Indoor litter amounts to a form of pollution

I hate litter, whether it’s having to clean the cat litter box, dealing with stray kittens people drop off “out in the country” from an unwanted litter, or picking up fast food bags tossed into my ditch next to the kittens. Those who litter dirty the rights of those who don’t.
Iron-Eyes-CodyThe issue of American litter was first nationally addressed back in 1953, with the formation of the “Keep America Beautiful” non-profit organization. Its main focus was litter prevention, waste reduction/recycling and community greening and beautification. My focus has always been on the first two, as I stink when it comes to greenery and/or beautifying anything.
When I was in grade school, “Keep America Beautiful” introduced its 1971 anti-pollution and littering campaign with a memorable TV commercial. Buckskin-clad actor Iron Eyes Cody portrayed a silent Native-American stoically paddling a canoe down a rural waterway strewn with man-made debris, gliding into a smoggy harbor with ships and factories belching smoke, and landing on a litter-covered beach.
William Conrad’s voiceover intoned, “Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country. And some people don’t. People start pollution. People can stop it.” The commercial ended with a close-up of a tear running down the cheek of the silent Indian, caused by America’s careless abuse of the environment.
That commercial nearly moved me to tears, although I made fun of it regularly in the company of my friends. To that point in life, I had never been much of a “litterbug,” a word popularized by the anti-litter campaign. But afterward, I became violently opposed to littering and hated litterers. Mind you, this was even before I had a yard they could trash with kittens, empty cigarette packs and depleted energy drink cans.
I reared children who react similarly. When they see littering, they go ballistic and start listing multiple forms of torture that are too good for anyone who would leave that kind of mess for someone else to pick up. Unless that someone is their mom.
The online Oxford Dictionary defines litter as “Untidy with rubbish or a large number of objects left lying about.” Wikipedia’s litter entry shovels deeper: “Litter consists of waste products that have been disposed improperly, without consent, at an inappropriate location. … The presence of litter invites more littering.” Amen!
When I ask my children to define litter, they say it’s OUTDOOR strewn-about crap. Presumably, this is to rule out their own indoor messes that could easily fit the all-points bulletin description of “a large number of objects left lying about.”
If I had a dollar for each cellophane microwave popcorn bag wrapper left beside the microwave instead of walked eight whole feet over to the kitchen trash can for disposal, I would be able to afford a servant who could personally pop for us whenever the urge struck.
This pales in comparison to the ant-attracting (during warm weather) properties of open boxes of sugar-coated cereal and Pop-Tart wrappers found behind couches and under beds. Surely Iron Eyes Cody would have not just a tear, but murder in his eye if he spotted price tags and other packaging from new clothing hastily torn off and left wherever they might land. Cultural anthropologists might someday rightly hypothesize it as a ritualistic ingratitude ceremony.
When confronted with this slovenly disrespect for both home and vehicular environments, my children simply shrug and tell me I’m overreacting. If only I had my hands on one of the Indian’s canoe paddles at those moments!
These same children became incensed when on a road trip I tossed an apple core out the window of my (already indoor-littered by them) vehicle, into a swamp. “Mom! You can’t do that, it’s LITTERING!”
A New England littering study performed in 2010 identified 95% of American litterers as under the age of 55, with 78% of them male. Clearly, I’m not gender-prone to littering and am aging out of it. Things don’t bode as well for my son, for whom the study justifies the Pringles can he tossed back empty into the pantry: “The Devilish demographics made me do it!”
Oh yeah? Well, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

