I'm sure this is a fairly common experience among young parents, but given the fact that I had recently become an "insta-parent" ... or "insta-step-parent" well, it totally threw me. It wasn't fear of becoming my mother, it was more that it brought up a whole pile of emotions from my own childhood, which, until that moment, I had pretty successfully shoved into submission.

Part of me wanted to have my own little meltdown, but, of course, I couldn't. I mean, really... what was I gonna do? "Sorry sweetie, I know you're screaming at the top of your lungs, but this episode has triggered some unresolved feelings from my childhood and I really need to go deal with them."

Anyhow, in that instant a whole bunch of things became crystal clear to me. Both of my parents came from abusive alcoholic families, and both had vowed that they would never do to their children what had been done to them.


And to their credit, they didn't... sort of.

While neither of them drank or was physically abusive, they both became masters of psychological torture. The thing is... they weren't bad people, they were both just hopelessly trying to outrun their own personal demons... as were their parents, and their parents before them.

The whole experience didn't last longer than a few minutes, but it was like I could suddenly see generation after generation vowing to "not be like them" but never being willing to do the difficult work of dealing with their own shit... and thus dooming themselves to pass along some new and different version of the same old shit to their own children. Because, you know, will power is simply not enough.

So that was the moment in which I decided that unless and until I could be damned sure that I'd dealt with my own demons, I wasn't gonna have children of my own. I just couldn't face the possibility of creating another incarnation of the family bullshit.



So what does any of this have to do with school shootings or climate change? Honestly, for the past 6 weeks or so, I just haven't been able to shake the feeling that we, as a society, have collectively failed our children. It's like we're all part of one giant dysfunctional family, and we're all just, as a society, doing the same things that my own personal dysfunctional family did.

We see the problems, but we can't bring ourselves to face the reality behind them. So we simply dress them up in different clothing and pass them along for future generations to deal with.

I don't know where any of that leaves me. As the title of this post would imply, I'm still processing...



In the meantime, life goes on. CatMan and I have been enjoying long bike rides. The scenery is amazing as usual.






And I even got up early this morning to open the curtain on the front window so Jasper and I could enjoy "Easter Sunbeam Services."


So it's all good. I can only hope that this new generation will be willing to tackle things in a way that previous ones have not.


Happy Easter everybody. May the season of rebirth fill us all with hope for a better future.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fun with Food Storage

So it's been about a year since I went totally off my rocker and decided to start stockpiling food.


Honestly, when you walk down the aisles of the grocery store - brimming with more food than one can really comprehend, well, I do think I'm a bit crazy. Like, why would people living in the land of plenty possibly need to worry about running out of food?

Perhaps I am just nuts, and that would be the best possible scenario, but on the off chance that I'm not, it does give me some level of comfort knowing that food is one thing I won't have to immediately worry about should something bad happen - whether it's economic, environmental, political, or who knows what.

Plus (and now you'll know that I'm REALLY crazy) I am having tons of fun with my food stockpile! First of all, it's soooo nice not to run out of things. Like if I'm cooking and I run out of olive oil, I don't have to panic - I just run downstairs, grab another bottle, and add it to the shopping list to replace the one I took out of storage.

And then there's the system. This is the part that I was really missing in my previous attempts to stockpile food - you can't just buy stuff willy-nilly and shove it in a closet somewhere. You have to have a system for rotating and using up your stock.

Soooo... when I buy stuff now, the first thing I do is mark the expiration date on the can or jar. I know the date is already on there, but making it clearly visible at a glance makes the whole process WAY easier.


Then when I'm putting it away, I take that opportunity to do a bit of rearranging. I put the new stuff in the back, and check for anything with an approaching expiration date. I bring anything that needs to be used soon (or that I'm planning on using soon) upstairs, and put in in the kitchen cabinet where it can get used quickly.

It's a bit like a never ending pantry challenge - which I consider to be great fun. I currently have some cream of mushroom soup and frozen peas that need to be eaten... so I see some tuna noodle casserole in my future!

