Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Used To It (More Rambling About Eating Well)

I don't really care about calories. I mean, not usually. This is evidenced by the brunch I've treated myself to after sleeping in--three chocolate chip cookies (made with almond extract instead of vanilla since I was out of vanilla, and oh! a welcome change!) and two bottles of mocha frappuccino. I suppose in the big picture sense I care about calories--I care that there are so many packed into so much of what America eats, that so much of these calorie dense foods are placed on plates and in fast food packaging and called a normal portion size--but I don't care on a personal level. I don't want to care, at least, and I'm getting fairly successful at this. At the end of each day, I used to compulsively go over everything I'd eaten and about how many calories it was, and it was both exhausting and unproductive. Counting calories never kept me from eating what I wanted, and in fact, I think it made me so obsessive about food that I ate more than I would have if I'd just given myself the freedom to eat good food when I want to eat it. Which is not to say that bottles of frappuccino are good food, but the list of ingredients is short (just six, all recognizable and pronounceable), and I make allowances in some areas.

And yet I think one of the main reasons that Americans are getting ever larger is because we have accepted that what we are fed by corporations is appropriate. The pull of marketing is strong; how many people know what it really means to eat an Angus burger, yet are pulled in by the marketing of such a burger, assuming it's better because it's writ large on a sign outside McDonald's? Angus is just a breed of cow, still living its last days out in a CAFO, still slaughtered en masse and shaped by machine into perfect circles of ground meat. If you haven't watched Food, Inc. yet, I think you should. Add King Corn to that list, and you'll be on a roll. And then start feeding yourself food that hasn't been dominated by people who only want your money, who care little, if at all, for your health or well being.

I still forget how weird we are when it comes to our eating (and other) habits; every day I forget. When you do something long enough, it seems normal. We have some conventional items (see frappuccino above), but they conform to certain standards we have set for ourselves (pronounceable, recognizable ingredients, and not many of them, for one). I find myself surprised when I open cabinets and freezers at work and see all the items that most of America still consumes. I don't feel like I eat any better than anyone else when it comes to sugar level (in fact, that is probably higher than it should be, I'll admit) or amount of food, and yet it isn't hard for me to stay relatively slender. More and more, I don't think that my style of eating and the ease with which I stay at a steady weight are coincidence. There is a study that now shows that high fructose corn syrup really is worse for you than table sugar. That's a big one--because of our excess production of corn, it's been put into nearly every conventional food product available, and you'll be hard pressed to find sweet drinks without it.

Yet times are changing; I see it every day, and it makes me hopeful. I love what Jamie Oliver is doing with his Food Revolution. I love that so many people are reading Michael Pollan and taking to heart what he has to say. I love that there are more and more organic and locally farmed items available, and that more and more companies are taking note of what a growing number of us want our food to look like. The way of capitalism is to vote with your dollar. We might be strange for voting with more of our dollars toward food than most Americans find acceptable within their cable television, buy-a-bigger place, have-an-extra-car budgets, but we really don't mind. After all this time, we are used to being odd.

Really, I'm not sure I've ever been normal.

Right, Mom?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary

SUMMERBIRD EDITION

tuesday, march 30, 2010

Click on the pic to see the details!

In other news, today is perfect. I kind of gave myself blisters in those shoes by walking around the Plaza in them, but it was just so beautiful out that I didn't care. I had a surprise work day yesterday which meant that I got today off, and all the stress of having to show up at work on a day I thought I had free has melted away in the goodness of this day. I'm wearing pants that haven't fit this comfortably for ages. My visit with Old Lady Mary was sublime. My talk with my good friend that lives around the corner was encouraging and thought provoking. The tights I bought on sale at Anthropologie filled a gaping hole in my wardrobe. And finally, Johnnie Boden sent me an e-mail saying that everything in his shop was on sale for me, with free shipping and free returns, so I took a deep breath and ordered the coat I've been stalking (in purple).

I am home now, with my house shoes on (yes, I am your grandmother), doing laundry and getting ready to bake cookies and do dishes and make an actual meal. No carrots and hummus and pretzels for dinner tonight! Jamie Cullum is singing to me from the computer. Life is rocking and rolling right along. I love it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Make it Work Monday: Drink More Water

Let's face it: you don't drink enough water. Neither do I. And you've probably read a ton of articles about how much you need and how to make sure you get it. They'll tell you to always keep water with you and drink at least eight glasses a day. Has this worked for you? It hasn't worked for me. I get busy, and I forget to drink a glass of water from time to time or something else seems more important or the water is simply too far away. Here's what I'm doing that works:

Every time I'm hungry, I have a glass of water while I figure out what to eat. Then I have a glass of water with whatever I eat.