Just because you can buy it, doesn’t justify it

I can get into all kinds of trouble doing nothing out of the ordinary. Does anyone else suffer from this problem? In the words of author and speaker Andy Andrews, I am a “notice.” Small things that escape other people’s attention come boldly onto my radar and under my scrutiny.
Being a noticer is both a blessing and a curse. I regularly got in trouble as a kid because much to my parents’ chagrin, I tended to mention whatever strange detail I had picked up on, especially when they were simply trying to socialize. Being both detail-noticing and forthright was a recipe for social disgrace.
“No, Kristy, I didn’t notice the nose beard that man was growing, but he would likely take offense if we pointed it out to him,” was par for the course. Noticing something is only part of the noticer issue. The need to share your stupid observation with someone goes along with it.
Aside from being a social landmine magnet, noticing is a component of emotional intelligence that’s enabled me to discern subtle information for later use or to incorporate into conversation. It allows reading people based on barely perceptible clues. That brought extra tips my way when I was a waitress and convinced some I was borderline psychic when I worked as a counselor.
While there’s an inherent social awkwardness that haunts the notice, the steepest downside of noticing odd bits of detail is that it’s akin to having a permanent closed captioned box on the corner of my field of vision, complete with an incessant AV feed that goes directly to my brain. I find I am always simultaneously watching the mainstream happenings of life while also taking in its sideshows. To be honest, the sideshows are infinitely more interesting.
Just last week, while I was standing in line at a pharmacy, my gaze wandered to the huge display of condoms on the shelf ahead and to my left, under the nose of pharmacy staff to prevent theft. It made me wonder how many people would rather risk pregnancy than take the embarrassing step of stepping up under the scrutiny of the pharmacy staff to select condoms. No wonder the risk of getting caught stealing them feels less risky than purchasing them.
Next, my little noticer brain started wondering how many people buy their condoms somewhere other than at the local pharmacy (and at what price!) for anonymity purposes. And what criteria do couples use to decide who becomes the designated condom buyer?
Before I could start fully pondering that one, my noticing right eye caught sight of a product I did not previously know existed: an over the counter DNA Paternity Test. What?! You’ve got to be kidding! But no, it was for real and for $39.95, sold right next to the pregnancy tests, which lent it a wee bit of credibility and irony.
Unfortunately, I was too busy engaging in my transaction (and making sure a coupon was credited to my bill) to pick up the box and read more, but I am guessing there must be a decent market for the item or it wouldn’t be for sale. That, in itself, is scary!
Everything in me wanted to wait there all day to see who purchased DNA paternity tests and to know if some had purchased multiples over time. I mean, really, the torn-between-two-lovers segment of society is generally quite colorful and not known for learning lessons the first go ‘round.
On the opposite end of the pharmacy spectrum, I spotted SpermCheck Fertility testing kits. I found myself feeling sorry for those who failed those home tests because they might never be able to use the $5 off coupon for their shelf mate, “DNA Paternity Test.” That would also make “Gender Identification Test” an unnecessary purchase. Both the sperm and gender tests retailed for $29.95.
What you can’t put a price on is the sheer entertainment value of being a noticer. Bad soap operas abound and I end up partaking due to my noticer wiring. What I keep hoping for is a do-it-yourself cancer test sold in a two-pack with the home-remedy chemo kit: something actually societally useful.

Pornography differs for certain-aged women

MRS. ROBINSON, I PRESUME? - Don't presume anything. Except for practical joking purposes, I have no interest in men half my age. Give me someone seasoned, grounded and Godly.

MRS. ROBINSON, I PRESUME? – Don’t presume anything. Except for practical joking purposes, I have no interest in men half my age. Give me someone seasoned, grounded and Godly.

