A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

saving the world September 23, 2014

Filed under: garden — courtsbrogno @ 12:00 pm

I’m not usually in the habit of saving the world, but with all that’s terrible going on in the world right now–ebola, ISIS, gun laws, gender rights, (really the list could go on for a very long time)–I felt it was time for me to do something. To take action. To make a change.

So I thought and thought and thought and after realizing that there’s not much I can do for the world (other than send emails to my senators), there IS something I can do for my state. I can save water.

There’s something odd about the dynamics of water right now. We either have too much because of climate change and cities are rushing to plan ahead for when sea levels rise and coastal cities potentially/likely go under or we have too little, as is the case for California.

So we made rules this summer at our house: short showers, skipping showers (so me and Maddie only shower every other day), no flushing the toilet if it’s just pee (as an added bonus, this drives my mother crazy), turning off the water when brushing our teeth (something I always forget to do).

But there had to be more I could do, especially because I planted a full vegetable garden and because we have flowers in the backyard and rose bushes along the side of the house that our landlord wants to keep alive.


(beautiful backyard with flowers)


(vegetable garden)

And then it hit me: grey water. Our house is lucky enough to have our washing machine and dryer outside in the backyard and I figured if I could get the grey water from the washing machine I could water all our plants. So I went to Home Depot.

Now, I’m not an engineer so I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for nor did I take any measurements. Thus I just wandered the aisles until I found something that looked the right size and looked like it might work. And it did.

I took the gray hose from the washing machine and attached it to some white hose thingy I bought and then used those metal tightening things to ensure no leaking.

IMG_3543And it didn’t leak!

Then the white hose went directly into a garbage bin to collect the water:

washing machine


Once the bin was full:


I could cart it around and water the garden.

But here’s the thing….there’s a lot of water in that garbage bin, which made it quite heavy, so I used a small garbage bin to water the plants in small planters:


And then when the big garbage bin was about half full, I dumped the water into the large planters:


So I did this for about 2 weeks and it was working fine, but it was so laborious. The garbage bin is 32 gallons and guess what? One load of laundry that’s medium or more uses more than 32 gallons of water. Thus, I had to sit outside while the washing machine was going and wait for the garbage bin to fill about 3/4 full, then shut off the washing machine, then water, then turn the washing machine back on, then water again. Then repeat. And getting the garbage bin to the side of the house to water the roses became such a pain in the ass.

So I thought some more. And I went back to Home Depot without any measurements and bought some more things and did this:


I connected the white hose to some plastic thingy with those metal tightening things to an actual garden hose! It’s not perfect and it leaks (but I capture the leaking water in the big garbage bin), but it does work.


working 2

So now I don’t have to sit around and wait nor do I have to lug around the big garbage bin all the time (though sometimes I still do because it is a faster way of watering our big planters). All I have to do is move the hose. And the hose is 100 feet long so it easily makes it to the side of the house to water the roses.

In a way, I guess we’re not really saving water so much as re-purposing it. But now I don’t have to water the plants with fresh water from the hose (I still water our small vegetable garden with fresh water though). And our water bill has gone down, but because I have to purchase biodegradable laundry detergent (so I don’t kill our plants and flowers), the price is pretty much the same.

But that’s okay because I feel like we’re doing our small part in helping California with the drought.

I’m sure an engineer could have done such a better job, but I’ve got to admit: I’m pretty proud of my MacGyver moves.

Now I’m just trying to figure out how we can access our bath/shower water??? But that probably includes some serious pluming and I’m a bit frightened by the thought. However, I do teach at a school of engineers, so maybe I could get some help. Because that would be seriously awesome (though I would never let them see my system now–I can just imagine the horror on their faces).



i went back to high school…and nothing has changed September 15, 2014

Filed under: self-discovery — courtsbrogno @ 12:05 pm

You’d think in the 20 years it’s been since I walked the halls of high school that a lot has changed. Guess what? Nothing has changed. Sure, the students no longer wear flannel, birkenstocks, doc martins, and jean overalls….oh, wait, they DO wear those today. What is wrong with the world that the fashion from my high school days has made a come back? Jean overalls should never make a come back.

