talking about my uterus

I wore my “Fight Like A Girl” t-shirt for Endometriosis Awareness to the volunteer event last weekend as promised. I was nervous before I left the apartment because I haven’t been very open about discussing my surgery or endometriosis diagnosis with most people around me. I am still trying to deal with it internally. It was a very emotionally painful experience for me at the time and not sure how to put all of it into words.

But, I there were several comments about my t-shirt through-out the day. I was glad that it was noticed but I kept my replies to a minimum. One guy said, “I don’t know how to pronounce that word or what it is.” As it was explained by another lady, he exclaimed, “UTERUS! Stop, I don’t want to know anymore after hearing words like uterus.”

I was not offended by the comment because it is to be expected by some people. There isn’t much known about endometriosis and I am learning quite a bit myself lately. I am wearing my t-shirt to raise awareness because it is important to me and many other women who suffer from it every day. I read horror stories about infertility and chronic pain that women are sharing on their personal blogs and websites – it truly breaks my heart.

But, I am disappointed that he disregarded the subject based on one word that made him uncomfortable because it could affect a woman in his life such as his wife, sister, or friend. Having endometriosis is uncomfortable. Explaining it to someone is uncomfortable. But, I want to talk about my uterus! I want to get to the point where I can be comfortable talking about this. Either way, it was a good start for me.

-Holli

gathering around the boathouse

On Saturday I hung out with a great group of people! I had soooo much fun!! I joined Green Shores NYC, the L.I.C. Boathouse, Riverkeepers, and the Friends of Gantry at the local East River shoreline in Long Island City in the Gantry State Park for the 2014 Riverkeeper Sweep.

It’s a quick commute for me on the 7 train so I arrive early and enjoy my homemade granola bar and coffee on the benches by the waterfront enjoying the view of Manhattan that I LOVE so much. The forecast had predicted rain but the clouds seem to be clearing and the sun is peeking through the leftover clouds. The L.I.C. Flea is already in full swing with music, food vendors cooking, and booths set up. It’s a great place to try different food, enjoy the waterfront in Queens, and buy some antiques or homemade items.

RiverKeeper_logoI had volunteered with Green Shores NYC a few years ago at a waterfront clean-up in Astoria Park. This not-for-profit organization is run by volunteers only and maintains the eight miles of the Astoria-Long Island City Waterfront from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay. If you want to get involved with a local organization to participate in community clean-ups or other projects along the waterfront in Queens – THIS IS IT! 

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I am pictured above with Katie Ellman, President and Director of Green Shores NYC at the beginning of the volunteer event and, as you can see I am wearing my “Fight Like A Girl” t-shirt today!

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 We started off the day helping the volunteers from New York Cares and the Friends of Gantry to remove excess mulch off the plants in the garden. Apparently the city used too much of the mulch in this area in the garden beds and it is suffocating the plants and trees.

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As we are working in the garden removing the excess mulch we are also picking up small bits of litter which consist mostly of cigarette butts, food wrappers or small plastic pieces which can blow into the river and kill fish and birds. I’ve noticed a lot of dog walkers and smokers stopping in this park and they should be aware of the damage that pollution can cause. I really wish the city would install cigarette butt receptacles, do not pollute signs or more trash cans in this area. The signs don’t look nice but litter does NOT look nice either.

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After a short break, Martha and I move over to the L.I.C. Boathouse dock to check if there is litter for us to pick up. We notice that this area is full of broken glass (pictured above) because the old double paned windows on the building next to the dock are breaking. There is also some trash stuck to the fence which is blowing over from the L.I.C Flea. Once again, I just think that people should be aware of the dangers of litter when they are eating by the waterfront. I’m hoping that anyone who saw us that day cleaning up will take a moment to think about it.

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We managed to fill only 1 large garbage of trash through-out the day which is a good thing. It is nice to see that this park is relatively clean and well maintained. Most of the litter was scattered on the street under cars and stuck to the fencing.

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After the event we hung out by the Long Island Community Boathouse, which offers FREE kayaking or canoeing! What more can you ask for! If you want to explore the area by water or try a fun summer water sport then I highly recommend kayaking with the L.I.C. Boathouse! The boathouse is run by volunteers also so if you are looking for a FUN place to volunteer you could check this out also!