Whenever I have fantasies, they’re never the kind that begin, “Dear Penthouse, I never thought it would happen to me . . . ” Neither are my wildest thoughts of the Betty Crocker variety. Rather, they’re more along the lines of those published in the pornography spoof picture book, “Porn For Women of a Certain Age,” by the Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative, a fictitious research organization.
According to the book blurb, “Responding to overwhelming demand, the Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative has researched deeply into the desires of women of a certain age. The result: forty steamy scenarios show hunky yet distinguished men catering to every whim.”
Similar to some of the National Lampoon spoofs, this 2009 publication has a kernel of truth at its core to which most women “of a certain age” can relate. There’s no nudity, just attractive men engaged in helpful activities, “talking dirty” to women by saying ordinary, affirming things that validate them as people, rather than sex object wannabees or has-beens.
I put the book on my coffee table so women could laugh at it and men could strategically learn new pick-up lines involving commenting favorably on topics such as the woman’s deep laugh lines must be indicative of valuable life experience.
This comes to mind because my 14-year-old son recently informed I should join an online dating service. I’m not interested in dating right now, but if I were I’d prefer meeting men through ordinary activities, which decrease posing possibilities. That said, I humored him and amused myself by asking who he thought I should date. Quick as a cougar, he rattled off names, many considerably younger than me.
Facebook aficionados may recall my birthday last year was spent whooping it up with a dryer repairman half my age. I held him hostage in my laundry room and refused to pay for his (legitimate) services until he agreed to pose wearing a party hat while a friend (who happened by just then) took a photo of me hanging all over the poor guy.
Fortunately, he was a good sport to my Mrs. Robinson routine. Pornographically, I must admit more than my dryer heated up as I watched that man arrive early, make intelligent conversation, don paper booties to avoid tracking mud across my floors, then perform mechanical adjustments without complaining or cussing. He cleaned up afterward, too, sweeping me off my feet by adding, “I not only solved the identified problem, but I did a few extra things to prevent future issues.” I positively swooned over that!
It certainly beat the pants off what I did on my 50th “Ghost of Christmas Future” birthday, which consisted of playing piano and leading Christmas activities at a party held at a local senior center. If I hadn’t been feeling sorry enough for myself, already that night, a large message sign painted on the wall basically said, “Welcome to Our Senior Center: For People Age 50 and Over.” Yippy, skippy, toward broken hip-py!
Total aging assault! Made me feel closer to 100 at that moment (no offense, Wayne Almond, Mary Smith and Ruth Farwell, who have already reached that milestone). Thank goodness no family member had yet taken away my car keys, so at least I had the luxury of high-tailing it out of that place as soon as I finished my entertainment gig.
It’s all a bit hazy, as the memory starts to go with age. But I fuzzily recall going home that night and drinking straight from a bottle of something strong. The only thing I know for certain is when I finally went to lick my wounds in private, they tasted like Geritol.
Despite being a woman of a certain age, I do not feel the desire to look, act or date younger. If I wanted to latch onto some poor, unsuspecting guy with the intent of using him, I would target a sugar daddy, not a sugar baby. Age means little compared to the more important things, such as the ability to efficiently perform household maintenance, eyesight poor enough to find me beautiful, and substantial retirement savings. You know, the little things that really mean a lot.