This works for me because if I am looking for something to eat, I'm likely in the kitchen, and it's easy to just grab a cup of water first thing, then refill it when I get my food. If I'm out of the house and am going to get something to eat at a purveyor of fine foods*, it's pretty simple to order a glass of water along with the food, even if I'm also ordering another drink**. Of course in this instance, I'd only get one glass, but most places will give you a big glass if you ask nicely.

And that's it! Simple, no?

*We all know I'm talking about buying a pastry at Starbucks.
**We all also know that I'm talking about coffee.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary: Way Late Edition

Of course I saw Old Lady Mary on Tuesday, and of course I took a photo of the outfit, and of course I...totally dropped the ball.

tuesday, march 23, 2010

I'm going to start doing Tuesdays with Old Lady Mary bit differently; because I add a description on Flickr, including where I got all the items, I'll just remind you to click on the photo for details. So click on the photo for details!

...

In other news, there is no other news. Life rolls on as usual, with my usual being that my schedule is different every week. In theory, each family has me work the same schedule each week, but life is busy for everyone, so there's always at least one family that needs to change something up. I am handling this*, but very much looking forward to a time when so much work won't be necessary, whenever that might be.

*By eating pastries at Starbucks.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Make it Work Monday: Agreeing to Disagree

I'd like to open by warning you that I will likely say some things initially that many of you will disagree with; I hope you'll stick around until the end anyhow.

Around here we're pretty excited about healthcare reform passing late last night. One of the things that resonated with us as Obama supporters was his commitment to healthcare for all Americans. I was a little discouraged last August, when it looked like it might never happen, when people were saying he should just focus on the economy and making claims about death panels. We believe that everyone deserves quality healthcare, that no one should be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition or have their insurance dropped because they are sick. We are against federal funding for abortion, and we are pleased with the deal struck between Bart Stupak and President Obama, in which the Hyde Amendment is upheld. As far as we are concerned, this bill is a very good thing.

Not everyone agrees with us.

I know! You are just shocked.

Not only are we in disagreement about the bill being a good thing, but many people do not agree with our assessment of the bill and what it does and does not provide. Particularly in the case of abortion, we've found that many, many people are not on the same side we're on (which is still the anti-abortion side, but not the anti-healthcare side--we're too tricky with this, I guess) and believe quite fervently that this bill will provide federally funded abortions for anyone who would like one. Some have come out with very strong opinions about this, and it has been insinuated that Obama is just like Hitler, that those of us who support Obama and healthcare reform would probably have voted for Hitler if he were running for the President of the United States, and pretty much if we support healthcare reform, we have turned our back on God and the unborn and are headed for destruction. I have been deeply offended by this. So last night, after reading many facebook comments and notes and status updates, I simply posted, "Thank you to everyone who continues to use facebook for fun things and not to condemn others. Seriously. Thank you."

Unfortunately, the timing of my status update and the timing of one of my husband's status updates led a friend, who has not accused us of being Hitler-loving baby killers, to believe that these sentiments were directed at her, as she does disagree with us about the healthcare bill and how it affects abortion funding. She wrote us a heartfelt e-mail saying that she was offended and explaining herself, plus mentioning that I had said some things during the election that hurt her. I was...surprised. I mulled it over while dropping Jarod off at work, then prepared my reply. Because this friend is important to me, and because I believe that we need to do a better job of treating each other like human beings, I wanted to convey to her that I understand her hurt, and if possible, I would like to agree to disagree. In the midst of messages back and forth today, I realized that there are some steps to be taken to effectively agree to disagree. This method is for e-mail correspondence, but could easily be used in a face to face situation. Here are the steps:

1. Issue an apology for any hurt you may have caused during the course of your disagreement, whether it was intended or not.

My knee jerk reaction in these situations is to defend myself, but when you are apologizing, it is not really an apology if you justify your actions. So it goes something like this, "I am sorry for anything I said/did that hurt you." No explanation of why what you said or did is justified, and definitely no accusations. Just. The. Apology. I hurt you. I'm sorry.

