Friday, February 29, 2008

I hate the phrase 'retail therapy', and yet, sometimes...

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I keep dreaming that I'm still pregnant and everything is fine. Every time I wake up, I have to realize all over that it has happened again. It makes the early mornings suck. The coffee shop raised its prices on espresso drinks, which is just kind of gilding the lily on my week so far. Don isn't sleeping well, either. I don't know what's happening in his dreamscape, but it seems bad. These miscarriages are hard on him, too; maybe even harder, in a way, than they are on me. For one thing, he doesn't have the kind of support network that I do; even if there are people that would want to help him, he can't open up the way that I can to accept that help. None of his coworkers, his friends, not even his parents know about what he's going through; he's just too private and stoic. I think for some men, it's almost worse to have to see their wives going through something painful, than to experience pain themselves; Don is one of those. And I think he's worried about what this is going to do to us, to our marriage. Worried that maybe it's him, not me, even though all the evidence would suggest otherwise. He understands perfectly how much I want--need--to have a baby, but he doesn't realize how much I need his own self. Afraid maybe I'll trade him in for a more fertile model, I guess. Words are pretty useless against those kinds of fears, but I keep trying.

Today was the day that I had hoped to deliver that other pregnancy, the good long one from last summer with the heartbeat. (My God, I've gotten to the point where I need to identify which miscarriage I mean.) Technically, the due date would have been last Sunday--because nothing is as fabulous a coincidence as miscarrying exactly on the due date of your last miscarriage!--but I thought that Leap Day would be an awesome birthday to have. I knew a woman who's birthday was February 29th, and she got a real kick out of it. I keep attaching way too much significance to the random dates associated with pregnancy. Our very first pregnancy was conceived on Valentine's Day. (Sorry if that's too much information, and yes, I know that I'm an avowed V-Day Hater, but I was ovulating. Whatever.) I thought it was sweet and romantic and a good omen. The second pregnancy was conceived on our honeymoon; sweet, romantic, good omen, would make for a good how-you-were-made story as long as we left out certain details; and it would have been due right around Leap Day. This last one would have been due just a few days before Halloween, so you know what I was aiming for; it's only our favorite holiday of the year. I need to just stop thinking like that. There are no lucky days to conceive or to deliver. ANY day to give birth would become extra, extra-lucky all by itself. Why is it that I can hardly remember my friends' birthdays but can remember the exact dates of conception, Positive Pregnancy Test, and miscarriage for every pregnancy so far? It's obsessive and possibly unhealthy, but they're burned into my brain now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Scenes from the ER

The hospital ran the usual barrage of tests that one has done in these situations; blood work*, sonogram, something with a speculum (I really don't know about that one) . Over the past year, I have become all too familiar with these tests, but they're new to Don and he doesn't always know how to interpret the data.

When we were in the ultrasound room, the hCG results came back at 2.9. That, (for anyone like Don out there), is essentially nil but not quite: the chemical's presence at all was just enough to show that I had been pregnant, but low enough to show that the entire miscarriage was basically over. The ultrasound technician** didn't bother to explain the numbers, rightly assuming that I would understand them. Later, Don asked me what a normal amount would be.


"If this were a healthy pregnancy? Should have been in the thousands. It rises exponentially at this stage, and falls the same way at the end. Or did you mean when not pregnant? Then it would always be zero."

"How much is enough to make a positive pregnancy test, then?"

"Depends on the test, 25 to 50 maybe, for an over-the-counter home test. I took one a few days ago, you know, when I was freaking out over not having any symptoms, just to see the test change. But why?"

"Just wondering. Is there anything else that could make it turn besides pregnancy?"

"A few kinds of cancer. Nothing common."

"Oh. I just thought maybe all the vegetables you've been eating lately... beets and things... vitamins... maybe messed with your body chemistry or something and fooled the test."


Don's version of the home pregnancy test: "Warning! Do not take with veggies, as could trigger a false positive! Avoid beets and broccoli particularly!"

