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Category: News

It's Not Easy Being Green

I so very much want to be as ecologically-minded as Al Gore (well, that is when he’s not consuming vast amounts of jet fuel bopping all over the world, or hauled about in lux limos, as he spreads the word about saving the planet). Really, I do.


For years, I have held my breath as spring approaches when I venture into the entrails of those enormous warehouse super saver stores (you know the places, where one can purchase that much-needed lifetime supply of cinnamon because surely you, too need a two-gallon bottle of the stuff). It is on the cusp of spring—when nature demonstrates her boundless capacity for beauty, what with tender shoots and delicate flowers of every hue, and leaf buds almost aglow in their yellow-green splendor—that the mega-humongo-I-can-outdo-you-in-super-sizing stores stockpile toxins galore, in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, all sorts of -cides. And they are stacked floor-to-ceiling in an effort to prove how very BIG the store is and how very MUCH everyone must kill everything which we deem needless springing from the loamy earth.

And I realize that I stand at the altar of but one tower of death, yet there are hundreds, thousands more in other mega-humongo-I-can-outdo-you-in-super-sizing stores all over the world. And all of those tons upon tons of toxic-yet-sanctioned-by-our-loving-government-thanks-to-massive-contributions-from-such-megaliths-as-Archer-Daniels-Midland-products spew out untold amounts of vile ingredients into the atmosphere in the making of them, and then add double insult to our globe by then ensuring that consumers world-wide will while away their weekends from now until November dousing the earth with yet more of the poison, the one that kills birds and bunnies and bugs and pets if they eat it but hey, it must be good because it’s sold in massive quantities just about everywhere and Miracle Gro says it’s good and all that corn that Archer Daniels Midland couldn’t unload on anybody ten years ago is now jacking up the price of life in general for all of us in the “name” of environmentally sound fuel usage, despite hard evidence that bio-fuels made from corn really aren’t the best thing. But you can be certain that now that that horse is out of the stable and every farmer with an eye on the prize will be planting corn, corn and more corn because even though mono-culture farming has destroyed so much of the most fertile soil throughout the world, hey, we’re saving the environment, right? Wrong.


see the lovely ethanol plant, surrounded by cornfields
see the lovely ethanol plant, surrounded by cornfields



But off of my soap box, because I have to localize this Save the Planet thing. And admit that while I really want to contribute to saving the planet, it really ticks me off that my son won’t flush the toilet in order to save water and I so cannot stand the nasty ring that forms in the bowl and it makes me sick to know that the dogs are no doubt sneaking in there and drinking from it and of course my son doesn’t want me to be using toxic cleansers when there isn’t anything but water and pee in the toilet but UGH!!!!!

And while for years we conscientiously saved paper, plastic, glass, and cardboard for recycling, it became a problem when that cardboard became food for mice in our garage. Thus we fell off the cardboard recycling bandwagon, even though actually it was probably a beneficial circle-of-life sorta thing, feeding the wayward mice with cardboard—it did help to slightly reduce the amount we had. But it also came with stockpiles of mouse poop and they say the Hanfa virus comes from mouse poop and no way was I going to jeopardize my kids’ safety and well-being to help out the planet, dammit!


how's this for a humane mousetrap?
how's this for a humane mousetrap?



To eradicate the mice I tried to use the humane approach. I bought about 40 “humane” mouse traps and scattered them throughout the garage. The only problem is I forgot to check the mousetraps, thus rendering them radically inhumane. Alas, many a mouse died a slow gruesome death in my garage. They’d have been better if they’d have been snapped out of their misery in the blink of an eye. Sorry, little mice!

When we moved out to the country ten years ago and the recycling program was killed off one day, I admit, it simplified life to just dump all the trash in one bag and to hell with it.


But then my kids grew older and fortunately there are those who try to teach kids to be conservation-minded, and my kids came home from school decrying our lack of concern for the planet’s future, which made me feel especially guilty. So when my oldest got his license he took it upon himself to be the one to have to haul the recycling things to the recycling center (here in the sticks, no one is picking it up at our doorstep). This was a reasonable commitment. All it meant was I had to start rinsing, sorting and stashing containers once done with them. We set up three recycling tubs for glass, aluminum and plastic, and a large trash bin for cardboard (having remembered how cardboard accumulates rapidly). At first the plan worked relatively well. But then my son got busy. No time in life for hauling stuff. So our piles grew. First the bins in the shelves in the mudroom began to overflow. Then came the dog factor. Our one dog (the alpha) is a de facto weather forecaster, and knows a good 18 hours before bad weather sets in. She gets nervous and paces, her paws sweat, she gets surly with the other dog (the beta). Poor Sassy the beta gets very anxious when her friend/boss/dominatrix gets out of sorts. And so in sympathy, Sassy then eats the recycling. I’ve come home to Sassy having indulged in plastic bottles, tin cans of all sorts, she even got into the glass—amazing, I know—and finally, she started eating the tubs themselves. Yes, she is a Labrador. No, she is not a billy goat. (This past weekend, Sassy ate a magnetic marble roller coaster off the refrigerator. I know we need to figure out how to placate her before she becomes so driven, but that’s another story altogether).


