Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Recycling Update

Regular readers will remember that we have been disappointed with the availability of recycling since we moved in the summer of 2008. At that time, our apartment complex did not offer the service because their previous contractor had voided the contract when tenants did not separate their trash from their recycling, thus polluting the whole process. Our first solution was to go to one of the county recycling centers, which happened to be just up the street from our grocery store. We bought lidded bins which we kept in our kitchen and hauled to the recycling center when we went shopping.

This was fine until the county decided to give homeowners larger, lidded, rolling curbside bins for collection and closed all the community recycling centers. Only the main one at the town dump remained open and that location had limited hours. Apartment complexes should have begun providing facilities for their tenants to recycle at that time, but ours didn't - possibly because of the previous issues. Our solution was to load our bins in the car and drive to the recycling center next to A Southern Season - which is in Orange County, not Durham County, thus why it is still open - and then shop for gourmet food and chocolate while we were in the neighborhood.

And that was fine until we bought the Smart Car last fall. We really weren't sure how we were going to get our big bins, which can hold two weeks worth of recycling, into our tiny car. As we were still trying to figure that out, miraculously our apartment complex started offering recycling again! Now we just had to roll our bins - which had wheels - across the parking lot to the dumpster area. Next to the industrial-size trash compactor is a small walled-off area where everyone usually dumps their Christmas trees after the holidays. This was previously the recycling center and now is again. There are six large recycling hoppers in there and we can put containers and mixed paper in them. There has always been a huge metal hopper for cardboard recycling, so we do still need to separate our paper from our corrugated cardboard.

For us, this has been fine except for one hiccup so far. That was when one of our bins, which we purchased in 2008, got filled with fruit fly larvae! We had been wondering how we suddenly had so many fruit flies in the apartment - well, that answered that, blech! So, we just threw that bin (it was plastic, after all) into the plastic recycling contents and all. We replaced it with a new one that actually has a better sealing lid. Not long after that, we replaced the other bin, too. It had had the paper products in it, so it didn't have fruit flies, but one of the wheels had broken off and was always needing to be jammed back on, plus the new ones are a better size for actually putting in the Smart Car, if we ever need to do that.

And this has been working out perfectly for us, except for one thing. Our neighbors are doing it again. No one is sorting their recycling and their trash. Even the Christmas trees they throw out at the holidays are really not supposed to be dumped there, but everyone does it and does it all year round. The recycling area has couches, TV's, lamps, once I found a box of clothes and miscellaneous items as if someone had broken up with their partner and threw all their stuff out of the house. These, and bags and bags of trash, are just piled up in, around, on top of the actual recycling collection bins. One day I was putting my trash in the correct place - the compactor - and I saw one of our complex's maintenance men moving stuff - one item at a time - from the recycling into the trash. We had the following short conversation.

Me: Why do people DO that?
Him: (shakes head) I don't know.
Me: I just want to hang up signs, 'people, sort your dang trash!'

And I do want to hang up signs, but that's not my responsibility as I am not management. Still, I think we're in serious danger of losing our recycling contract again which is not only bad for the planet, it's bad for us. It's illegal to throw recyclables in the trash in North Carolina. Individuals cannot be punished for it - how would they figure out who did it? ("We found your name on an envelope underneath a half a ton of garbage...." [ahem]). But trash collectors can be fined, which they would surely pass on to their clients in the form of price hikes, which would probably come back on us in the form of rent hikes. Come on, people, this is really obvious! Plus you're killing the planet, which is already overwhelmed with all of us using up its resources. Get with the program and sort your dang trash!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reflecting on Family

"Family faces are like magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future."
~ Gail Lumet Buckley

I am so blessed to have an amazing family! Like probably everyone in America, I have an interesting family dynamic, but it's never seemed odd to me. Sure, I have like a zillion relatives and step-relatives and relatives-twice-removed, but they're all family and have never felt like anything other than that. When we have reunions - whether it's the Howard clan, the Rennells clan, the Stahl clan, or any other branch of the family - it's always just a joy to see and be in fellowship with everyone.