Later the doctor confirmed something as being a "product of conception" (lovely term, though, isn't it?), thereby ending Don's dark fear that we'd somehow manifested the entire fantasy.

*I have excellent veins for giving blood. Just perfect, like I should be a practice dummy for new interns. Nurses always comment on the ease of my veins and it makes me proud, even though it's not exactly a skill.

**The ultrasound technician also commented on the very backward-tilted position of my uterus. Other medical personnel have mentioned this as well, and I wonder whether it could be contributing to our problems. She said she didn't think so, that it might make it harder to conceive but not affect a pregnancy already started-- but she said it in a but-I'm-just-the-ultrasound-tech kind of way.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mama, I'm coming home

Next week, that is. When the university kiddies here are away for their Spring Break and business is slow, I'll be basking (I hope) in the Texas sunshine and familial love of my home state.

Yee-haw, ya'll. Here's to a little rest, relaxation, health and healing... and maybe a margarita or two.

Monday, February 25, 2008

At least... wasn't an ectopic pregnancy; the fear of that drove me to the emergency room in the first place. A simple, uncomplicated early miscarriage is a blessing compared to the mess that could have been.

At least going to the hospital created a medical record of the pregnancy and miscarriage; they won't have to take my word for it that I got pregnant and miscarried for a third time, and we can start the more specialized tests that are saved for us fertility-challenged peoples.

At least it was really early. Speaking from experience now, it is much, much easier (physically) to miscarry at 5-6 weeks along than at 10-12. This is just like a bad period, really-- nothing like the terrifying hemorrhage that was the first miscarriage. Mentally, it's a bit easier because we didn't have two or three months of building-up time, week after week of thinking that everything will be fine-- then realizing that all that time was essentially wasted; that we'd have to start over again.

At least Don could come with me this time. It makes such a difference, having that support. Doctors and nurses don't really understand my dark sense of humor; it's a weird defensive mechanism that helps me deal with the undealwithable. They probably just thought I was nuts, but he understands that, in public at least, I'd rather joke than cry.

At least I have the unwavering support of my friends, my parents, my sister (and brother), even-- to some extent--my manager and coworkers. There are so many women out there struggling with this, or worse, all on their own. I can't imagine how rough that would be.

At least I'm still only 27. Whatever isn't right, there's plenty of time to fix. We decided to start a family when I was 25; imagine if we'd waited another five or even ten years to start trying! Everything would look a lot darker.

At least I have good medical insurance, so that deciding to go to the ER is no big deal, financially. Neither is the prospect of lots more doctor's appointments, or expensive tests. Imagine how much more difficult this journey would be if we had to finance it somehow.
At least we can get pregnant easily. That's huge. Whatever is making me lose my babies, I'm sure it can be fixed; the biggest hurdle is already passed. It took two cycles this time; one the last time, and four the first time-- but half of those we weren't really trying, more just "let's not use birth control and see what happens!" So every time we've tried to get pregnant, it essentially happened within two months. When we figure out what's happening, we should ideally be able to apply it in no time, and be on our way to a houseful of kiddies.

It's over.

Four hours at the ER, blood tests, a pelvic exam and an ultrasound, just to determine what was already obvious.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

All In

So, um, I have been spotting a little and cramping a little, yesterday and today. I know it could be nothing. I KNOW. Everybody keeps telling me that. But in my experience, it's always been the beginning of the end. I have been resting, sleeping, and guzzling water continuously.

I always felt, rationally, that this could be a long shot; that there was at least equal odds for another miscarriage. What I didn't realize is that, emotionally, I am already fully invested. I thought I was detached, calm, rational; willing to hope for the best but prepared for otherwise. That was all bullshit. When I saw that blood yesterday, I just lost it. Sobbing-- bawling really-- in a fetal position on the bathmat, with both dogs staring at me-- Alice probably wondering if I would be mad if she licked up my tears. (That dog loves tears. I don't know about her, sometimes. It does make her seem sympathetic and loving, but she most likely just likes the salt.) There is no detachment here, that was all an illusion. I want my baby. Please, for the love of God, let me keep this one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


If (please) I remain pregnant, how many entries will have that title, I wonder?