But really, not much has changed, especially with the way I felt in high school—just a girl, wandering around with low self-esteem. I’d like to think that after years of therapy and self-growth and increased confidence that I’d changed. But no! Put me in a high school setting and I’m just as awkward and nervous as I was from 1990-1994.

Last Wednesday was Maddie’ back to school night. I wasn’t able to attend last year’s BTS because Maddie had a soccer game, so I decided to go to this years. Actually, let me be honest: I wasn’t going to go but then a friend of mine who teaches at the high school basically told me that only parents who don’t love their children don’t go. Thus, I went. Because, you know, I love my kid and all.

The hour before it started I was already a mess. I tried on at least 4 different outfits before deciding on one that made me look “mom-ish” but with style.Why I even cared? Who knows?

The first part of BTS night was a large parent meeting in the gym. Back to the gym. The band was playing and we actually said the pledge of allegiance, which I haven’t said in so long, I didn’t remember the words. But the parents all around me did, so I faked it, mumbling under my breath. Then we all sat down and listened to the principal speak, and while I do think he’s a great principal, my God was I bored. He spoke in monotone the entire time.  I have a feeling he didn’t want to be there either.

I sat by myself, watching other parents who knew each other talk and catch up, but I didn’t know anyone around me. I glanced around and saw a few people I knew but they were siting too far away for me to talk to. Again—just like high school. In high school I always felt so uncool and even though I had friends, I remember doing the same thing at assemblies–looking around, hoping for  friend to sit next to.

And then I was lost among a sea of parents looking for their kids’ classes. It seemed everyone around me had thought to print out a map, but I guess I failed on thinking about that. But with my high deductive powers I found Maddie’s classrooms. OK, That’s not true at all. I just wandered around until I found an ASB student who could point me in the right direction. Oh, those ASB students. Not much has changed with them–always over-eager to spread their high school pride and knowledge.

One thing has changed though. High school is a lot more difficult now than when I attended. I sat in Maddie’s classes, always in the back hoping I didn’t get called on (for what? who knows?), and listened as Maddie’s teachers told us about the workload and their expectations. I swear to God, I was sweating at the thought of all the homework Maddie has to do. And the teachers kept talking about college and grades and I just felt completely over-whelmed. When I was in high school, it seemed like such an easy game. Do your homework, go to school, get a decent GPA, go to college. I never aimed for Harvard, but I got into every college I applied to. I know for a fact that there’s no way I would get into any college today based on my high school grades.

While sitting in the classrooms, I felt–again–like a lost young girl. Once again, all the parents seemed to know each other and I didn’t know anyone. OK, I knew a few parents, but still…it was like being the odd one out.

And here’s the real kicker: I have never felt more SINGLE than I did on BTS. Couples everywhere. Holding hands, asking questions, making plans to play bunco. Are there no single parents in the school? There probably are but I guess they don’t love their kids enough to make an appearance (really though, chances are they’re too busy or went the year before and are still scarred from the event). The only thing that made me feel better is the fact that I never, ever want to play bunco.

I went home more informed about what Maddie does for 8 hours a day but also feeling like such a loser. I kind of figured out the whole single thing. It seems like most parents who divorce do so when their kids are in elementary school and  have thus remarried by the time their kid gets to high school. Good for them (I say this with complete bitterness in case you were wondering). But I also think I’ve figured out why I felt so “uncool.” I think it has to do with the high school itself. Something about walking onto a high school campus immediately takes me back to my pubescent years.  It’s in the walls, the closed off classrooms, the teachers who stare down at you, the “cool” kids who have never been bullied, the boys who will never love you. It’s like years of all these typical high school traumas of years past get absorbed into the walls, and then if you’re like me and still worry about such petty things, the walls reach around you and strangle you with all the disappointments, fears, and self-loathing you though you had left behind.

God damn, maybe I should be wearing doc martins.

But oh, it gets worse. In three weeks I will be attending my 20 year high school reunion. That I’m attending alone. Why do I so love to torture myself?