My original plan was to try to stockpile a year's worth of food. Honestly, figuring out how much that is... well, let's just say that was a challenge. There are prepper sites online that offer guidelines, but they varied wildly, and some of it was downright comical. One said you needed 5000 calories per person per day. Seriously?!? I guess they're planning to burn a lot of calories during the apocalypse.


Well anyhow, my general approach is to just try to store enough short term food (like stuff that keeps for 1-5 years) so that I can eat it before it goes bad and continue rotating. With the longer term stuff (stuff meant to be stored for 20-30 years) - well, I bought some of that too, and honestly I haven't really figured out the best plan for making sure I use it before it goes bad - but hey, I've got a while before I really have to worry about that one.

So... here's what you've been waiting for. The crazy lady pictures - ordered by descending craziness level.

1) The canned food shelf.



This bookshelf worked nicely as a place for storing canned goods. There's a little screen door of sorts that covers it up so that the cats can't knock something on the floor and injure themselves with a falling can. I'm not a huge fan of canned food, but canned beans really are convenient, plus it's nice to have some occasional convenience food and treats (like canned pineapple - yum!)


2. Pantry Cabinet number One.



This cabinet stores the canned cat food as well as other short term stuff - especially things that needed more sheltering from light than the canned stuff, or stuff that wouldn't fit easily on those shelves.


3. The Kitty Bin.



And while we're talking kitties - I used an airtight plastic bin for storing bags of dry cat food. I figured it would keep out any mice or bugs, as well as any kitties who decided they wanted to open a fresh bag for themselves - which isn't really as out of the question as it might sound... ask me how I know!

4. Pantry Cabinet Two



And then we have this cabinet, which stores mostly dry goods. Only one of those shelves is actually full of protein powder, the other one is old protein powder containers filled with oatmeal. There's also pasta and dried beans and some random grains like millet and quinoa in there. Note the empty shelf on top! Always room for more!

5. Pantry Cabinet Three



Now we're getting to more long term stuff. The white rice (there's Jasmine, Basmati, Parboiled & regular) will theoretically store for 10+ years in glass jars, and there's also sugar & Gatorade, and then stuff that I bought both from the Mormon church and various prepper sites - there's some beans & rice as well as freeze dried fruits, veggies, cheese, butter, milk, and even some chicken.

6. The Crazy Lady Closet



And then we have the deep storage. This is all stuff that I ordered from the Mormons. It's all 30 year long term storage stuff including dried onions, potatoes, beans, apples, rolled oats, and milk.

And that's about it... except for... the freezer!


Oy! This is one area where I really need a better system. It's the shape of the darned thing that makes it so hard to keep it organized. My current system is to try to have a bag for each category of food - breads & flours, meats & meat alternatives, cheese & butter, and fruit & veggies. But as you can see... I'm not doing a very good job keeping up with it - it's just such a pain to pull everything out when you need to get something or put something away. So if anybody's got any suggestions for better freezer organization - I'm all ears!

So that's the news from the crazy lady. I'm curious if anybody else out there has dabbled in food stockpiling. I'd love to hear about your systems if you have!



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

History in my Closet

We FINALLY got some decent snow here in the Mile High City. It wasn't a big storm, but we got about 5 inches, which is the biggest snowfall we've had in over a year, so yay! There was great rejoicing.



Since winter finally decided to make an appearance, I figured it was time to pull my down jacket out of storage... and to my great disappointment, the broken zipper hadn't magically fixed itself in the year or so that it had been stored away. Harumph! Where are those magic elves when you need them anyway?


I used to think that I had a zipper curse, because they always seem to die on me. Then CatMan pointed out that most people don't keep their clothes around as long as I do, and perhaps that's why my zippers always seem to die. Hmm... At any rate, I can deal with it if the little puller thing falls off, but once the insertion pin starts to separate from the fabric, well, it's all over but the shouting.

Not my photo, but you get the idea

Time to replace the zipper! This is not a terribly big job, and I've done it many times before, but as I was shelling out $10 for a new zipper, I was sorta thinking that I could probably buy a whole new-to-me jacket at the thrift store for that price. But I like this jacket - it's nice and warm, and besides, we've been together for a good long time.