2. Repeat back in brief what they've told you, highlighting things you have in common.

Again, it's tempting in these situations to wax poetic regarding your own views and how high minded they are, to attempt to convert the other person to your side. They don't really want to come to your side, so don't do this. In this case, I confirmed that I understood her concern about healthcare since her sister is ill, and that I, too, believe that God cares for the unborn.

3. State your differences respectfully.

"I understand that you believe that (blank) is a good course of action, whereas I believe that (blank) would be effective." Try to avoid using words like better and best when you describe your viewpoint. This is simply an acknowledgment of what you disagree about.

4. Affirm that you value the friendship, and you hope that your common views will compensate for the points on which you disagree.

"I hope that, regardless of our difference in opinion, we can set this aside and focus on the things we enjoy together as friends."

5. Close it up with something nice.

If you are close to the person, by all means, close with "Love, (your name)." If it's an officemate or someone to whom you are less close, "Kind regards" works nicely.

In my experience, it is incredibly hard to keep my mouth shut entirely about things which I feel well-informed and/or passionate. The more I practice, the easier it gets, and I hope that by these experiences my compassion and understanding for other human beings increases, and my need to be right and make others see my point decreases. I'd like nothing better than for all of us to start treating each other like human beings instead of like adversaries. There is not one of us who is right about everything, who will not in his or her lifetime change positions on various issues and ideas. Let's treat each other like we know that deeply.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Forward Motion

I'm engaging in my usual battle today, the one between resting while I have the chance and feeling like I should get a lot of things done. If we weren't saving for adoption and kid-related expenses, I would go to Starbucks and get a venti and just attack my tasks. But the truth is that I do need to take some time to rest, and I also need to save some money. We've got a short wish list of things that we'd like to have for the baby, and there's just one thing left on it. We're halfway to being able to order it, and wouldn't it be a shame if my Starbucks hankerings were the thing to derail being able to take video of our daughter in HD?

I know that we still have awhile to wait, but for whatever reason, having these things makes me feel better. Prepared. As if I am moving forward. The two things I must do today are finish grant applications and make appointments for travel immunizations. Move forward. We can't do much now to speed things along, and the practical side of me doesn't want to, nor does my gut, which says not yet, it's not time just yet, but we can be ever moving forward in small ways. So I'll stay in my pajamas a bit longer and finish up what can be finished up, and later I will wander the aisles of Target and see if there's anything on clearance that we will certainly need for our baby, no matter what size she is or what season she comes home. Because it makes me feel better. And more prepared.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Right?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary

As I was getting dressed today, I thought, "It's kind of like spring out there; I can probably wear a spring-ish cardigan and have bare legs." But then I looked at the temperature and considered that I'd get an earful from Old Lady Mary for dressing like a summerbird, so I put on something warmer. It was too cold to go bare-legged, and I thanked Mary when I saw her for being concerned for my warmth, as it was more the possibility of a lecture than the temperature that made up my mind.

tuesday, march 16, 2010

Before I left, I took a photo of just the outfit without the jacket on top, but Mary caressed the lining and exclaimed over its perfection with such joy that I had to come home and take one with the jacket on. Mary is in love with this jacket, apparently, though I did also get high marks for the sweater, which is black and features a bit of red, which she reminds me each week is her favorite color combination. I've got a fine idea for what I'll wear next week, all red and black and some argyle to boot. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really hope it's cool enough next Tuesday to wear tights.

I know, I know. If my wish comes true, feel free to despise me for the day. I'll deserve your ire.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Make it Work Monday: Finding Time to Work Out

I know that a lot of people aren't really fans of working out, and some of you are so good at maintaining a healthy weight without workouts that I am stunned. I guess you're just better at passing up bear claws and goat cheese than I am. But regardless of whether you are at a healthy weight or not, it is good for everyone to get some exercise; contrary to what most glossy magazines will tell you, exercising is about more than just having totally ripped abs. (I exercise religiously and don't have totally ripped abs. Because I like to eat food. On a regular basis.) Because of the aforementioned penchant for pastries and cheese, I choose to work out pretty intensely most days of the week in order that my current wardrobe will continue to fit. But even I have my limits, and in order to feel good about how much I'm working out and also to encourage myself to fit it into my schedule, I've developed a system of sorts.

