Thursday, April 30, 2009

Plastic -- the un-disposable disposables

(Photo source)

When our youngest son was a toddler, we visited relatives in North Fort Myers, Florida. Summer home of Thomas Alva Edison and vacation location for his buddies Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone -- different era -- but same area.

One of the highlights for all of us Midwesterners was a trip to Fort Myers Beach where we fed the seagulls. It always astounds me and makes me feel a part of the universe when nature accepts me. Maybe it comes from living with cats and getting a lot of rejection from them.

But the day those birds spread their wings and then daintily nipped bits of hot dog buns from our finger tips and at times off of our plates when we weren't looking -- I fell in love. Now maybe that sounds weird because often these non-cuddly birds are referred to as garbage disposals.

These garbage disposals eat fish and small critters as well as human food and when they're out over the ocean more often than not while nabbing a bit of shrimp or plankton, they ingest plastic. Since by weight there is basically six times more plastic in the ocean than plankton, all seabirds, fish, and other aquatic critters are eating plastic. The birds are swallowing it, regurgitating it and taking it back to their babies. Dead birds on the beach, decomposed to the point that stomach contents are exposed, reveal pop bottle caps, and plastic disks and all manner of plastic from the trash dumped.

Plastic never goes away.

It may breakdown or wear down into smaller pieces and even plastic dust, but it never turns into anything but plastic. Several videos, including one from the television news program, Nightline, show the situation.

Beach sand -- made from the wearing down of rocks and coral -- are now showing another component. You guessed it -- plastic. We have plastic sand.

Perhaps more insidious than the oil spills, this plastic trash is turning our ocean into plastic soup. Birds who eat jelly fish mistake shredded plastic bags for their natural food source. They eat the plastic and get no nutrition, cannot digest it, sometimes it simply stays in their digestive system and they starve to death.

I've been walking into our local grocery store, forgetting every week to bring bags for my groceries. I say I will recycle the bags to the library for them to hand out to customers to put their books in. No more.

I do not want to contribute one more sack to the ocean garbage dump. If I could find some way to never purchase another disposable plastic container -- I would. Maybe if we all find ways to stop contributing to the waste of this planet, we can all live a little longer and a lot better.

Oh, just thought I'd throw in another kind of waste that is the subject of a book I plan to check out: "The Big Necessity" by Rose George. It is about human waste. Recently we watched the movie: Slumdog Millionaire and there is a latrine moment. I didn't understand the reason for the one brother to guard the door while his younger brother was inside squatting over an open hole filled with human waste. But according to an intro to this book in the Indian slum 60,000 people share 10 toilets.

And if you think the ocean and land pollution are where it ends -- think about space junk. Jupiter and Saturn have rings, well so does the earth only ours is a ring of junk. (see photo of space junk)

Of course there is also light pollution and air pollution but that's for another blog.

Sorry, if you are looking for an upside to this blog, I don't have one. All of this garbage, plastic, pollution doesn't just concern me -- it is turning into a nightmare that haunts me even during my waking moments. I think it should haunt all of us.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Walked the Walk

The Orlando Walk to Defeat ALS is now history. Derrol and I turned in our pledge monies, although we still have a week to collect more donations if anyone is so inclined. I can't begin to tell you how important this event was. First of all it was an especially fun event and Lake Eola was a perfect venue. (See photo)

Everthing was so well organized and beautifully orchestrated. Even the parking went well and we were within a few steps of the activities. Volunteers appeared at just the right moment, helping the more than 1300 walkers with parking, check-in, food distribution, shirt sales, giving directions, shouting encouragement, and spreading the warmth and love that infiltrate the whole ALS Association.

It was so much more than we expected. Everything was donated and we had the most amazing live entertainment in the band shell by the lake. Corporate sponsors such as A&T really rose to the occasion. We have fallen for the jazz group Buzzcatz. Derrol played in a dance band years ago. He was a trumpet man, and we both appreciated hearing live brass.

Chick Fillet and Firehouse Subs and Domino Pizza provided food before the official walk kicked off And those Italian ices served at the end of the walk were a new taste treat for us. We walked around Lake Eola. It was difficult to stride for the finish line because everything was so beautiful. We wanted to stroll, to linger, to soak in the beauty of the foliage, admire the pagoda picnic area, and just enjoy this little oasis in the center of Orlando. It is surrounded by high rise businesses and condos. Yet a street lined with old houses now converted into law offices anchor the city to its glorious past. Such beautiful and diverse architecture.

Along the walk route signs had been posted giving statistics about the disease, encouragement and promoting the sponsors. And, at various spots along the walk route groups of red-shirted volunteers shouted out encouragement and cheered for us. The cheers were for so much more than finishing a walk. It is only a warm up of the cheers we'll all be giving when a cause, treatment or cure is found for this horrid disease.

Perhaps the best part was seeing all of those people and mingling in a crowd that accepts us just the way we are. Derrol felt so free of judgment and pity as he wheeled through the crowd and we felt like everyone supported each other no matter what color T-shirts they wore. There is a lot about using a wheelchair that we didn't expect -- opening doors, tires and sand, and the people who don't want him near them. But at the Walk he didn't worry about any of those things.