Waaaaay back when I first got out of college in the early 1990s, I was working at a non-profit music school making dirt for pay. The organization operated on a shoestring, and every year we'd have a big fundraising rummage sale to help make ends meet. This jacket was donated for the sale, but nobody wanted it. Hard to blame them. It was definitely a "vintage" item by that point, I figured it had probably been made in the 1970s. Plus, the fabric cuffs & collar were tattered and torn, and it definitely looked like it had seen better days.

But... I was broke, and needed a warm jacket, and since the staff were allowed to take anything that hadn't sold, well, the price was right, so I decided to give it a new home.



I'm not a great seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, but I found a scrap of fabric and covered over the worn collar and cuffs - originally they were an orange plaid, and I liked the new color much better anyway, so I considered it a big win. And after a good cleaning, it looked good as new!

Anyhow, I had a few challenges with the zipper - mostly because getting the old one out was a bit more complicated than usual. The snaps had been put in straight through the fabric of the zipper, so I had to cut it to get it out.



But I persevered... and along the way I noticed this tag - which I'd never really looked at before.



Made in Denver, Colorado?!? I didn't know there were any local companies that actually made outerwear. And the brand name, Gerry, wasn't familiar either.

I asked CatMan if he recognized it, and to my great surprise, his eyes lit up. "Your jacket is a Gerry?" he said excitedly. Apparently Gerry was one of the very first companies to manufacture outdoor gear for hiking, camping, mountaineering and the like, and it was a name he recognized from back in his rock climbing days in the 1960s.

Hmmm... perhaps there was more to my little jacket than I realized.



So I did a bit of research, and what I found sorta amazed me.

Gerry was founded by a fellow named Gerry Cunningham, who was an avid outdoorsman. He served in the 10th mountain division during WWII. I'm not sure if that means much to folks outside of Colorado, but in these parts it's a pretty big deal. They trained outside of the town of Leadville (where my family is from) and fought in some of the toughest terrain of Italy during the war. They are widely credited with turning the tide on that front.



After the war, Gerry and his wife started making backpacks and opened a mail order company which eventually expanded to stores in both Boulder and Denver. He is credited with a long list of amazing innovations, including the first zippered backpack, a redesign of the carabiner, the first drawstring cordlock clamps, the first kiddie carrier, and yes, the first down jackets!

He was even inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame! Who knew? I mean, I didn't know there was such a thing as the national sporting goods hall of fame, but I still think it's pretty cool that my jacket was designed by someone who was inducted into it!


So after learning all that, I'm pretty glad I decided to replace the zipper instead of the jacket. In this age of mass produced junk manufactured overseas, there's something pretty cool about owning an item with such a storied provenance. I figure my jacket is probably at least 40 years old by now, and with any luck it will continue to serve me for another 40 years to come.

So tell me, do you own anything with an interesting history? I'd love to hear your stories!




Friday, January 12, 2018

2017 Energy and Carbon Footprint Review

Soooo... since January seems to be the season for annual reviews, I figured I take some time to peek at my energy usage and see how it's looking.

First of all, my energy company (Xcel) offers a bill averaging service where instead of paying for your actual monthly usage, you pay an averaged amount based on you previous year's usage at the time you sign up. If your usage starts to vary wildly from the previous year, they'll adjust your monthly payment mid-year, otherwise they just adjust in on the anniversary of your sign up month.

I LOVE this service. Not only does it make it easy to budget for utilities costs, it also makes conserving energy into a fun little game. Each year as September rolls around, I start to get excited to see if I'm gonna be able to hold steady or even lower my bill. Yes, I am a total nerd.


This year I was super excited because my bill went down a bit, and my monthly energy cost (natural gas & electricity) is now only $78. Woo Hoo!

That's especially exciting since I pay a voluntary "green guilt" tax of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour on my electricity so that I can get all of it from wind power, which worked out to a total of about $73 for the year. At some point I would love to explore the option of rooftop solar, but my yard has several big trees that might make it unworkable, plus the fact that I've lost 2 roofs to hail in the 20-some-odd years I have lived here sorta makes me nervous about going that route.


Anyhow, this year I decided it might be fun to delve a little deeper into my energy usage to see if there are places I can save a little bit more, both in terms of money and environmental impact.