Summer is spent healing, learning to receive

My chief complaint about summer is that it comes and goes too quickly and I never get to do anything really “cool” during June, July and August, except sweat more. Compared to all the past, boring “watch the grass grow” summers I have complained about, the summer of 2015 had even less travel, outdoor events and family fun in the sun.
On paper, the historian would note that I went nowhere and did nothing. But yet, in retrospect, the summer of 2015 was by far the best summer I can recollect. Why? It’s pretty simple: because my daughter lived to share it with us.
Like most parents, I took for granted my kids would be around for June, July and August. It’s so one of those “that’s just the way things have always been” instances. No one questions otherwise, unless you’re forced to. Yeah, we know it’s possible for family members to die, but that’s other families, right? You assume your own family will be with you forever.
Truth told, it’s probably better that most of us take life and living for granted because our thoughtless assumptions of invincibility allow us to comfortably leave the house every day, without a nagging fear something awful might happen. I’ve learned worry doesn’t prevent a lot except peace of mind. Better to blissfully be-bop along right up until the moment disaster strikes.
Prognosis-wise, the worst of Kate’s bizarre heart infection, stroke and open heart surgery was behind us by the close of the school year. But while she was not getting any sicker, there remained a bazillion things she needed to do to get back to as near normal functioning as possible.
We had to deal with 24/7 portable antibiotic infusions. We had to make multiple return visits to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital to be monitored by the cardiologists, infectious disease specialists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, physical and occupational therapists, ophthalmologists, rehab physicians and others who had initially saved her life.
Interestingly, the only one who reported anything negative was the neuro-psychologist who seemed to be having trouble believing how well Kate was doing with her recovery. His gloom and doom perspective was like having a permanent Devil’s Advocate as a part of our team. So we avoided him.
None of the treatment team said anything directly to us regarding Kate’s odds of full recovery. And we never came out and asked, directly, probably because we were afraid to know. Some things are better left unsaid, especially mid-trauma.
A lot of people have asked what Kate’s odds were of successfully recovering from all she had been through medically. One, who works for a hospital, had an ER doctor do some odds-making. The conclusion? Kate had only about a three-percent chance of returning to pre-illness level.
What?! That instantly and completely re-ordered my personal priorities. Three-percent jolted the covetous summer nature right out of me. Kate’s odds-defying recovery is worth far more than any of the movies we didn’t see, the trips we didn’t take and, or steaks we couldn’t afford to grill!
As the worst case scenario flashed before my eyes, I simultaneously saw with great clarity all the wonderful, generous people who had helped us weather this episode of life: our extended family, our present and former churches, the schools, friends, neighbors, community businesses and organizations, individuals who have been through similarly gut-wrenching critical illnesses and lived to encourage others. Thank you, Jesus!
I am permanently grateful to all who kept us in prayer, paid bills, held fundraisers and provided money, gift cards and gas cards so I could focus my energy on helping Kate heal. I was blessed to not have to worry about anything else. Typically self-reliant me found herself totally dependent on God and my community.
This was the summer of major lessons for me, as I learned to be not just a giver, but a receiver. About a month ago I found and hung on my kitchen wall an 1823 replica sampler that addresses that very issue and finding a balance:
“May God’s blessings keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.”

Pre-meditated vanishing makes wait ill-fated

I am typing at breakneck speed. I need to get to bed because I have an important meeting tomorrow morning. But I took some Thera-Flu nighttime cold medicine and it will be kicking in and kicking my underserving-of-this-illness butt too soon. So I hurry.
One of life’s ickiest feelings is the calm before the illness storm. I’m undergoing it now. I started sneezing around noon, my joints became achy, and my back started protesting over nothing. The quality of my voice lost its battle with scratchiness and it’s getting hard to swallow. My mouth tastes like corroded metal and my eyes are bloodshot.
And that’s the good news. The bad is that as soon as I close my eyes, full creepiness will creep in and I will awaken wishing I hadn’t made the mistake of sleeping. That’s why I am trying to somehow override the effects of the medication, which wants me to head to bed.
My taking a liberal amount of the medication I administered as a stinky, hot water cocktail is akin to locking the barn door after the horses are long gone. My behavior resembles those pathetic people you see news footage of, trying to board up their doors and windows as the hurricane is already howling down upon them.
All the cold medication in the world won’t ward off this weather change-related cold. My immune system is still fragile from having lived through significant emotional trauma. I am no match for this physical storm system. I am an illness accident waiting to happen. And now it’s happening sooner rather than later. Achoo!
At least I got a good laugh while looking for the medication in the bathroom cupboard. I hauled out my 1950s black- and white-checked Walker “leek-pruf” trademark ice pack, still packed in its original box as slick as the day it was shipped from the factory and as useful as the day I found it at an antique store. Too bad this is not an ice occasion, as I’ve wanted to try it out. It’s just like the ones my mother and grandmother had. The nostalgia alone soothes the pain.
Part of me just wants this illness to hit because I hate the wait, with its impending doom. Waiting stinks! Tomorrow’s meeting is job-related, and after several months unemployed, I want to make a good impression, which is next to impossible when all you can think of is going back to bed after you awaken and must wipe your runny nose on your sleeve because you’ve already burned through a week’s supply of facial tissues.
I got burned out on waiting the last week of the Calhoun County Fair. Previous to that, I would have sworn I’d exhausted my propensity for watch-glancing and bench-warming as I waited and waited for my kids to come back to our designated home base area during the Branch County 4-H Fair. But alas, I still had some wait left in me, despite holding my own double-elimination thumb-twiddling competition while my children went on rides and hung out with 4-H friends.
It was worse at the Calhoun County Fair, as there are many more places to be out of range of the PA system, and its mother-loaded announcement of your full name and for you to return immediately to the spot where you promised to meet her.
If I have made this sound like a listening or communication issue, please forgive me, as that would dignify it. Not wanting to have to be found by a parent forcing you to leave the fair so something could get accomplished elsewhere was the underlying issue.
So I made the rounds repeatedly for two hours. Through the barns, up the midway and around the food wagons, limping from where someone had accidentally shut the grange eat stand kitchen door on my left foot. Just when I was ready to go home and leave her fanny at the fair until next year, I spotted Kate.
“Sorry, Mom,” she said without the slightest remorse. “I was playing cards in my cousin’s camper.”
I struggled for a positive response and come up short. Well, at least I wasn’t sick that day. That could wait for later.

