Monday, March 31, 2014

No Car, No Problem. . . An Urban Solution!

So, what do you do if you need to go to Home Depot to buy a large pot for your overgrown Norfork Pine, plus a couple of bags of (heavy) potting soil -- and you don't have a car? No friends or relatives live nearby to give you a lift; no neighbors with a car, either.  Home Depot is only a half mile away so walking is easy enough, but what about on the way back?

You might feel stuck, unless you live in a public transportation mecca like New York City, or across the Hudson in Jersey City, like Drew and I. The subway is 8-minutes away, a ferry to Lower Manhattan a brisk 12-minute walk, and taxis are always an option.  But the subway and ferry are in the opposite direction from Home Depot, and a taxi?  No need. We're young-ish, fit-ish, and we have. . . a handcart!

When we lived in Moscow, the vast majority of people pulling a handcart were babushkas, older women, much older than I, who ambled slowly down sidewalks pulling their carts behind them.
"Never!" I thought. "I will never be seen pulling one of those carts."
A tote bag or sak purse were stylishly acceptable, but a handcart? Give me another twenty years.

Then we moved to NYC.

Whole Foods, the most upscale, preppy, organically and sustainably fashionable place to grocery shop in Lower Manhattan - where we first lived -  actually sells handcarts. Young parents and professional Wall Streeters buy and use them.  Can it be that babushkas have been years ahead of the game, trend setters in schlepping, all this time?

Finally recognizing the coolness of a handcart, I bought one. The loveliest color, of course. My shoulders, biceps and triceps, which had been begging, relentlessly, for one, thanked me profusely.

The Home Depot trip this weekend was the test. Could the handcart handle heavy, fragile and BIG, at the same time? Uneven sidewalks, jarring curbs, sneaky pot holes? We would see.
(Drew - Schlepper, Twylla- Photographer)

Step One -
Pack up and check out
Will it fit?

Step Two -
Over the first curb,
So far, so good!



Step Three -
Maneuvering traffic. . .
Take a right before
the tunnel!


Step Four -
 Not only did the handcart do a 100%, A+, totally terrific job, but it looked sharp at the same time!
 Not nearly as sharp, though, as the man pulling it. 
Even babushkas would be impressed.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Elephant In the Room Needs Our Help

My husband, Drew, and I spent an evening recently learning about elephants, specifically African elephants, killed for their tusks. It's not an event we would have routinely attended had it not been for an Arkansas connection, Chelsea Clinton. Although she and her parents now live in New York, we shared the same state when President Clinton was Governor Clinton.  We have seen Chelsea grow up in the media and respect the work she does and causes she supports, particularly as Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation. Partnership to Save Africa's Elephants is a Clinton Global Initiative.

(photo credit Joshua Young)
The panel discussion, moderated by Chelsea, was held at the Deepak Chopra HomeBase at ABC Carpet and Home Store. This unique gathering space on the mezzanine of a busy retail store, is where I attended the exhibit of Thich Nhat Hanh's meditative calligraphy in December.  For the current event, the walls were lined with photographs of elephants taken by National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Beverly Joubert.  Elephants going about the daily business of their lives, unaware that their ivory tusks have marked them as targets by poachers.

 *Facts are staggering:
- The population of African elephants has dropped from 1.2 million in 1980 to 420,000 in 2012.
- Approximately one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its tusks; at this rate, African elephants could  become extinct within the next decade.
- Savannah elephant tusks sell for up to $1000 per pound, with forest elephant ivory often fetching an even higher price.
- Within the last ten years, 1000 park rangers in 35 different countries have been killed in their efforts to stop poachers.
(*All facts reported and cited in Chelsea Clinton's blog, "How We Can End the Elephant Poaching Crisis.")

When I listen to such grand scale devastation, so far away and complex, I feel helpless -- as when I hear  of children killed in Syria, women raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,  rainforests destroyed in Africa, Asia, South America. . . and on  and on. I'm grateful that people with name recognition, power and resources heighten awareness and work toward change.

The African elephants' influential friends include the African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, other NGOs, governments and concerned citizens.  All coordinated under the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action.

Together they are dedicated to:
  • STOP the killing
  • STOP the trafficking
  • STOP the demand
To halt the decline of African elephants by the end of 2016.

Yet, the elephants need more friends, "everyday" friends.  As one of the people in the room that night, who is now aware of the situation, I have a choice. I can walk away, or commit to doing something, anything to help.

My feeling of  helplessness only becomes a reality if I choose to believe the whiny voice that says, "You can't do anything. You're just one person."

So I developed my own two-prong action plan --
- I will not purchase (or accept) any ivory products and will encourage others to do the same.
- I will write a blog posting (this one) to share what I have learned.

Now that you are aware, please consider passing on what you know to at least one other person. 
Share Chelsea's blog
Share this blog.
If you're in NYC, attend a function and learn more:

Through March 31 - The African Elephant - photography exhibit (free) by Beverly Joubert 
 Both events at ABC Home in Deepak HomeBase - 888 Broadway

Thank you!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Giants Born in Tiny Houses

I've recently become interested in tiny houses. In fact, I bought a book titled, The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses.

They're intentionally built to be tiny. That's their appeal. I can imagine one in our backyard in Arkansas, among a gathering of oak trees. . . my writer's house! A desk, chair, woven rug, cute curtains, a window box, porch. I can totally picture it in my mind.

On my trip to walk labyrinths in Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi last week, I detoured to visit two tiny houses.  Not the architecturally appealing "dollhouse" versions of my imagination, but structures that real people called home. As I snapped pictures, I tried to visualize living in them, with a family.  Cooking, sleeping, eating, playing, bathing, even toileting when a trek to the outhouse seemed like too big a bother.  These houses were tiny out of necessity, not design. They were all the occupants could afford.

A boy was born in each house. One in Hodgenville, Kentucky, the other in Tupelo, Mississippi - 168 years apart.
Each boy would grow up to become icons of American history and culture. 
A president and a "king."

 On the surface, they certainly have little in common. Yet "humble" is a descriptor that appears repeatedly at each man's birthplace, "humble beginnings."  Humble which could more accurately be translated as "poor."
Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home (replica) - Knob Creek, Kentucky
Lincoln's story has always intrigued me. A boy who walked two miles to school with his sister, Sarah, for two years. . . only. Two years of formal education in his entire life. Self-taught for the rest. A man who wrote some of the most eloquent words in history and whose leadership held a divided country together.
I stood at his boyhood cabin, about 10 miles down the road from his birthplace, and looked out at the same fields, mountains, and creek that he looked at.

Elvis Presley's birthplace - Tupelo, Mississippi
Elvis' story was less familiar. A boy who finished high school but never received formal music training. He learned to play guitar from relatives and his pastor. A man whose unique blending of the music that surrounded him created a whole new style and transformed the culture of a budding generation.
I sat in a pew at the Assembly of God church where he sat with his parents on Sunday mornings and listened to music, that he listened to.

At each place, I wondered. . .
What did two young boys take away
from their tiny houses,
from the families with whom they shared them,
from the worlds of Knob Creek, of Tupelo?

What did they take away from those humble beginnings that shaped who they were, and who they became?

Perseverance, Resilience, Determination -- to be sure. But as I walked away from each house, I felt something more, something stronger. . .

their ability to dream.



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