I fondly remember summers spent sleeping over at cousins' houses, family trips to the cabin in Canada, pool parties at Aunt Helen's, Easter egg hunts in Amherst, and St. Patrick's Day dinners at any "O'Stahl" house available. I read once about how cousins are our first friends, and that feels very true to my own experience. Even now, as adults, the bond between us cousins is so strong - when we see each other, even though it may have been years, we are still connected just as firmly as we were when we played together as children.

This past spring, the Howard clan got together for our first reunion in 8 years. 10 of the 12 of us first cousins were there, as were many of the "removeds," it was a tremendous time. Barely two weeks after that reunion, Grandma passed away. Now my cousin Gayle, the eldest of us on this side, and her brother Rick, are both very ill. My heart aches for these my "siblings of the heart" and for the family as a whole.

I am truly blessed with a strong and wondrous family, ours is a deep bond. Right now I am thinking of all of you, my relatives, with gratitude and sending my love to each and every one of you, knowing that, no matter what, all manner of things shall be well.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hilton Head 2011

Regular readers will remember that Bruce's folks have an annual time-share at Hilton Head Island, SC. We usually manage to go down there with them at least every other year (sometimes we're too busy at work to take time off). This was one of the years when they have two weeks on the Island instead of just one, & we were able to take some vacation time to join them for part of the trip!

Debbe & Derek flew in to Raleigh a couple of days before Mom & Dad Loebrich arrived. It was fun to visit with them & play with our nephew! Mom & Dad drove down from Ohio, arriving on Saturday. After their long drive, they got to enjoy playing in the pool at our apartment complex with Derek - refreshing! The four of them then headed on to Hilton Head on Sunday morning. Bruce & I worked the following week, then loaded up the Smart Car & drove down to join them.

We had great weather for our drive - had the convertible top down for the first half of the trip even. When we stopped to fill up our gas tank, I quickly put on sunscreen, though! There was a point when we were close enough to the eastern NC wildfires that for about half an hour the air just smelled like campfires constantly. We put the top up about noon as it was getting too hot, & arrived on Hilton Head a little before 3pm.

Mom & Dad had managed to get the condo right next to the pool this year - brilliant! Each morning we stepped off our back deck & walked about 3 feet to the pool. Once I discovered the hot tub next to the pool, that's where I started every day! We usually spent at least an hour swimming & playing in the pool each day before heading back to the condo for showers & lunches. Can't beat that!

We also got in one afternoon at the beach - it was super windy & there was a storm front moving in which made things awfully hazy, but we had a great time. I love it when the ocean is so warm that it feels like bathwater! (Although the current was insanely powerful so none of us swam much.) We tried to go to the beach another time & as we walked up everyone else was walking out. I was just thinking "is everyone going to get dinner at the same time?" (it was 5pm) when one lady kindly stopped me & told me that the lifeguards had just blown the whistles to evacuate the beach because there was a storm coming in. So, we all turned around & went home. Dad & Debbe took Derek down to the beach a couple more times, but Bruce & I opted to stay at the condo & rest on those days.

While we did have a couple doozies of storms, one in the middle of the night which was accompanied by some spectacular thunder & lightning, most of the time the weather was good if a little (okay a lot) too hot. Thank goodness for a/c & the pool next door!

In addition to the swimming & beach trips, we made our usual favorite treks - to the outlet mall & to the cute shops at Coligny Circle & Fresh Market Plaza. I bought fudge to bring back to work, & between the 6 of us we bought 23 pairs of shoes (including 4 pairs of water shoes for the pool)!

Derek is really into drawing right now, too. He made pictures almost constantly. He put together a book of our adventures that is really cool! There are pictures of all the canons & time bombs & bad guys we fought, upgrades we earned, mazes we had to do, & even a treasure map, but my favorite is the picture of Derek with Bruce & me after we've earned our sensei hats for beating the big bad guy - I may have to scan that one!

After the time-share was up, everyone came back to Durham. Mom & Dad headed back to Ohio on July 4th, we had Debbe & Derek for a couple more days during which time we went to the science museum & played in the pool.

Fun family tradition!