County fair life prepares for unfairness in life

The county fair rolls around only once each year, and it’s probably a good thing. It’s simply too much work for those involved to be expected to make it through even one week, let alone an encore performance six months later.
What is a county fair? An eight-day special event extravaganza where millions of small pieces and people come together in one brief venue, yielding various pay-off to various factions of those involved.

FAIR UNFAIRNESS - Sometimes the hard work exhibitors put into it seems to pay off. Other times, it feels like circumstances are ganging up on you.

FAIR UNFAIRNESS – Sometimes the hard work exhibitors put into it seems to pay off. Other times, it feels like circumstances are ganging up on you.

Well, if that statement didn’t knock all the romance and nostalgia out of the county fair, I don’t know what would. Like fireworks, the county fair goes off with a bang and before you know it, the bright lights have burned out and you are packing up and heading home. But its life lessons last year ‘round.
The biggest events end up much shorter than all the preparation you put into getting ready for them; the hardest working person sometimes sees zero reward, while some slacker takes the prize; and the ride you stood in line forever to board ends up making you vomit the elephant ear you wasted your whole allowance on, and you walk funny for the rest of the day. Yes, learning abounds at the fair.
One of the best things about the county fair is that participation is a family event. Everyone living under one roof can take part and work together as a team. That said, one of the worst things about the county fair is that it is a family event. The pressure of trying to get it all done exposes your family team’s flaws and legacy issues.
Everywhere in life, there are haves and have-nots. The county fair is no exception. With regard to the “haves,” there are certain families that have winning legacies with certain types of animals or certain events within animal divisions. For instance, sometimes a family has an exceptionally well-trained “push button” horse that gets passed down through successive children. Heirloom unfair advantage.
Some families have the means to pay for professional training of their animals. Other families are able to travel and compete at livestock shows throughout the year, to the point when it comes time to enter the county fair show ring, they look bored instead of anxious. It’s so second-nature, they could very well carry a cup of coffee and check their cell phone messages while showing their animal.
I used to run into their adult, oratory counterparts in Toastmasters speaking competitions, so I can easily spot them. Some belonged to multiple Toastmasters clubs and speaking associations, and/or underwent private coaching and had jobs where they presented regularly. Was I envious? You betcha! Technically, they may not have been “professional” speakers, meaning they got paid specifically for speaking, but they were professionally prepared.
No matter how hard you try when up against the professionally prepared, the best the authentically amateur can hope for is a distant second place. While we like throwing around the maxim, “Hard work pays off,” sadly, there’s no guarantee. In addition to that disappointing reality, there’s an ironic, greater battle that gets waged among the “have-nots.”
Within the amateur ranks, there are always those who work their working-class tails off to become the best they can be within their financial and status limitations. While they can begrudgingly accept losing to the much more polished “haves” (due to years of practice), they emerge shell-shocked when they get knocked down a few notches by other “have-nots” whose stars have briefly aligned.
There is nothing more frustrating than losing in competition to someone whom the universe has sent an undeserved, lucky 4-H clover reward disproportionate to the hard work he/she did NOT put into his/her animal project. I know, because I have been both the spoiler and the spoilee in the unfairness sweepstakes. Worst case scenario is when the spoiler is a sibling! That’s the ultimate stinks-to-be-you experience.
As one county fair father said of his children’s arguing over the unfairness of the other siblings not working hard enough during their jointly-scheduled animal barn duty, “Welcome to real life, where you will encounter endless unfair. Get over it. Get used to it.”
Life lessons served fresh daily at the county fair.