Before we get to the official system, I'd like to say a few words about timing of the workout. I find that it's really handy to know and accept whether you are more of a morning person or night person. I find it really difficult to work out in the morning; not only do I have less inclination to start a workout, it's just plain harder to get through it. My energy is lower, and this makes sense since I am a night owl. So for me, afternoon, evening, or night workouts are best. If you are a morning person, you might find that getting up at a time that most people would consider to be pure madness works for you. We recently had a houseguest for three weeks, and one night when I announced that I was about to work out, she looked at me, befuddled, "You're starting now? Even though it's 9:22pm?" And I was. In fact, sometimes I start later than that, depending on how early I have to get up the next morning. Other considerations for scheduling include if I'm caring for children and if they have a naptime. Sometimes working out during naptime works brilliantly, and even though I can always think of twelve other things I can be doing and am tempted to do those things instead, I find that I am always glad I chose the workout over folding laundry. I can fold laundry with children in the room; doing jump squats is not always advised, particularly if the children are small and prone to getting into everything that's not nailed down or too high to reach.

My official system is simply to define three levels of weekly workout in terms of number of workouts you'd like to do as well as intensity. There's the Ideal, the Real, and the It'll Do. For most weeks, the goal is to have the Ideal and Real be the same, with the It'll Do number reserved for unforeseen circumstances. For example, during a normal week at this time of year, my Ideal and Real workout goal is to do five fairly intense workouts. As spring descends upon us, I'll also add that I'd like to do some light, productive exercise out doors two times a week, such as bicycling somewhere I need to go anyway or gardening. The It'll Do workout schedule for normal weeks is four fairly intense workouts and light outdoor exercise as my schedule allows.

When I'm looking at a medium stress week, such as when I've got one or two extra activities or a heavier work schedule than usual, I'll keep the Ideal workout schedule, but adjust both the Real and It'll Do schedules to reflect the greater demands on my time and energy. For medium stress weeks, the Real becomes four fairly intense workouts with outdoor workouts if I have time randomly, and the It'll Do schedule is simply three fairly intense workouts.

For a high stress week, all expectations are lowered. Ideal moves to four solid workouts, Real becomes three workouts plus counting doing the laundry as exercise, and It'll Do becomes two workouts and/or outdoor activities. When I'm stressed out anyway, the last thing I need to be doing is beating myself up for not getting in enough workouts. If I meet the It'll Do requirements, I give myself a high five and congratulate myself for not collapsing in a heap.

I find that having these three levels and three different scenarios for the kind of week I'm facing allows me to lighten up. Often just giving myself permission to work out less gives me an extra bump of energy, and I find that I am able to work out more than I thought I'd be able to. I am also realistic about the kinds of workouts that are feasible. If you don't work out a lot already, it simply wouldn't do to set your Ideal at running three miles a day, five days per week. But walking on your lunch hour or throwing the kids in the stroller to walk somewhere nearby? Doable. Don't be afraid to be honest with yourself about where you are in terms of fitness and what is truly workable for you. Just because someone else can run seven miles four times a week and do two spin classes doesn't mean that you should be able to. If exercising at all is a huge hurdle for you, start small, and then feel proud of yourself when you meet your modest goals.

I must admit that I am really excited about spring arriving. While I've become really attached to my Jillian Michaels DVDs, I look forward to incorporating outdoor pursuits into my routine. Long live spring!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Keep Believing

I'm still mulling over the changes in Ethiopian adoption law, that whole two trips instead of one deal. We are discussing a variety of options, and I will probably continue to talk about it and talk about it until we figure out what will work for us. Because so much of this is a financial issue for us, and because we've yet to observe any families going through the new process, a lot will remain unknown for quite some time. As I stated in my last post, in my dream world, I would be able to stay in Ethiopia between court and embassy dates. But a lot of things would have to fall into place for this to happen, and our agency does not recommend it besides. The length of time that I would need to stay would be unpredictable. If we pass court on the first go, it looks like it would be about a month, maybe six weeks between the two dates, but there are a number of things that could go awry and that have, in fact, gone awry for adopting families in the past. So there's that.

But I still want to do it.

I'm just sayin'.

Not that I will, but I won't count it out as a possibility just yet.

(I am a fan of stupid ideas. This is perfect for me!)

