A Lot of Effort for Some Boxes

So, I’ve never been that much of a recycler.

Or rather, David never has been and so I easily fell out of the habit once we were living together. He became quickly annoyed at the accumulating sacks of newspapers, cans and bottles. Granted, recycling was a pain in Laramie. For a long time you could only take recyclables to a certain place during certain hours of weekday afternoons. Even when they finally set up bins, those were usually full.

David liked to grump that he saw the recycle place hauling truckloads out to the landfill all the time. He particularly liked to tease our more avid recycling friends about it. They would frown, uncertain if he was making it up or not.

At any rate, like many things, it was easier not to and so I stopped.

Now, I work for an environmental consulting firm and the company is big on green policies. Which I suppose is only good and right. We have to purchase 100% recycled paper for our printers, should we be so wasteful as to print something out in the first place. We have to recycle our used paper, etc. And we have to take these pledges.

Well, we don’t have to, but we’re exhorted to. And if you know anything about me at all, I’m just not the kind of gal you force into making pledges.

But every year there’s this big campaign where, in order to support the efforts of a major client, we have to go on the internet and pledge to replace our lightbulbs with the energy-savings ones. My boss, Laurie, who is fortunately also my friend, is probably shaking her head reading this, because she’s heard me go on about the lightbulbs. At length. Maybe with the teensiest bit of ranting.

Suffice to say: I do not like them.

I do not like them in my house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them because they make everything look green: eggs, ham, art and people.

Laurie doesn’t get me on this. The aesthetic doesn’t bother her. But this is also the woman who reuses corners of paper and the back of Post-It notes. She’s literally taken balled-up used sticky notes out of my trash, smoothed them out and used them for notes. Yes, we’ve discussed her issues, too.

So, a few years ago, I caved, I did the pledge, and bought my two ugly-making lightbulbs. Laurie archly asked me if I actually installed them. I replied that I did: in the basement laundry room. (Laundry rooms are supposed to have icky awful lighting – it’s practically a law.) She conceded that was good enough. Then the next year rolls around and we have to pledge again, what with more bulbs. I started to run out of icky places to put the bulbs.

This year’s drive wound up yesterday. Only now they have this whole list of things you can do to be more green. Laurie commented that it’s getting harder to show movement each year. Which is true – I actually already do everything on that list except the freaking lightbulbs. The ones I left behind in the old house when we moved. To help the new people be green, I told Laurie.

She suggested I put their names on the pledge.

I turn off unused lights and appliances. I keep thermostats low and turned down during low-use times. Growing up in the Western drought of the 70s, I’m a habitual water-saver. One friend gets irritated that I turn the water on and off when I do dishes. “Why don’t you just let it keep running?” she asks. Because I can’t.

And now we have curbside recycling, so we do that, too! Amusingly, I even mentioned this once before on the blog. Back in August David and I were going back and forth on recyclables that don’t fit in the bin. Which brings us to yesterday.

Remember how I bought all that nifty new patio furniture? Well, it came in great big boxes. Heavy-duty cardboard ones. Our recycle pick-up comes every two weeks, so two weeks ago, I set two giant boxes filled with smaller scraps of cardboard next to the bin for pick up.

Shockingly the Waste Management guys did not take them.

(If you watch Breaking Bad, you can see our New Mexico Waste Management trucks. Kind of thrilling, no? Yeah, I didn’t think so. But it’s funny to us.)

We had a rainy day last week and David told me I should put those boxes out in the rain so they’d soften up and he could tromp them down and put them in the garbage bin. Our recycle bin gets really full at the end of two weeks. I said, no, I was going to break the boxes down and set them out for recycle again this week. “A lot of effort for some boxes,” he says and I said I didn’t mind.