I'm five weeks along today, and still don't really have any symptoms worth mentioning. That could mean something, or it could mean nothing. As Don says, there's nothing to do but wait and see.

We were talking about this, tonight; we're not used to waiting and seeing. Both of us tend to create what we want, and make things happen. Applying to colleges or for jobs, making big moves, going after that girl that you've been friends with but now want to be with (that would be him), trying to conceive; we're neither of us used to just letting things happen-- and then being surprised when nothing happens at all. When, as a sophomore in college, I decided to get out of my homestate and see a little more of the world, I had a few people say how lucky I was that I was going away. That wasn't luck, my friends; it was making a decision, filling out an application, and taking the plunge. It feels good to do things like that. Makes you feel like you hold your destiny in your own two hands, that you're living with purpose.

This is the opposite of that; it is knowing that the outcome is out of our hands. There is nothing we can do to hurry the pregnancy along to a point where it looks either good or bad. Sitting and waiting. Sure, I take my vitamins, supplements, and hormones with alarm-clock regularity (Seriously. I have the alarms on my cell phone set so that I take the progesterone as close to 12 hours apart as I can.); take extra care with my diet, re-read my books on fertility and pregnancy; compare and contrast with other women online. It's all to make me feel like I'm doing something productive and helpful, but it's a blind. It's hard to want something so badly and be so helpless at the same time.

This is sort of why I (think) I'm not going to have an eight-week ultrasound. What good is it, really? What does it do? For my first time, the sonogram showed a pregnancy already ended. That was a good thing, I guess, because it prepared me for the coming miscarriage. For the second, the sonogram showed a healthy, seemingly thriving embryo. This built my confidence and hopes rather too high; I didn't fully realize that it was still possible to miscarry after such a hopeful beginning. This time, I will just not find out either way. I don't need the forewarning of a miscarriage, as I'm more experienced now. I don't need the insecure hope, and it probably wouldn't comfort me much anyway. If everything's still wonderful at 13 weeks, then I'll know it was ok all along. If I miscarry again...well, I'll probably wish I'd done the scan for research reasons (more data to bring to a reproduction expert), but I don't care. It's too negative to do something that will only make a difference should we lose this.

As Don said, we wait and we wait and we wait, and we'll see.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm not hormonal, you're just a bitch

It's an interesting phenomenon to be both pregnant and losing weight; something tells me that it's a very temporary situation. As it is, though, I do not 'feel pregnant' yet. I have already searched back though my blog trying to determine exactly when I started feeling a pronounced change with the other pregnancies, and I'm not behind schedule yet; but what does that really mean? The problem with looking back and comparing to the others is that, you know, I lost those ones so they probably aren't the best comparison.

I called my doctor's office yesterday... I'm not so happy with them at the moment.

Receptionist: mumble mumble mumble OB-GYN, can I help you? (sounds like she's eating something)
Me: Yes, I'd like to get a call back from either one of the doctors or the NP, please.
Receptionist: Well, what's it about? Why do you need to talk with them?
Me: (none of your damn business, just take the message) I'm pregnant again and would like to ask them a couple of questions and maybe get some advice, based on my chart.
Receptionist: Um, have you had "problems" before? (i.e., stop being an anal control freak and just make your 8-week appointment like everybody else.)
Me: Yes, I MISCARRIED both of my other pregnancies and would very much like to not have that happen this time. (Does that count as a "problem", you self-important bitch?)
Receptionist: I'll see that someone calls you.

Nobody called me back yesterday. Looking back, I may be feeling a wee bit hormonal after all. If they call today it will be awkward as I am not being pregnant at work yet. And the reason I called in the first place is that they seem to be of the habit of not calling back with test results if those results are normal. Well, I was tested for all sorts of things after the last miscarriage and I want to know those numbers. HOW normal? Right in the middle, or borderline? I would sincerely hope that if anything in my test results indicated that special care needed to be taken with subsequent pregnancies, they would have informed me of such. But it's a busy practice, filled with patients who are actually pregnant, so I can't trust them so completely. Also, I need them to re-prescribe my progesterone supplements; right now I'm using up what's left from last time and I have one refill left on the scrip, but it won't be enough to get me through April. (Because nothing says, "yay! preggers!" like a vaginal suppository, really.)