yes this sweet, innocent dog eats glass
yes this sweet, innocent dog eats glass

So this meant that all containers then had to be relegated to the garage. And now our recycling overflows in the garage. When visitors see the veritable trash fest in our garage, they are temporarily speechless. It overflows from everywhere. It seems as if while everyone in our house has time to recycle in theory, no one in our house has time to recycle in practice. From garage to recycling center doesn’t happen on a regular basis, unfortunately, and now I find myself tripping over empty plastic bottles, grousing about boxes stacked to my eyes, and lamenting the day we decided to green up our evidently gray-ish existences.

We recently had our longest run in between trips to the recycling center. Six weeks. The garage reminded me of the apartment of that man in Manhattan from the news a year or two ago, who had stockpiled so many newspapers and magazines that they ultimately caved in upon him and he was buried beneath them all. At least only our cars would be buried, and not any humans (that I know of anyhow!). But perhaps this collapsing detritus can have an upside, and perhaps crush any uninvited mice who might decide to find their way into my cardboard extravaganza in the garage some time soon. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just keep not throwing things in the garbage, avoid all toxins, flush toilets behind my son’s back, and turn a few lights off. Here’s hoping that’s doing my part to better the world?

If This Van's A-Knockin'...

I’m delving deep into the archives for this one. I wrote this several years ago when driving to South Carolina with a car load of kids, who asked about these particular billboards we kept seeing… 


this is what they should see...
this is what they should see...




Summertime means road-tripping. Whether to the beach or to visit family and friends, we often find ourselves traversing major automotive arteries on a more regular basis during the summer. Maybe I get really bored on these long drives, but my curiosity has been piqued by a strange presence along the highways and byways of America. Peppering these less-than-scenic roads are enormous lurid billboards showcasing voluptuous vixens, touting the glories of Tommy’s Tittie Palace, The Topless Treasure Chest, and other charming go-to destinations such as the Triple X Porn Center. Why do the proprietors of these establishments feel compelled to blanket major highways with jumbo “Girls! Girls! Girls!”  signs promoting a smattering of sex shops of one form or another? Is there something about car trips that makes men excessively horny? Why are they so hot-to-trot on highway 40? Whose idea was it to launch screaming signage tempting the nations’ highwaymen to divert from their tiresome treks to enjoy the pleasures of Bambi, Penelope or Ginger?

I wonder about the genesis of these types of shops along major highways. Did the owners see a need, anticipate a need, or create a need for highway horndogs. Are their customers just tooling along the interstate, when the lightbulb goes on in their heads and they think, “Hmmm, it sure would be nice if there was someplace right off the road here to find me a lap dance, or cop me a feel.” Or “I’ve been meaning to replenish my supply of triple X movies, thank goodness this shop is on my way to Florida.” Which came first, the chicken or the egg (or should I say “the rooster or the sperm?”)?

Is it the vibrations of the van stirring up their libidos? Is it the bump, bump, bump of the potholes that make them want to hump, hump, hump at the first available rest site? It kind of bums me out having to explain to my impressionable children why there are so many billboards featuring unnaturally buxom blondes leering seductively down from their bird’s eye view atop the tree line along I-95.

I’m a little concerned about these roadsters whose sex drives are on overdrive. Isn’t this just as bad as drunk driving? Is a man in a heightened state of lust fully in control of his driving skills? I can see it now, the flashing red lights, the blaring sirens, as the state trooper pulls the guy over, “I’m sorry sir, but I’m going to have to charge you with driving under the influence of testosterone. You’ll have to come with me.”  Let’s hope for the sake of the cop that this command isn’t taken too literally.

This may seem counterintuitive, but perhaps we need to install more of these testosterone depots along roadways. Supposing there is an excess of horny guys behind the wheel: maybe these little stopping points could help mitigate the ongoing problem of road rage. Perhaps if these pent-up drivers lighten their loads, so to speak, the roads will be a much more pleasant place to spend your afternoon.

Nevertheless, I’m still trying to erase from my mind this image of the average patron of one of these highway happy palaces. No doubt he’s a grizzled, creepy-looking gray-toothed guy, beer gut straining for release from his sweat-stained undershirt, pack of Camels rolled up his sleeve, tongue lolling lecherously, desperate to stop at Booty Land to break up the monotony of his long drive. Man, when I get bored on a road trip, I pull out a book tape to keep me entertained.

 I’ve recently discovered that satellite radio is great for entertainment during road trips. In fact, they even offer up Playboy Radio, for a slight extra fee, to keep you from falling asleep at the wheel. Which gets me thinking, will this option eventually preclude the need for even stopping along the way, or can this business be conducted in the privacy of your very own vehicle, going 70 MPH? Does get you to wonder if someone is actually coming or going, doesn’t it?