So, 2017 energy usage for my 900 square foot house with full basement was:

Natural Gas: 390 therms (32.5/month average)
Electricity: 4848 kWh (404/month average)

Each month Xcel sends out a cute little email that allows you to compare your usage to that of your neighbors, and mine always comes in as "better than your efficient neighbors." But I started to wonder, what exactly does that mean? And how does "better" translate in terms of environmental impact?

I know getting firm numbers on this sort of thing is sorta impossible, but I decided to explore some other options and happened upon a fairly decent carbon footprint calculator created by the folks out at Berkeley in California.



Now, I don't know if you've ever played with carbon footprint calculators, but let's just say that once you get beyond things for which you might have firm numbers - like energy use and mileage, well, the numbers start to get pretty hand wavy at best.

Nevertheless, according to this calculator, my annual carbon footprint is somewhere between 7-8 tons depending on how I answered certain questions. Seriously, it asked how much I spent per month on health care, and gave me radically different carbon numbers depending on whether I entered my insurance premium before or after the tax credit. (Waves hands wildly.) But it did say that the average one person household in my zip code with similar income is around 22 tons per year.

That's interesting, but I'm still not sure how much it tells me in terms of my own usage and how I might improve. I mean, I read another study which said that a homeless person in the US has a carbon footprint of 8.5 tons/year! So... my carbon footprint is slightly better than that of a homeless person?!?


Well anyhow, since none of that seemed terribly helpful, I decided that instead of trying to calculate my entire carbon footprint, I'd just focus on the stuff for which I had hard numbers and see what that would tell me.

Sooo... figuring that my car gets around 29 MPG and I only drove about 668 miles, that comes out to 0.3 tons of carbon emissions last year. Electricity would be the big one at 4.6 tons, but since all of my electricity came from wind power, that number went to 0. Woot Woot! $73 well spent, IMHO. So that leaves natural gas, where my emissions totaled 2.4 tons.

Looking at it that way, it's pretty clear that the biggest place I can save - at least in terms of carbon emissions, is my natural gas usage.


There are only 3 appliances in my home that use natural gas: the furnace, hot water heater, and clothes dryer.

Now, at this point I should probably mention that my home has a hybrid furnace. When I replaced the ancient furnace about 10 years ago I decided to upgrade and get whole house air conditioning as well. And since I was doing that, it made sense to pay a little bit more and get an air conditioner which could run backwards as a heat pump, because it's a significantly more efficient method of heating... at least until it gets really cold. Once the weather drops below about 40 degrees (around 4C) the heat pump has a hard time keeping up, so it switches over to the gas furnace (which is a 95% efficient model.) 

The hybrid furnace is so efficient that my energy bills stayed pretty much flat after installing it, even though I now had air conditioning. Plus, a lot of the burden for heating was switched from gas to electricity, and since that all comes from wind power, I figure that's an environmental win.

At any rate, the way the hybrid furnace ends up working is that it mostly uses the heat pump during the day and then switches over to the gas furnace at night when the temperature gets colder. So, one way to get an easy savings on natural gas is to turn the temperature down a few more degrees at night. I did have it set to 64 at night, but a few weeks ago I turned it down to 62. With an extra blanket on the bed I honestly haven't noticed any difference, so I might consider going a bit lower still. I also set it to lower the temperature an hour earlier in an effort to encourage myself to get to bed at a decent hour.


Lest you worry that my little kitties are cold at night, they each have a 4 watt heated cat bed so they can stay nice and warm.

There are plenty of other things that I might explore to save on heating costs, but these are probably topics for another post. But things I'm considering include bumping up the level of insulation in my attic, weather stripping around the attic door & insulating ceiling light fixtures, blown in wall insulation, upgrading my siding to stucco (which involves adding a layer of insulation board), cellular shades on the windows, and maybe even new windows. 

So that leaves the dryer and the hot water heater. The dryer is an easy one. I sorta got out of the habit of hanging my clothes to dry because of the carpet beetles. One way to kill the eggs and larvae is heat, so I've been using the dryer in an effort to kill off the little buggers. But since I seem to have turned the corner on that issue (knock on wood) I think it's probably safe to go back to line drying - at least for most things. I'll probably still put big things like bedding in the dryer.


