Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Cautionary Tale

First days can be scary. Especially first days of school. As you can see, I was scared sh@t-less.

It begs the question: Why? Why? Why?

The youngest of four, I was last to leave the nest. It was a warm, cozy nest; a nest where my mother made delicious chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven, special just for me when others were at school; a nest where the peanut-butter cookies, also warm, had special criss-crosses on them; where aproned mom sang from the door: "K,K, K, Katy; K-K-K Katy, beautiful Katy...I'll be waiting at the k-k-k kitchen door."

And then, school loomed. The unknown. The great abyss.

But, as second days are, it was so much better. (Love the bangs - thanks, Mom!)

Four Reasons:

  • My brother, Tom, was bus monitor (he may have been quickly appointed in this role to get me onto the bus - whether official appointment or parental-appointed, it mattered not. He was there to guide me;
  • Mrs. Jorgensen: my beautiful kindergarten teacher with dark bouffant hair-style. She had a Jackie-O'ness about her. Who wouldn't want to be her?
  • My classroom. I was smitten: it had a side room with a peaked ceiling, all skylights welcoming in the sun, clouds and light. And, inside, a huge, metal slide. As big and wonderful as those in the playgrounds. Perfect. Extra perfect because it was never scorching hot. 
  • Snack and nap-time: graham crackers, cold milk in small waxy containers followed by dozy, whispery and giggly "nap"time on my unfurled green and gold sectioned mat. 
The year rolled on in a happy, contented way - filled with newly-sharpened pencils, friends and extra-special times when my Mom was Room Mother. 

When the school year ended, I already knew I was moving away that summer to Pennsylvania; and I knew that I was also moving away from the special time that remains forever special.

It helped, of course, when Robby shoved down the bus window and wedged half of his entire body out the window, yelling:

"I love you!!! Will you marry me?"

"Yes! Yes!!" I yelled - --left in a cloud of belching diesel fumes and Robby waving and throwing me a kiss.

Looking back, kindergarten was my favoritest, most special time of all. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Green IS Good

Green is good. Water IS green - and not just because of the Toledo algae bloom, either. The Great Lakes might be cash in the bank in the near future. Toledoans' water was on trial yesterday when it turned green - literally. The water ban (which was just lifted) due to algae bloom, made national headlines. I'm sure Holy Toledo was used more than once in a story, so we'll just get it out of the way right now.

So the ban is lifted. Let's think about what got us to this point in the first place. Runoff/contaminants from farms, chemicals, pesticides and, natural manure.

This problem has been building over the years; the Associated Press reports (with my bold-faced emphasis inserted):

Water plant operators along western Lake Erie have long been worried about this very scenario as a growing number of algae blooms have turned the water into a pea soup color in recent summers, leaving behind toxins that can sicken people and kill pets.
In fact, the problems on the shallowest of the five Great Lakes brought on by farm runoff and sludge from sewage treatment plants have been building for more than a decade.
Our Great Lakes Region is home to what might soon be one/is of the greatest natural resources on the planet - H20. Beyond whetting our whistles, it could bode well for drought-weary southwestern states, and California. Jed Clampett listen up: water, pure (we hope), clean water. All that could translate to green/money for sagging economies in these here places. (Note to young whippersnappers: Mr. Clampett was a character in old TV sitcome, "The Beverly Hillbillies" check it out; don't worry, it's a talkie - oops, that means the actors talk vs. silent films -----)
But I digress. 
Let's get back to green gunk of the algae variety. What can I and you do to make a difference? 
  • Eating less beef and other meat perhaps? Manure is one of the culprits here - especially that slathered, like frosting, over the snow and frozen soil during winter months. Yum. I'm not suggesting we eat no beef, but how about limiting it? (Meat consumption is expected to increase in years and it's been linked to everything from deforestation to a dwindling water supply - and that's before the algae bloom noted above.) 
  • Eat more fruits and veggies - BUT support local farmers who grow pesticide-free products. 
  • Grow your Own veggies - again, pesticide free. 
Just a few ways to make a difference. (And, yes, I know all the above is probably an oversimplification of the problem/s and the solution/s. It's a start, perhaps. 

