Are we advancing beyond our well-being?
This existential pondering was instigated by an interesting book I read about humans who altered the genetic code to eradicate cancer, but in the process accidentally shortened the average life span to twenty years old.
You never know anything until you’re at least thirty, right?
So humankind was doomed. Hence the awesome fictional plot.
But it got gregorific thinking. With all the advances in modern science, who is the moral conscience governing our exploration? No one really. I mean we have the EPA and the FDA and the Department of This and That. But we do not share an overarching morality as a species. So, there is a fair amount of wiggle room.
Enough to decimate our way of life as we know it?
Last week, I heard a broadcast about the contamination of local rainwater. The news reassured listeners that it was a short-term problem of radioactive isotopes which had spread throughout the atmosphere from Japan. The EPA confirmed that the elevated levels of isotopes in my very own state’s rainwater were caused by nuclear fission. Seemingly, the quantity and quality of the contamination was not panic-worthy-bad-for-your-health. But still. None of it was good for you.
I was appalled.
I am appalled.
Horrible stuff is raining down in small amounts over the world. It’s announced as a fact. A common sense piece of information that I should have figured out myself. This affects us all. Read about a disaster in Japan and soon enough read about it affecting what is outside your own window. Or affecting what is inside your body. Or on your medical chart.
Ripples, systems, concentric circles, the spiral, DaVinci…
This is the same conceptual roadblock I hit when advocating for conservation of my local vernal pools. People are like, why bother? What’s it got to do with me? They worry about getting involved.
It’s got to do with each and every one of us. Why do we not know that? Where did elementary, high, college, and PhD programs go wrong? I don't live in Japan. I don't live in a vernal pool. Yet, I do. Ripples, people.
It’s not just a small seasonal pool at risk of being destroyed permanently. It’s not just the vulnerable salamanders and miniscule fairy shrimp whose habitat is being infringed upon and poisoned.
I am the salamander. We all are. We love Dr. Seuss, but why don’t we believe him?
It’s not Earth Day anymore. But still. The book I read portrayed how advancement can bring decline. This is what we are experiencing as we rave about modern technology and scientific breakthroughs and fret about pollution, our ozone, and acid rain.
We are capable of curing the Earth from the cancer we have infected it with. We reach for faster and farther. But let's stop. And take better aim. And pick up the mess we’re making. Otherwise our own story will ripple into the SciFi horror genre.
Simple Is As Simple Does
It’s the simple things. That’s a saying, right?
I assume that saying is out of style. Because everyone is in a hurry. Everyone is overbooked. No one has time to read anymore. If they do it’s on kindle. And even then it’s skimming while they cook or commute or do yoga. The less simple others allow their lives to become, the angrier I get.
It’s not cool, ya’ll.
Gregorific has rush rage. When someone is talking to me and they suddenly take out their cell to check email or tweet or post, I have an irrepressible urge to slap it out of their hands. Like an annoying, buzzing, vibrating fly.
I haven’t done it yet.
Once I was at a restaurant and my kids and I were pretending the cardboard coasters were playing cards. I was totally beating them in blackjack. Later, I taught them how to play with real cards. Not as fun, my nine-year-old said.
Anyway, we’re in the restaurant and my seven-year-old asks me why we aren’t looking at our phones. I glance around and every single person is holding, or talking into, or typing, or gazing at, a cell.
Every single person. We double checked to be sure. People were right across from each other but in totally different universes.
The food doesn’t take that long at this restaurant. I don’t live in a super boring town where there is nothing to talk about. What did they have to say to the person on the other end of the line? Or text or tweet? That they couldn’t say to the person directly across from them? Were they hiding? Taking a mental smoke break?
Eight people in all were ensconced in their digital worlds. My youngest began to pretend her cardboard coaster was a phone. It was hilarious. I tried to call but she put me on hold. She had to text a couple peeps and play some stack the states and then send a pic to someone and then check their status and post her own and then check email. Finally she beeped me in and I let her know our food had arrived.
She updated everyone by instagram, tumbler, tweet, facebook, blog, email, and text.
Then she put the coaster down, placed her glass on it, and we had a lovely, uninterrupted meal.
Simple is as simple does.
It's Where I Keep My Stuff
Earth Day is my favorite holiday. Would you call it a holiday? I would. It’s a day to stop your normal routine and consider our environment. We have President’s Day and MLK day and Valentine’s Day for goodness sakes. The earth contributes LIFE to us all. I mean, that sounds ridiculous because it is so simple. But true.
Even though Earth Day has been around since 1970 and has over a billion observers, it’s still warming up as a true event.
