Just My Cup of Tea Tag Project

tea bag cnf

A Micro-Essay I submitted to Creative Nonfiction Magazine’s Twitter contest was selected and published in their November/December issue. The #tinytruth I wrote: She knew she was in a vulnerable state when the words of wisdom on her tea bag made her weep. was in reference to those little sayings found on tea bag tags. This got me thinking that while tweets are more aspirational than inspirational, they are similar to those terse tea bag tag messages – both to the point and under 140 characters.

When I was growing up, we drank Salada Tea. The wonderful thing about Salada was that the tea bags contained funny sayings and witticisms to entertain its drinkers. Salada’s “Tag Lines” were the brainchild of a 1960s madman. According to the advertising campaign, the idea was to give tea drinkers, “something to do while you dangle.”  The tea bags were “steeped” in inspiration and offered maxims for daily life. I’ve managed to hang on to one of those tea tags for over 30 years. Not sure what that says about me – that I held on to it for so long and why this particular message…In this cynical age, nothing is sacred except a guest towel. At any rate, it is prominently displayed on where else? A towel rack in my home.

A few years ago I discovered Yogi Tea. I have one cup of coffee every morning followed by a cup of tea that I savor throughout the day. The words on my Yogi tea bag tag start me off for the day. Lately, I’ve been sharing the daily messages with others because it’s felt like the world is in need of a little wisdom.

In this fast pace world, I’m grateful for a cup of tea, which forces me to slow down and contemplate. Or as pointed out in 50 Differences Between People Who Sip Tea And Those Who Chug Coffee, while coffee drinkers medicate, tea drinkers meditate.

Whatever your beverage of choice may be, have you gained or shared a little wisdom today?






The Evolution of Barbie

Barbie head                                                                                                 Terapeak.com

(Published originally on the Huffington Post.)

Even though I insisted on eco-friendly, child-labor-free toys for my daughters, I was excited to pass down my Barbie doll collection to them 23 years ago. As I eased Barbie’s skinny, little molded plastic appendages through sleeves, pant legs and neck holes, I was awash with that old familiar feeling. It was disconcerting, though, when we tried to dress a brand spanking new Barbie in a vintage red and silver glittery, strapless evening gown and it slipped right off. I later learned that in 1989 Barbie’s proportions were altered including a breast reduction. Barbie has been evolving all along, but until now it’s been incremental (#TheDollEvolves). Ken too has been altered over the years to have a bigger head and broader shoulders. The fact that Ken is on steroids seems to have flown under the radar. With these body changes, much of the Barbie and Ken wardrobes I saved from my childhood have been rendered useless.

It was impossible for me not to have an affinity for Barbie. After all, we shared the same name. Only my Nana could get away with calling me Barbie doll and later, when I was in high school, driving a Chevy Malibu earned me the moniker “Malibu Barbie” (even though my lifestyle was the antithesis of that 70s Barbie model). I was a hardcore Barbies player. I had one best friend who preferred playing with G. I. Joe. Her idea of playing Barbies was to have her go on life raft romps with Joe in the bathtub. But Barbie’s anatomically unrealistic shape, made it impossible for her to keep from toppling off of Joe’s regulation Army raft, resulting in a permanent bad hair day. My other best friend was much more amenable to more traditional Barbie scenarios. Our set-ups became so elaborate with furnishings and other paraphernalia, that after a few years, we shifted the game to her attic. That way we didn’t have to disassemble it every day. I pushed playing Barbies to the limit ─ beyond the point when anyone else was interested. As a child, I didn’t give any thought to Barbie’s impeccable make-up or her high heel ready feet and the term “body image” wasn’t in my vocabulary. To me, Barbie didn’t look any different than the other 1960s women I saw on TV and in magazine print ads. All I knew was that as a budding writer, Barbie was my vehicle for limitless story possibilities. In support of the new more diverse dolls, Mattel has said, “Girls everywhere now have infinitely more ways to play out their stories and spark their imaginations through Barbie.” Thankfully, this realm of childhood remains universal and timeless.

Since the focal point of the relationship with my friend was our Barbie game, when she lost interest, the friendship ended and that was also the end of my Barbie playing days. Junior high happened. High school happened. We remained neighbors only living a few doors away, but we never reconnected, not even for a moment. Eventually, we went off to college. In my sophomore year, my parents made the decision to sell our house, triggering childhood memories, particularly of my Barbie playing days. That’s when it suddenly occurred to me that with our friendship ending so abruptly, I had left my Barbies at her house. The thought of contacting her after all those years was akin to cold calling, but I was determined to get my Barbies back.