It’s kind of funny that there’s a concerted effort now to get people to stop using cell phones while driving. Apparently road safety experts fear that phone usage while driving is distracting. Honey, that’s nothing compared to what the Playboy Channel is gonna make some folks do. All I know is this: the next time I see a bumper sticker proclaiming “If this van’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’”, I plan to take that warning at face value. I’ll be sure to steer real clear of that guy.


Assets, Liabilities and Coughs. Oh My!

I remember one time years ago my four-year old daughter had an argument with her best friend over their coughs. Yes, their coughs. One claimed to have a “mommy cough” and the other one insisted that no, she had a “baby cough,” and then one staked her claim on a “daddy cough,” and then there were tears over who owned the dominant cough. At the time, I realized, wow, I really need to get out more if I’m now relegated to refereeing disputes over strange theoreticals that don’t even exist.

A few years back, my husband and I had to update our wills, something we’d forgotten to do following the birth of our youngest child over a decade ago; we figured it was about time. After spending a few weeks navigating the delicate avenues of will diplomacy, I finally realized why it took us so long to revisit that lovely task.

 Will-writing can be a most humbling experience, not the least of which because inevitably you find yourself fighting over theoreticals. Who currently has what money. Who will have what money. Who keeps the kids. Who keeps the dogs. Who distributes your remaining assets.

 Ah, assets. That lovely vague reference to one’s ultimate dollar value. Something that stay-at-home moms will certainly find themselves lacking in. Moms are definitely asset-less, unless you count their ability to drive one-handed while turning around to referee an argument in the backseat while changing the radio station while answering a phone call to figure out what fellow mom can pick up Susie at violin practice because Johnny’s football practice ran late, while carefully avoiding all motor vehicles, pedestrians and wayward groundhogs within a two-hundred-foot radius of your moving vehicle. Asset or skill? You decide.

Anyhow, it was fair to admit back then that as a writer in search of an agent (not too far removed from a waiter awaiting a big acting break) I qualified as one who was long on optimism, and short on reliable income (i.e. asset-less). But I found great amusement in our estate attorney’s referring to my potential future earning potential by saying: “as assets are titled in your name.” A euphemistic way to say that I wasn’t worth squat–except if someone cashed in my minimal life insurance policy. Or figured out a way to bequeath my multi-tasking skills.

[And as an aside, I need to interrupt here for this ancillary observation: wills and diets are a volatile combination when undertaken at the same time–both stir deep emotion and can lead to one saying/doing regrettable things. I should never have dealt with will-writing on an empty stomach, because it only served to make me surly.]

As we reviewed our old wills, we were slightly embarrassed to realize that the executor we’d last chosen because of the lifelong bond we shared with him was someone we hadn’t spoken to in fifteen years. So much for that irrevocable friendship. If something had happened to us, authorities would have been left to log onto to track the poor guy down. Imagine the surprise for him!

So after assigning an executor we actually still knew, we had to decide upon whom we would confer the humbling responsibility of raising our children. This subject alone created a family version of the DMZ: bloodlines were drawn, creating a landmine-infested zone between two warring familial factions, with my spouse and I both gently but firmly arguing who had relatives up to the job of taking over child-rearing if called upon to do so. This task required treading very lightly so as to avoid permanent hostilities.

Talk about loaded with potential for major anxieties. After all, in this situation, you’re trying to pick the replacement for you, and of course no one will ever be the same as you. So instead, you have to wrestle with finding two people who will love your children, treat them equally, and educate them in the ways of life in much the same way that you would. Do their worldly philosophies and political views align with yours? What about religion? Would your children have to move to another state? Could they keep their pets?

Say you don’t select your or your husband’s parents for the job. That leaves them with hurt feelings. But who next to choose? Your siblings are already overwhelmed with their own kids. Can you saddle them with more? Plus, what about all of those lingering sibling issues that have festered unresolved for all these years. How does that affect your kids? Will your sister be able to truly love and respect your children despite her subliminal resentment toward you?

So then you look toward friends in search of compatible potential alter-egos. What about Cindy and John? Well, they punish their kids if their rooms aren’t completely picked up every day. Our kids’ rooms are only picked up bi-annually. That won’t work. Hmmm, how about Robert and Samantha? Well, no, that won’t work; they’ve only now let their teenaged girls grow their fingernails long. We definitely aren’t that strict. Matt and Caroline are out; I think they still smoke bongs!

After all of this internal debate (and external spousal “negotiating”), I realized I couldn’t think of anyone who would do things quite the same way that we would. I couldn’t bear to assign our children to a life with someone other than us. And I know that all of this theoretical talk of assets to be determined, and money gained and money lost pales in comparison with the idea of family lost. It leaves me feeling so bereft that I think I’d better grab a cookie. So much for the diet.

I think I’d rather go back to being the arbiter over who’s got the baby cough and who’s got the mommy cough and pretend that all of those other theoreticals are just that.