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.