Of course, I say all this after having eaten a hamburger last night. I plead guilty. And the more I think about it, the more complex the problem becomes. Fine, I like cheese - cows and goats produce milk for cheese, which means they need hay to eat, water and then there is still the manure problem. Check.
Peanut butter - again, it's a plant that - probably - too often requires pesticides. Check.
Beans. A plant and more pesticides.  
Rice - ditto.
This leaves bread (wheat, rye, grains, grains, grains and - unless something changes = pesticides).
Check. Check and Check.
And, that leaves water.
And we're right back to where we started. 

I'll sign off with a quote from one of the greats, Albert Einstein, physicist and Nobel Prize winner:
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival on of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Friday, August 1, 2014

Heavy Lifting

I recently learned that Harvey Pratt has ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a progressive muscle disease. This is the tagline where people say: Lou Gherigs' disease. Another tag line: you know, the thing that physicist Stephen Hawking has.

And, now, Harvey Pratt.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the fundraising poster, tacked on the window of the CVS store. I often scan and move on...another person and family struggling. But those riveting blue eyes grabbed me. Harvey Pratt has ALS. Are you kidding me? Why is it that certain things jolt us from the everydayness of everyday? When I learned Harvey has this debilitating disease it was one of those moments - a slap in the face.

I met Harvey at the Band Boosters booth at one of the Oberlin High School football games about five years ago. My sons were tuba and saxophone respectively. I don't even know what instrument his daughter played.

Harvey, his wife, Nickie, and I were among a bustling group of parents yanking snacks and food off the shelves and serving to the hungry. At one point, the orders were coming thick and heavy. "We're in the weeds," I yelled. Harvey looked at me - those brilliant, blue eyes - and a wonderful gusty laugh came forth. A guffaw. We grinned in unison and laughed together. During our shift, we had a playful rapport - two parents in the thick of raising our kids and doing the heavy lifting of parenting.

I usually feel out of place. For some reason, Harvey made me feel in the very rightest place at that moment. So easy to be with. "It would be great to hang out with him and his family," I thought. "What great people." Of course, as usual, I hang back.

Perhaps I am ever the journalist, liking to observe. Though, at times, I feel a sad distance.

Looking more closely, however, I feel warmed that Harvey's struggle brings out the best in what a community has to offer. When I hear about something like this it rattles me. Driving by his house, I see a new wheelchair ramp. At the spaghetti fundraiser, Harvey is scooting around the fundraiser in a motorized wheelchair. His voice is breathy, following surgery to help his breathing. He was diagnosed just four months ago. How can one of the nicest guys who is just 45 and has his whole life ahead of him get dealt this? Why? What are we here for? Blahblahblahblah.

I am off into existential ennui. Harvey is out there battling. I am here pondering navel lint. The whyness of everything.

I have no answers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Do, Delay, Delegate or Dump?

Some years ago overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork crossing my desk, a colleague's guidance was:
  • Do
  • Delay
  • Delegate, or
  • Dump
I think I've mastered the first two D's: Doing and Delaying. I definitely have an advanced degree in Delaying sometimes referred to as Procrastinating. As far as Doing goes, it should be an O as in Overdoing. Or, Obsessive. Trying too hard. Never enough. Not Good Enough. Enter the P: Perfectionism, which circles back to D: Delaying because if I can't do it perfectly, wait until later, the proverbial hell freezing over.

The third D: Delegate, rarely gets a workout because I'm too busy Doing it myself ("It will be done right," said the overly-controlling perfectionist. Or, I'm too busy Delaying ("By the time I get done explaining, I could have done it myself.") Sigh. Enter M: martyr.

Finally, the the last D: Dump.

Yes, I have packrat tendencies. Not enough to qualify for "Hoarders," but enough to jam closets, create clutter and generally make life much more complicated and weighty than it need be. I sometimes feel downright boggy.

When it comes to paperwork I'm a piler vs. filer. Out of sight, way too far out of mind - drives me out of my mind trying to remember my filing system. The same often holds true for online documents.  Which folder? Where? My solution involves dozens of folders to jog the memory. Still, working at the computer, I find myself hunkered among a tower of papers - a bunker of sorts. But I know where everything is - somewhere in pile A, B, etc. (Sort of)....

So, to Dump. Aye, to Dream - there's the rub.
A place for everything and everything in its place...

