Environmental activism… in small ways

These are the paper straws a local Oxford bar uses in a plastic cup. I hope at least the students take the cups home to reuse.

I describe myself as an environmental activist, but I didn’t march in the protest on campus a few weeks ago. I’m not one to wear my beliefs on my sleeve, particularly because I still consider myself to be a journalist.

I prefer to influence those close to me to be better about recycling, reusing and reducing.  I gift my friends reusable grocery bags, I encourage my family to refill reusable water bottles instead of one-time use bottles and I’m a big advocate of making sure people recycle.

It’s difficult to change the world for most of us, that’s why I prefer to change the world I live in. Yet, even on a college campus with young people who supposedly care about the environment, I see lots of waste.

At least one or two students come to class with Starbucks plastic cups each day. I see cans and empty plastic bottles in the trash, even though a blue recycling can sits right next to it. Don’t even get me started about the red party cups that I see all over town after the weekend.

In the Oxford Observer, one of my students wrote about how bars in Oxford now use paper straws or no straws in the plastic cups. But they can do better. They still pour booze out of glass bottles that they don’t recycle.

The bars and several of the apartment complexes in Oxford still don’t recycle because it costs more.

We can conserve in our everyday life in many ways.

Every time I hit print on something, I think twice of whether I really need that paper copy. I’ve also tried grading online, but I don’t think I can give the same kind of feedback there. But I no longer hand out an eight-page syllabus to the students in my classes. They prefer to look things up online any way.

So can us small folks get the bigwigs at the United Nations or in the United States to make changes?

It’s hard to do.

But I know we can make small changes in our lives: Take fewer trips in the car; Use reusable grocery bags (I cringe every time I hear anyone ask for their milk to be double bagged — you don’t need any bag!); Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups. And most of all, encourage others around us to do the same.

Act locally, think globally.

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Cruising in the winter

50051872_10156197999333519_5844981226024206336_nThe family and I just returned from our first wintertime cruise. With Brett graduating and me teaching in Italy this summer, we decided to do our family vacation in January.

So while snowstorms loomed in the Cincinnati area, we all headed south to catch the Adventure of the Seas in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Six days on a ship with temperatures in the 70s and 80s restored our humanity and renewed our spirits.

We returned to yet another winter storm and had to get back to our regularly scheduled life. But I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Some observations for those who might consider doing this in the future:

  • The ship still had lots of families with kids. Do they not care about their kids’ education? We figured a vacation during the school year meant not so many children.
  • We had a cabin with a window overlooking the promenade. The best place for quiet people watching.
  • The pools on the ship weren’t warm. Although I did get in one day to get my exercise, I stayed firmly on the lounge chairs the other days. I did swim in the ocean on the islands and I was glad I brought a rash guard to swim in.
  • We had more clouds than I expected and the wind was pretty hefty on some days. But nothing beats being warm to the bone.
  • I love my Kindle. It beats packing so many books on a trip.
  • I love getting dressed up for dinner on a ship. I brought dresses for every night and it just puts you in the right mood for a delicious dinner.

Another winter cruise is definitely in our future. We could not have given each other a better Christmas gift.

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Why provide free advertising?

Do you ever wonder why people who have spent thousands of dollars on a car insist on providing free advertising for the dealerships?

Just because they gave you a license plate frame for free with the car, doesn’t mean you have to keep it on. After paying $15,000 – $30,000 or more for a car, do you really want to provide free advertising for this dealer for the next four or five years?


I say no. I don’t have a frame at all. I don’t like it when information is hidden from your license plate. I like to know what county you live in (Kentucky has this) or just be happy to see which state you live in. License plates have a purpose. It is not to provide free advertising for that car dealership that already fleeced you enough.

Some people may like a frame.  If so, I’d rather see a frame that shows some personality or some affiliation to something you believe in — whether your favorite college team, favorite place or even your profession. This costs money, but if you want a frame,  you can buy a plain silver one for as little as $7-8 on Amazon. The UK  one above was $6.78 and I’m sure you can find one to support a cause or something better than a car dealership.  Etsy has some cute flower ones and funny and custom ones for $10-20. If you are really on a budget, I bet your can find cheaper ones at flea markets.

Car dealers have other ways to advertise that help out others — whether newspapers websites, or billboards. That at least creates some revenue. Your free billboard on the back of your car is their way to cheat the system. And you are probably an accomplice in that.

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A sad time for journalism…

I’ve wanted to write about the state of journalism and how it is perceived by many today for a while. The shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis  stirred up so much emotion, so here I go.

When have reporters become the enemy? The old adage “Don’t shoot the messenger” comes to mind.

Journalists are messengers. They tell stories, give facts and let the public know what the government is doing. They are our eyes and ears in places we can’t be.

They are NOT political operatives and should never be promoting political agendas.

I’m a traditionalist in journalism. Just the facts, ma’am. But the lines have gotten blurred on the Internet where everyone can be a journalist and you can’t tell the editorial page from the front page.

A journalist friend posted on Facebook that he disagrees with the advent of first-person journalism that millennials seem to favor. He used a quote by Jill Abramson, the former editor of The New York Times, who told a reporter this week about the students she teaches at Harvard.  “… They mostly want to write first-person, highly personal narratives about themselves… I think there’s too much of that in journalism. It’s not about us. It’s about the world, and covering the world.”

The first-person narratives outside of a magazine are not the only problem with journalism. The commentators analyzing the news who try to sway people’s opinions on TV are not journalists. They are part of the media, but shouldn’t call themselves journalists.

Dave Barry wrote in his column in The Miami Herald today about those talking heads and how they are a small percentage of journalists who work for newspapers.