I also called a midwifery practice in town that only does homebirths. If all goes well in the next few months, I just might be delivering this little one right here. (She called me back within a half-hour, and talked with me for probably thirty minutes.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Don's been away for the last couple of days; he's been suddenly, temporarily made in charge of the hotel in the next city over, (of his department within it, I mean) due to some health issues of the director there. So, he's been going down there for a few days at a time to take care of things. It's a little rough on him, between the traveling and the extra responsibility, but it's not too bad and it looks good on a resume.

I can't say it bothers me, really. Of course, I miss him; I'd rather he was here. But we've been separated many times before and it's never a big deal; each time we move, there's a period of weeks in which one of us has moved ahead and is scouting for housing, and the other remains behind tying up loose ends. Additionally, Don's job does send him around the country at times to pinch-hit for other hotels as he's doing now; he spent a few weeks working in San Diego, and almost a month in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Up until recently, we've tended to visit our families individually, especially for emergency situations. So when Don's mother was having a breast biopsy or heart surgery, or I needed to go to Michigan for a funeral, the other would stay behind and manage the household. (With pets like ours, it's hard to take off on a moments' notice.) So to be on my own for a little while is nothing new or troublesome.

I mentioned at work that Don had been away the night before and would be again that night... just making conversation, really. But one of my coworkers gasped, "Aren't you scared, to be all by yourself?" No. I'm not. I don't know if it's because I have plenty of experience being alone, because I live with two rambunctious dogs, whatever. And while I miss my sweetie, we do talk on the phone before bed whenever we're not together, and catch up on the day. I just don't fall to pieces without him, is all. Is this not normal? Surely at least one version of a healthy relationship can have room for occasional nights apart for whatever reason. Imagine what military spouses experience when their partners are deployed; they're separated for months at a time and have the added stress of knowing that their partners could be in danger. But I'm supposed to be frightened to spend the night by myself, knowing that Don is ensconced in a hotel room? It's just not my style, I guess.

My favorite mug, steeping tea. It was a gift given to me after the last miscarriage, and I feel almost as though it's a talisman, representing all those who are rooting for this pregnancy, and for me. Drinking from it reminds me that Don and I are not in this alone; our friends and our families are behind us, wherever they may be.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Overlooking the Obvious

Detail-oriented, yes. Reasonably well-educated and well-read, yes. Blessed with abundant common sense? Unfortunately, no.

Ever since getting the positive test, I have been trying to find out what exactly about early pregnancy could make a woman's legs sore. Everything from my waist down-- lower back, legs, and feet-- have been sore and achy lately; like they need a good stretch and rub-down. Nothing I read attributes this to being pregnant, and I was just stumped.

Finally, I realized that I've been walking perhaps three times as much as usual, and in heavy hiking boots. Two weeks ago, I decided to tackle the inching numbers on the scale by walking with Alice every single day, instead of just the mornings it was convenient for me. So far it has worked out pretty well. There was the day it started raining icy rain down on us, which sucked a little; and yesterday, when we got all the way to the coffee house and it wasn't open, so we had to walk all the way back sans mocha. That mocha really makes the walk, you know? (Turned out that the cafe opener's alarm clock didn't go off.) But we've walked to the coffee place and back every morning since last Monday; that's 12 consecutive days of walking, which my legs definitely aren't used to. Somehow, getting knocked up just drove everything else out of my head. This morning I thought to weight myself and I'm actually down some pounds.

On the bright side, at least it doesn't indicate that something's wrong, which is always my first guess.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

But It's the Color of Love

You people are so nice and funny that it makes me cry. But then, I've cried three times in two days, which is more than I've cried in maybe the past five months or so. I think I'm more pregnant in brain (hormones?) than in body at this point. I've also felt the urge to kill my two coworkers, Don, and both dogs, but unfortunately that can't be described as unusual for me.