Only 5 years young and I began exercising my bargain buying, packrat tendencies. The Ryan's, next door neighbors, had a garage sale. My first. I scoped out the table filled with xylophones (something I always wanted, but didn't have); possibly a Jack-in-the-Box and other trivial and (seemingly) non-essential items that fell into the want-to/have-to/gotta'-have category.

A quarter, a nickle, pennies - my paltry change bought a Red Owl paper grocery bag filled with new treasures. I headed home - just next door. Excited by the haul, I proudly showed them to Jeff, my oldest brother - 9 years my senior. My memory includes a stern lecture about the importance of frugality and avoiding frivolous expenditures. We were savers. We were? Must have lost the memo in the pile of papers I was already surrounding myself with - catalogues, magazines, old mail. He ordered me back to the garage sale to return the bargains and ask for a refund. Shame - how could I squander? - followed by dread: I have to what? Return and ask for a refund? Only 5 and I was tapping a new-found feeling: paranoia. What would they think? Would they laugh, get angry, or something else? Only 5 and I was stockpiling and squirreling away emotions that would plague me (sometimes still today). And they weren't of the pleasant variety - curiously, those emotions: joy, happiness, contenment probably made it into the file drawer - again, out of sight and very much out of mind. When pleasant emotions hit I find myself mucking about in them, thinking: This just does not feel right. What's wrong with this unknown feeling that everyone thinks is so spectacular - in my world, perhaps, good feelings actually feel bad. A place I have, unfortunately, set up housekeeping.

But I digress. Doing a bit of archaeologic research about my memories vs. my brothers, he remembered nothing about the garage sale, ordering me back, or lecturing me. Denial on his part? Awfulizing or false memories on my part? Who knows. The fact remains - as do the feelings - that when I scavenge and schlep about Goodwills, rock-bottom price resale shops, lawn sales -  euphoria is quickly followed by a sense of guilt, shame and doubt. So I tote home both my new-found tchotchkes along with a heavy bagful of emotions: the negative, bad ones, and yet, they seem to be the ones I know so very well they are where I dig my foxhole against the world.

So, to Dump. Aye, to Dream?

It is possible.  A backpacking trip in the mid 1980's showed me that just about everything I needed was in that rather compact backpack. The essentials. Returning from the outing both mentally and physically toned, I vowed to lighten my load. Since then, I have moved to five different homes and toted the same, old boxes of ancient lore with me from place to place to place. And, of course, I've barely ever cracked them open to check on their oh, so-very-important contents.

So, before the producer from Hoarders calls, I must start - make that, I am starting. 

A New Year barely tainted is a time for fresh starts. Serendipitously, National Public Radio's "Tell Me More," program got me thinking about some Big-Time Dumping. 

Gail Blanke, author and life coach's book "Throw Out 50 Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life" pretty much nailed my biggest D challenge. Dumping. Failure to dump leads to what she calls Life Plaque. Most of us succumb to toting around boxes of stuff and bags of emotional garbage from house to house, year to year. It's amazing, she said, we can even get out of bed in the morning. Yawn.

Failure to Dump is obviously a challenge for many of us. Come January store aisles are, appropriately,  cluttered and piled with stuff for organizing: containers of every shape and size - big enough for your Christmas Tree; small enough for buttons, twist ties, toenail clippers - heck, even the toenails if you've a yen for that kind of thing. Organizing is big business. Professional organizers can get board certified in organizing and, of course, being very organized, they have a professional organization: The National Association of Professional Organizers. Our passion for disorganization sparked Real Simple, the magazine for "life made easier every day" and dozens and dozens of books and online newsletters on how to save money organizing your life.

And when the organizing bins are packed and there's no more space in the homestead, it's time for a Storage Unit. This brings to mind Hannibal Lecter's Storage Unit, so jam-packed, it practically had a supporting role, in "Silence of the Lambs". Jodie Foster, aka FBI Cadet Clarice Starling, stumbled upon the cache of Stuff. Among the detritus: dusty furniture, a wooden statue of an owl in flight, a mannequin, an old upright piano and a 1931 Packard beneath a huge American flag. And the piece de resistance: a pickled head.  If the Storage Unit doesn't suit your needs, you can bring the bin to you, get a Pod "your portable and self storage solution."