“There are newspaper journalists who seem far more interested in getting on TV, and jacking up their Twitter numbers, than being fair or accurate,” Barry writes. “There are incompetent, dishonest people in this business, as in any business….But these people are a minority — I think a tiny minority — of news people, especially of newspaper people.”

Overall, journalists are an important part of this country’s structure. Some call us the “Fourth Estate” as we are seen as the fourth branch of government. Journalists are just working hard, often for very little money and with little job security, to shed light on what the other three branches of government are doing.

My colleague at Miami who also teaches journalism, Rosemary Pennington, wrote this on her Facebook page:  ” The attacks on journalists — rhetorical or physical — make a difficult job even more difficult. …Our job, as journalists, is to highlight the good in our communities, but it is also – and perhaps more importantly – to expose all the ugly things we don’t want to confront. The ugly truths about people we look up to, histories we hold dear, realities of the communities we live in.”

So don’t shoot the messenger — especially not in the literal sense. Just don’t blame the journalists for the hateful rhetoric in our society coming from politicians and talking heads on all sides of the political spectrum.

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My European adventure on WOW

wowlogMy family and I recently returned from a trip to Europe. It was amazing in so many ways that it is hard to tell you about everything. But I do want to share some observations about taking WOW Airlines. WOW Airlines just started flying out of the Cincinnati airport last month, so I was nervous about taking it.

We took WOW Airlines because it saved us $2,000 for four tickets over Delta. I was a little weary about using this airlines because of some of the chatter on the Internet, but everything turned out just fine. I did research and convinced myself the worst that could happen is that we would be stuck in Iceland — and that would give us the opportunity to see another country for a day.

But I still had some other fears:

  • I was nervous about the lack of documentation — no e-ticket, just a receipt. I felt better once I had checked in each time, but I wish WOW did a better job with their customer service. When you reserve, you get an email that asks you to pay. I had to call Iceland to pay because the website wouldn’t take my credit card. That also meant that I had a confirmation number with only letters and the American website wanted numbers… Do download the WOW app as you can see your trip details on it with the confirmation letters.
  • I was nervous about the lack of seat space and leg room on the airplane. This was true, but we knew ahead of time, so we dealt with it. My 6 foot — 3 inch son was not comfortable, but he was a trouper.
  • I was nervous about the lack of services onboard and that my family would be thirsty/hungry. This was OK because we bought bottles of water and a snacks to eat on board. And the first flight was overnight, so we weren’t really hungry till we got to Paris.
  • I was nervous about making the connection in Reykjavik because we had less than an hour to transfer to our next flight. Both ways. We ran the first time to make sure we could catch our flight to Paris because within that hour, you also had to go through a passport check. We shouldn’t have worried, because WOW will hold airplanes to make sure all passengers make their connection. We took it easier on the way back and easily made the second flight.
  • I was nervous about our baggage being lost. You will see many posts online about people losing luggage and then having a hard time getting reimbursed by WOW. This also didn’t happen to us thankfully.

So would I fly WOW again? I would do it again in a heartbeat. The flight was broken up because of the stop in Iceland, so it meant we flew almost six hours and then three more to get to Paris. I got up a lot to stretch during the flight. I slept some, but mostly just read.

It was worth the cost savings so we could do more sightseeing once in Europe. We saw so much in our 16-day trip and made memories for a lifetime. My suggestion before planning your European adventure with WOW Airlines, is do your own research so you know what you’re in for. And maybe upgrade to an XL seat or exit row.

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Recycling at Christmas: Use shoe boxes instead of shirt boxes

For years, I would recycle at those shirt boxes that everyone wraps clothes and other items in at Christmas. Often in our messy basement, they would get smashed, lose their shape and even get torn. So I started using more sturdy boxes — shoe boxes.

I love to use shoe boxes to put items in to wrap for numerous reasons. I’ll list a few here:

  • More sturdy (I can’t say it enough).
  • Way to recycle those shoe boxes instead of trashing/recycling them.
  • You never know what’s in the present, because most packages under the tree look the same.
  • It fits all kind of presents — clothes, toys, electronics, books, etc.
  • The same as shirt boxes, it’s easy to use with a roll of wrapping paper.
  • The thrifty Dutch woman in me loves the price for shoe boxes — they come free with shoes!

Those folks who fill shoe boxes for children around the world for Christmas already found out a long time ago they make great containers. And of course, you can do lots of crafts and make storage bins out of shoe boxes too. Just check this Pinterest page.

So save your shoe boxes — you know you have them — grab them out of the bottom of your closet and start wrapping for the holidays. Merry Christmas to all!

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Journalists and political opinions

Someone I really respect posted this question in a journalism educator’s group on Facebook: “When, how, if it is acceptable for college journalism educators to express their political opinions?”

I responded right away: “I do not express my opinions. I’m still old-school and consider myself a journalist.” 

Some people agreed and other didn’t. One wrote: “Can you envision a time when it would be wrong to stay silent? When your role as a U.S. citizen would supersede your role as a journalism educator?”

I will consider myself a journalist until the day I die. Not just a journalism educator. Others who teach journalism don’t feel that way. If they don’t practice journalism, they feel they can go to protests, write about how they feel about Trump on Facebook and Tweet their little hearts out to express opinions about this or that.

I might respond to someone’s opinionated posts with a question of my own or play devil’s advocate as journalists have been known to do, but I rarely express outright opinions about the news or politics. It’s in my DNA.

Am I taking the coward’s way out? Is there a time my role as a citizen supersedes my roles as a journalism educator? I don’t think that time is here now. But I’m be proud to be part of the profession that keeps people honest, brings light to all issues and plays a major part in our democracy today.

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