Don and I* have been attempting to incorporate more vegetables into our lives (by eating them). We used to be pretty much broccoli/green beans/ potatoes/corn/etc all the time but have been working on making spinach, chard, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and others a normal part of our dinners. For me, it's all about personal and prenatal nutrition; all nutrients are better absorbed from food than from supplements, so (while I am taking vitamins religiously) I am trying to meet my need for folate, beta-carotene, and iron through real things like vegetables and lentils. For Don, it's my attempt to prevent little annoyances like heart disease and Alzheimers. (You think about these things when marrying an older man, seriously.) So last night, I attempted beets.

Everything went well with the beets; I even called a vegetable expert to make sure I was cooking them correctly. Don liked them, I liked them, until this morning when my pee was beet-red. Six in the morning is too darn early for freaky-colored pee-- and mine's already fluorescent from the prenatals.

*Of course it's just me. Don would be happy to eat beef and potatoes every single night, with maybe chicken and corn as a alternate. But if I cooks it he eats it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Update: more quiz options than I first realized, including:

g: the tests just aren't that sensitive. Check this out!

Suddenly the world seems all bright and shiny. I know that pretty soon I'll be gripped with the (very reasonable) fear of losing this one as well, but right now I don't feel it; nothing but sunshine and optimism currently.

Look at that, just look at it... it's so pretty.

(You know, for something that's been peed on.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

How much do jeans weigh, anyways?

Imagine that your period is late, but the pee-sticks are negative. Would you feel:

a) confused
b) annoyed
c) wildly hopeful
d) frustrated at yourself for being so hopeful in the face of a NOT PREGNANT test
e) pissed off (hehe) at using up valuable, expensive home pregnancy tests
f) all of the above

If you answer f (all of the above), then you win!

In other news, I stuck with my plan to walk every day last week, even the early days and weekend. I have lost the weight of my clothes, whatever that is; last Sunday I weighed "x" while nekkid, yesterday I weighed the same amount fully clothed. So whatever my jeans and sweater weigh, I now don't. My long-term goal is to remain in the same size clothing (8 and/or 10) so that I don't have to buy new pants. I have not weighed Alice to see if she is also benefitting from the increased exercise, although she is enjoying it very much.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Um, House, no.

I haven't mentioned our house-hunting in awhile. This is primarily because it isn't going very well, for various reasons. We've looked at enough houses now to really understand the local market, and what we understand is that we're essentially priced out of it.

Moving from an inexpensive city to an expensive town is eye-opening. The median cost of a home where I'm from is $197,900*. In this town, it's $382,800-- almost twice as much. The population here is a lot smaller, too, so there are fewer houses on the market overall. Our budget is much more aligned with where we're from than where we are. Here, if a house is listed under $200,000, it has serious problems. We've seen a log cabin that is completely gutted inside from a fire, a 130-year-old farmhouse with all the issues you might expect (rotting sill, questionable roof, strange plumbing) as well as being pretty far from town, a house with "mold issues"-- someone else closed on that one before we could even consider it-- and a tiny cottage on a nice piece of land, but with bad structural problems. (Me: is a roof supposed to be all asymetrical like that? It's kind of arty, I like it! Don: No. and no.) I have no problem with a small place, but the idea is that it should also be inexpensive; I just can't swallow the idea of spending two hundred thou on less than a thousand square feet.

It's not that we don't have any money, or that we don't make money; it's more a matter of what we feel comfortable spending on housing. By my rough calculation, we spend about 25% of our take-home pay on rent-- that's after taxes, 401(k) contributions, health insurance, and other miscellaneous paycheck deductions. Not over-extending on housing makes life comfortable: it makes it easy to sock money away in savings, to keep credit card debt low or non-existent, to do things like eat out and travel without much forethought. Over the past few months of house-hunting, our acceptable price kept rising (ten thousand at a time, it seems) as we became frustrated with what was out there. It's not hard to calculate the monthly payment that a mortgage at x dollars and y interest rate will yield, plus property taxes and home insurance. As our 'highest acceptable price' inched up, the resultant mortgage payment crept from a little more than our current rent to much, much more.