Simple living; living simply; minimalism; living green; bartering, recycling; freecyling - it's part of the de-cluttering/dumping process. A nod to Architect Mies van der Rohe's "less is more"guiding principle for his aesthetic "skin and bone" architecture would serve us well.

However, speaking as a Templeton the Rat, packrat groupie, I'll second this mantra, adding that it's, "Simple, but not Easy."

Enter Gail Blanke's 50-item solution. But why 50 things, host Michele Martin asked. Identifying and dumping 50-or items, one slips into a new mindset (which is a good thing to acquire), Blanke said. The 50 items can be actual items or chunks of emotional baggage dispensed with. Try it and "you become the kind of person who consistently edits her life," Blanke said.

So, time for The Big Dump and mental flossing to rid myself of 52 years of Life Plaque buildup. Tips include: not making a Big Deal out of this (uh, right - it's sort of gotten to the Big Deal stage). Chunk it out - 10-15 minutes at a time: tackle The Drawer where cap snafflers mingle with twist ties, electrical cords and toenail clippers. Move onto another area - desk, books, closet. Work your way to the attic, basement or (gadzooks!) the garage. Think of ways to recycle and share the things you've enjoyed: give books to the library for their Book Sale. Pass clothes onto shelters, non-profits, agencies helping those in need, think lawn sales, Goodwills or resales: one woman's junk, another's treasure. Of course, I'm not talking about me....

Items that are emotionally-charged: cast-offs from a bad relationship, marriage, etc. - donate, sell, burn? Your choice. Have a ceremony to cast off the anxieties, bad memories with the things that burden: chanting and sage are optional, of course.

In addition to Gail Blanke's book, here's more fodder to prime the pump for Dumping. "Everything Must Go" a bittersweet movie starring Will Ferrell. And, of course, the clutter classic: George Carlin's brilliant and oh-so true,"Stuff" monologue: "A house is just a place to keep stuff while you go out and get more stuff." And, verily, I say unto you, look to Ecclesiastes 3:6: "there is a time to keep and a time to throw away."

Before the radio broadcast had even aired (Jan. 2), I had cleaned out kitchen drawers - overcome intertia and moved toward initiative. I don't know what came over me.

Since hearing Gail Blanke's advice, my small pile working toward 50 things includes, a deep-fat fryer, used once about a year ago to deep fry chicken wings (and we know how healthy that is; baking, them until crispy, works just as well sans oil, extra calories, fuss and muss. This of course reminds me of Item 2: a coffee can full of year-old used frying oil. Onto Item 3: A Swirl Around Organizer which more organization spaces than containers, which are missing lids and bottoms. However, I'll have to add 60 more items to Blanke's suggested 50 since purchasing a 60-item various sized kitchen containers to replace the dumped Swirl Around and old containers that cascaded out of the cupboard whenever opened. That puts me at 110 items to dump.

A clean desk is a sign of:

  • A sick mind?
  • A woman who edits her life?
  • A Scary Concept!!!
Three days into January and it's a New Me: a woman editing her own life. Dumping. Dumping. Dumping. Getting rid of my Life Plaque. I like to think of this as removing the Waxy Buildup: emotional and otherwise. Well on my way to 50 + 60 things. And, yes, the Goodwill beckoned en route home. Add  8 more new-found treasures, bringing the Dump Truck Load to118. At least.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

She, Who Thinks Too Much

So, I'm thinking the other day - some would say: Don't go into that bad neighborhood or First Thought Wrong.

And yet, I am tempted to keep thinking. It goes something like this:

Life on Earth. My life on Earth. I am born. I live. Along the way, decisions. Shall I go this direction, or that? What will happen if I had headed for the job in Ft. Wayne, Ind. vs. heading toward Cleveland? Some 27 years later, I find myself thinking about this. Like I said, somewhat dangerous territory, that thinking....Still I press on, noodling this one out.

Chances are, I would have met and married someone - as I did in Northeast, OH. Chances are, we would have had children (as I did here, in Northeast, OH - three to be exact). The reality is those children would be totally different than the ones I had - certain sperm also being very different and the collision of that other sperm and my egg would produce totally different offspring.
Kevin, Patrick and Colleen would not exist.