Similarly, I had the hot water heater turned up to the highest setting so that I could use the hot cycle on the washer to kill beetles. But once again, there's no need for that anymore (I hope), so I've turned it down a notch or two - plus I'm going back to washing laundry in cold water.

I also bought some foam pipe insulators and covered the first few feet of pipe coming out of the hot water heater. I'd like to do more, but alas, that's as far as I can reach without ripping out the basement ceiling - which sorta seems like a bad idea.

So that leaves my Achilles heel of hot water use... bathing.


Yes folks, I am a hopeless bathtub addict. I like to soak for at least an hour until I turn into a complete prune. It is one of my true vices, and I am loath to give it up, especially in the winter time. But, since I did finally get the diverter valve fixed so I now have the option of taking a shower, I do think that some of my hot water use will go down there too - especially in the warmer months of the year.

So that's my plan for the moment. I'm hopeful that it will pay dividends both in terms of my natural gas bill and my carbon footprint - all without sacrificing anything in terms of comfort or convenience.

Have any of you ever calculated your carbon footprint or energy usage? I'm curious to hear how our numbers compare.


Monday, January 8, 2018

The Annual Odometer Reset

Alrighty! 2017 is done, and the numbers are in:


In general I'm very happy with these numbers. I was totally stoked to get over 3000 miles on my bike - mostly I credit the good weather, especially the crazy warm & dry fall we had last year. So that's 591 miles more than I rode in 2016. Yay!!

The car numbers... well, while 668 miles is pretty minimal, it is 130.2 miles more than I drove in 2016. I think I can safely blame that on my many trips to various home improvement stores with all of my remodeling projects. So, while I'd love for my driving miles to go down every year - I think as long as I stay under 1000 miles per year, I'm happy.



So as I'm writing this, I'm listening to a podcast by climate scientist Kevin Anderson. He argues that in order to stave off catastrophic climate change, we will need massive changes - both technologically and societally. He thinks that when it comes to reducing personal emissions, the key thing is to do it publicly. In other words, the value of taking steps to lower one's carbon footprint is not so much the tiny amount of carbon emissions that one person can save, rather it's serving as an example to one's peers - because it's only through collective action that we'll solve this problem.

So in that spirit, I figured I'd blather a bit about my general philosophy when it comes to transportation. I want to be clear that my point here is not to criticize anyone whose choices are different from my own. We all have different realities and priorities. I'm simply trying to show you what works for me. And if I'm being perfectly honest, my motivation for staying out of my car has very little to do with trying to reduce my carbon footprint, and everything to do with trying to improve my quality of life.


Commuting

The average American spends over 100 hours per year commuting. Good Lord! And there are over 3 million Americans who's daily commute is over 50 miles each direction! Can you imagine? Seriously, the mere idea of having to dedicate that much of my life just getting to and from a job sorta makes me want to stick an ice pick in my temple.

I wrote a post detailing many of my feelings about commuting a while back, so I won't bother to repeat it all, but suffice it to say, I am a firm believer that it is well worth the effort to arrange your life so that you have the smallest possible commute. Commuting is a non-issue for me these days since what work I do, I do from home. But even before I quit my job, my commute was only 5 miles. That wasn't an accident. When I bought my house, one of the things that was very important to me was that it be relatively close to where I worked.

Now, I'd like to claim that this decision was an altruistic one made out of concern for the environment, but the truth is that I just plain hate being stuck behind the wheel of a car.


Shopping

I try to shop as close to home as possible. I am lucky. Even though my house only gets a walkability score of 55, I have the following resources all under a mile from my doorstep: 2 grocery stores, 1 laundromat, 1 post office, 1 dollar store, 1 convenience store, 1 veterinarian, 1 bakery, 2 liquor stores, 3 gas stations, about a dozen bars and restaurants, and a bunch of other things I've never visited like clothing boutiques and pawn shops. If I expand that radius to about 3 miles, those resources expand dramatically.