Is owning a home worth that kind of reduction in standard of living, when we're looking at these kinds of homes? What would it take in order to spend another, say, $200 or 250 a month on a mortgage than we're currently spending on rent? Would it be the money that is currently directed into savings or our retirement plans? The money I spend on things like our CSA subscription, farmers' market produce, and organic eggs, dairy, and meat? Our charitable contributions? Or the discretionary cash we spend eating out, seeing movies, drinking lattes, and travelling whenever we get the chance? (Not often enough, sadly.) We could stretch to afford it, but at what cost?

Back in business school, I learned a good bit about fixed costs and variable costs, and how companies or even industries that let their fixed costs get out of control would inevitably get into trouble. (That's why service businesses tend to do so well-- low overhead.) This is how I try to manage the household finances, too, replacing 'discretionary spending' for 'variable costs'. Keeping our 'fixed costs' down lets us sleep easy, without worrying so much (about getting layed off, hurt, sick, etc) because we could cover what we have to on less. Sure, I blow a lot of money on my morning mochas and too many trips to Barnes&Noble, but I could just as easily stop doing that, should I need to. Whereas a mortgage payment is the fixiest of fixed costs.

To top that off, Don and I are still trying our darndest to start a family (some nights we try harder than others, but still). If--when-- we have a baby, I want the option of staying home and not returning to work. I'm not sure yet if that's what I want to do (maybe 95%) but I want the option. To simultaneously increase our fixed costs and decrease our income would be crazy/impossible. I used to believe that buying a home would be a good thing to do before baby comes along, a good first step, but now I'm starting to think they're incompatible. I'd much rather rent with the option of not working, than be forced to stay at my job by an inforgiving house payment.

Then, there's the whole other issue of time. How long are we going to stay in this area? Don's original idea (before the housing market got all depressed) was to buy a house and if we decide to move in another two years, no problem-- we just sell, and pocket the profit. It's not likely that this location, as much as I like it, was ever going to be permanent. (Don has no room for growth in his career and no intention of remaining where his is; he promised this hotel at least three years because they could see from his resume that he tends to move up into a new position every few years and they understandably didn't want him leap-frogging too soon.) The way the market looks right now, though, indicates that nobody should buy that isn't prepared to sit tight on their property for awhile. It's easy to see how a house could lose value in the next 2-3 years and even being able to sell at the exact price we payed would still leave us short the transaction costs of buying a home (thousands of dollars)-- twice, not to mention the hassle and headache of all those moves. The whole idea was to be financially smart and make ourselves some money, not lose.

So as much as I'm dreaming of a little cottage with climbing roses** and a luscious vegetable garden, perhaps it needs to wait. And as much as I'm enjoying Virginia, it's time to accept that we'll be moving again in awhile, ideally to somewhere more affordable***.

* according to Sperling's Best Places, updated 10/2007

** I'm thinking of planting an antique climbing rose at our rental house. I don't think our landlord will mind. Or notice. I mean, what if we're in this same house two years from now, and I still have no garden because I didn't plant anything, thinking that we'd just be moving before it could bloom?

*** And yet, I'm not sure we want to move back to Texas, either. Affordable housing just barely balances with the dry heat, endless pavement, and big business there. Don would like to move someplace closer to his parents (as his parents are a lot older than mine, it's an important consideration) than Texas or here.

If They Say So

Your Personality Profile

You are nurturing, kind, and lucky.
Like mother nature, you want to help everyone.
You are good at keeping secrets and tend to be secretive.

A seeker of harmony, you are a natural peacemaker.
You are good natured and people enjoy your company.
You put people at ease and make them feel at home with you.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Whatever Happened to R1 and R2?

For anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's, this graphic was the ultimate symbol of environmental responsibility. Any young student could explain that it stood for Reduce-Reuse-Recycle; the three touchstones of our collective effort to control the rampant spread of waste, both the waste of limited resources and the garbage filling landfills and oceans. Reduce: use fewer resources. Reuse: use items over again instead of buying new. Recycle: process existing items to make them useful again.