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The view of the river is spectacular at any time. It was a great day to be outdoors enjoying it. It was my first time meeting everyone from the L.I.C Boathouse and being inside their facility.

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After the event, we got beers from the Rockaway Brewing Company next door. And you know I LOVE anyways Rockaways and this brewery was originated in the backyard of a bungalow in Far Rockaway! They brew the beer in the back and sell it in a small room in the front. A friendly staff, good locally brewed beer, and free potato chips – what a deal!

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Like I said before, I had a fun day. Excuse my lack of writing skills but what else can I say. There are moments such as this at a volunteer event where you feel like you are a part of something bigger than what you had signed up for. You meet local community groups with great people who are passionate about similar interests as you. You are sitting in the boathouse with a group of people drinking a beer laughing, talking and enjoying a summer afternoon like you are old friends. You skip home with a smile on your face. Like I said before, what more can you ask for.

one thing that’s green

Today I am attending the 7th Annual “One Thing That’s Green” event hosted by JetBlue Airlines and New York Restoration Project and its MillionTreesNYC initiative! This is a BIG event and I am happy to participate! 

I’ve been eager to volunteer with MillionTreesNYC. It is a citywide program with one HUGE ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s all five boroughs over the next decade. They plant trees. Trees are good. 

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It’s early Saturday morning, the sun is shining – it’s supposed to be 65 deg today! I walk over to 48th Street and jump on the Q104 bus for a quick ten minute ride to the Woodside Houses, where the event is taking place. I read that 250 volunteers have signed up today to plant 100 trees in the neighborhood during this event.

I arrive at the event by 9 am. I get a wrist band, a raffle ticket, and a free JetBlue t-shirt. I wonder over to the breakfast brunch table set up with bagels and coffee from Panera Bread. There is COFFEE!!!! :) I LOVE when volunteer events supply us with coffee! I spend some time chatting with JetBlue crew members that are volunteering today. They all seem really happy to have an opportunity to give back to their community.

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I meet Susan, the Program Manager for the NYC Compost Project (see picture below). The NYC Compost Project was created by the NYC Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling, which provides compost education and outreach to NYC residents, community groups, government agencies, and nonprofits. I think that every volunteer event should have a compost and/or recycling bin on premises to constantly remind us to do the right thing. Susan gives me information on how to find compost bins around NYC and we chat for a while. If you see Susan at any event say HELLO and don’t forget to THANK her for all her hard work!

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After breakfast, a radio DJ announces that we are having a fitness workout by a celebrity trainer…I make it through the first part of the workout that involves stretching and squats. When he started doing push ups I quickly ran off pretending I needed more coffee.

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We break off into groups organized by colored flags and our wrist bands and walk over to different areas of the neighborhood. I decide to plant the big trees on the sidewalks and after a quick demonstration we move over to our first tree planting! Digging the first hole is easy until we reach a root left behind from a tree that was removed last year. We have to break out the saw and pick ax and put some sweat and muscle into removing it.

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Our first tree is in the ground – success! :)

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We move on to a grassy area to plant another tree. The time goes by really quickly. After our second tree we are ushered back to our meeting grounds for lunch and a raffle.

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It was a great volunteer event! I was really glad I had a chance to volunteer with NYRP once again and MillionTreesNYC for the first time. I’m always happy to see big companies such as JetBlue using their resources to sponsor volunteer events that make a difference. And, as always, volunteers make it all come together!

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sign up for “one thing that’s green” day

I just signed up for the seventh annual One Thing That’s Green on Saturday, April 19th in Highland Park hosted by JetBlue Airlines and New York Restoration Project and its MillionTreesNYC initiative! This tree-planting event is estimated to plant over 100 trees with the help of more than 250 volunteers in the garden space in New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Woodside Houses in Woodside, Queens! That is great! I can’t wait to be a part of this event. 

If you haven’t participated in a volunteer event this year then sign up! I will be there! I love big sponsored volunteer events. We get FREE t-shirts, training, and fun activities through-out the day. Usually breakfast, lunch, and snacks are provided to volunteers as well. It’s a fun day to get out and meet new people, gain experience, and make a positive difference in the community you live in.