Either way, the process has gotten a lot more expensive, as in four thousand dollars more expensive. But we are not dismayed by this so much as we look at it as a problem to be solved. I know a lot of families have been completely undone by this news, but for us, well, let's just face it: we're sort of going out on a limb to believe we can afford this at all. When we're looking at figuring out where more than $20,000 will come from already, adding 20% more to it just doesn't seem like that much of a stretch. I mean, we were already believing the impossible. Why not just keep believing?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Late Night Wishes

We received some interesting information from our adoption agency today, and by "interesting," I mean "perplexing enough to keep me up at night." Oh, hi, it's 1:20am, and I am not the least bit sleepy. The news is that, effective today (er, yesterday), adoptive parents are now required to be present at the court hearing in Ethiopia for the adoption of their children. Before this news, our power of attorney would have represented us in court, and we would have shown up only for our embassy appointment. Our daughter would be legally ours before we ever met her. But with these new requirements, one or both of us (we're not sure, frankly) will need to travel two times to adopt our daughter. The first time will be to appear in court, and the second time will be to appear at the U.S. Embassy to receive approval to bring our daughter home to the United States. I'm trying to accentuate the positive in this situation, recognizing that two trips to Ethiopia will allow us to see and experience more of our daughter's country and culture of origin, but it also presents significant obstacles. On the practical side, there's the expense of two separate trips to account for. On the emotional side, there's the prospect of meeting our daughter and having to leave her in Ethiopia for a time until our embassy appointment is arranged.

I don't think I can do that second part. The plane ticket expense? Fine. Done. We will sell our kidneys if we have to. But the second part, the part where we see her and hold her and look into her eyes and know who she is, only to leave...well. I don't think I can do it.

I don't want to do it.

And so I have this wild and crazy idea that maybe I could just stay in Ethiopia between the two trips. Judging from other adoptive families' timelines, there's usually about a month in between. I want to stay in Ethiopia for that month.

I don't know how to make that happen, and putting it out there for everyone to read makes it seem a little far-fetched. I'm not even sure if we could receive the OK from our agency to do this. This is all new, so there are a lot of questions that cannot be answered at this time, and protocol for this simply does not exist. But one thing I took away from Mondo Beyondo is that it is good to say our dreams out loud. So here it is, internet:

My dream is to stay with our daughter in Ethiopia once she is legally ours, to mother her until we can bring her home.

That is all.

Okay, well, except also I kind of hope that she's a petite little introvert. Don't worry, though; we'll still love her if she's a gigantic extrovert. We'll love her lots and lots and lots. We'll love her to the end of the universe and back. It will be no trouble. No trouble at all.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary

It's always the things I don't care about that impress Mary. For instance, today she looooved the jacket I was wearing, but of course I did not take a photo with it on because it was not part of my official ensemble.

tuesday, march 9, 2010

She gave a brief nod to the spring colors, but didn't even notice my adorable Camper Twins. She spent all her time talking about how she was the first one to say I was just like a model, and no one else can lay claim to that because she said it first. First! She told Nicole and Carrie and no one else said it first! Yes, yes, Mary, FIRST! GOT IT.

Life with Old Lady Mary is a bit like listening to a broken record. But still I'm going to wear those shoes again next week and hope she notices.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Make it Work Monday: Sometimes You Just Give Up

I'm all about self improvement and doing things differently and better as we go along, but I'd like to take this moment, when I am feeling overwhelmed with the stuff of life, to tell you that sometimes making life work simply means taking the night or the week or the month off from making an effort. Sometimes it's okay to tell everyone that you won't be cooking dinner after all, even if part of what you've been purposing to do better is to eat well at home. If you have money, the fix here is to order in. If not, the fix is to make yourself some toast and tell the other people to forage for whatever they can find.

One thing I've discovered along the way is that there are some things about myself that I cannot change, and making life work better is all about working with and around those things. Right now the thing I am working around is that I am an introvert who has had far too little time to herself lately. It is better not just for me but for everyone I come into contact with if I do not wear myself out further by doing unnecessary tasks. You know, like making dinner.

Take the night off, everybody. You deserve it.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Oh, Nothing. Nevermind.

I had written something else entirely, but instead I would like to say just these things:

1. I am not complaining about a good many things I would like very much to be complaining about, and as nice and transformative and positive as that sounds, I really am not enjoying growing as a person in this way.

2. I am doing more adoption related paperwork, this time for grant applications. I believe I am doing a terrible job, and therefore they will not give us any money.

