Life Before Air Conditioning

vintage_air_condition I’ve run the Mothership” around here for years, and have lived through a litany of complaints from my kids about the rising heat and the need for air conditioning.

“Why don’t we put in a pool like Rebecca’s family?” Not. “It’s too hot to go out, we’ll just watch TV all day.” Not. “We can’t sleep upstairs, the walls are melting. We’re sleeping downstairs on the couch.” OK.

And like all parents, I pull the generational "before you were born" -thing with my kids:

“When we were young, we ran through the sprinkler...A little sweat didn’t kill us...Have you ever heard of a fan?” 

Then came my final stand, “Do you know Americans use twice as much energy air-conditioning our homes than we did 20 years ago…and more than the rest of the world’s nations combined?” 

Although I live in what is considered to be a cooler Northeast climate, the rising temperature in my neck of the woods has left me sweltering.

I threw eco-caution to the wind and started my own whiny campaign to bring air conditioning into my home. Come hell or high water, and both seemed to be happening, I needed cool air to think straight. I tried rationalizing my case to my ultra-conservationist husband.

Me: “Do you know how much extra laundry I’m doing cleaning sweat-soaked sheets, tee-shirts and towels? Running the dryer day and night will kill the environment. An air conditioner could help!”

Husband: “You’re exaggerating, my dear. And the electricity generated to power air conditioning carries a larger environmental consequence. In burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas to supply electricity to homes and workplaces, power plants discharge clouds of soot and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Among these are mercury and carbon dioxide. Did you know air conditioner use in the U.S. results in an average of about 100 million tons of CO2 emissions from power plants every year ? Also, you emailed me this blog post, 10 Design Tips To Help You Live Without (Or Use Less) Air Conditioning"

Me: “Pleeeze, don’t throw posts back at me, I’m a blogger. Bloggers can make anything sound sexy. I can’t work. My keyboard is damp…sticky. I’m sure the Apple manual clearly states, moisture on the keyboard will not be covered under warranty.”

Husband: “Air conditioning is a twisted way to stay cool. If you want to stop warming the planet why would you want artificial cooling? There’s nothing natural about that.”

At this point, guilt got the better of me and I gave up, realizing it was just too damn hot to bicker.

Then it happened. After hours of pushing a hand mower (4 acres of grass and no riding mower...of course) in the latest brutal heat wave, my sweet husband’s defensive brain fried, and he ran to the hardware store and bought one of those portable air conditioners.

Kidding aside, in the age of climate change, can we possibly put air conditioners into the deep freeze? Probably not. My family held out as long as we could, but bucking a culture that is not making the connection that what we’re sending up into our atmosphere is reigning down on us in the form of hot and hazardous weather, is a daunting prospect. But if we adjust our ethos, and take serious measures to power our homes (and air conditioners), using clean renewable energy – wind and solar, and stand with President Obama's ambitious climate action plan to stop global warming, we have a fighting chance.

Will our leaders compromise and put an end to the warming trend? Or will our kids have to sweat it out hugging air conditioners instead of trees?

Are The Kids Alright?

mother_child_sad The senseless act of violence against innocent people in Boston this week, once again leaves us mourning the loss of lives, worrying about the injured, and asking hard questions – Why? Who? What will happen next?

I jump every time the phone rings. Both my kids live in the Boston area. One has been in lock down twice this week…phone lines down…afraid to go outside. And like so many, I’m finding the heartbreaking stories and images of the bombings at the Boston Marathon difficult to view and comprehend. Yet, who can look away?

What about the children? How do we explain such unimaginable tragedy to children? How do they process an event that in our wildest dreams we could not even imagine happening? How do we help kids cope?

"It's very difficult. The first thing you do is check in with your own emotions. Because you can guarantee whatever you're feeling, your kids are feeling as well." ~ Dr. Janet Taylor, community psychiatrist, Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry at Harlem Hospital

One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a teacher after 9/11 was that children develop a deep sense of empathy when they are given the tools to cope with difficult circumstances.