EVERYONE go out on Earth Day and pick up all that litter that’s everywhere. EVERYONE turn off the screens and lights in the evening and do something green. It turns out that’s more fun anyway.
People are in different stages of their acceptance that the earth is not an infinite resource. We use it up and then…what. Some people are ready for a switch to reusable bags on Earth Day. Some people might be ready to try to produce half as much trash. Or plant a garden. Or stop using certain toxic chemicals on the lawn or in the house. Some people might be ready to learn more about fracking. Stop buying balloons. Start shutting off the tap while brushing.
Wherever you are at in your journey to becoming your best self, take a minute today and make sure you have an Earth to live that best life on. And air to breathe. And water that won’t poison you. And food that won’t make you sick. And, and, and, I’d finish this but I need to go out in the fresh air and celebrate my favorite holiday.
What do you find taxing?
Here’s my short list:
People talking on the phone while I stand there
Phones in general- hate ‘em
Configuring and installing updates
The monotony of shaving
Fees I don’t understand but still have to pay
Shwew, that felt good. Itemizing is fun. Go ahead -you know you want to- make your own list. I recommend it. Don't forget to make the proper deductions.
“It's income tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.” ~Dave Barry
If only it were a game and you could triple score! Wait a minute...is it?
You know what’s neat? Getting to go into the classrooms and see what kids do all day. Being a mom is a great ticket to get in there and see what’s up. If you’re not a mom, it may look suspicious, but you’re missing out.
It’s too simple to say things have changed. Their school day is harder than all the previous paying jobs I’ve had. They have very little free time. Like, time that is not directed or accounted for by a teacher or project or book or song or something. I’m exhausted by the time I come home. They are being well trained to go out there in the world and work hard. Let’s hope it’s working to make it a better place.
One thing I love about my daughter’s class is the flexibility with which they are taught. Perhaps one student was struggling to contain nervous/hyperactive/inattentive energy. Research was done, thoughts discussed, and boom, several students got to test run a new idea.
The idea was to sit on those big exercise balls while they do desk work. Awesome, right? You have to use every muscle in your body to balance on those and then focus on an assignment. In some way it does not make it harder for the students. It makes it easier. Maybe kids are more connected to their mind/body balance. They like to keep both engaged for optimal concentration.
The test run became a classroom standard. A kind soul found enough balls for them all to sit on. So now they not only get to build their minds and ability to focus, they are strengthening their core. I mean that both literally and figuratively. When you take a child’s whole being into account, you know how to best teach them. It’s a relief and an inspiration to know this is happening in our schools.
My daughter is very lucky. She knows what a good teacher is like and how to adjust to changing circumstances. After that first day of sitting on the bouncy ball instead of a chair, she came home and said, “It went great- I only fell off three times.”
Everybody has their quirks. Some people can’t stand Capri pants. Other people get the chills when they hear opera music. Gregorific has a thing about water parks.
Entertainment parks in general are not great for gregorific’s state of mind. The crowds, the glazed eyes, the outrageous prices, the underwhelming prizes, the hustle and bustle to get on the rides you want, to get a picture with each princess, to get sufficiently scared out of your mind on the scariest ride ever.
And then the dreaded addition of water: chemically treated, endlessly regurgitated, weirdly-colored water.
I admit it. I’m a bit jaded re the commercialization of fun.
After roughly ten years, gregorific found herself and the whole gregorific crew (minus dog) at an indoor water park. If I believed in desensitization therapy for phobias, then I would suspect Mr. Gregorific of creating the perfect storm for me.
But of course, the gang just wanted to laugh while sliding, rafting, leaping over lily pads, bobbing on waves, squealing under sprinklers…you get the picture. They saw nothing beyond the fun. Bless them. Indeed, it is a shame to analyze the fun out of a water park.
Yet. I see what I see.
It seems incredible at first: the bells and whistles, house-sized buckets dumping water, the joyful squeals, the eyes wide with awe, the children bouncing on their heels as they wait to experience a peak of excitement unlike they have ever known.
But after the initial glare of *wow*, the cracks show. You see a swirling mixture of humanity: never clean, run through the system again and again to lazy rivers and log plummets.
You spy a floating poop. You witness a careless injury. You hear a stressed mother berating her kid for not having enough fun. Or you are that mother. You see a guy teaching his kid to cut in line. The suddenly un-ignorable ugly underside stares right back at you with an insolent smirk.
The unnatural tasting, looking, feeling, smelling water, the haggard life guards, the eight dollar hot dog that tastes like chlorine, It all screams- This is what you are.