Instead, some other beings would populate this earth. Even now, the thought of not having what I call "my children" makes me mourn the fact that for many odd twists and turns and decisions - every single one - they would not have joined me on this earth. Never to exist. They are here for the quirkiest of reasons, most finally, that on a particular second, on a particular day, a particular sperm united with one of my eggs and - voila! - a person begins. Three, in fact. Each known to me in very special ways: with seemingly innate personalities, those forged by genetics and environment, experiences and time. Mix all together and they grow into their own person. Themselves, though - like me - here for but a fleeting moment on Earth. Like us all.

Poised on the brink of a decision 27 years ago, had I moved Indiana way, totally different offspring would exist. "My" children would not exist and how possessive a thought that is, really, given the randomness of any of being here right now. Instead, "my" children are Buckeyes and not Hoosiers. And, who knows Indiana might have led to Montana, Novia Scotia, Poughkeepsie, New York. Perhaps even another continent. All this leads to many other unkowns and yet-to-be's.

And so I bizarre and odd that these children have come to me at this particular moment in time. Even now, I mourn how random it is they are here right now. For if,  if one second was altered - they might not. This thought scares me. I plummet into the inky depths of fate vs. free will. A pre-ordained plot that began eons ago and trails into some unknown. The ramifications of this quirky thought generates a whole new NOW. Of course, were that the case, I also would not exist to ponder these odd, yet intriguing, thoughts. Would someone else? Does it matter my words - these words - exist now (hold your comments for later, please).

And, for the other children who are not? Perhaps, not so curiously, they are phantoms only. And yet....had they been, they too would have completely unique personalities - once-in-a-lifetime snowflakes - each unique, forever. None ever to be replicated. Just like "my" children now. Each their own self. Uniquely. Snowflakes all.

I would not trade this life, "my" children for others. And, yet, sometimes, I find myself thinking....what if?

This post brought to you by: She, Who Thinks Too Much.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2 Falcon Road

We lived in the Country Clubber; 2 Falcon Rd., in the Forsythia Lane portion of the planned community known as Levittown, PA.

Across the street, our newspaper boy snacked on cat food. Next door, Donna Jean and her family had a chicken, who used our back porch as her chicken coop; she was aptly named, "Dirty Bird." We found the neighbors on the other side perplexing. When Randy Tidd's white canvas tennis shoes - sneakers out East - got dirty, he grabbed the white shoe polish and gave them the once-over. Sister Denise wowed us by curling her upper eyelids inside out so the pink underbelly laced with tiny veins fluttered at us as she blinked.

From 4 p.m on, ice cubes clinked in stubby glasses, some sporting frosted backgrounds imprinted with leaves and other designs. Cigarette smoke hovered at nearly every gathering. Women wore shifts. Men in sensible suits - brown seemed to be the color. Under the suit jackets, short-sleeved tailored shirts: yellow with a brown suit, blue with brown, white with brown.

That summer, re-upholstering had captured my mother's imagination. Chairs, shoes, couches, purses. Just about anything could be reupholstered with nubby, rugged fabrics. She toted a putty knife around, wedging it into her latest victim: most recently a high-heel shoe that would perfectly match the wool skirt, suit and hat - her spin on Jackie O. Add a few of her own finishing touches as she worked on the shoe: pedal pushers, white Keds, sleeveless cotton top and a head full of permanent hair rods. Eggy smells emanated from her head. A cigarette was usually nearby. Talk radio was on the air - maybe even KDKA from Pittsburgh. People kvetching. Mom kvetching about them kvetching.

As dusk neared, the thick, heavy, moist air was suffocating. Soon, the alert would be sounded: "Close the Windows!" We'd slam windows shut and jump onto our steeds: single speed bicycles - the lucky kids had Stingrays with banana seats. In unison, a stream of kids snaked behind the mosquito sprayer. The houses were safe from the fumes, though no one seemed to notice our cycling Conga line as we inhaled DDT. Ah, the 60s. That time of innocence and ignorance.

The pesticide-laced air blanketed Forsythia Lane as the bicyclists trailed to our respective homes. Returning to 2 Falcon Drive, the TV lit up the room. June bugs thunked against the screens. "Laugh-In" was socking it to us - psychedelic flowers, Go-Go boots, bad jokes and the Fickle Finger of Fate.

Outside, the sky twinkled with lightning bugs: On. Off. On. Off.

Mom sauntered in, hair newly permed; spiffy "new" high heels clacking on the floor, you could still smell the fresh glue.