One afternoon during Spring break, I found myself walking that familiar beat I had walked a thousand times before and like an out of body experience, I entered her house, marched up the stairs, past her bedroom, into her brother’s room, and up to her attic. And there it was…our Barbie world, just as we had left it eight years earlier. Barbie was seated on the couch. My “flocked” hair Ken doll had his arm around her. Ken had lost an arm. (Vietnam is how I explained it.) For a romantic interlude, I would wrap his shirtsleeve around Barbie’s waist and tuck it into her outfit to hold it in place. Barbie was in her riding outfit─corduroy and fake suede pants and top, complete with boots and riding crop. From the time I was old enough to shop by myself at Kiddie City, I would purchase one outfit a week. I delighted in Barbie as Fashionista with her clothes changing from June Cleaver matronly dresses and slinky evening gowns to groovy pants ensembles.

For the next few hours, we sat on the floor. Little conversation was exchanged between us. We methodically sorted out the dolls. We each had a bubble cut Barbie (vintage, 1962). Mine blonde, hers brunette. I also had a bendable Barbie and a Talking Barbie. While I had Ken, she had Barbie’s best friend, Midge, and her boyfriend, Allan. I had two Skippers, a redhead and a later brunette version. We had also thrown a few Liddle Kiddles into the mix as younger sisters or sometimes as Barbie’s children. We moved on to the outfits next─hers, mine. Any crocheted or knitted outfits went to me automatically because my Great-Aunts Sophie and Roz had their own original 1959 Barbies on stands, which they used as models to make clothes for my dolls. After we were finished with the wardrobe, we sorted through the furnishings, then the cases. She had some elaborate furniture, handed down from a cousin including a sleeper sofa. That certainly spiced up our games.

Once the task was complete, we made our way downstairs to her front door, avoiding eye contact along the way. With my Barbie cases in hand, I walked down her path for the last time, through the white picket fence gate, and out of my childhood.

Nipping it in the Bud

orange tree

(Published originally on RAC.org.)

Ah springtime…the chirping of birds, the buzzing of insects, the budding of trees. But wait a minute. It’s not spring. It’s winter in Brooklyn…it’s 72 degrees out…the tomatoes are still growing in my garden and the poor trees are confused. I’m a little confused myself. I’ve settled in to write an article about Tu BiSh’vat the Jewish holiday, which will be celebrated on January 24-25, 2016 and foretells the coming of springtime in Israel. As an experiential environmental educator, between leading eco activities and Tu BiSh’vat Seders, it’s always been my busy season. I’m used to being greeted with mixed reactions when talking about spring in the midst of icy cold winter weather.

Tu BiSh’vat, referred to as the New Year of the Trees or the Birthday of the Trees, has also been dubbed the Jewish Arbor Day or Jewish Earth Day. It’s a time when the frozen waters start to thaw; as the soil and trees are nourished, they begin to reproduce leaves and seeds. In the Jewish community Tu BiSh’vat is a time for us to embrace our responsibility as stewards of the planet and a natural time to appreciate and be awed by trees. Speaking of embracing, I’ve hugged a few trees in my day. With all that trees do for us, they deserve to be hugged.

While it was hard not to revel in wearing spring-like clothes in winter, we’ve learned over the past few years of erratic weather including 14 of the 15 hottest years on record, which have all occurred since 2000, that there’s a price to be paid. In this case, the budding of trees in December means that the plants and trees’ natural cycles have been thrown off resulting in a shortened flowering season and in some instances, some trees may not flower at all. Fruit trees for example, need to experience a substantial amount of chilling so they will bear fruit. The holiday of Tu BiSh’vat actually began as the cut-off date for collecting taxes on the crop of fruit trees. The Jewish people gave one tenth or a tithing of their harvest to support the sacred work of the temples and to help the poor and those in need. The Jewish principle of bal tashchit is a prohibition against cutting down or destroying trees even as a tactic of war, and specifically forbids the cutting down of fruit-bearing trees. Fruit (food) is a sacred gift and the law forbids needless and wasteful destruction. In our day, the increase of climate-driven extreme weather events such as excessive heat, drought and flooding related to human activity is putting our food sources at risk. Isn’t this a form of wanton destruction?

Trees are our natural partners in so many ways and critical to the sustainability of our planet. There can’t be a serious discussion about slowing down the devastation of climate change without considering the impact of trees, particularly on the heels of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The second day of the conference focused on trees including carbon sequestration, reforestation, carbon sinks, agribusinesses, logging of old-growth forests and sustainable development of commodities that come from trees. To honor the commitments in the Paris agreement and limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or possibly 1.5C, the world must not only stop destroying its forests, it must invest in tree regeneration to create a balance between the emissions of greenhouse gases and their removal.

While an agreement may have been reached in Paris, as we reflect on Tu BiSh’vat, we still need to be vigilant. We must hold industry and government accountable by supporting pro-environmental legislation. We need to hold ourselves accountable as well by preserving and conserving our natural resources and taking progressive personal and communal action to nip the causes of climate change in the bud.