There may not be one prescribed road map to reassure children that they are safe, but here are 5 wonderful resources leading the way:

1. National Association of School Psychologists: A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

2. American Psychological Association: Helping Your Kids Manage Stress In The Aftermath

3. Boston Mamas: Five Certainties Following The Boston Marathon Bombings

4. Parents: Boston Marathon Explosions: Be In Control of What Your Child Will Hear and See

5. After the Boston Marathon Explosions, What Parents Should Do

Our kids live in a difficult world right now. While they may not experience physical injuries, emotional wounds can run deep. Let’s take this horrific tragedy and encourage our kids to deepen their feelings of empathy...and please give your kids a hug.

Evolution Of Mom Dancing (video)

I can't dance. There, I said it.

Given the right conditions, I can carry a tune. But dancing? Not so much.

Well, I thought I could not dance until I saw Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama mirror my, "Oh no, I have to get up and dance" moves.

Michelle is promoting her "Let’s Move campaign.

After the dance, Michelle told Jimmy, "You're a beautiful mom. Pretty hot."

So glad we have four more years of her.

Keeping Our Babies Safe

I vividly remember the day my son was born, almost 24 years ago. A fleeting, but frightening thought seeped into my hopes and dreams for my beautiful baby boy—“How will I keep you safe from going to war?” The Vietnam War, with images of killing fields and the gruesome draft was the reality of my younger years.

Our generation of parents has been lucky, killer drafts have not touched our babies.

But guns have.

When my son was 16, one Sunday afternoon we went to the local mall to buy him jeans at the Gap. At the time, he had just gotten his learner’s permit, so I reluctantly handed over the keys and off we went for the 20-minute drive to the mall.

He carefully guided the car into a spot near the entrance to the mall where he didn’t have to negotiate too many rows of parked cars. Easy in, easy out.

Once in the mall, as we approached the doors to the Gap we heard someone yell “shooter” -- people started running frantically -- all in one direction -- away from the sharp sound of gunshots. I made a snap decision to get the hell out of the mall. In a protective gesture, my son grabbed my hand and we ran through the mall as the stores locked down. I noticed there were holes in the new cars that lined the main aisle of the mall — bullet holes. Once we made it out to the parking lot, I almost lost it when I saw parents with babies and children hiding under parked cars. My son handed me the keys and I sped home.

While we made it home safely, nothing was easy about the following days and nights. Bullets may have spared our flesh, but they grazed our psyches, leaving us raw and feeling profoundly unsafe.

Officials stated the 24 year-old shooter had “a "lurid fascination" with the 1999 Columbine shootings.” Friends said he was “dangerously disturbed...the gun was purchased at a local gun show.”

Many of us are summoning up our experiences as parents, teachers, children and even gun owners, as we try to make sense of the most horrific and senseless killing of beautiful innocent children.

My heart has now moved from ache to anger as I read article after article addressing what Nicholas Kristof prescribes here: “The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns.”

Politics is a messy business. It’s easy to turn away from the ugly noise that has overcome our political system. It’s easy to let someone else fight the insidious battles over power and money. But this is our fight as mothers…fathers...parents…and citizens.

We must demand that our children are safe from gun violence.

Do you want your children asking their babies, “How will I keep you safe at school, at the mall, in the playground, in the movie theatre, on your college campus, our home?”

Painting: Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

Give Children A Voting Voice...Yours

“This is the most important election of your lifetime. There's so much at stake.”

I've been telling my voting-age children this for as long as I can remember. My voice plays over and over in their heads because for many years my children tagged along with me on Election Day. It was my hope that by joining me in the voting booth, they would become lifelong voters. Voting is their right and it would become their responsibility. Voting with my children was one of those "teachable" moments that empowered them to vote today.

Voting is the ultimate outcome of democracy: people taking action and becoming active citizens. Young adults (ages 18-29) make up at least 24% of the voting age population, and they have significant power in making a mark in history in 2012.

My children were jazzed to vote in the presidential election today. My son came home to vote in the same town hall he had accompanied me at as a young child. My daughter, a graphic designer, voted early this morning and then forwarded me the Get Out the Vote campaign created by the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts). AIGA asked their members to create nonpartisan posters to inspire the American public to participate in the electoral process and vote in the 2012 election.

How about your children? Did you take them with you to vote? Did they vote?

View more posters and read the full post on Moms Clean Air Force.

Poster: AIGA, Shelley A. Miller