So the vast majority of my shopping chores can be accomplished very close to home. And once again, while I'd like to say that the decision to patronize the stores in my immediate neighborhood is done out of altruistic concern for the environment, the truth is a lot more like enlightened self interest.

The thing is, I really LIKE having two grocery stores a few blocks from home, and I want them to stay in business. So while it's sometimes tempting to hop in the car and drive a few miles to a bigger, more modern store that might have a slightly bigger selection, ultimately, I'd rather patronize the ones in my immediate neighborhood, even if it means I can't get some of the schmancy treats I'd like to have. Plus, when I do make a trip to a different store to get something special... it's just that: special.

There are, of course, some things that can't be purchased close to home, and for this I try to either group my purchases so I can make say one trip to the bike store rather than many. Failing that, I order online. Now I know there are people who claim online shopping is horrible for the environment, but I think the devil's in the details on that one. On the one hand, I can have something delivered... on a truck... which will be winding its way through the neighborhood making a bunch of other deliveries anyhow or, I can spend an hour in my car driving across town to get the same item... well, I think that's a toss up at best in terms of which is worse.




Travel and Entertainment

I once read that back in the 19th century, the vast majority of people lived their entire lives within about 100 miles from where they were born. That's pretty unfathomable by today's standards, but the idea of living one's whole life in a relatively small geographic area really resonated with me. It makes me think of my grandmother, who, though she was definitely a 20th century gal, lived her entire life in what, by today's standards, would be considered a pretty small area.


Grandma was born in southern Colorado, grew up in a mining town in the mountains, followed various husbands (she had 3 of them) to Denver, and several towns in both northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Finally she came back to Denver where she lived the rest of her life. While I'm quite sure there were small vacations throughout her life that I never heard about, the big one was when she was in her 70s. My dad sent her and her best friend on a Caribbean cruise - and I never saw anybody so happy and excited about anything in my entire life. She literally danced around the Christmas tree hooting and howling when Dad gave her the tickets that year. It was just what I think a vacation like that really should be - a BIG, special deal.

Now, I'm not in any way suggesting that people should try to live like it's the 19th century, or even necessarily like my grandmother did. But I do find the whole idea of staying relatively put in a geographic sense to be wonderfully grounding. My house is only about 3 miles from the one I grew up in, and the older I get, the more I appreciate having a real sense of place in my life.


So here's a little secret - I haven't been  on a plane since 1993. Come to think of it, that was also the last time I made it outside of the state of Colorado! And you know what - I don't feel like I'm missing one tiny little thing.

Now, I'm not knocking travel - I did plenty of it in my younger days. I've traveled all across the US, been to New Zealand, Hawaii, Mexico, and through numerous countries in Europe & Scandinavia. But here's the thing, when it comes right down to it, a place is just a place. It's not that I don't have an appreciation for different cultures, but the thing is, when you visit a place as a tourist, you seldom get a chance to experience much about the culture you are visiting.

And while there are certainly days in the middle of winter when I think it would be wonderful to be laying on a beach in Hawaii, the reality is that in order to get to that beach, I would first have to find someone to take care of my house & cats, deal with traffic, crowds and airport hassles, then climb inside of a tin can with wings and deal with hours and hours of motion sickness and the probably migraine that would follow. And once I got there, every meal would be sort of like a dance with death as I struggled to communicate my many food allergies to some cook who  may or may not "get it."


So once again, I'm not being altruistic here, it's more like I've crafted a life that I have no need or desire to "get away from." And, that being the case, not having to deal with the hassles of travel is a monumental relief.

Now, CatMan and I do have some friends down in Manitou Springs - which is a lovely little town on the edge of the mountains outside of Colorado Springs, so we make the 150 mile round trip about once or twice per year. CatMan drives on those trips so it isn't reflected in my car mileage.

Plus, I think that my biking habit really fills the role of getting out and about for me.


For some reason, there is something infinitely more special about riding your bike to a beautiful place, than simply getting in a car and driving there.

Red Rocks Park - Photo taken on a bike ride last summer


Anyhooos.... those are my thoughts about driving, cars and travel. I'd love to hear what you think. Do you drive a lot? Does anybody out there hate it as much as I do?