Saying an ambivalent farewell to a family pet

Got a text from my children’s father early the other morning. Where was my gray and white cat? Actually, I was petting “Kitten.” Good, he said, because a gray and white cat was dead in the road near my house.

“Whew, not OUR cat,” I sighed. After everything else unfortunate that’s happened in recent months, I didn’t want to have to tell my kids the youngest stray in our country drop-off collection was dead.

Walking across the front lawn later to get the newspaper, I saw what looked to be a dead raccoon in the road. Hmm. The reporter of the dead gray and white cat must be colorblind. But as I reached the road, I could see white paws and underbelly. Nooooo! It was Gibbs, the cat we’d had the longest. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.

Because it’s a main road, the cat needed road-removing sooner, not later. So I returned to the house and awakened my son and daughter. “Good morning,” I said, “Gibby got killed in the road and we need to go get and bury her.” They groaned, but hustled to help.

It had been four years since we had last laid a pet to rest. Actually, it wasn’t a big difference from Gibby’s usual state – sleeping all day upstairs on the folded comforter at the foot of my bed. I hate that pets simply lounge all day, doing nothing except waiting for us humans to wait on them. Then when they die, we get to engage in aerobic hole-digging activity. Some deal!

I toyed with the idea of professional pet cremation, but since I wasn’t working, had an endless supply of elbow grease and an ample amount of property, plus an extensive selection of shovels, I dismissed the notion.

Experience informed me to choose a flat snow shovel for flat cat removal and a pointed camping shovel for grave digging. Connor volunteered to serve as pet cemetery sexton, but needed help selecting an appropriate grave site. I chose one on the practical basis of fewer tree roots. I donned latex gloves and headed to the road. Kate watched for traffic to prevent me from becoming collateral carnage.

As it had recently rained, the digging went surprisingly easily, aside from my son stopping after every shovelful to ask, “Is this hole deep enough yet.” He was angered I wouldn’t sign off on too shallow of a grave. I helped shovel in compromise. With each deepening divot, I couldn’t help but note that come burial time, even the smallest pets always seem twice the size they were while alive. Or maybe that’s just my aching shoveling shoulders talking.

I placed Gibbs in the just-deep-enough grave. At Connor’s insistence, I arranged her paws into a more natural, reclining pose. We made spectating Kate replace the dirt. Then I offended them both by stepping on the snow shovel atop the dirt mound to level it.

“That’s just wrong,” Connor said. Not as wrong as catching it with the lawnmower blades tomorrow.

Normally we deliver a short pet eulogy. What to say about Ms. Gibby? We got her from a couple who’d received her as a stray around when they’d both been diagnosed with cancer. Gibbs had lost the tip of her tail in a fight with a screen door, was nervous and flatulence-prone. It was just too much for them.

Connor named her after the NCIS television show character, “Gibbs.” She was an accomplished mouser, ground moler, chipmunker and batter, dragging prey onto the porch for our “oohs” and “ahs.” Although declawed, Gibby expertly disemboweled her victims and habitually left assorted rodent organs in the paths of unsuspecting feet. Ooh. Ah. YUCK!

Gibbs loved to snuggle, paws around your neck, face buried in the crook. When she’d suddenly tire of tenderness, she’d forcefully launch herself away. Ouch. The presence of “Kitten” had activated her deepest anxieties. Gibbs had started leaving him foul-smelling messages of displeasure.

Consequently, I was starting to mark her days. But the road had risen to meet her, defaulting me to the preferred role of tearful mourner, versus villainous executioner. It’s good to be Irish and blessed.

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