I wish I had the ability to organize and persevere and pull off such a delightful event with such a worthwhile cause at the heart of it. And do it on a shoestring! Looking at the faces around us I didn't see any half-full cups. What I saw was hope and a celebration of life. I hope the organizers drank their own cups full on the joy they brought about.

We needed that outing. We needed to know we aren't alone. And we needed to know that something is being done. We who usually feel so helpless are doing something to help find a cure and end this disease.

Derrol and I are still fizzing with the adrenalin and endorphins raised by joining with others in a worthy cause. If you have a chance to participate in such an event, no matter what the disease or worthy cause, do it. Connecting with others is the best medicine!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All Medicine is NOT sold in a bottle!

Research comes at the most unexpected times. For example I've been limping along, literally, for the past few weeks. Sore knee, sore hip, muscle pain, you name it. And lets face it, when you hurt physically, you hurt every way -- emotionally, spiritually, mentally.

A few over-the-counter pain killers and I'd get through my shift at the library, then drag myself home to moan and groan and order delivery for meals. I was contemplating getting those x-rays done that the doctor prescribed, but was putting it off. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear what was wrong and what little could be done to fix it.

And then, a miracle happened.

This amazingly beautiful man walked into the library. Not too tall, not too short. Broad shoulders, trim waist, long legs and arms and a handsomely weathered face with great bones. Not beautiful in the way of perfection or Adonis, but beautiful in the way of healthy and strong, active and oozing self confidence and testosterone. But not in a 'look at me' attitude, but simply a humble man among men.

I took one look at him and totally forgot about my throbbing knee and tender hip. I straightened up, sucked in my stomach, wished away my double chins and alerted a few coworkers to 'gorgeous man in the building.'

We don't use that alert enough, they were confused at first. But we managed to scope him out. I won't say we were unobtrusive, but he was forgiving and generous and acted oblivious to our flustered squawkings and huddles of befuddled women.

He was even kind enough to approach me and ask for assistance. Perhaps the response he gets from women is good for what ails him. But for the next half hour I felt no pain.

I don't mean that 'in a romantic fog' kind of way. I mean I literally felt no pain. My knee and hip operated fine and my muscle aches vanished. I smiled and laughed and stood up straight and moved faster than I had in weeks.

Adrenalin? Endorphins? Hormones? Whatever my body did to react to this man should be bottled and sold as a painkiller.

No wonder romance novels are the number one sellers. They aren't trash, they are therapeutic. They are good for what ails you. Get a little moist, get a little excited and all of a sudden, anything seems possible -- and painless.

Did I mention that when this man opened his mouth to ask me where the travel books are, I nearly melted into the floor? I'm a little Ohio girl where everyone speaks flat and plain and boring. But he -- oh my -- he speaks ENGLISH! Not only English, but with a South African lilt. Words spoken that way say so much more. My brain could barely process what he was saying as I listened to the music of his voice.

Just writing about the experience and my knee feels better. So, do your own research. Maybe a little eye candy is good for what ails you, too.

Is it politically correct? I don't know. Admiring another human being seems a nice thing to do. Objectifying and turning him into a piece of meat -- maybe not. But I realized that the way I saw him was similar to the way I feel when I see a piece of art that speaks to my senses. That doesn't seem like a bad thing. I don't want to possess him. I'm quite content with my dear hubby. But we all know that beauty enriches our lives. And my recent research, experiment, encounter, demonstrates that beauty also makes you feel better and takes the pain away.

Just think of it like singing is to stutterers or dancing is to people with Parkinson's Disease. For that brief moment while engaged in those activities, you are transformed.

All medicine doesn't taste bad; nor is it sold by the bottle.

Photos: Hugh Jackman and Hugh Jackman as dad to his two kids.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Celebrate Earth Day at Bok!

One of our favorite gardens in Florida -- Bok Gardens sent this announcement of their upcoming celebration. I've included a few photos we took on our last visit to the unique sanctuary in Polk County, Fla. It is so beautifully and tastefully maintained. A great place to go when you need a retreat-- Dawn

What: Earth Day Celebration 2009

When: April 16 & 17 from 9 a.m. to noon

Where: Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens’ Earth Day Celebration April 16 & 17

Lake Wales, Fla. – Bok Tower Gardens expects more than 1,700 students to attend its “Going Green” Earth Day Celebration on April 16 and 17 from 9 a.m. to noon. Sponsored by AT&T Real Yellow Pages, Lilly, O’Toole & Brown, LLP, Progress Energy and Ridge Printing, the two-day event will feature hands-on activities offered by environmental exhibitors from Central Florida. Pre-registration is recommended, but everyone is welcome. The $5 fee for students and chaperon's includes general Gardens admission.