See you there! :)

 

 

at far rockaway beach….again

It’s supposed to be 71 deg today so I have decided to pack my beach bag and go to Far Rockaway Beach! My plan to do my laundry on a Saturday morning was not as FUN as going to the beach! :)

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I can hear the waves crashing on shore from across the street and I’m eager to get onto the sand. I take off my shoes and the sand is hot on the bottom of my feet – which feels amazing! It’s quiet out here today – just a few dog walkers and surfers again.

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I spend a few hours combing the beach looking for seashells and picking litter, stopping to watch dogs happily splashing in the ocean fetching sticks and the surfers braving the freezing water to catch a wave.

I had a few beach goers approach me today asking me what I was doing and appreciating my efforts. A dog walker ran up to me with his hands full of trash to put into the bags, eager to help. A surfer stopped to chat and thank me for cleaning up. One lady said “We all have to do our part in keeping this beach clean, I think it’s amazing that you are here today picking litter. Thank you so much for doing that.” YOU ARE WELCOME! I was so HAPPY that people noticed what I was doing and talked to me about it.

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DANGER: There may be litter on the beach that your child or dog will step on and get hurt! Please take your trash with you when you leave the beach. Thank you! :)

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I filled 9 small shopping bags with litter from the beach in two hours. I found some really large pieces of styrofoam and metal that have blown in from the construction sites.

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I wandered past Beach 90 where the boardwalk is under construction and closed off to the public. The sand is accessible and that is where I found most of the litter. I couldn’t fit all of it in my bags and there was no garbage cans for me to dispose of what I found so I had to carry all the bags back to the nearest trash bin.

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A list of SOME items I found on the beach today:

12 cigarette butts
38 plastic bags/plastic film pieces
25 plastic bottle caps
9 pieces of cloth
4 large styrofoam pieces
1 construction Danger sign
3 balloons
3 cig lighters
9 random obects
8 pieces rope/cord
1 black styrofoam piece
17 bags of chips/snacks
3 snickers bars wrapper
1 blue plastic kids sand shovel
3 large corona beer glass bottles
3 beer cans
2 tampons
7 piles of doggie poop
1 glove
10 random plastic pieces
and the list goes on…

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The bright pink balloon I found on the beach this morning – and my birthday is coming up in a few days! Is that a coincidence??

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I’m not sure why these mountain bikers are taking their bikes on the break wall rocks but I’m curious if they are doing some extreme rock jumping. Also hoping nobody gets hurt!

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If you want more motivation to get out and make a difference I found this great video last night on the Daily Ocean blog. Sara Bayles has done 365 beach cleanups in her local area with a mission to inspire others all around the world to care about our oceans and their beaches. And she is quite an INSPIRATION to me! Read all about it!

Thank you for reading my blog post. If you have any questions or comments write em down! I’d love to hear from you!

volunteering in chinatown

I was volunteering at Sara D. Roosevelt park today with New York Cares and the New York City Park and Recreation. The weather was great and we worked hard raking leaves along the edge of the fence.

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As you can see in the pictures there is still some snow on the ground. The weather has been quite cold the last few weeks but gave volunteers a break this Saturday morning. It felt great to get outside and work up a sweat!

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The park is in Chinatown area of New York City so there was a lot of trash around the park because of the Chinese New Year parade and celebrations held here recently.

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Thankfully I did see a small crew of workers from New York City Parks and Recreation sweeping and cleaning the trash in the park. They definitely had a lot of work to do that day.

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a winter weekend in north fork

On Saturday morning we took a leisurely drive to North Fork, the heart of Long Island’s wine country. It was a last minute trip since the beach cleanup had been canceled earlier that day. It was rainy and foggy but warm for a winter day so we decided to find a different adventure  instead of sitting at home or running errands. We both decided that taking down the Christmas tree and packing the decorations could wait just one more week even though it is the middle of January.

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Our first stop was the Horton Point Lighthouse located high on the cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound in Southhold, NY. This lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington himself in the 1700’s. We didn’t get any pictures of the lighthouse because it was still raining and very foggy. Our adventure took us down the long rickety wooden steps to the beach. The beach was extremely rocky and slippery and dangerous so we couldn’t wander too far.

We did find some small pieces of trash on the beach to pick up quickly but it was relatively cleaner than we had expected. We hadn’t planned to clean the beach that day anyways and the rain prevented us from staying too long.