3. I am tired in ways I can't explain. See #1 for lack of details.

If you think of me, send thoughts of relief my way. I do find it's true that every time I think I'm going to lose it completely, there is just enough of whatever I need to get me through. So that's good, I think.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

This Tuesday with Old Lady Mary

My work hours have changed somewhat, and I am now working Tuesday afternoons, but I decided to keep seeing Old Lady Mary on Tuesdays, just in the morning now instead of the afternoon.

tuesday, march 2, 2010

Last time I wore this skirt, Mary asked if I were getting fat, so I was a little wary today and even chose a more slimming shirt to make the point that no, I am not getting fat right now. She didn't say a word to that effect, but instead declared as I walked in, "Why you're dressed like a summer bird!" I pointed out that my coat was still wool, albeit shorter, and that I was still wearing long sleeves and tights. She would have none of it. Apparently, if I'm wearing anything other than boots and a long, thick coat, I am in summer bird territory. I wonder what she'll call me when I'm really dressed for summer?

The bracelets I'm wearing got rave reviews thanks to a little bird charm on the pink one, but this quickly led to what must have been at least ten stories about things that happened when she was feeding the birds or on her way to feed the birds or meeting people who, as it turns out, also feed birds. I've heard most of these stories before, but she enjoys telling them, and it's certainly better than when she is highlighting the ways her life is full of trouble, so I'll take it. Bird stories for everyone!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Make it Work Monday: Use Less Plastic

I don't like plastic for a number of reasons, and what I find is that at least one of those reasons will resonate with most people. For you liberals, we have the pollution of oceans (floating plastic mass the size of Texas, anyone?) and the rest of the planet, since plastic is not biodegradable, and for you conservatives, we have the fact that plastic is made from petroleum, and you'd be hard pressed to avoid all that foreign oil and ensure that your plastics were domestically produced. Unfortunately for all of us, plastic is everywhere, and frankly, it's also pretty handy. I'll be the first to admit that there are some plastic items that I have yet to find an alternative for (particularly for freezing things), but every small change gets us closer to the goal of zero petroleum based plastic. While plastic is recyclable, it does require a bit of new plastic to make fresh items from that recycled plastic, so optimally, using as little plastic as possible and reusing what you get is the best way to ensure that there is less petroleum based plastic* created. We still use plastic in our home, but we've made the following changes and find that there's a lot less of it floating around.

1. Choose to purchase products with as little plastic packaging as possible. For me, this means that I chose safflower oil instead of canola because it came in a glass bottle, that I take my own reusable bulk bags and purchase from the bulk aisle instead of the pre-packaged aisles (this also saves money, as much as a dollar per pound on many items), and that I buy larger sized containers as opposed to single serving containers. If there's a non-plastic option, I take it. Of course this also applies to taking my own reusable bags everywhere. Additionally, if I'm buying produce, I simply don't use a bag.

2. Invest in glass storage containers. You can often find these at thrift stores. I've compromised and allowed glass containers with plastic lids since I know that I will reuse those over and over again. Unlike lids on Gladware and the like, these lids are made to last. I particularly like this set of twelve dishes from Crate and Barrel; these would work well for small bits of pre-chopped whatever (usually onion, in our house) and would also likely do just fine in the freezer.

3. Don't buy bottled water. Not only is the plastic made from petroleum, but it takes a lot of petroleum to transport that water. The bottles are only designed for a single use, so it's a lose-lose issue. Take a reusable bottle with you and fill it from the tap or a water fountain. We use stainless steel bottles and are quite happy with them. If you drop them, they dent, but that just shows that you are committed, right? Right.

4. Use non-plastic bags for transporting snacks and lunch foods. We use waxed paper bags, which are biodegradable, and you can also find a bevy of attractive reusable snack bags on sites like Etsy.

5. Take your own reusable cup to the coffee shop. I'll freely admit that I'm still working on this one, having had a hard time finding a cup that is the right size. But that's just an excuse, and I am on the hunt for a cup to have filled with my favorite iced beverage. Promise.

6. Use biodegradable trash bags. Yes, they are more expensive. However, through a combination of recycling, reusing, and composting, we have a single bag each week that goes to the curb. For what you spend each week on your biodegradable bags, you couldn't even buy a cheap cup of coffee. Just throw some of those bags in your cart already.

7. Keep looking for alternatives to plastic. We have so many options available to us for almost everything we consume; with a minimum of effort, you can find good swaps for your usual plastic habits.

I'm sure I'm leaving about twenty kajillion things out. What do you use instead of plastic? Share your tips!

*The very first plastics were made from plant matter, and you will find that there are plastics of that sort available today if you look for them. A basic search for biodegradable plastic cups on Amazon reveals a variety of options.