Planned activities will include a ladybug release, fossil dig, whale listening and more. In addition to the popular Bok Butterfly House filled with live butterflies and plants, there will be exhibits with live wildlife to demonstrate their role in the balance of nature. “By showing why snakes are our slithery friends and how honeybees protect our planet through pollination, we can engage young minds to take action now so we can all live green in the future,” explains Jennifer Beam, Gardens’ director of Visitor Services and Programs. Other learning experiences include how to raise earthworms for composting, the benefits of organic farming and how to identify animal tracks as well as beneficial insects.

Participants include Archbold Biological Station, Central Florida Ecotours, entomologist M. Lewis Wright Jr.’s display of good and bad bugs, Explorations V Children’s Museum, Florida Division of Forestry, Florida Institute of Phosphate Research, Keep Polk County Beautiful, Keep Winter Haven Clean & Beautiful, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Master Gardeners, Polk County Cooperative Extension Service, Ridge Audubon, Roosevelt Academy’s Horticulture Program, Struthers Honey, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Tibet Butler Preserve and Whale Listening with Paul Knapp.

Gardens’ founder Edward W. Bok was a well-respected environmental activist who was one of the early leaders in the green movement. The Pulitzer-Prize winning author and humanitarian was instrumental in saving Niagara Falls and initiated efforts to preserve Florida’s Tiger Creek, a pristine blackwater stream that runs through the Lake Wales Ridge. Bok’s son, Cary, along with The Nature Conservancy and numerous other groups, raised the funds to purchase and preserve the 4,000-plus acre habitat. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Gardens’ Visitor Center has educational displays on the natural history of the islands of biological diversity that make the Ridge one of the most endangered habitats in the world. Visit for more information.

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About Bok Tower Gardens:

Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, is located 55 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles east of Tampa near Lake Wales, Florida, and is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., last admission at 5 p.m. The Visitor Center, Café and Gift Shop are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $3 for ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information contact Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales FL 33853; 863-676-1408 or visit

Friday, April 3, 2009

Make it happen!

This has been a week for discomfort and profound reward.

The two seem to go hand in hand. Step outside your comfort zone and things begin to happen. I don't mean you should consider bungee jumping or sword swallowing, but if there is something you want to accomplish, take that first step. You may not always succeed but you will be enriched by the experience. For me the reward has been meeting some beautiful people.

I've been kicking around the idea of a quilt raffle as a fundraiser for the ALS Association. My sewing machine is vintage and my sewing skills quite rusty and the ticking clock made me turn to more experienced people -- the Cabin Fever Quilt Guild of Orlando. I enjoy their quilt show and saw displays there of the quilts made to support a variety of charities. I contacted the group and Darlene Arnswald took up my request, posted it in their newsletter and got the word out. Two women stepped up -- Joyce Scarbrough and Trish Bowman.

It turns out that Trish is opening her own quilting business and it was an opportune time for her to get an example of her work out there. She's also a take charge kind of woman who didn't let me back out of the idea when my cup-half-empty self had second thoughts.

She embraced my flaws, didn't bat an eye at my total lack of navigation sense. She gave me impeccable directions to her house where we got acquainted and picked out the pattern Then we met -- at a location I could find. From there she drove us to her favorite quilt shop where we picked out the fabric and I met a whole group of lovely women. I had forgotten what sweet spirits quilters have. The quilt, it seems, is going to go from a 'what if' thought to a reality.

That is heady stuff.

To see something you only thought about turn into a real, tangible thing. It was like that in the 1990s when we built our house. One day it was a wish, a dream, and before we knew it, we were moving in to our dream home. Life seemed to take control after that and events dictated where we lived and what we did or didn't do. Money is always a factor.

Yet, in the midst of illness and economic woes and insecurity, we must take that first step to get things moving toward the reality we want. Whatever you have on your 'wish' list or 'if only' list -- take that first step. You know what it is.

And, sometimes, the money appears just when you need it. I am covering the cost of the quilt materials, Trish is donating her time and talent to make and quilt it. I told a colleague where I work about the shopping expedition and she said, "I've been looking for a tangible way to donate something. Let me split the cost with you."

Lyn Rocca -- you rock!!!

Sometimes when you begin something. The right something. It truly has magic as Goethe said.

"Whatever you would do, Or dream of doing, begin it! Boldness has power, genius, and magic in it. Begin it now." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I admit that the quilt seems like a tiny step. But for me it has opened many doors that have been shut for far too long. I am feeling the power that comes from deciding a direction rather than just being buffeted by events. We make those choices each day. Smile at someone or don't -- you set in action a string of events with something so insignificant.

The quilt -- whomever takes it home -- it will give them comfort. And if they are even faintly touched by the pain of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease -- they can use the comfort. Hopefully this first step will have wonderful ripples spreading out in every direction. The money raised will help research and patient care. The process of making the quilt has already brought me in touch with such strong and delightful women. And our purchases are helping a local business through a tough time. So far I see no down side to this choice and it just keeps getting better and better.

First steps are tough, but definitely worth the effort.

Next on my 'I wish' list: Paint the kitchen. Big deal, right? But I want a brown accent wall. Coffee or chocolate brown -- a bit outside of my comfort zone.

But not quite as far as it was before last week.