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Why did the wild turkeys cross the road? I don’t know but we had to chase them into a yard because the road was windy and cars were speeding by and we didn’t want to take a chance they wouldn’t get to the other side.

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Since it is winter time, most of the vineyards close early so we are off to find a wine tasting event soon. There are 52 vineyards on Long Island with 26 wineries open to the public. You can find more information on the official website of the Long Island Wine Council at www.liwines.com. We stopped at a Bedell Cellar and Winery which closed at 7 pm and had a nice atmosphere and a diverse menu.

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Bedell Cellars Winery is a fully sustainable vineyard in Cutchogue, NY area. We chose the Estate Flight tasting off the menu pricing at $15, which includes five wines. It was nice to relax by the toasty fireplace. The staff at Bedell Cellars were friendly and informative and Jack gave us a private tour in the back where the “magic happens.” We both learned a lot about wine making, how the grapes are grown in the sandy rocky soil and when they are harvested.  We also had a chance to taste the wine that was served at the last Presidential inauguration dinner. It was a great experience!

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On the crisp winter afternoon the sleeping vines showed their raw beauty of stark browns and reds contrasting with the white snow and pale green grass. Visiting a vineyard in winter seems unintentional but the area is quiet and lazy with fewer visitors. I enjoyed the quieter time of the countryside because it was a nice escape from the busy city life for a weekend.

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Sunday morning didn’t start off well with a dead car battery and a few hours to fix the issue but eventually we got back on the road to enjoy the clear skies and visit a few places we missed during the fog from the previous day.

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Did you know that agriculture is Long Island’s largest industry? We drove past many farmstands that sell their fresh vegetables and fruit, cut firewood for $5, and even homemade pies during the season.  There isn’t many restaurants or farmstands open in the winter time so be prepared with snacks or a picnic lunch.

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Our last destination was to Orient Point, which is literally the end of the road. The next stop is to jump a ferry boat to Shelter Island or Plum Island from the marina or sail to the coast of Connecticut. The sign below is before the ferry for visitors getting off their boat. Welcome to New York!

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The drive on Main Road to Orient Beach State Park gives you beautiful views of the small towns like East Marion, rocky beaches, horse farms, and seafood restaurants. At one point the road narrows and there is only water on both sides. We saw flocks of geese feeding in the shallow water, white-tailed deer running through the tall reeds, and an abandoned boat on the shore.

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The beach at Orient Point near the marina was quite beautiful with a far away view of a lighthouse and a perfect spot to have a picnic and watch the ferry dock.

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Apparently this beach is a shell collectors paradise because most of the beaches are covered in seashells and we had heard that there were rare yellow ones that could be found on only one beach in the area and we found some here!

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We had a great time exploring the north side of Long Island over the weekend. I can’t wait to go visit again in the summer!

volunteering with city harvest

On Saturday morning I took the train to Brooklyn to volunteer with City Harvest at their mobile market. City Harvest is an organization that collects food from restaurants, grocery stores, markets, farms, and manufacturers and distributes it through out the New York City area in several different ways to those in need at shelters, soup kitchens, poverty stricken neighborhoods, and other agencies.

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The mobile market distributes free fruit and vegetables through a program called “Healthy Neighborhoods” for residents in low-income communities and provides nutrition education with cooking demonstrations and recipe cards that will hopefully inspire affordable, healthy meal choices. The mobile markets are quite organized. I found out that each resident has to register in advance  and is given an amount of food depending on the size of their family and their nutritional needs.

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When we got to the location we were given a brief explanation on how to distribute the vegetables and fruit to each group or individual. I spent a few hours that day weighing, bagging, and distributing onions.

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It was cold outside but it was rewarding to be there and assisting a great organization such as City Harvest in all the good that they do. AND they had coffee!!!! :)

raking leaves in astoria park

Brrrr! It is a cold November morning but I am eager to get to Astoria Park to volunteer with New York Cares and the Astoria Park Alliance. Astoria Park is 59.96-acres city park that runs along the East River in Queens that has many beautiful trees which means ALOT of leaves to rake in the Fall!