So I spent a bunch of time cutting up and breaking down the boxes, bundling them into neat stacks, tied up with rope. With carry handles even. And we set them next to the very full recycle bin for pick up yesterday. The Waste Management guy arrives, sits for easily five minutes on his radio (I can spy on this from my office window). He backs the truck up like he’s leaving, then he pulls forward again, gets out, contemptuously kicks aside my careful bundles of cardboard and lets the automatic truck arm empty the bin. And drives away.

David says, “That’s why I wanted you to put that stuff in the rain so I could have tromped it down and put it in the garbage.”

I should insert here that today is David’s second-to-last day of finals and he’s hitting full grumpitude saturation at this point. I’m not calling him on it because, well, I’m understanding and loving like that. So, I don’t say anything to this.

I call Waste Management, very nice girl tells me that, yeah, in Santa Fe they’ll take only what’s in the bin. I ask if I’m supposed to cut these boxes into tiny pieces and dole them into the recycle bin over the course of months and she responds brightly that that’s a great idea.

I tell her not so much.

So she tells me that I can drop the stuff off at the county. Coincidentally, the place is right by where I have a salon appointment that day anyway. I put the top down on the Jag, pull to the end of the driveway and load the cardboard into the back. David helps, grumbling that it’s an awful lot of effort for some boxes at which point I, maybe not quite so lovingly, tell him that I don’t mind, I’ll do it myself and to go back in the house to study. He says, “Okay, I won’t say another word.” And I, very lovingly, do not say “Hallelujah!”

It goes downhill from there. The place the chirpy Waste Management girl sends me too is the lovely county office with no recycling facilities in evidence. I end up talking to the County Manager, who’s a terrific gal and says “I do not know what is wrong with those people at Waste Management!” She draws me a map to the transfer station, by the landfill, by the dog park, all places I haven’t been to yet.

So, yes, I drive out to the landfill in my Jag convertible, packed to the rim with cardboard pieces. The woman at the gate takes one look at me, says “let me guess” and waves me through. I find the big bin o’cardboard, where a very earthy/crunchy young man is emptying his vehicle of rectangles like mine. We stand in the sun and companionably toss cardboard into the bin.

And yes, I felt pleased with myself.

True to his promise, David didn’t say another word about it, so I don’t have to ‘fess up to the further complications, which would have truly driven him over the wall. I’ll have to think up another reason for why I now know where the landfill and the dog park are.

The pledge checklist doesn’t include a category for “went to a lot of effort for some boxes,” but I’m feeling like a good kitty-cat this Earth Day.

The best part? I didn’t have to buy any of those stinking lightbulbs!

Merry Christmas

I’m glad it’s not just me.

This morning the family left again and tonight I caught up on the interwebs. My favorite blogs? All posted last on December 22. (Of course, my last was December 19, but Sunday is usually my day off and then Monday was crazyish. Then my routine went to hell with all the rest of us unfashionable types who still celebrate Christmas.)

Amusingly enough, even a Jewish blogger I like, who last posted to the ‘net a reminder of the things she hates to hear during Christmas, last blogged on December 22.

When I was a little girl, I totally bought the Christmas schtick.

Of course, I also believed in fairies and unicorns and, really, on certain levels, still do. Look, here I am writing novels about them. I believed that Christmas was a magical night. A night of peace an joy. It’s a sign of my naivete, perhaps, or just of my blissful upbringing, that I was thoroughly and completely shocked to discover that, not only did not everyone in the world experience peace and joy on Christmas, that even bad things could happen on that day.

And, no, it had nothing to do with Jesus for me. Really.

My Jewish blogger says that it’s nonsense to say that Christmas isn’t a religious holiday, because only Christians celebrate it.

Full disclosure: Yes, I come from an Irish Catholic family. I consider this part of my racial heritage. I know those ideas shape me. I also know that my ancestry is full of pagan witches who reconfigured their celebrations to fall under the Church’s radar. I know what I believe in, my spiritual convictions and my private rituals. I’ve studied Catholicism. Along with Judaism, Islam, Taoism, many and varied other philosophies, mystical and shamanic practices.