So, how did the nifty green triangle come to stand for recycling alone? How did 'Recycle!' end up becoming the dominant battle-cry of the main-stream greenies? Whatever happened to the (even better) policies of reducing and reusing? Recycling is great, don't get me wrong-- it's certainly better than just throwing things away-- but it works better in concert with the other practices. Of the three, recycling uses the most resources to accomplish the same end. To melt down aluminum or glass in order to make fresh cans and bottles is better thanAnd only certain things can be recycled, while essentially anything can be reduced or reused. Reducing and reusing are primarily individual pursuits; recycling requires the involvement of an entire community to be efficient. One can't recycle in a vaccuum.

Call me cynical, but I think there's a profit motive at play somewhere in here. There is no money to be made from reducing. If I decide to not buy any new clothes this spring (to just re-wear last year's springy clothes- a shocking, revolutionary idea!), it profits exactly nobody... well, except me, of course, by the money I would be saving. Likewise, if I reuse something, whether by continuing to use it as intended, or by re-purposing it to do something else, nobody makes any money from my decision. But recycling is part of a huge system, and there must be profits involved in there somewhere, right? Products made from recycled goods are certainly more expensive than otherwise; whether that's just the increased cost being passed to the consumer, or incorporates a profit is hard to determine. And of course, companies that use "green practices" get a public-relations boost that is hard to quantify in dollars. Recycling can fit into the corporate model of growth, growth, growth because it doesn't endorse consuming less, but how could reducing or reusing? They are squarely at odds with increased consumption by representing shrinking (or at least level) use.

Housing magazines today never fail to incude a "building green" section or article. Building green is huge now! It's exiting and innovative. But they rarely mention that it is more "green" to reuse or repurpose an existing building instead of breaking new ground; even remodels tend to look like complete re-builds. Nor do they confess that the smaller the footprint, the "greener" the building, just by virtue of using fewer materials in the construction and less energy later on in heating and cooling. Sure, it's great to use Forest Certified wood from a responsibly harvested forest, but if it's going into a 3,500 sqft house meant for two or three residents, isn't it kind of missing the point?

The same goes for everything else. Using post-consumer-recycled paper in your office is lovely, but putting in place policies to reduce the number of sheets used a day would be more effective. Organic cotton sheets and T-shirts? Very "green"; organic growing practices reduce the pesticide, herbicide, and nitrogen loads on the planet. But just reusing or rewearing what's already lurking in the linen closet or dresser drawer is even better. Imagine if everyone bought one fewer set of sheets, or two fewer t-shirts this year. Maybe, eventually, less cotton would be planted at all; plus we'd all save fifty bucks.
Another interesting trend is that as recycling of some products has increased, the number of disposable products on the market has exploded. I don't know if there's a connection there or not, but dozens of things that would be considered permanent and reusable twenty years ago are now one-use items. Mops and dustrags are now disposable Swiffers. The old toilet brush is now a one-use, chemically laden Clorox Toilet Wands. Disposable wipes, which used to just clean poo off baby bottoms, now wipe down kitchen counters and shower walls. Not to mention that the old cloth-vs-disposable diaper debate has died to a whisper, with disposables now being so fully acceptable that it's cloth diapers that raise eyebrows, even though the only study suggesting any environmental equality between the two was sponsored by the disposable corporations. 'Disposable' has become a stand-in for 'hygenic'. Was the old way really so filthy? When my dad used a dishcloth to wipe down the kitchen counter at night, was he subjecting us kids to horrific, animated germies? Perhaps there's no correlation between recycling and disposable products, but I feel that perhaps, as we feel vindicated by carefully sorting cans, bottles, and newspaper out of the garbage, we make room (in the can and in our rationale) for more trash.

As for me, I want to put all three R's back into the sign. Embrace recycling, but stop neglecting poor old Reuse and Reduce.

Monday, February 04, 2008

In case anyone was having a grey, wintry day.