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The Astoria Park Alliance is a GREAT organization that was started in 2007 to create a bridge between the community surrounding Astoria Park and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Volunteers and supporters assist in keeping the park maintained and clean and bring awareness to the community. They hold many fun events such as Leaf Fest and the NY Cupcake Run to encourage people to become more involved in Astoria Park and the community.
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Even though the weather was chilly that morning, a large group of volunteers arrived and within a few hours we filled over 100 bags of leaves! And it was nice to hear that most of the black garbage bags we used to fill with leaves are re-used from previous volunteer events in the park.

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Build It Green! NYC is a nonprofit that takes in salvaged material such as doors, windows, and wood from construction sights, supplier, and other sources to stop these items from going in the landfill. Most of these items are sold in their warehouse and some are donated. This is a GREAT idea! Reuse! Recycle! AND Build It Green! NYC has a program called BIG!Compost that works very hard to increase the participation and acceptance of composting. They supplied a truck and driver on Saturday to come pick up all the leaves we raked to compost at their facility. This compost will later on be used as mulch for city parks.

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It had been a really stressful week for me so it was great to get outdoors and enjoy being outside in my favorite park and participate in a fun volunteer event! :) HAPPY!

a polluted parking lot

On my way to the grocery story I walk past a parking lot that is really polluted. I found out last week that this parking lot belongs to a used car dealership called Major World. Their main entrance is on 43-40 Northern Boulevard in  Long Island City and appears to be very clean and organized. But, the back parking lot is full of litter and debris such as empty oil cans and soda bottles.

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The image below is taken at the back parking lot. Unfortunately, this parking lot fits over 3000 used cars so the amount of pollution is astounding.

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The image below is the parking lot on the side on 37th Avenue. I am not sure who is responsible for the sidewalk or grassy area but it is overgrown and full of trash. A large shopping center and Stop n Shop grocery story is directly across the street and hundreds of people walk through this every every single day. Has nobody seriously complained about this before?

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2013 international coastal cleanup

On Saturday, September 21, I joined the New York City Audubon at North Channel Bridge (renamed as the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge ) to participate in the 2013 Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup!

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This is my first time volunteering with the New York City Audubon and it was a great experience. We boarded a little yellow school bus from their headquarters on 23rd Street for the short ride to the Jamaica Bay area.  All the supplies we needed for the cleanup were provided as well as water and snacks. But, nobody brought coffee???

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The New York City Audubon has many volunteer opportunities, classes, and events such as local harbor cruises, lecture series, and even bird-watching trips to destinations like Costa Rica.

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Our group consisted of 16 volunteers including the staff from the NYC Audubon. We cleaned the parking lot, the beach, and further down into the longer marsh grass covering ¼ of a mile of coastal area.

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CoastalCleanup_14We found the usual items such as broken glass bottles, soda cans, and fishing line. We also found items such as statues, decorative scarves and clothing, that were apparently left behind from a ritual previously performed on the beach.

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The International Cleanup is organized by the Ocean Conservancy, whose strong efforts to keep our ocean clean to protect and preserve coastal-marine life is a heroic act in itself. At the 2012 International Cleanup, 561,633 volunteers cleaned up almost 10 million pounds of trash. Now THAT is something to think about. It’s something I think about. I think about coffee too.

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Several large garbage bins were available in the parking lot and close to the beach entrance but most were overflowing with trash. One parking spot was littered on both sides with ice cream containers and spoons from Coldstone Creamery, as if a car of people enjoyed their ice cream treat, opened their car doors and dropped their trash on the parking lot instead of walking the few steps to the trash can. This lack of respect for the environment by behavior like this is disheartening for those of us who notice it.

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The MOST important thing that I noticed is the determination and hard work that every volunteer exerted during this cleanup. The mood was somber after a few hours of work, maybe because it was a cloudy day followed by brief scattered showers. When it started to rain most of the volunteers only stopped to put on their rain coats. During the break everyone ate and rushed back out to work. I was really impressed that most of the volunteers were families and a few local beach goers that signed up to join us unexpectedly.

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We filled 27 bags of trash totaling 1,8 75 lbs! That’s almost a TON of trash we prevented from polluting this waterway any futher.

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Afterwards, we took a moment to watch the birds scout out the newly exposed sand as low tide set in and breathe in the salty air and remind ourselves that we made one small step in protecting this beautiful area for everyone to enjoy now and in the future.

I want to THANK the New York City Audubon and all the volunteers that day, not just here but internationally because together we can make a difference. And THAT makes me HAPPY!