That's when you're ready to leave. If you're smart, you send a postcard right quick so that after the reality has faded, you can remember a glossy good time.
That’s how I see it,
It’s VP time, people.
You guessed it- Vernal Pool. As you know from last year, gregorific is an avid fan of the wetland. I became involved in efforts to protect my community wetlands in an unusual way. I heard a rumor.
It was a rumor that an endangered tree frog was preventing future construction near my home. I was intrigued. I wanted to thank this frog. Maybe show my kids what it looks like.
I asked around. The rumor got fuzzy and then outrageous and then…Debunked. The rumor was false, ya’ll. No tree frog. No halt to development. I guess people had been reading The Lorax and got carried away. But I did track down the source, like the intrepid journalist I am.
Environmentalists were searching for a spadefoot toad that was said to live in the local wetlands. If they could find evidence of the toad, then development of that land would be limited, in order to protect the endangered toad’s habitat.
No one could find any toad. There was talk of taking samples of wetland water and analyzing it for spadefoot toad DNA. Naturalists were desperate to find a concrete way to protect the local vernal pools. They were grasping at straws spadefoot DNA.
Aside: Vernal Pools are seasonal wetlands created by spring rains. Amphibians come out of hibernation from the surrounding duff and migrate to the pools to breed. After breeding, they disperse. The pools dry up. Next year, spring rains cue the cycle again.
Once I became aware that 13 vernal pools were a stone’s throw away from my home, I got what you would call attached.
Registered wetlands are federally protected. But, this protection, when followed to the letter of the law, only extends to the edges of the actual pool-- not the surrounding area. Common sense tells us that an ecosystem is not one part- it is a complex system. This is especially true of vernal pools.
The dynamic nature of seasonal change keeps the shape of the pools and the surrounding habitat in flux.
Back to the 13 vernal pools near me and their precarious fate. My town requires any development to keep some green space. Conveniently, the vernal pool land was designated as the green space. Please note that they couldn’t have built there anyway. Instead of having a distinct green space, they overlapped the green space requirement with the federally protected land. Now they want to build a park on the green space.
A park in the traditional sense would ruin the wetlands. Sure, they can’t build a playground on a vernal pool. But they can on the rise surrounding the vernal pool. This would displace and destroy many of the species that the wetland supports, and that support the wetland. It’s a system. Disable one part and the system collapses. Dude, not cool.
So I advocate for a park that embraces the natural resources and upholds the intent of the law protecting the wetlands. I suggest a nature path. Maybe portable observation decks. Bird watching stations. Educational placards. Why not make it a learning laboratory?
I am not alone in this vision. Local environmental non profits are working hard to educate the community about their choices. A consulting firm has been hired by the town to make sure the park will meet the neighborhood and townships’ needs. This is all good.
Now it’s my turn to help raise awareness of what this land is.
It’s a gem. A treasure to be protected. We need to speak for the bulrush, the spadefoot toads, the Jeffersonian salamanders, the spring peepers. Our collective efforts can responsibly steward our neighborhoods so that our children still have space to call green.
What endangered species live near you? Do they need your help?
The challenge is yours,
The second thing that I learned from my daughter’s birthday party is that there are not enough empowering images of fierce girls in the media. Before you say DUH, keep in mind that I wasn't browsing chic magazines, commercials, or sensationalized media outlets. I was googling the world wide web for images of little girl knights, ninjas, and mummies. Those are legitimate search words. Nothing sexy or weird about it. Seriously.
I needed the pictures for a treasure map. With a quest you kinda have to have a map. On ours we put the six rooms where the party goers would travel to complete each Magic Tree House challenge. On the map I wanted to use icons/pictures and not just words. Since the partiers were all girls, I wanted the map to have girl centric imagery. So I googled and searched royalty free picture sites for girl knights, mummies, ancient Olympians, ninjas, and pirates.
I did not type in woman or costume or cute. I knew that much. But, dang, all the world wants to see is objectified women. Why does that hold so much (negative) power?
For the girl knight I could only find images with bare mid-drifts (who would joust in that?) and super sexy buxom knights. Women may not have been actual knights in those days, but I can find plenty of dogs dressed as knights. Sure, that’s funny. But if they think of putting a dog in a suit of armor, what about an American Doll or a Barbie? Or anything a girl can see herself as.
I scoured the web for girl ninjas. Same problem. What kind of ninja is going to be showing that much skin? Ninjas in bikinis? No to the no. I found countless images of turtle ninjas. So what's up with that? And here’s a probing question for the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…why no Mary Cassatt Ninja Turtle or Georgia O’Keefe Ninja Turtle—why all male turtles named after male artists?