Please: do not tell me what my religion is.

Yes. I celebrate Christmas. Unfashionably, I love Christmas. I’m sorry that so many people feel it’s foisted upon them. That it’s not their holiday. That it’s materialistic, shallow, meaningless, creates unrealizable expectations and grinds down everyone who can’t possibly meet some ideal.

I hate that the Christmas season becomes that to anyone.

I suppose, in my idealistic heart, in that place that still has room for unicorns and fairies, that I wish there could be one night that we all celebrate joy and love.

I know — it sounds stupid.

That’s what it is for me. For the days around Christmas, I drop it all. I decorate. Anything that’s bright and sparkly is good. I make food for feasting. I buy gifts for the people I love. For me, it’s all about finding something special for them. Something to show I know who they are and what they enjoy.

This year, it was all about the table. Laurie and I spotted the concept in Princeton; I took a photo; she sent me some of the basics. The table was truly beautiful.

If I could make it beautiful for everyone, I would.

I know I can’t.

All I ask? Just let me love it a little longer.

Minding Your Manners

So, this is funny.
Not the picture. At least, I don’t mean it to be.
This is just a picture of a dinner party on the porch at El Ferol in Santa Fe. In the somewhat shadowy foreground is Laurie, friend and boss, who you might recognize from a previous post. Across the table, facing us, are Annie and Alton. And next to them is Jan’s ex-husband, Fred.
This is how it worked: my mom has long been friends with Jean Galloway, neighbor and Channel 9 supergal now off doing her own consulting thing. When Jean’s sorority sister, Jan, got divorced from Fred (yes, the one in this picture), Jan moved to Denver to be near Jean and several other Delta Gammas from their chapter. Annie, though she now lives in Houston (and summers in Santa Fe) is also their friend from way back. (I’ve never quite pinned down if Annie is a DG, too — ah, my mother confirms that she is.) So, via the transitive property of friendship, my mom and her husband, Dave, are now good friends with Annie and her husband, Alton. And they, being truly lovely people, invited me to meet for dinner while I was in Santa Fe.
Now, normally I would never do this.
But when Kim and Val flaked on going out to dinnner, I called up Annie and asked if Laurie could come, too. Actually, first I called my mother (I know — I’m 42, what’s your point?) to ask if SHE thought Annie would be offended if I asked if Laurie could come along. I thought not, as that whole social group is pretty much “the more the merrier.” My mom confirmed this and assured me that Annie & Alton would also let us split the bill by throwing a couple of credit cards on the plate.
I call Annie. Of course she’s delighted for Laurie to join us. In fact, Fred (Jan’s ex, you may recall, who I’d never before met), was passing through Santa Fe on his way back to Denver (yes, he moved there after Jan did, but no, there was no reconciliation) after visiting their daughter, Becky, who is my age and who I’ve known for something like 25 years, in Scottsdale. And Fred was also joining us for dinner. Turns out that my mom’s Dave accurately predicted that we would no longer be allowed to chip in on the tab once Fred was in the mix.
And so it went. Lovely warm evening. Delicious tapas. Really yummy margaritas with an unpronounceable kind of tequila (Maluchachas? Something like that?). Delightful company. Annie & Alton picked up the tab. No protesting allowed.
So Laurie and I decided we have to send them a gift. Laurie decides to sic HER mother on the task, because her mother, in Kentucky, has entree to a certain something we happen to know A&A really like. (Can’t reveal more here, in case Annie reads this blog post.) Laurie’s mother scores! She’s so excited with her find that she insists on wrapping, packaging and mailing the gift to Annie and Alton herself.
Worse, she won’t tell Laurie how much it was. She tells Laurie that she’s just so pleased that Laurie had remembered her manners and thought to send a gift in this circumstance, that she doesn’t want us to pay her back. Yes, Laurie is older than I am.
We figure we now owe LAURIE’S mother a present.
My mother only commented that we’ll always be their little girls and to give it up.