I had trouble finding girl mummies. Common sense tells me there should be mummies of both genders.
I ended up having my older daughter draw the map. I hope she is always able to make her own way like that when the worn path is so unappealing and disempowering.
The map she created turned out awesomely and it successfully transported the party goers to many magical places. The girls found a Mama T-Rex's lost eggs, dressed up as mummies to fool a real mummy, jousted a pinata as knights, built a rocket to escape space, did the limbo in Hawaii to outmaneuver hot lava, and were the first girls to compete in the ancient Olympics. My older daughter also dressed up like a pirate to chase them between challenges. She was born for that role.
So. The first thing I learned was that a tree house cake is an *experience* well worth having. The second is that girls are really being cheated out of strong role models for their imaginative play. Sexist brainwashing starts early. And finally, I learned that if you want to mummify seven little girls you need approximately five rolls of toilet paper and four adults. Also, little girls are not super psyched about being mummified tightly. They like a loose drape effect.
Always willing to share my life lessons!
As a bonus, I will remind you to be careful what you google for. Just sayin’. Gregorific had to wash her eyes several times.
Keep having fun,
Make Everyday a Happy Magic Day
The smallest gregorific had a birthday this week. I know. Time flies and she will only believe that she can too for a little longer. Let me hold onto the magical times as long as I can. That's kind of the reason I jump into my daughters' birthday parties head first.
My kids know that I’ll run with a theme until you tell me to stop. So, she knew what she was getting in for when she asked for a Magic Tree House Birthday Party. She said, You know that indoor water park with the virtual magic quest with the computer programmed magic wand? Could my party be kinda like that but better?
And being the type to spend months hammering out the symbolism of my YA novel, I grinned yes and started sketching out my ideas. Creativity is my passion.
Have you ever read the Tree House books? Jack and Annie go to the biggest oak tree in the woods and climb into the tree house and point to a map. They say I want to go there and the tree house spins and spins and then it is absolutely still and they are at the place they wanted to go. It is everyone's fantasy, right? Where would you want to go? Of course Jack and Annie want to go to Eygpt, prehistoric times, colonial days, to the moon- you get the picture. It’s magic, ‘kay?
So we decided for the gregorific party to have six challenges in six different rooms. Each room earns them a token to solve the final challenge which is a treasure (gift bags with Magic Tree House books in them.) Between each challenge they went into my daughter’s room where we had a tent shaped like a house on the bed and a ladder leading into it. This was the tree house where they had to point to a map in order to travel magically to the next challenge.
People, it was fun to plan it and even more fun to see them running all over time and the globe to earn their treasure.
I learned three things. Being the generous gregorific I am, I want to share them with you, dear reader. One at a time of course, for easy digestion.
1. It’s hilarious to be building a tree house cake at midnight with your sister and brother-in-law. *Worth it.*
Here it is fans. Don't look too long or you will turn into corn syrup.
ps. Stay Magical.
I’m not saying I’m jinxed or anything.
The plagues hit several months ago and now the glass curse has descended upon gregorific. The universe is trying to tell me something but I am not able to decipher what.
The entire gregorific crew went on a road trip recently. In true road trip spirit, I put my bare feet up on the dash of the Explorer to wiggle my toes in delight. The pad of my big toe pressed the windshield and *CRICKITY CRACK* the windshield popped and a spider web crack fizzled out from the spot my toe touched. Not a small crack, but a dinner platter sized crack. Are you impressed that I use a dinner platter as a size reference? Gregorific is very distinguished, ya’ll.
I was innocently cooking the fine cuisine my gregorific crew is accustomed to. I wanted to check the doneness of the steak in the oven so I opened the door and put the spatula under the meat. *BAM* the Pyrex container cracked. I barely had time to shut the oven door. Then the entire dish exploded. The meal was ruined, glass slivers were everywhere, and I am lucky my eyes survived.
We went out to eat. Several days later, I was able to muster the courage to clean the stove. It took me hours and was a small purgatory.
Remember the path where during the plagues we were attacked by yellow jackets? Well, recently I was walking on the same path…and I slipped and fell directly on my elbow. It was icy- ice counts as glass, right? I was seriously wounded (pride and elbow equally) and after several days of babying myself I got an X-ray and found out that it was indeed *CRACKED*. It still hurts like a yingyang. What next people?
Is my laptop breaking connected? Is a laptop screen a stand in for glass? Perhaps it is any clear surface…
Maybe I should just stay home on my couch and write all day to be safe.
Done and done.
*Below is a quote about writing that I like. I think it also applies to my curse.
Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.